Free things to do at Disney World!

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Are you interested in how to find Free Things to do at Disney World? Did you know that was even an option? Are you going to be in the Orlando, Florida area and want to go to Disney World but do not want to spend money on theme park admission? Keep reading for some awesome tips!

Some of the activities are available to the general public but some are only available to Disney Vacation Club owners or Disney Resort Guests.
My family LOVES Disney World. I grew up visiting Disney World at least once a year when I lived in the New York area. When I moved to Orlando in 1987, I was so excited to finally get a job as a Disney Cast Member! I loved working there and stayed for a few years before I moved out of town. After moving, getting married and having children of my own, I was so happy to get to see Disney from a kid’s perspective again. Our family takes annual vacations to Disney World and we often wish we had more time to do the non-theme park stuff.
Well this past August we did a short trip where we stayed on Disney’s property but we did only non-park activities. We were also looking to keep the expenses down so we did a lot of FREE or low cost things. This is where I will share my trip itinerary and provide you some tips too! It was one of our most favorite Disney trips! There are lots of FREE things to do at Disney World! And it is all awesome!

 

FREE THINGS TO DO AT DISNEY WORLD:

 

1. Visit the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness (open to everyone)

 

Free things to do at Disney World
Entrance to Fort Wilderness Tri-Circle-D Ranch

 

 

  • We drove our own car so it was easy to park at Fort Wilderness. FREE Parking! We just had to tell the guard at Fort Wilderness that we were visiting the Ranch and he told us where to park.  You can also take a Disney bus from one of the other resorts if you are on Disney property without your own vehicle.  We were told to park in the front parking lot (Outpost Depot) and take a free bus to the Settlement Depot where the Tri-Circle-D Ranch is located (this is also the stop if you were going to the Hoop Dee Doo Review).
  • Free things to do at Disney World
    Free game of Checkers at Fort Wilderness Settlement Trading Post
    We got off the bus and walked over to the farm/stables area. It was empty except for the horses and some cast members (employees) caring for the horses. This was around 2 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon so most people were probably in the Parks. We walked past some smaller horses and ponies outside then walked into the Stables where they have a small room with a recording explaining some of the photos and keepsakes on the walls. You can then walk up to each of the stalls to see the beautiful huge horses they have there. You cannot feed or pet the horses (my kids were disappointed by this) but it was still nice to see them up close. 🙂 FREE admission!
  • We then walked to the Pioneer Hall area where the kids made Souvenir Pressed Pennies. Most of the Disney Pressed Penny machines cost $0.51 (2 quarters and 1 penny) but some make Pressed Quarters ($1.25 or 5 quarters). Before the trip I made a bag of quarters and pennies for each of my kids so that they could make pressed pennies at each resort/area we visited. Almost FREE!
  • We then walked to the Settlement Trading Post so that we could buy ice cream and drinks. They still have a checkers table outside like they did when I was a kid! And that is always free of course! The store sells Mickey Ice Cream Bars! Perfect! (And they are gluten free so that means my son can eat it too!) It was a really nice couple of hours and it only cost us the price of the ice creams/drinks (and pennies). Bargain!
    Free things to do at Disney World
    Souvenir Pressed Penny Machine

 

2. Play Pool at one of the Disney Resorts (open to Disney Vacation Club Members or Resort Guests only)

 

  • This is Free for Vacation Club Guests and a (potential) nominal fee if Disney Resort Guest but it is not available for non-resort guests. FREE!
  • There are several locations to choose from: Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge Community Hall, Caribbean Barefoot Bay Bike Works, Old Key West Conch Flats Hall, or Saratoga Springs Hall and Turf Club Lounge. We went to the Kidani Village location and played for about an hour after dinner since there was no one in there at the time (other than the cast member working).
  • The Community Hall also had board games and arts & crafts projects to do. We had to sign in and write down our room number (we were staying at another Disney resort) then we were allowed to do what we wanted. FREE!
  • We also played pool at Old Key West which was busier but we just waited our turn and it is a nice room with other games and lots of activities and crafts to do while you are waiting. They also play Disney movies and cartoons so there is plenty to occupy your time!
  • Of course, each of the hotels have Penny Press machines so we did that too. 🙂 Almost Free!

