Walt Disney World will most likely leave you breathless: its gigantic size, the magic, the shining eyes of children and yes, the prices. Yet it is possible to enjoy many of Disney’s wonders without paying for the privilege. Actually, during our last visit, our favorite experiences were on the house.
Have a Disney Day without Buying a Park Hopper Pass
Legoland at Downtown Disney
1780 East Buena Vista
Orlando, Florida 32830
This is the best free place to hang out in Orlando! Our favorite free things here are Legoland, the Rainforest Cafe and the fountains. The newly redone Legoland is just spectacular, with its sculptures and numerous picture-taking opportunities. Kids get to play with unlimited Lego blocks at the Lego Imagination Center. And you get to rest your feet for a while, take in the atmosphere and watch the world go by. This fun video shows you how much fun you’ll find!
Rainforest Café’s Thunder/Rain/Lightning Show at Downtown Disney
1780 East Buena Vista
Orlando, Florida 32830
At this Downtown Disney jungle-themed restaurant, the show is a not-to-be missed experience. It occurs every 15 minutes while you dine (food is good but pricey), but you can just stop by, wait and watch. And the kids will love to play in all the fountains, especially in the humid summer months. Admission: free, but there are plenty of places to spend money.
Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
3520 North Fort Wilderness Trail
During the day, families can go on a nature walk, join the free tour at the Lodge, go on a Hidden Mickey Hunt (his image is everywhere) and visit the petting farm or the Tri-Circle D Ranch (home of the draft horses used to pull the trolleys down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom). The petting farm is open 7am to dusk. Admission: free (except pony rides, which are $3, and animal feed, which is 25¢ per handful). There is free day parking at Ft. Wilderness.
In the evening, join the Fort Wilderness Campfire for a sing-a-long and a free Disney movie shown on a large outdoor screen. The program starts around 7pm in fall and winter and 8pm in spring and summer, near the Meadow Trading Post. Chip and Dale meet the guests and sign autographs. Bring your own marshmallows to roast over the fire, and a blanket to sit on. Don’t forget insect repellent! Admission: free to all Disney resort guests.
Ride the Monorail
You can ride up front in the driver’s cab (four person maximum) with the monorail driver. Just let the Cast Member (as all Disney staff are known) at the gate know that you want to do this. Usually the drivers are very accommodating and will give the kids a free co-pilot certificate! Just don’t show up at the busiest time. Middle of the day, when most visitors are in the parks, is the best – you’re less likely to have to wait.
Take the “inner” monorail that circles the three monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian). This is a great way to get a look at some awesome resort hotels. You can get off and walk around, or just enjoy the ride and the view. Cost to ride the monorails: free to all Disney resort guests and anyone with a multi-day pass.
Spend a Free Day Away from Disney World
4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando FL 32816
A hike in the 82-acre UCF Arboretum will definitely get kids excited to learn about plants and animals. Stop by a park lake and explore the wildlife or walk the trails and enjoy the scenery. To get the most out of this visit, schedule a private tour – ranging from 1 to 3 hours – around the Arboretum.
Admission: free (except for tours, which are $3 per person)
Lake Eola Park
195 North Rosalind Avenue
Orlando, Florida 32801
Want to get away for a while from this wonderfully exhausting place? Your family will love Lake Eola Park, an oasis of peace and tranquility amidst Orlando’s man-made, commercial jungle. Have a picnic, ride a paddleboat, watch the kids play in the playground, feed the swans, or simply enjoy Florida sunshine amid beautiful flowerbeds while admiring the Orlando skyline. At night, the lake and its constantly-shooting water displays are illuminated for a beautiful view of the park. Admission: free.
And don’t forget to share your secret free attractions with us when you get back.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.