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Disney World: Best Free Activities and Attractions for Families Most People Don't Know About...there are many ways to get discounts.
There are times when it makes a lot of sense to visit Disney World without a ticket. Maybe it's because your room isn't ready,your flight arrives into Orlando late in the day, or your departing flight takes off later in the evening. Without buying a ticket for an extra day, you can find a bunch of free things to do at the Happiest Place on Earth.
Tip #1: If you're coming by car through the Magic Kingdom entry booth in order to visit the Magic Kingdom resorts, join the line on the right and let the attendants know that you're visiting the resorts, not the theme parks. You will not have to pay a parking fee. Tip #2: There are many "seasons" at its Walt Disney World resort hotels during the year. Value Season is the least expensive and least crowded time, followed by Regular Season, Summer Season, Fall Season, Peak Season and Holiday Season. Tip #3: Disney's BoardWalk is built around a lake and is beautifully themed to be reminiscent of Cape May or Coney Island in the 1940s. It's fun just walking around and enjoying the view! If you are staying on Disney property, you can use Disney transportation to get to the BoardWalk. If you drive to the BoardWalk, you can get a FREE 3-hour parking permit from the lot attendant. While some of the restaurants are open at lunchtime, the best time to visit the BoardWalk is after sunset. It's beautifully lit up.
Some of the FREE and inexpensive things you can do at Disney's BoardWalk:
Often there are street performers (jugglers, comedians, fire-eaters, jazz ensembles, etc.) check them out!
There are many vendors selling inexpensive food goodies.
Try your luck at a carnival type game for minimum cost.
Relax and watch the Friendship Boats come and go.
Visit Jellyroll's a dueling piano bar featuring sing-a-longs to your favorite pop tunes for only $10 per person cover charge (21 and over).
Check out Atlantic Dance Hall, which has dancing to DJ-spun Top 40, usually with no cover charge (21 and over).
Tip # 4 Every one of the Disney hotels is themed and some of them are absolutely breathtaking. All of the Moderate and Deluxe resorts have wonderful theming and are worth a visit. You can take Disney transportation from any of the four theme parks to any of the resort hotels. If you drive to one of the resorts, you can get a FREE 3-hour parking permit from the gate attendant.
The Deluxe resort lobbies also have amazing elements and displays that fit with the theme, and a few (including the Grand Floridian) sometimes have a pianist performing.
If you're looking for a fun photo opportunity, consider visiting the All Star resorts or Pop Century. These hotels feature enormous "pop culture" icons. Take a family photo in front of a 35-foot Buzz Lightyear!
Several of the resorts, including Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian, and Yacht Club, offer FREE tours that are open to any Disney resort guest (whether you are staying at that particular hotel or not). Some of the tours require a reservation, so inquire in advance.
Tip # 5: Take the "inner" Monorail that circles the three Monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian). This is a great way to orient yourself and get a look at the resorts and an overview of the Magic Kingdom. You can get off and explore each resort, or just enjoy the ride and the view. All of this for FREE. Tip # 6: Take a boat ride...
This is enjoyable any time of day, but particularly beautiful and romantic at night.
Cruise the loop around Crescent Lake, which visits Epcot, Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach Club, Swan/Dolphin, and Disney's Hollywood Studios without going into the parks.
Take the boat that visits the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness, or the boat that visits the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom (and you can get off at the Magic Kingdom and wander along the lake outside the gates, or hop on the monorail).
Cruise from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney and back, along the Sassagoula River.
Cost for any of the above: FREE.
Tip # 7: Go fishing. This is strictly "catch and release." There are two places to rent cane poles (worms also provided): Port Orleans Riverside (near Ol' Man Island) or Ft. Wilderness (at the Bike Barn). Cost: about $4 per half-hour per pole, or $9 for a full day per pole. There is a family special of around $14 per half-hour for 4-6 poles. Tip # 8: Rent a boat! Most of Disney's Moderate, Deluxe and DVC resorts have a marina where you can rent various types of watercraft. A kayak, canoe or pedal boat will set you back less than $7 for a half-hour rental. A 12-foot sailboat that can be shared by two people will cost you $21.30 an hour. Tip # 9: Visit Tri-Circle D Ranch (home of the draft horses used to pull the trolleys down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom) at Ft. Wilderness. There are a few farm animals to see and pony rides for very small children from 10 am to 5 pm for $5. There is FREE day parking at Ft. Wilderness and you can get from the day guest parking to the farm area by special buses that run only in the "Settlement." Tip # 10: Sing around the campfire and watch a FREE Disney movie. The campfire program at Ft. Wilderness is open to all Walt Disney World resort guests. It is held every evening, at about 7:00 pm in fall and winter and about 8:00 pm in spring and summer, near the Meadow Trading Post. The program starts with a sing-a-long and marshmallow roast. You can bring your own food or buy it from the Chuckwagon, which sells S'more kits for about $9 (makes enough for about 4 people) and also offers other food such as pizza and hot dogs. Chip and Dale meet the guests and sign autographs. Then a Disney movie is shown on a large outdoor screen. There is some seating on bleachers and benches, or you can lay out a blanket. No reservations necessary -- just show up. Cost: FREE to all Disney resort guests. Tip # 11: At Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can walk out to the viewing areas and see the exotic African animals roaming free. Note that the animals come out around dusk -- you won't see any during the day. (Please keep in mind that hotel guests' rooms open right out onto the viewing areas, so quiet is very much appreciated.) At night a Disney cast member will be there for several hours with night vision glasses for very fun viewing of the animals" that can otherwise not be seen in the dark. Cost: FREE Tip # 12: Visit a Butterfly Garden (a patch of land planted to create a habitat that attracts butterflies) at one of the resorts. There are currently two that I know about: at Contemporary Resort, the garden is located on the left side as you walk out the back of the lobby towards the pool and lake; and at Ft. Wilderness, there is a garden outside the Outpost. You can call the Gardening Hotline at (407) 938-3900 for more information regarding butterfly gardens. Cost: FREE Tip # 13: Watch the Electrical Water Pageant. This floating parade is visible nightly, usually starting at 9:00, from Disney's Magic Kingdom-area resort hotel docks and beaches. The pageant takes about an hour to move slowly around the lake, stopping at each resort in order: Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Ft. Wilderness and Contemporary. Cost: FREE
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