 

3. Play Basketball at one of the Disney Resorts (open to Disney Vacation Club Members or Resort Guests only)

 

  • This is available FREE to Disney Resort Guests (or DVC Members).
  • Here are the court locations:
    Half Court at Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge (check out equipment at the Community Hall)
    Old Key West Resort (check out equipment at Conch Flats Community Hall or Hank’s Rent ‘N Return)
    The Campsites at Fort Wilderness (Quarter-sized courts on 200 Loop, 300 Loop, 900 Loop, 1300 Loop, 1400 Loop, and between 1800 and 1900 Loop; balls are in a box at each court)
    Dolphin Hotel (Courts near Swan Lap Pool; check out equipment at Dolphin Health Club or Swan Health Club – only guests of Swan or Dolphin Hotels can use these courts).
  • We played basketball at Animal Kingdom Lodge (it was quite a walk from the Community Hall so I it wasn’t that convenient) and we played at Old Key West (this was a perfect location near the Community Hall). We also played Shuffleboard at Old Key West! Equipment is borrowed from the Community Hall. FREE!
  • And these hotels had more Penny Press machines! Hooray! Almost Free!

 

4. Visit Disney’s Boardwalk (open to everyone)

Free things to do at Disney World
Disney’s Boardwalk

 

  • Take a free walk along a quarter-mile promenade and see the free nightly street performers along the way. There are plenty of dining and shopping options to spend money but it is FREE to walk around and enjoy the sites and entertainment acts of the night.
    Free things to do at Disney World
    Disney’s Boardwalk Penny Press
  • If timed right, you can also walk towards the back gate of Epcot to enjoy music and a possible view of IllumiNations (or on the bridge that goes over to the Swan & Dolphin Hotels). Check Disney for current Illuminations and Fireworks times when you visit. FREE!
  • For a nominal fee, you can rent 2, 4 or 6-person Surrey Bikes and travel around the promenade at your leisure (it is quite a workout going up some of those hills!). You can also rent Surrey Bikes at Disney’s Caribbean Beach, Old Key West and Port Orleans Riverside Resorts.
  • And don’t forget your Penny Presses! The Boardwalk has some too!

 

5. Take the Ballyhoo Guided Tour at Disney’s Boardwalk (open to everyone)

 

  • This was one of my most favorite things I have done at Disney World and it is free!
  • We arrived at the Belle Vue Lounge at 8:45 am. The Lounge is near the main lobby. If you can’t find it (it is tucked away), just ask the cast members in the lobby and they will point you in the right direction.
  • The Belle Vue Lounge sells breakfast and beverages in the morning and cocktails in the evening and the lounge itself is a great place to hang out and play board games or just listen to the music – it’s like you stepped back in time to the 1930s! Cost for food/drinks but the games are FREE to use.
  • Free things to do at Disney World
    Lucy the Elephant by James Lafferty at Disney’s Boardwalk
    The tour guide, David, showed up at 9 am and chatted with our family while he waited a few minutes to see if anyone would join us. He said it is usually just a few families at most that join the tour. After waiting and realizing we were the only ones coming, we left the Belle Vue Lounge for our tour.
  • We learned so much about the history of the building and we got to see so many details that we would have walked past without noticing. Every spot included a wonderful story. David was so engaging and all 4 of us were interested for the entire 60 minutes. Even my 9 year old and 12 year old kids were interested the entire time. It was relaxing to go at a nice pace with frequent stops. Besides walking inside the hotel building, we got to walk along the Boardwalk and inside some shops and restaurants before they were open for the day. The tour ended in the ice cream parlor where we got to have a scoop of ice cream each. It was wonderful! And it was FREE!
    Free things to do at Disney World
    Miniature Carousel at Disney’s Boardwalk

