Planning and enjoying Disney World often comes with a pretty big price, but there are still a number of budget friendly items that are fun for the whole family.
So what can you do for free at Disney World?
There are many free things to do at Disney World. You can go ‘resort hopping’ to discover many of the onsite resorts. You can participate in a Campfire Singalong at Fort Wilderness, Meet Characters, Do Scavenger Hunts, Enjoy Nighttime Entertainment and explore the many running and walking trails (among other options!)
Want free stuff to get at Disney World? Check out this other post for those details!
Free Things to do at Walt Disney World
Resort Hopping is SO. MUCH. FUN. You get to see all the resorts, it’s free, and most resorts have cool things going on- many of which are FREE!
Ok, so here’s how this works. You can do the monorail loop (which is absolutely MAGICAL at Christmas time with all the decorations and amazing photo ops- hello instagram worthy holiday cards!) So that’s the resorts of the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian and the Contemporary.
Wait, you can ride the Monorail for Free at Disney World?
Yes! The Monorail is a transportation option at Disney World, free for everyone to use. You can join the Monorail at the Ticket and Transportation Center and ride it to Epcot or Magic Kingdom. You can also join the Monorail there to ride to the three monorail resorts, which is the perfect option for an afternoon of resort hopping.
OR you can do the Skyliner Loop. That’s the resorts of Pop and Art of Animation, Riveria Resort, Caribbean Beach and the Boardwalk.
The Boardwalk has it’s own set of resorts. The Yacht Club, Boardwalk Resort, Beach Club and the Swan and Dolphin.
You can also take the bus or watercraft to the other resorts- depending on where you are at.
–Animal Kingdom Lodge has some amazing restaurants. They also have a safari area where you can relax and watch the animals. I’m not lying when I say that I take my kids here on every off day we do on our vacation. It’s great for pictures and it doesn’t matter if they make a ton of noise!
-Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside is simply beautiful. And they have Beignets. GLUTEN FREE (and top 8 free) beignets are also available. We are in heaven!!!
-The Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campground are amazing too. They have some quality restaurants and a playground. Yep, I’m all about that playground life!
–The Boardwalk is super fun to go during the early afternoon and enjoy the water. They also have yoga on Friday Mornings.
–Art of Animation has free Art Classes. You don’t need to be staying at Art of Animation Resort, but you do need to be staying on Disney Property. These are held at various times throughout the day, so ask for the times at your resort.
-The Polynesian has a beautiful view of Cinderellas castle, and it’s on the monorail loop for quick hop on and off!
The other thing about resort hopping, is many of them have nightly movies you can watch (some are on the front lawn, some are in the pool area. You need to check to see what’s available). The only downside is seeing all the pretty pools and not being able to swim in them!
Resort Hopping is number 1 for me, because it is so diverse and offers so many fun things to do! Especially with the three different areas, and how much they offer!
NOT TO MENTION- many of the moderate and value resorts have playgrounds that are open and free to use. This is awesome when we are resort hopping so the kiddos can let off some steam!
Disney Springs is free, both from admittance AND parking! Finally, free parking.
It’s quite large, so if you want to walk around and enjoy the shops there it will take up the afternoon, possibly the whole day!
They generally have free entertainment at night- from cheer groups, to singing groups to instrument groups. I really love to grab a drink and sit and watch the entertainment.
Girhadelli has free chocolate samples- YUM. There’s also a soap store called Basin, where you can wash and sniff your way into Mickey soap induced heaven.
There’s a splash pad close by for the kiddos to play in! And the Lego Store has lots of interactive desks filled with lots of fun legos (for the big and little kids!). Learn about all the things you with the kids at Disney Springs!
While these aren’t free, You’ll also find an amazing assortment of food, drink and shopping options.
Oh and they have a Bibbidi Boppity Boutique there too- so you don’t even need tickets for that, but you do have to pay for the princess makeover (pro tip, bring your own dress and just do the makeup package!)
There’s a number of splash pads around the parks and resorts, many of which are totally free to use (well, there ALL free- but you might need to be staying at the resort to use them!)
There are actually TWO in Disney Springs, and you can read all about the splash pads options at Disney World.
Go Visit the Animals
We talked about resort hopping above, but there’s one specific resort where you can visit AND enjoy safari animals!
Hop over to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a few hours and hang out with animals you’d see on safari at Animal Kingdom Park. They use the lodge grounds as a way to separate certain animals, or introduce members of the same species for temporary breeding purposes.
