For many people, visiting Disney World is a dream vacation. However, nowadays it is becoming increasingly expensive to take your family to all of the parks.
We can no longer use our annual passes to get into Disney World because they expired which is such a bummer. And we just found out that we might be going to Orlando for the New Year for the fly-by for the Capital One Bowl game. Because of this, I have begun looking for fun things to do with our kids that won’t break the bank! It turns out there are a lot of free things to do at Disney World or nearby. Here is what I have found so far.
Jump Ahead To
Free Things to do at Disney World
*You can park for free at any Disney resort, you just have to ask for the 3-hour parking pass! You can also park at Disney Springs for free. When they are running at high capacity this can become more difficult and they may not give you a pass. You can always park for free at Disney Springs and catch a bus over to the resort you want to go to.
Electrical Water Pageant
Every night, beginning at 9 pm, the Electrical Water Pageant makes its way around Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. It can be seen from 5 of the resorts. You could go to the Grand Floridian and then walk down to the beach and see the Pageant and the fireworks at Magic Kingdom. Obviously, remember that there is wildlife all over the place and be careful. Do NOT get close to the water at night.
The Disney World Boardwalk is located right outside Epcot and is modeled after Atlantic City’s boardwalk. Every night they play a Disney movie and have a campfire on the beachside. The kids can play in the sand while they watch the movie. If you are around when they do Illuminations at Epcot, you can see a lot of the fireworks and hear the music. You can also see some of the fireworks from Disney Studies as well. Sometimes there is a magician or juggler there. You can also take a boat ride.
Update – We went here for NYE and it was so much fun! We had to park at Disney Springs and take a bus over, but it was no big deal. There was a live DJ, a juggler, and more.
Fort Wilderness Campground has a bonfire every night (around 8 pm) for free. It starts with a sing-a-long. Chip and Dale come for a meet and greet and then they play a Disney movie for free. You can bring items to make your own s’mores or you can buy the stuff there. We just bought S’more stuff and paid an obscene amount of money for a marshmallow! They also have a free petting zoo and you can visit the barn where they house the horses they use on Main Street. Small children can enjoy pony rides.
Animal Kingdom Lodge has over 100 grazing animals on the property. You can view them for free. There is a place set up for kids to play musical instruments from Africa inside the gift shop. I found that going to the smaller lodge instead of the larger lodge sometimes has more animals. We ate at Sanaa once in the evening and there were tons of animals!
Free Things to Do at Disney Springs
If you want to experience the Disney atmosphere without paying the Disney pass price, you can visit Disney Springs. Disney Springs is free and offers plenty of shops and restaurants that will fit your budget. Unique dining options include Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood, and Wolfgang Puck Express Marketplace just to name a few. There are full-size statues of Disney characters throughout the area as well.
- Lego Store – My kids love the Lego store. They have an area set up where the kids can build and a playground. There are also really large Lego creations around the store. This Lego store location does participate in the free monthly mini structure, where your child can build and keep a little something for free.
- Ghiradelli – The Ghiradelli Chocolate store is always giving out free samples! My kids also like watching the hot air balloon go up and down.
- Dancing – Most nights there is a family-friendly DJ near the toy store. He is really good and leads kids in various line dances.
- Live Music – There is live music spread out around Disney Springs. Most times live music can be found near the Boathouse.
- Splash pad – There is a splash pad kids can play in when it is hot outside.
- Photos – Head over to the virtual photo studio at the Marketplace to get free digital photos. You take photos in front of a green screen. Then later you can see your photos in your My Disney account.
- Glass Blowing – You can watch glass blowing at Crystal Arts by Arrabias Brothers.
The Gaylord Palms – My stepmom said the Gaylord was worth checking out! There is a large atrium with three destinations The Everglades, which has REAL alligators, a Spanish Castle with pathways through the Everglades and Key West – there is a large boat which is a bar in the atrium. You do have to pay for parking, however.
Free Things to do in Orlando
The truth is, not everyone cares about visiting Mickey and friends or seeing the castle. Orlando has many other activities and attractions besides Disney World and theme parks. If you are visiting Orlando and looking for ways to save money, here are some free and affordable ideas to help you ease the burden on your wallet.
World of Orchids
A World of Orchids, located in Kissimmee, is a 22,500 square foot conservatory with a wide variety of plants, exotic birds, and fish. Visitors can see a wide variety of flowers from different parts of the world, including Southeast Asia, Australia, and Indonesia.
Winter Park Popcorn Flicks
How does a free movie sound? Taking the whole family to the movies plus snacks is expensive these days. On the second Thursday of each month, you can take your family to Winter Park to see free family-friendly movies including Disney classics.
Old Town offers free concerts on Saturday nights. In addition, this attraction also offers a parade of vintage cars, affordable restaurants, 75 shops, and 15 amusement park rides.
Ocala National Forest
Ocala National Forest is located north of Orlando between Ockalawaha and St. Johns Rivers. This is a great travel destination, especially if you enjoy the outdoors and want to get away from the city. Ocala National Forest offers plenty to do including; hunting, fishing, camping, horseback riding, canoeing, hiking, and bicycling. This is a great destination for families to enjoy and even have a picnic.
Free Stuff At Disney World
Not only can you find free things to do, but you can also score free stuff at Disney World.
When you arrive at your Disney hotel or at the gate, they will give you a button to wear around if you are celebrating something like a birthday or anniversary. You will definitely want to get the birthday button because the cast members will wish you a happy birthday all day long.
Lots of the cast members hand out stickers, especially the ones offering some sort of transportation.