Disney World is a wonderful place, but it’s expensive, especially for families. There are ways to save money, but it can still cost more than other vacations. But not everything at Walt Disney World costs money.
In this episode, I share 11 free things you can do at Disney World. Our list includes fun activities at each of the four parks and the Disney World resorts.
Speaking of free…
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In This Episode, You’ll Learn:
Where to find free keepsakes and souvenirs at Walt Disney World
Tips for exploring Disney Resorts even if you’re not a resort guest
Exclusive character photo opportunities for select Disney World park guests
Before we get to the list, let me tackle some of the more obvious freebies available at Disney World that we’re not including on our list of favorites:
- Fireworks Shows
- Character Meet N Greets
- Disney transportation
- Walking around Disney Springs and the Boardwalk
- Free water at most dining locations
- Luggage storage at Disney Resorts
- Park maps (including maps in several foreign languages)
OK, let’s get to all of our favorite free things to do at Disney World.
1. Snag Free Celebration Buttons
Visiting Disney World is a special event anyway, but Disney makes it even more special for guests with Celebration buttons to display proudly as you explore the parks. They have Celebration buttons for events like first visits, birthdays, and anniversaries. They even have buttons with a blank space to write in your own celebration with a Sharpie.
You can pick up Celebration buttons at guest relations at all of the parks and Disney Springs, the Chamber of Commerce on Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, they should have them available at the front desk during check-in. That’s how we got our buttons on our anniversary trip last year. You might find free stickers available at some of these locations, too.
Quick Tip: Ask for clear tape to cover your name or celebration on your button so it doesn’t rub off during the week.
2. Learn to Draw Disney Characters
Animation is a huge part of Disney’s history. With that, Disney offers opportunities to learn how to draw a popular Disney character from an actual Disney animator. There are two locations on Walt Disney World property that offer free drawing classes.
- Teach to Draw Classes at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- The Animation Experience at Conservation Station located at Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom
The free classes aren’t always part of Art of Animation’s weekly activity calendar and are subject to availability. Check with the resort or guest services just before your trip to see if it’s offered during your stay.
3. Taste The Worst Soft Drink Flavor Ever at Club Cool
There’s a cool little spot in the World Celebration area at EPCOT called CLUB Cool. It’s sponsored by Coca-Cola and features beverage stations with Coca-Cola products from around the world to sample.
Some of the flavors are more interesting than others. There’s one flavor, which I will not name so you can experience it fully, that has a reputation for being one of the worst pop flavors ever created.
It’s a fun air-conditioned break and a chance to explore other cultures in a different way than the World Showcase.
One word of caution. The last few times I’ve been to Club Cool, the floors were super sticky, a common occurrence with kids (and adults) constantly filling tiny cups with free pop.
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4. Participate in a Family Scavenger Hunt
Walt Disney World has created several interactive scavenger hunts in the parks and resorts. It’s free to participate and a unique way to enhance your vacation experience. Some of the scavenger hunts are geared toward younger kids, while others are fun to experience even without kids in tow.
Most, if not all, of the Disney World resorts offer some type of scavenger hunt. You might even receive a prize for finishing your hunt. Ask at your resort’s front desk for details.
- There’s a Disney Skyliner scavenger hunt available at Disney Resorts located along the Skyliner.
- You can find one in Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom called “A Pirate’s Adventure – Treasures of the Seven Seas.”
- There’s a DuckTales-themed scavenger hunt within the Play Disney Parks mobile app.
- Wilderness Explorers is a super popular program at Animal Kingdom with challenges you can complete to become an official Wilderness Explorer.
Sometimes, Disney offers scavenger hunts for a limited time during special events. Recently, Disney offered a Ratatouille-themed scavenger hunt that involved tasting all of the cheese-based dishes available at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival
There’s another Disney World scavenger hunt that’s become extremely popular but technically isn’t free. Star Wars: Batuu Bounty Hunters in Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios. I say it’s not free because to play, at least one person in your group must have a Magic Band+.
5. Explore Activities Available at Your Resort
I touched on the art class at Art of Animation and scavenger hunts already. Walt Disney World is all about creating an incredible experience for park guests. This extends to Disney World Resorts, which offer a variety of free activities and experiences. Each resort has a weekly activity calendar with times and dates of all of the free events and experiences happening.
Some of the activities are only offered at a specific resort or select resorts. Some of the activities you might find at your resort include:
- Campfire singalongs and smores
- Movies Under The Stars (poolside at select resorts)
- Live music
- Scavenger hunts
- Guests at Disney’s Polynesian Village receive free leis during check-in, but you can also make your own leis
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has several viewing areas where you can watch giraffes, zebras and other animals
- Pool parties
- Sand volleyball
- Exercise trails
For the most part, these events are family-friendly and free of charge. There could be a charge with activities like tie-dying. We’ve never participated, so I’m not sure if you have to buy a shirt or if they provide one.
6. Go Resort Hopping
So far, some of the free experiences I’ve mentioned involve staying at a Disney Resort. Did you know you can visit almost any of the Disney World Resorts for free without being a guest?
