It may be hugely popular, but Walt Disney World is also renowned for being very expensive. The cost of theme park tickets, food, souvenirs and (for some) staying at an on-site hotel can soon add up to thousands of dollars. But, believe it or not, there are actually plenty of completely FREEthings to do outside of the theme parks - and plenty of fun to be had at no cost. Even if you do have the money to enjoy everything that Walt Disney World has to offer, many of these free activities are still worth checking out. In fact, some of them are so out-of-the-ordinary that they might just provide that special activity that makes your vacation even more memorable. Here are 20 examples of fun, completely free things to do at Walt Disney World!
1. Watch the Electric Water Pageant
Not all of Disney's parades are confined to its theme parks. The free Electric Water Pageant boat parade passes by the Magic Kingdom and resorts in the area every single evening, weather permitting. It usually starts at 9pm and lasts for about an hour, and is visible from resort hotel docks and beaches. Grab a viewing spot at Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge or Disney's Contemporary Resort.
2. View the Wishes fireworks from OUTSIDE the Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom's fireworks displays can be viewed from many locations outside of the park. Some are very expensive in themselves, such as the California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Resort. But others, such as the beaches of Disney's Polynesian Resort, can be accessed for free.
3. Play pool
There are free pool tables located at several locations around the resort. For example, you can play for free on the tables outside the Turf Club Bar and Grill at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort.
4. Chase some butterflies
There are dedicated Butterfly Gardens at Disney's Contemporary Resort (located on the left as you walk out of the lobby's back exit) and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort (outside the Outpost). Each is a section of land designed to attract butterflies, which can be seen flying gracefully around.
5. Get some unique, free "character" photos
Meeting the characters at the theme parks can take a long time, with waits to meet the Frozenprincesses sometimes stretching on for hours. But you can get some unique character photos (of sorts) simply by visiting the Value Resorts such as Disney's All Star Movies Resort and Disney's Art of Animation Resort, where static (and often oversized) versions of popular characters reside.
6. Learn about Walt Disney's love of railroads
Walt Disney loved railroads so much that he built a track for a working steam locomotive in his back garden, as well as installing a railroad that encircled Disneyland. A mini-museum, the Carolwood Pacific Room, is dedicated to his passion and can be found at the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, the resort's Disney Vacation Club area.
7. Explore the Disney Wilderness Preserve
OK - you'll technically have to leave Walt Disney World for this one. In the early 1990s, an 8,500-acre cattle ranch located about 20 miles south of Orlando was slated to be developed into homes and offices. Disney acquired the property, transfered into The Nature Conservancy, and provided funds for restoration and wildlife monitoring. The Preserve is open from 9am - 5pm daily from November through March, and on weekdays from March through October. Admission is completely free, although donations are appreciated.
8. Ride the monorail
Here's one ride you can enjoy for free. The monorail at Disneyland was originally installed as just another attraction, but the Walt Disney World monorail is an integral part of the resort's tranportation system - and you can ride it for free. The "inner" route circles Disney's Conteporary Resort, Disney's Polynesian Resort and Disney's Grand Floridian Resort - and it's worth hopping off to take a look around.
9. View the residents of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
You don't have to visit Disney's Animal Kingdom to see exotic creatures. Instead, head over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where there are viewing areas to watch African animals roaming around its savannas. The animals are active around dusk, so avoid visiting during the day. Cast Members are on hand with night-vision goggles to help you get a better view.
10. Watch the geyser at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
In a special effect that's reminiscent of one Las Vegas' spectacular hotels and casinos, the Wilderness Lodge hosts a geyser that spouts on the hour from 7pm to 10pm. You can find it past the pool at the back of the resort.