 

 6. Take a ride on the Monorail (open to everyone)

 

  • You can board a monorail from Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), the Magic Kingdom Park and Epcot. FREE!
    Monorail at Contemporary Resort
    Monorail at Contemporary Resort
  • There are 3 separate lines that travel throughout Walt Disney World Resort. There is an Express line that takes you roundtrip from the TTC to Magic Kingdom, an Express line that travels roundtrip from the TTC to Epcot, and the Resort Monorail which makes stops at the Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian and the TTC and Magic Kingdom. This last one is the line we went on when we were exploring outside of the Parks. We originated at the Contemporary (we had eaten lunch there), then we took the Monorail to the Polynesian where we disembarked and explored for a while (see below for where to explore).
  • We boarded the Monorail again to travel to the Grand Floridian to spend some time there. Once we were done at the Grand Floridian we got back onto the Monorail to go back to the Contemporary.
  • Riding the Monorail never gets old! We love looking out the window at the Seven Seas Lagoon and passing by the Magic Kingdom and seeing the Castle. My kids knew this was not a trip to go into the Parks and they were 9 and 12 when we were visiting – they knew we would go inside the park on our next trip so they were fine with just passing by the Magic Kingdom. If you have little kids then it might be torture to go past the Magic Kingdom without getting off the Monorail! You could also get off the Monorail at the Magic Kingdom and ride the Ferry across to the TTC (one-way or round-trip).
  • The monorail is always FREE!

 

 

7. Explore Disney’s Contemporary Resort (open to everyone)

 

 

  • Free things to do at Disney World
    Contemporary Resort Mural
    We parked at the Contemporary Resort (we told the security guard that we were going to be eating lunch at The Contempo Cafe and he told us where to park). FREE!
  • We took the elevators to the 4th floor to eat at The Contempo Cafe. I had read about the gluten free options which is number one on our priority list when we dine out because our son has Celiac Disease. I will post a review of this dining experience. It was GREAT! It was fairly inexpensive for Disney.
  • We then took the elevator to the 8th or 9th floor and looked from the balcony at the view of the 4th floor Grand Canyon Concourse atrium. So much to see! We watched Disney characters visiting diners at Mickey’s Cafe, we saw the monorail entering and exiting the building, and we admired the 90 foot tall mosaic mural (by artist Mary Blair). FREE!
  • Back down the elevator we went to the 4th floor concourse to browse the shops (FREE if you browse but good luck not being tempted to buy something!) then into the Game Room (The Game Station Arcade) for some play time (not FREE but fairly inexpensive). I remember the Game Room of the 70s and 80s when it was on the 1st Floor (currently The Wave restaurant). This “new” Game Room is not nearly as good but it does have a lot of games for kids of all ages. We love to play Air Hockey and they have a couple of tables here which is good. We played various games for about 45 minutes.
  • We took the elevator to the 1st floor to take a walk outside to see the Marina. There are some cute photo ops out there too – a Mickey Mouse topiary and a metal Mickey sculpture. We grabbed some refreshments at The Sand Bar then headed inside to sit in the Lobby in the AC. 🙂
  • Once we were done eating/drinking, we went back upstairs to get on the monorail (getting pressed pennies first, of course!). We rode the monorail past the Transportation Center and got off (disembarked) at the Polynesian Village Resort.
Free things to do at Disney World
View of Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort (look for Pluto and Goofy!)

