Did you know there are actually quite a few things you can do at Disney without going into the parks and that are free? This is great to know if you have a day or two on your vacation for which you do not have tickets to the parks. I will rank my top seven free things below. I am also going to make another post of top 7 things you can do without a ticket, but those 7 things will still cost money and range in price from a little to a lot. Anyway, here are my top 7 free things.
7 – The Hidden Mickey Scavenger Hunt at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
There are hidden Mickeys all over Disney property and you can hunt for them anywhere. However, Wilderness Lodge actually will give you a scavenger hunt list to see of you can find all of the ones hidden at the lodge. Simply go to the desk in the lobby and ask a cast member for the Hidden Mickey Scavenger Hunt list. There are actually two lists for different parts of the lodge. The list does not tell exactly where each hidden Mickey is located. Instead, it gives you rhyming clues like this:
Beavers, deer, and snakes all around
A knot in the log is where I will be found.
6 – See the Animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort
My wife and I first discovered this when we ate dinner at Sanaa, which is a table service restaurant at Kidani Village in the Animal Kingdom Resort. You can see the animals through the very large floor to ceiling windows at Sanaa if you are eating there (which I highly recommend), but you do not have to eat there in order to see animals such as zebra, wildebeest, and giraffe. Just outside of the restaurant is an outdoor viewing area. It’s also great to come at night because Disney has night vision goggles placed along the fence of the viewing area. One of our favorite date nights is to go to Sanaa where she gets the Indian-style Bread Service and I get the Fragrant Duck and then we take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the fire pit in the outdoor animal viewing area.
5 – See the Fireworks
Many people do not know there are numerous places to see Disney’s fireworks without going into the parks. Of course, the only way to see certain parts of the show, such as the projections on Cinderella’s Castle is by being in the park. If you have already seen those and just want to enjoy the fireworks there are a lot of places where you can do that. For instance, you can go to the beach areas of the Polynesian Resort or Fort Wilderness Campground, or the lower viewing deck of the Contemporary Resort. If you dine at the California Grill, which is on the rooftop of the Contemporary Resort, you are allowed to use their viewing deck and they pipe in the music. You also don’t have to be eating there during the fireworks. If you ate there earlier in the day, just show them your receipt and they will let you go out on the viewing deck. You could also time a ferry boat ride across Seven Seas Lagoon to coincide with the fireworks.
4 – Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long
Head over to the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort in the evening and join Chip ‘n’ Dale around a campfire to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. You can bring your own or purchase a s’mores kit from the Chuckwagon Snack Bar. After the s’mores there is a sing-a-long to some old-time favorite songs led by a cowboy with a guitar. During the sing-a-long Chip ‘n’ Dale come around for photos and autographs. After the sing-a-long everyone goes to the big outdoor screen to watch a classic Disney movie. Benches are provided, however, bringing camping chairs or blankets will be much more comfortable. By the way, I think all Disney resorts have an outdoor movie nightly. It’s just that this one is probably the best because you get to meet characters.
3 – Disney’s Boardwalk
Disney’s Boardwalk is an area just outside of Epcot that is themed around the boardwalks of Coney Island and Atlantic City. There are a lot of shops and restaurants along the quarter mile stretch that makes up the Boardwalk. But there is also street entertainment and you can see most of the Epcot fireworks from here. You can also sample every single flavor of ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery for free.
2 – Disney Springs
You probably expected this to be my #1 because it is the first place most people think about when not being able to go to the parks. It is a great destination and you can spend an entire day here exploring. However, most of the stuff is not free, and that is what this list is mostly about. As far as the free stuff you actually have at Disney Springs, there is live entertainment by street performers at various times of the day as well as a stage that has free live performances at various times. Your kids can build Legos to their hearts’ content at the Lego store. You can sample free chocolate at Ghirardelli and The Ganachery. You can actually watch them make it at The Ganachery and it is worth going inside just for how heavenly the place smells. There is also a large pin trading store here and pin trading is free if you already have some Disney pins to trade.
1 – Resort Hopping the Magic Kingdom Resorts
This one is probably a surprise to most people. If you do not visit Disney a lot, you probably don’t think about this one. But, there is a good reason I have it as my #1. There is so much to do and it is constantly changing.
The first perk of hopping the Magic Kingdom resorts is you have the opportunity to ride the monorail. You can actually ride the complete monorail route or the Ferry Boat without a park ticket. Though the Ferry Boat will not take you directly to a resort, it’s still fun to ride it. You can, however, take a resort boat to the Wilderness Lodge. Second, from any of these resorts you can see the nightly Electrical Water Pageant, which is a floating nighttime parade of whimsical sea creatures set to classic Disney tunes. Third, at certain times of the year you can experience spectacular seasonal displays from giant gingerbread houses to large chocolate Easter Eggs. The amount of talent that goes into these displays is amazing. It is when the resorts are decorated for the holidays that I am most likely to be hopping them. Finally, you can listen to live music at the Grand Floridian. Just sit back and relax as you take in either the Grand Floridian Lobby Pianist or the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra.
Of course, you can resort hop the other resorts. There are unique things about each resort worth seeing. For instance, you can go see the animals at the Animal Kingdom Lodge as mentioned above. The Pop Century has the best arcade (will cost money). Port Orleans French Quarter has Mickey shaped beignets (currently $6.79 for 6). It’s just that the Magic Kingdom resorts being so close together and being tied together by easy transportation make them my favorite. Plus, they are kind of nostalgic, since they go all the way back to the opening of Walt Disney World.
There is my list. What would you change? I would love to hear your thoughts.