Top 10 Free Things to do Outside the Disney World Theme Parks

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The sad reality is that a trip to Disney World can be expensive. BUT there are also many things that you can do outside the Disney World Theme Parks that won’t cost a penny and oftentimes these things are our favorite part of the trip. It’s a great way to take a break from the parks and relax.

So check out my Top 10 list of free things to do outside the Disney World Theme Parks.

  • BoardWalk – Disney’s BoardWalk area is alive with entertainment starting at 7PM each evening and it is free for everyone to enjoy. This is an especially romantic area for couples to visit and enjoy a date night. The area has street performers, gorgeous lighting, many places to eat and a lot more entertainment. The Atlantic Dance Hall has no cover charge and is a great place to burn off those extra calories and have fun while doing so.
  • View “Wishes” fireworks from the Polynesian – No one does fireworks better than Disney! Once you see a Disney fireworks show, every other fireworks show will look pathetic to you. You can avoid the crowds and save yourself the cost of purchasing a ticket to Magic Kingdom to view these fireworks by viewing them from the Polynesian (or Grand Floridian) resort instead. Once you get to the resort(s), just walk on out to the beach, grab a hammock or spot on the beach and simply wait for the show to start. They pipe the music in, so you’ll get to experience the entire show without the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.
  • Campfire Sing-a-long with Chip & Dale – For a couple years I didn’t know this existed and we’ve yet to take part in the campfire sing-a-long with Chip & Dale, but it’s definitely on our to-do list for a future trip. It takes place every night at the Ft. Wilderness Campgrounds. You can even bring your own smores kits (or you can purchase them at the sing-a-long for pretty cheap). After the sing-a-long, they show a movie on the big screen under the stars. Tip: most resorts also show movies in the evenings, so be sure to check the resort schedule when you check-in to see which movies are playing.
  • Electrical Water Pageant – You may have seen this boat light parade floating by Magic Kingdom before at night and wondered what it is. Well, that’s the Electrical Water Pageant that starts around 9PM each night. You can view it from the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness as it slowly makes it way past all the resorts.
  • Downtown Disney – There is so much to do and see at Downtown Disney and you don’t have to spend any money – although that’s harder that it sounds for sure. There are many amazing stores and boutiques for you to window shop, you’ll find nightly entertainment at Pleasure Island and your kids can enjoy playing with the LEGO’s at the LEGO store. If it’s hot outside, there are also a couple fountains that kids can play in – but prepare to have a change of clothes with you.
  • Monorail resort tour – This is probably our favorite thing to do outside of the parks. The monorail resorts (Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary) are absolutely gorgeous in their own ways. I love the smell of the Polynesian, the grandeur of the Grand Floridian, and watching the monorail pass through the Contemporary. There are several free things to do at these resorts as well, such as taking hula lessons or relaxing while you listen to the big band perform. During the Christmas holiday, these resorts are even more breathtaking and are can’t miss places to visit.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge Wildlife Preserve – You don’t have to visit Animal Kingdom to see giraffe’s or zebras. Just visit our favorite resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, walk through the beautiful lobby and head outdoors to view the animals that are out on the preserve. This is a great treat for those with kids who perhaps don’t want to visit Animal Kingdom or don’t have a zoo nearby.
  • Take a boat ride – We love to ride the boats around Disney World. Our favorite boat ride is the one from Downtown Disney to Port Orleans. While at Port Orleans, you can catch a jazz band/ musician at Port Orleans French Quarter in the evening (and be sure to eat some beignets while you’re there) or you can continue on to Port Orleans Riverside Wednesday through Saturday evenings and head over to the River Roost Lounge to catch crowd-pleasing YeeHa Bob – one of the most well-known entertainers at Disney World. We had the pleasure of catching Bob last week and boy, he had us laughing. Another favorite boat ride of ours is the ride from Hollywood Studios to the BoardWalk or Epcot. It’s very relaxing mid-morning and gives us a break from the parks so that we can go grab a yummy sweet from the BoardWalk Bakery.
  • Take a dip in the pool – Regardless of whether you stay in a Disney resort or off-property, your resort/hotel probably has a pool. This is a great way to take a break from the parks mid-day and just chill or let your kids get out all their energy so that they sleep well during naptime and before you head back to the parks for the evenings. Now, unless you’re a DVC member, you can’t pool hop, so please only visit the pool at the resort you’re staying at – you also can’t just go swimming at a resort on property if you’re staying off-resort. And that will be even harder to do soon once they get the fences up around all the pools.
  • Find Hidden Mickey’s – This was always a fun activity that we liked to do as a family the first few trips. We still discover Hidden Mickey’s each trip even though we’ve been 15 times in the last few years. Our favorite book to reference is the “Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets” book by Steven Barrett – I’m sure you’ve seen this book with the yellow cover before. It’s a great way to waste some time and take a break from the parks and kids will love this type of scavenger hunt.

Well there you have it – you don’t have to spend money on park tickets to enjoy what Disney has to offer, so be sure to take advantage of some of these free items the next time you make a visit to Walt Disney World. What are some other activities that you like to do that are free outside the parks?



Jenn

Jennifer made her first trip to Walt Disney World in 2009 with a friend and has been a Disney Addict and passholder ever since. When she's not planning her next trip, Jennifer works in marketing/communications/graphic design for a trade association and is also a professional photographer. Jennifer, her husband and fellow Disney Addict, Eric, and their dog Toby reside in Durham, NC.

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  • Jennifer

    Yes it is Michelle. That whole area is still labeled Pleasure Island – it just doesn’t have the clubs and stuff like it use to, but it’s definitely still there. We were just there last week and walked right through it. All the main restaurants are located there. Once the new parts are built though, I’m sure it’ll change names. They’ve relocated some of the entertainers to the Marketplace part though (like the living ‘statues’).

  • Michelle Gelinas Calhoun

    Pleasure Island is no longer there.

  • E-ticket-lizabeth

    One thing to know about fireworks at the Poly–people there tend to be QUITE chatty. We saw Hallowishes for the first time there this year, and we could barely hear the music. The people right behind us, in particular, kept up a running conversation about their families, their other vacations, and just everything in their lives. I don’t understand why they even went out on that section of beach! We enjoyed the show, but the speakers are so far behind the beach, if the crowd is even a little talkative, you can forget hearing any music, Luckily, the fireworks are awesome anyway!