Let’s face it: a trip to Walt Disney World can cost a lot, but it’s absolutely worth it. But you may not know that not everything at Disney World is expensive. Resort guests can take advantage of several experiences that enrich the trip but don’t cost a thing. (Non-resort guests can take advantage of some of them too.)
Here are ten free ways to have fun at Walt Disney World…
10. Enjoy A Boat Ride Around Bay Lake.
Guests know that transportation is a huge part of the experience at Walt Disney World. From classic trains and old-school ferryboats to innovative monorail and linear induction technology, getting around the parks and resorts is a big part of the fun.
Taking the boat that runs from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary Resort to Wilderness Lodge to Fort Wilderness is a nice way to cool off with a breeze and take in the sights around Bay Lake. In addition to the resorts, check out the “ruins” of River Country and Discovery Island, both of which you’ll see along the way, and marvel at the road that passes under the canal between the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, near the Contemporary Resort.
9. Run (Or Walk) The Trail Between Fort Wilderness And Wilderness Lodge.
Disney guests who are fitness junkies have a great opportunity to experience the beauty of central Florida while getting in a healthy run. Between Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness lies a 2.5 mile nature trail that is perfect for running and walking.
The trail boasts plenty of gorgeous, peaceful Southern scenery, along with chances to spot wildlife along the way. Portions of the trail wind past Bay Lake and offer glimpses of Space Mountain and the Contemporary Resort. A trip along the trail provides great practice for runDisney events as well as the chance to get away from it all while being in the middle of Walt Disney World.
8. Marvel At Firerock Geyser.
I bet some of you had no idea that Walt Disney World has its own geyser. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – my favorite resort – plays home to Firerock Geyser, a true feat of Imagineering.
Firerock Geyser, based on Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park, sits just past a courtyard between the resort’s pool area and Bay Lake, and it erupts every hour on the hour from around sunrise until 10:00 at night. It’s a breathtaking sight, no matter how many times you get to see it.
Legend has it that the Imagineers had to install a sensor to gauge wind speed and direction after guests staying at Wilderness Lodge complained that they got wet from the geyser when they stood out on their balconies.
7. Watch The Electrical Water Pageant.
Nearly every night just off the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, something magical takes place. Along the water, lights cut through the darkness and create charming, nostalgic images. The Electrical Water Pageant debuted a mere three weeks after Walt Disney World’s opening and is the longest-running nighttime show at any Disney Park.
The floats depict various aquatic life and classic Disney scenes, leading to a majestic, patriotic finale (of course). The floating parade winds from the Polynesian Resort to the Grand Floridian Resort, the Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, and the Contemporary Resort. Guests who can time monorail or boat rides just right can see the pageant in two different locations in one night.
The Electrical Water Pageant links Walt Disney World with its 1971 beginnings in a whimsical way, and it’s worth watching every time.
6. Ride The Monorail System.
The Walt Disney World Monorail System combines Walt’s love of trains with his futurism. The monorail system spans over 14 lane miles of track, and guests can take advantage of multiple opportunities to explore parts of the resort via monorail. The Resort line starts at the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC) and visits the three resorts along the Seven Seas Lagoon before stopping at the Magic Kingdom, while the Express line runs from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom and buzzes through the resort stations without stopping. The Epcot line departs from the TTC and takes guests on a quick tour of Epcot.
The trains represent the spirit of tradition-meets-innovation that has driven the entire Florida Project from the start. And the monorail is a fun — and air conditioned — way of getting around!
5. Enjoy The Horses At Tri-Circle-D Ranch.
One of the hidden gems on Walt Disney World property sits just behind Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. The Tri-Circle-D Ranch houses the horses used in parades and demonstrations throughout the parks and is open to the public.
The ranch offers trail rides and carriage rides – for a fee (sorry), but guests can walk through the stables and watch the cast members take care of the horses for free. Visitors can also see the Dragon Calliope, which Walt purchased for the short-lived circus parade at Disneyland in the 1950s, as well as tributes to the best known and loved real animals in Disney history.
4. Head Out For A Movie And Sing Along By The Campfire.
One of the best-kept secrets at Walt Disney World takes place in the late evenings at Fort Wilderness – Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long and Campground Cinema near the Meadow Recreation Area. Repeat guests to the campground know it well, but not many others take advantage of the fun.
If it sounds pretty straightforward, well that’s just what it is. Guests can bring their own marshmallows and sticks or purchase s’mores kits at the recreation area, and they join Chip ‘n’ Dale for a sing-along by the campfire. Following the sing-along, guests can watch a Disney classic on a massive screen under the stars. It’s a great way to spend an evening under a Florida sky!
3. Take In The Atmosphere At Downtown Disney.
On the east side of Walt Disney World property lies Downtown Disney, a shopping and entertainment district with a unique Disney spin. “Wait a second,” you say. “I thought this was supposed to be a list of free stuff to do.”
You can enjoy some time at Downtown Disney without spending a dime. Take a look around World of Disney, the largest Disney Store anywhere. Stroll along the landing, and gawk at the Characters in Flight balloon as it soars above the area. People-watch, of course. And don’t forget to stop by the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain, where you can enjoy a free sample of Ghirardelli chocolate!
Downtown Disney is in the midst of a transformation into Disney Springs, an even larger district with twice as much to see and do. The metamorphosis completes in 2016.
2. Stroll Along Disney’s Boardwalk.
Disney has always done an excellent job conjuring up images of other times and places and transporting guests to them. One of the most evocative areas at Walt Disney World is Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, which beautifully evokes the classic boardwalks of the Eastern Seaboard at the turn of the 20th century.
The Boardwalk contains plenty of shopping and dining, but since we’re talking about the free stuff, it’s a great area for people-watching. The area is pristine and immersive – you can’t help but feel like you’re at an old resort along the Atlantic – and the view of the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts and Crescent Lake will take your breath away. Plus, you can always window shop!
1. Explore The Resorts.
Far too many Walt Disney World guests confine themselves to the theme parks, maybe the water parks, and the resort where they’re staying. Though that’s a lot, these guests wind up missing out on experiencing some of the coolest secrets there – the resorts.
Each of the Disney resorts boasts its own immersive theming and design that transport guests in many ways. The Polynesian Resort looks and feels like a tropical paradise, while Coronado Springs conjures up a Central American adventure, and the Caribbean Beach Resort whisks guests away to the islands – these are just a few examples.
Guests should take a day off from running around the parks and take in the beauty of the resorts. The resorts near the Magic Kingdom and Epcot are a monorail trip or boat ride away, and buses run to all the other resorts. They’re worth the time.