A Walt Disney World vacation is expensive. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about that so it’s not a surprise that many people aren’t aware that there are in fact numerous free things to do at Disney World. Now of course, from the cost of your hotel room, to park tickets, to the cost of food, you are looking at putting down some serious dough for a trip to the House of Mouse. And, as can be expected, prices are rising across the board. It may hurt our wallets in some ways, but I’m happy to tell you that not everything is pricey. In fact, there are numerous free things to do at Walt Disney World.
Package / Resort Perks
Some may say staying at a Disney Resort doesn’t fall into the free things category when it comes to going to Disney World, but if you choose to stay at a Walt Disney World resort for your vacation, your travel package has some nice perks. I consider these to be free (even though they are included in the package you purchase, they feel free, and that’s what matters)! As a Walt Disney World resort guest, you are privy to following things:
- Free Wifi at your hotel and throughout the parks
- Transportation to and from the parks and Disney Springs (by bus, boat, and monorail)
- Disney’s Magical Express provides transportation to and from the airport
- Extra Magic Hours – certain parks open early or stay open later for resort guests (you’ll need valid park admission to enjoy this, but there is no extra cost)
- MagicBands that act as your room key, park admission, credit card, and access to special features on attractions
- Free parking at your resort, other Disney resorts, the Ticket and Transportation Center, and all the parks. Free parking at Disney World does not exist for non-resort guests, as they pay as a much as $20 per day to park their car
- Movie Under the Stars – each hotel holds a special viewing every night (weather permitting) of a Disney movie outside for guests to enjoy
Once you are in the parks, there some great free things you can gather to take home with you as souvenirs:
- Celebration Buttons – You can pick these up at guest relations at any park that identifies what you are celebrating at Disney World (birthday, anniversary, just because, etc.). The other cool perk is that cast members, transportation drivers and many other park goers will wish you a happy birthday, happy anniversary and whatever else your button says you are celebrating.
- Park Maps – these are located at the front of each park. I love looking through these years later and seeing how the parks have changed since attending.
- Passports – Epcot has these during the Food and Wine Festival every year. Each kiosk will stamp the passport and it makes a fun way to remember what you ate/drank/experienced at the festival. Kids love these.
- Disney Pilots/Drivers Licenses – If you go to the Tomorrowland Speedway and the Dumbo ride will provide you with licenses if you ask a cast member. It’s not advisable to show it to a police officer if you get pulled over
- Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom – A little known yet interesting thing you can do is this is a free little interactive game you can play in the Magic Kingdom, you can pick up a free pack of these cards at the Main Street Fire Station.
- Transportation Trading Cards – When using the various types of transportation at Disney World you can ask a cast member for transportation trading cards.
Food and Drink
Sadly, at Disney World a simple burger and fries is going to cost you AT LEAST $10, probably more. However, there are some ways you can get some free food and drinks in the parks:
- Free Tap Water! – if you ask for a cup of water from any restaurant, you can have that free of charge. If you do try this, keep in mind that Florida water does not taste the best. Add in some lemon or drink flavor packets to spice up your water.
- Food Samples – The Main Street Confectionery at Magic Kingdom gives out free samples of cookies, candy, and ice cream.
- Club Cool at Epcot is a free experience where you can try different kinds of sodas from all around the world.
- Refills – There are a few restaurants in each park that do not charge for refills on soda. Take advantage of this perk, since those resort mugs you can use at the resort food courts are NOT free.
- Bring Your Own Food – While this isn’t free it is a great way to save some money but you can bring food and drink into the parks. We typically will bring bottled water, snack bars and some smaller little things to snack on while in the parks. This alone can save you hundreds of dollars on a Disney World vacation.
- Electrical Water Pageant – A lot of people are unaware that Disney offers a special light parade on Bay Lake every night. At about 9pm, head out from one of the Magic Kingdom resorts and you will see a lit up “train” on the water. This is a classic event and longtime Disney fans often look forward to seeing this on their vacation.
- Fireworks – There are now fireworks shows in every park. Some happen every night, some on special occasions. The good thing about fireworks is that you can see them well, even from afar, if you happen to not be in the particular park they are launching from. It is so nice to be able to see the Magic Kingdom firework shows from your hotel room at the Contemporary. Yes, it might be a different experience than watching them in front of Cinderella’s castle, but the views from outside the park don’t cost anything!
- The Boardwalk – If you need somewhere to be entertained yet going into one of the parks may not be appealing to you, head to the Boardwalk. Right outside The Boardwalk Inn, you’ll find a turn-of-the-century style Atlantic City Boardwalk, featuring restaurants, games, music, and more. It’s also a nice walk from one side of the Boardwalk to the other, and even over the bridge toward The Beach Club Resort
- The Monorail & Boats – The transportation at Disney World is free but the coolest forms of the free transportation are the monorail and the boat rides you can take. Both are great experiences and there really is nothing like taking a boat ride at night where you can see the Magic Kingdom and take in the whole atmosphere. With the monorail you can visit all the resorts on the monorail loop and even take part in what is known as “Drinking Around The World”.
- Free Concerts – Epcot is the home to the various festivals that Disney World puts on and as a part of these festivals they have concerts that you can attend for free. These are really fun and can make a great evening even better.
- Disney Springs – All four theme parks and two water parks require admission to enter. Luckily, Disney Springs is free to visit. It’s a great place to eat some wonderful meals, have unique shopping experiences, and be entertained with movies, shows, and musical talent. Obviously, doing most of those things I just mentioned cost money, but walking around and taking in the atmosphere of Disney Springs is totally free! It never costs anything to window shop, right?
- Disney Resorts – I didn’t lump this in with the Disney resort guest perks because it’s completely different. Resort hopping can be a fun way to experience other Disney hotels that you are not staying at. You don’t have to pay anything to walk around the lobby, visit the special hotel shops, or walk around outside the resort. Disney fans find that it can be awe-inspiring to gaze at the gorgeous lobbies. For example, the Animal Kingdom Lodge has a breathtaking African design that people love to see, even if they are staying off property or other Disney resorts.
- Children under 3 – This is, by far, my favorite free thing at Walt Disney World. Disney park tickets for children 3-9 years old are almost as expensive as the adult tickets. But for babies and toddlers under 3, they get in FREE! This saves families hundreds of dollars on the total cost of their trip. You’ll also pay less in food and (hopefully) in souvenirs for a baby.
- Pixie Dust – When you’re in the Magic Kingdom you can take kids to the Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street USA and they will sprinkle their hair with “pixie dust” for free. If you’re willing to spend the $10 you can also get your kids hair colored and gelled as well.
There might be more free things to do at Walt Disney World, but the ones listed above are my favorites. Despite the rising cost of vacationing at the parks, you’ll always be able to enjoy certain aspects of your trip without having to open your wallet.
If you enjoyed this article then you should also check out our article My First Trip To Disney World: What You Need To Know.
By Jamie Lee
Jamie is a lifelong Disney fanatic that has been going to Disney parks since she was a child. She is the head writer here at Capture The Magic & co-host of the Capture The Magic Podcast. When she isn't planning her next Disney vacation, she can be found helping people plan their own Disney vacations and enjoying quality time with her family.