FREE! Not a word you may associate with a Walt Disney World vacation? I want to change that. I'm sharing my very favorite, absolutely free-of-charge activities to experience on Walt Disney World property.
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All of the following activities are found OUTSIDE of the theme parks because I wanted to compile a list of truly 100% free things to do on Walt Disney World property - accessible even if you don't have theme park tickets. They're the perfect activities for a 'rest' day in the middle of the week when you're wanting to explore your surroundings without hitting the theme parks from sun up to sun down.
Bonfires (and Sometimes Characters....)
Bonfires with free marshmallows to roast can be found at most moderate and deluxe resorts.
Marshmallows are provided free of charge at most and "S'mores" kits can be purchased for a small fee.
Some resorts offer extra special touches like storytelling and songs.
It's worth it to make the trip over to Chip n Dale Campfire Singalong at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort to meet and greet with Chip n Dale around the fire.
Campfires are free to all guests whether you're staying at the hotel or not and are often followed by an outdoor movie under the stars.
Animation Class at Art of Animation Resort
Disney's Art of Animation Resort offers daily drawing classes - they run a few times a day and last 30 minutes in length. Check with the front desk of your resort for updated times and schedules.
Stroll along Disney's Boardwalk
Fun street performances, such as jugglers, magicians, fire eaters, comedians, musicians and more are entertaining guests each night.
Catch a glimpse of the nighttime show at Epcot - I recommend grabbing a bench or even a swing located on the beach in front of Disney's Beach Club Resort.
For adults, The Atlantic Dance Hall has no cover charge so dance the night away for free!
Collect "String of Memories" Beads
This free program, located at Animal Kingdom Lodge, is a fun and informative way to learn about animals and conservation while earning a free beaded souvenir.
There are 8 different activities to complete (offered at separate times and days). At completion of each activity, the child receives a commemorative bead. Once all 8 sessions have been completed, they are awarded a special Mickey Totem.
Sessions are run by Disney Cultural Guides, all from Africa, who love to teach about African animals, environment, and culture.
Activities are always evolving, but here are a few examples of the current sessions: Animal Tracking using casts of animal's prints to identify them, A flamingo feeding simulation where kids learn about flamingos gather their food, and "Have You Heard?", an interactive game of animal noises.
Cookie Decorating at Boma
While you're at Animal Kingdom Lodge collecting beads (see above), plan to decorate a free cookie! Offered at Boma restaurant daily. Check with front desk for exact times.
Culinary Tour at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Enjoy a guided tour learning about the culture and cuisine at the African-Inspired restaurants within Animal Kingdom Lodge - plus, a few samples are included. Daily at 4:15 pm, meeting in the Jiko Lobby.
Resort Scavenger Hunts
Visit the Front Desk of Animal Kingdom Lodge to pick up your clue guide. Return your completed guide to the Front Desk to collect a fun safari surprise.
Pick up a clue sheet from the front desk at Disney's Wilderness Lodge to go on a Hidden Mickey trek - and see the beautiful resort in the process.
Explore the Walt Disney World Resorts
Each resort at Disney World is uniquely themed; it's well worth a day 'hopping resorts' to self-tour them!
Learn what inspired the art and architecture of Disney's Wilderness Lodge during the free 'Wonders of the Lodge Tour', offered Wednesdays-Saturday at 9 am (meet in the lobby). This guided walking tour is about 1 hour in length.
Take the monorail around Bay Lake and hop off to self-tour each resort: Disney's Grand Floridian, Disney's Polynesian Resort, and Disney's Contemporary Resort. Learn more about these resorts in my post about Disney's Deluxe Resorts.
Disney's Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter resorts are sister resorts, within close walking distance of each other. The lush grounds and beautiful setting would make a perfect evening stroll. Grab a fresh beignet for a delicious and low-cost treat. Learn more about these resorts in my post about Disney's Moderate Resorts.
Awesome photo-ops are located throughout Disney's Value Resorts. The larger than life Disney Characters and Pop Culture icons are scattered throughout the value resorts making for some really fun family photos. Learn more about these resorts in my post about Disney's Value Resorts.
Explore Disney's Free Transportation Options
Boating: There are several routes that are free and fun to experience:
Two boat routes are on Bay Lake, servicing transport to Magic Kingdom. Take the route to the Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, and Ft. Wilderness. Then hop onto the other boat and cruise to the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, then back to the Magic Kingdom.
Cruise the Crescent Lake Loop, which visits Epcot, Disney's Boardwalk, Disney's Yacht, and Beach Club Resorts, the Swan and Dolphin Resorts, and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Ride to and from Disney Springs along the scenic Sassagoula River from either Disney's Port Orlean's Resorts or Disney's Old Key West Resort.
Monorail: Is it even a Disney trip without a Monorail ride?
The monorail circles to the Magic Kingdom Resorts - the Contemporary, the Grand Floridian and Disney's Polynesian Resorts.
Or get off at the Ticket and Transfer Center, and switch to the other monorail to head over to Epcot. The views above Epcot from the Monorail are spectacular.
This new gondola-style, high-in-the-sky, form of transportation, opening Fall 2019, will give way to some amazing views and connect 4 resorts and 2 theme parks!
Resorts on the Skyway line include Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Disney's Riviera Resort (slated to open December 2019), and Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
Parks include Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
Visit Tri-Circle D Ranch
Located at Ft. Wilderness, this is home to Cinderella's ponies who pull the trolleys down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom!
Watch the blacksmith make horseshoes and affix them to horses’ hooves.
Breeds of horses that live at Tri-Circle-D Ranch, including Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Clydesdales, paint horses, Percherons, and quarter horses, plus Shetland ponies.
Parking is free at Ft. Wilderness, and you can get to the farm area by an internal shuttle from the parking lot.
You don't have to be staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge to enjoy the wildlife there! Giraffes, wildebeests, and zebras roam freely in the savanna surrounding the lodge.
Often at dusk, a cast member will be there with night vision glasses for a special night-viewing of the animals.
Disney's nighttime shows can be seen well from many locations outside of the parks (and as a bonus, you won't have to fight crowds on your way out!). Some of our favorite free places to watch are:
The Marina at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort - located just outside of Gasparilla Grille, this spot has tables and chairs and a great view of Bay Lake, and the Magic Kingdom castle (and fireworks!) in the distance.
Grab a swing or chair on the beach at Disney's Polynesian Resort and enjoy a dead-on view of the castle firework show.
Epcot's nighttime show can be seen from the Boardwalk.
Electrical Water Pageant
The Electrical Water Pageant is similar to a nighttime parade that is on the water! It can be seen cruising around Bay Lake from 9 pm-10 pm most nights.
Viewing from any of the monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian) is best.
Visit Disney Springs
Browse over 100 shopping locations, including the world's largest Disney Store.
Free entertainment nightly ranges from bands performing on stage to jazz musicians in the street.
Go to the Ghiradelli storefront and grab your free piece of chocolate!
Admire the huge Lego statues at the Lego store and kids can build and race Lego cars for free! On select Tuesdays at 5 pm, the Lego Store hosts Monthly Mini Model Build where kids ages 6-14 can build and take home a FREE Lego Mini Model.
Kids can dig for fossils at the T-REX Restaurant. You don't have to be eating there to take a break in the covered patio area and let the kids play in the sand play area.
Let the kids cool down in the interactive splash fountains.
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