Of course we had to stop at Disney on our way from Nashville to South Florida, but we didn’t have any birthdays this time, so we couldn’t get a FREE ticket. So what were we to do? Well, I’ll tell you! There are a lot of great FREE activities around the Disney World Resort that make you feel like you’ve experienced Disney without ever stepping foot in the parks! You’ll also want to be sure to check out all my other Disney Deals & Reviews before heading to the happiest place on earth so you’ll maximize your time and money while you’re there!
While it’s not FREE, staying at a Disney hotel is magical any way you look at it (and there is FREE transportation around the resort if you stay on any property – this includes buses, boats and of course, the monorail!). If all my kids did was stay at the Pop Century for a night and visit Downtown Disney, they’d be happy! And that’s pretty much what we’re doing this trip. Here are a few FREE favorites:
1. Downtown Disney
As I just mentioned, DOWNTOWN DISNEY is a great way to see all things Mickey without spending a dime (that is, if you can get out of there without spending any money at the numerous shops and restaurants!). They have fountains for the kids to run in, a LEGO playland and play stations, a toy store complete with Mr. Potato Head and My Little Pony play stations, and so much more!
2. Disney Vacation Club
Of course the club itself isn’t free (Disney’s version of time share), but learning about it is. They transport you to their sales center, have a FREE Kids Clubhouse for your kids to play in (professionally supervised) while you’re there, offer you FREE refreshments in air conditioning (this alone is worth the trip after a hot day in Orlando!), and take you for a FREE Ice Cream Sundae in the Ice Cream Parlor before taking your picture and giving you a FREE copy before leaving! This presentation lasts about an hour an did I mention you also walk away with a $15 Gift Card for every person in attendance? That’s right! Even the kids got one! So for an hour’s worth of time, we walked away with $60 – we’re going to Chef Mickey’s tomorrow!
3. Character Dining
Again, this isn’t necessarily a freebie, but there are a lot of great character dining experiences around Disney World, many of which are in the hotels, which means you don’t have to pay for a park ticket to partake! As most of you with little ones know, all they really care about at Disney is seeing the characters, so one of my favorite tips to tell people is to book a character breakfast; it’s the least expensive meal and you have all the characters come to YOU at your table instead of waiting hours in lines with sweaty people inside the theme park. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Now that we did our Vacation Club experience, we have money to go to Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort in the morning and meet the Fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Goofy) for FREE!
Disney is known for its great fireworks spectacles and luckily, they can be seen from many locations as well. For instance, we just stood on the balcony outside of our room on the 4th floor of the Pop Century resort and watched fireworks from BOTH the Magic Kingdom and Epcot simultaneously! And we didn’t have to fight the crowds getting out of the parks and onto the buses when the show was all done 😉 The Boardwalk/Beach Club hotel area is also a great spot for viewing Epcot’s nightly display and poolside at The Grand Floridian is a lovely spot to catch the Magic Kingdom’s show.
5. Boardwalk/Beach Club
Just as it sounds, the Boardwalk hotel area is a lively place to walk around, shop and watch street performers and other families enjoying their vacation. Just around the corner at the Beach Club they have a nightly bonfire on the beach where you can roast smores and catch a FREE Disney movie under the stars!
6. Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground
This is a hidden jewel on the grounds. You can take a bus or a boat (from outside the Magic Kingdom) to the campgrounds where they not only have the famous “Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review” and one of our favorite restaurants, Trail’s End, but they also have a FREE petting zoo, great playground and beach volleyball courts.
Our new favorite freebie is Chip & Dale’s Campfire – a must see where you can meet the famous twosome, enjoy live music and even watch a Disney movie outside under the stars!
7. Animal Kingdom Lodge
When this hotel first opened, it was one of our favorite places to stay because no-one knew about it and it was SO reasonable for a “luxury” class hotel at Disney. They feature a 33-acre wildlife preserve that boasts over 30 species of wildlife that roam amidst 3 lush, tropical savannas. You can observe exotic animals from special viewing areas throughout the Resort as well as from the balconies of select Guest rooms. They also have great children’s activities all day, such as chalk rubbings in the lobby and stories by the fire pit outside. While it’s way out of our price range now, it is one of the most unique places we’ve ever experienced.
8. Pools & Playgrounds
Every Disney resort has at least one pool, and many boast three or more. They all are themed according to the hotel and most also offer fun fountains or water slides. The pool at the Beach/Yacht Club alone could be it’s own waterpark! Each resort also has fun playgrounds for the kids, as well as daily activities (the Pop Century featured a kids musical parade through the dining hall tonight that anyone could be a part of!)