Skip the Lines
*****(this is currently paused in 2021, and may come back as a paid option)******
Yes, you read that right. It’s totally possible to skip the lines for free (unlike many of the other central florida theme parks where you pay to skip the lines with a regular pass)
Sure, you can do one of the special ticketed events for low wait times- but for the average vacationer, the Fastpass+ will do the trick! This allows you to skip the line and save time at the parks. If you don’t know how to use Fastpass+, discover all the in’s and out’s and secret hacks for your vacation.
Epcot Festival Fun
EPCOT, home to figment, frozen and drinking around the world, is also a festival meca! Each year Epcot hosts four festivals, and these festivals have lots of free entertainment that are unique to each offering.
The best part? The majority of these unique festival offerings are included in your tickets! There’s special concerts, fun photo opportunities, unique window shopping opportunities, and special character meets.
Free Nighttime Entertainment!
Nighttime entertainment at Disney World is Amazing. I love to be right up in the action so that I can experience the music, the sights and the complexity of the show.
My kids however, are not always so cooperative! That’s ok! There are some free options that don’t require you to be smooshed in the crowds!
For one, you can watch the Fireworks outside of the Parks with Ease. Head over to the Contemporary Resort to watch the Fireworks.
BONUS- they even have a viewing area that broadcasts the songs and audio from the show, so you aren’t missing anything besides the crowds!
For two, you can enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant. We personally, like to time it, so that we are on the ferry from (or to) magic kingdom when the parade is on the water. It gives us an up close look at the magic!
You can also view it from the Contemporary resort, The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian Resort and Fort Wilderness. Check out this article by Disney to know what time you can see the parade!
There are several free scavenger hunt type adventures at Disney.
Outside the park, we have a hidden mickey scavenger hunt at Fort Wilderness (most resorts have hidden mickeys, just FYI!! Always be on the lookout!)
Inside Magic Kingdom there are two! These are more “adventures” than scavenger hunts, and are more appropriate for ages 6 and up.
A Pirate’s Adventure- is in Adventure land- and takes approximately 20 mins to complete. You are running around trying to find clues and then using your card or magic band to activate the experience once you’ve found it!
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is another scavenger-type hunt that goes along Main Street USA has been canceled.
Then over at Animal Kingdom you have the wilderness explorer progam- which is kind of like scavenger hunt meets educational time.
You have a booklet and you have to find things inside the book while talking to the Wilderness Explorer Guides- you also get free stickers! This is something I recommend for the kids AND the adults because the guides can change what they tell you based on the age group.
Disney World has some pretty fun entertainment options, especially when it comes to live music! Epcot is the place to be for Free Concerts. They have so many options throughout the year, especially during their festivals.
Go online here, or ask at the resort for the lineup for your stay. It’s magical to go to Disney, enjoy the food, and then kick back for a concert with one of your favorite artists!
Campfires? At Disney? Yep!
Every night around 7, at Fort Wilderness they do a campfire with Chip n’ Dale! They have marshmellows for sale- or you can bring your own (we do, because allergies!)
They sing songs and the kids have room to run and play.
BONUS: After the campfire, stick around for a movie!
Not over by Fort Wilderness? No biggie! You can find a low key version (no chip and dale!) at most of the moderate and deluxe resorts.
They tend to hold these from 5-6 in the afternoon!
Lace up those shoes and hit the tracks at Disney World!
This is a great thing to do to stay in shape, and get the kids out of the stroller and moving around.
You’ll find many trails around the resorts (plus it’s a great way to check out the sites while you are there!)
Seriously- there’s entertainment galore. From stage shows, and parades, to little side character acts sprinkled all around the parks AND resorts. It’s amazing.. Keep your eyes open- you’ll never know what might pop up! Met those Dapper Dans!
I actually get asked this question quite a bit- and it is possible to meet characters for free
But I think it requires some good planning and a little serendipity. For instance, in December I got to meet Stitch in the lobby of the Polynesian. Sure, I have a platinum pass with no blockouts and I could see him anytime I want- but that fact that I wasn’t staying at the Poly and still got to meet Stitch?! Awesome!
If you come to the Deluxe and Moderate resorts on Holidays, you will likely find characters. You’ll also find characters at Value resorts on BIG holidays like Christmas.
Other characters have been known to float around the resorts, especially the deluxe ones, and especially if there is a severe weather warning. Other times, they are just out and about and you can greet them because you can!
If you’re looking for some more options- you can meet the characters outside of the parks for a little $$$