 

 

8. Visit Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (open to everyone)

 

  • We hopped on the monorail at the Contemporary Resort then rode it to the Polynesian Village Resort. As soon as you step off the monorail you feel like you are in the Polynesian. It is truly beautiful. FREE!
    Free things to do at Disney World
    Map at the Polynesian Resort
  • Our first activity was the Penny Press machine. Then we strolled through the shops and outside past the beaches and the new Villas and Bungalows. This walk was FREE, of course.
  • The Polynesian Beach is the perfect spot to watch the FREE nightly (weather permitting) Electrical Water Pageant which takes place on the Seven Seas Lagoon. We didn’t see it on this trip but we have seen it many times in the past and it never disappoints. It is also a great place to view the fireworks!
  • Head over to Pineapple Lanai outside of the Great Ceremonial House (main building) to get the legendary Dole Whip treat. Yum! Delicious and gluten free!
  • After soaking up the sun we went back inside for one of my favorite activities ever – a Hula Lesson! FREE!
Free things to do at Disney World
Disney’s Polynesian Bungalows

 

  • Free things to do at Disney World
    Free Hula Lesson with Auntie Kau’i at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
    After several decades of visiting Disney World I cannot believe that i did not do this next activity before this trip. It was a Disney highlight! At 3:45 pm Monday through Friday, Auntie Kau’i teaches a free Hula Lesson in the lobby of the Polynesian Resort. She has been working at the Polynesian since it opened in 1971. She is 82 years young and one of the sweetest ladies you’ll ever meet. She makes leis, plays the ukulele and teaches hula dancing. The weekday class lasts about 15 minutes and is open to anyone (but really focuses on girls and women). You get to wear a grass skirt and lei while you are dancing. She also teaches a 2-hour class at 10 am on Saturday mornings at the Polynesian but we just tried the 15 minute weekday one. I will always remember taking the lesson with my daughter while my son and my husband looked on and captured photos and video. After the lesson, Auntie Kau’i was happy to take photos with anyone who asked. Momentous! And FREE!
  • Time to catch the monorail for our next stop: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.

 

9. Head over the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (open to everyone)

 

 

Free things to do at Disney World
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort on the Seven Seas Lagoon

 

  • Our last stop of the day was the Grand Floridian. It is a beautiful ride from the Polynesian to the Grand Floridian as you get to pass by Disney’s Wedding Pavillion and the white sandy beaches of the resort. FREE!
  • Free things to do at Disney World
    Disney’s Grand Floridian Lobby
    As soon as you step off the monorail you are thrown back in time to the Victorian era. The lobby is just exquisite and soothing.
  • We headed to the Penny Press machine and my daughter was so happy to find that there were Princess Pennies to press! 🙂
  • We stood on the balconies of the 2nd floor and enjoyed to the sounds of the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra which plays tunes from the 1920s-1940s. Beautiful! FREE!
  • On the ground floor lobby we were treated to the sounds of the Grand Floridian Pianist playing. That was also FREE!
  • Free things to do at Disney World
    Caffeine Soap from Basin White
    There are some beautiful shops to explore while you are at the Grand Floridian. I especially like the second floor bath and spa specialty shop called Basin White. Everything smells so good in there! The women’s boutique called Summer Lace also has some unique Disney themed items.
  • After walking around outside by the beaches, we decided to get back on the monorail to go back to our car at the Contemporary Resort. What a wonderful day exploring so much of the resorts like we never had before!

 

10. When you get home, make some Mickey (or Minnie) waffles to remind you of your trip! (for everyone of course!)

 

  • We love Mickey Waffles (or Mickey anything!) and we love that you can order Gluten Free Waffles at most of the breakfast restaurants in Disney (for a complete list check out this link to GlutenFreeDairyFreeWDW.com. Or you can buy our own Mickey or Minnie waffle maker and make them over and over at home! Yum!

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Minnie Mouse Waffle Maker

Minnie Mouse Waffle Maker

Hope you enjoyed reading about some Free Things to do at Disney World! Stay tuned for more tips for traveling to Disney World on a budget! Also be sure to read our Disney dining reviews. 🙂

 

Thanks for reading! – Lucy (@SoyLatteLucy)

 

 

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Soy Latte Lucy
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