Now, you can’t simply drive up to the gate and expect resort security to give you free rein (unless you have a dining reservation at a resort restaurant). But you can take a monorail, Skyliner, water taxi, Friendship Launch boat or bus from the parks to select Disney Resorts. I’ve heard of people parking at Disney Springs since there’s free parking and taking a bus to the resorts.
Resort pools are reserved for Resort guests and generally require a keycard to enter. But you can explore the rest of the resort and participate in other activities. It’s also a cool way to try some of the resort-specific food (which is not free but still awesome).
7. Look for Hidden Mickeys
I’m not going to dive too deep into this, but basically, Disney has placed Hidden Mickeys around the entire property. Parks, resorts, restaurants. Everywhere. Think of Easter Eggs like you find in movies or TV shows. Some of the Hidden Mickeys are more obvious than others. Some are a bit of a stretch, honestly.
There are entire websites dedicated to Hidden Mickeys. You can also buy Hidden Mickey books that show the locations of all of the known Hidden Mickeys. It’s a fun activity that can literally last your entire vacation.
8. Enjoy Hands-On Fun at Kidcot Fun Stops
Head over to the World Showcase. There is a Kidcot Fun Stop station at every International pavilion.
- Mexico Pavilion (near Mexico Folk Art Gallery)
- Norway Pavilion (at The Puffin’s Roost)
- China Pavilion (near the exit of Reflections of China)
- Germany Pavilion (at Volkunst)
- Italy Pavilion (outside, near La Bottega Italiana)
- American Adventure Pavilion (outside, near Art of Disney)
- Japan Pavilion (in the Bijutsu-kan Gallery)
- Morocco Pavilion (at the Marketplace in the Medina)
- France Pavilion (at Souvenirs de France)
- United Kingdom Pavilion (at The Toy Soldier)
- Canada Pavilion (at the exit of Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360)
Each stop has fun activities for kids. They’ll receive a free memento at each featuring the culture and traditions of that country.
9. Learn about Walt Disney with “One Man’s Dream”
Beyond all of the attractions, characters and parades, there’s a gallery with the Animation Courtyard at Hollywood Studios that commemorates the man behind the mouse. The gallery features photos, artwork, artifacts and multimedia displays to give you a glimpse into the life of Walt Disney World.
Within the gallery, you can watch “Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream,” a short 15-minute documentary that walks through Walt’s story and how he turned his grand ideas into reality. It’s worth checking out at least once, plus, the gallery is air-conditioned and provides a refreshing break on hot days.
10. Get Your Pilots License At Dumbo The Flying Elephant
Soar above Storybook Circus in Fantasyland on Dumbo The Flying Elephant. While you’re there, pick up a free pilot’s license from a Disney cast member. These are often subject to availability, so they may not have them on hand, but it’s worth asking. It’s a cool little souvenir from one of the park’s classic attractions.
Dumbo’s pilot’s license isn’t the only license available at Magic Kingdom. You can create your own personalized driver’s license at the Tomorrowland Speedway. Unfortunately, it’s not free. A Tomorrowland Speedway driver’s license costs $5 to make but is also a unique keepsake to have and display at home.
11. Participate in Exclusive Disney Visa Character Photo Experiences
This last freebie is only available for specific park guests. Disney partnered with Chase to create the Disney Visa Credit Cards. There are a couple of card options available. With a Disney credit card, you can earn Disney Rewards Dollars for card spending, which you can redeem for almost anything Disney-related, like park tickets, resort stays, dining, and more.
Whether Disney credit cards are worth getting is up for debate. The reason I bring them up is that there are a couple of exclusive photo opportunities at Walt Disney World for Disney Visa cardholders.
- The Disney® Visa® Cardmember Photo Opportunity at EPCOT, located in World Celebration.
- The Disney® Visa® Cardmember Star Wars Photo Opportunity at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, located in Animation Courtyard.
Check the daily schedule, as times and availability can change for these unique experiences.
Not interested in a Disney credit card?
No worries. Something many Disney fans don’t realize is that you can also gain entrance to these experiences with a Disney Visa debit card, which is available with select Chase checking accounts. Some Chase checking accounts have monthly fees or requirements to waive fees each month. But it’s another option to consider if you don’t want to open a new credit card.
Before we wrap things up, let me throw out two more bonus freebies.
Bonus #1: Ride the monorail. Some Disney guests consider the monorail their favorite ride. And technically, it’s free to ride, even without park tickets. If you park at the Ticket & Transportation Center, you’ll pay for parking. I’m sure you could navigate your way over to Disney Springs, which has free parking. That’s a lot of time and work just for the monorail, but it’s an option. Or use the monorail as a quiet break during the day to escape the park for a bit.
Bonus #2: This one is for adults only. Within Disney’s Boardwalk sits Atlantic Dance Hall. It’s located along Disney’s Boardwalk. You must be 21 years of age or older to enter Atlantic Dance Hall. You don’t need a reservation, and there’s no cover charge. The nightclub features music from the 80s to today and offers a different Disney experience for adults.
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Kevin Payne is the budgeting and family travel enthusiast behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com. He’s also the host of the Family Money Adventure Show podcast, where he helps families learn to manage their money better so they can afford to do the things they love.
Kevin is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. He is a regular contributor to USA Today, Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Fox Business, Credible, and CreditCards.com.