If you’re in Orlando on vacation but don’t have the cash for a full out Disney vacation – take heart. While no one will pretend that a Disney vacation is cheap, there are a surprising number of ways for you to experience a bit of the magic without a park ticket. While these won’t actually get you into the parks, they will offer an afternoon of fun on property with little to no monetary investment in the experience.
1. Ride the Monorail
The monorail is an iconic part of Walt Disney World, but you don’t have to set foot inside one of the theme parks to get on. If you ride the resort monorail, you can visit the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary resorts. All are worth a gander, so don’t hesitate to hop off and explore. Those who are of age may enjoy taking a monorail bar hop and grabbing drinks at each stop.
You can also take a monorail between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. You don’t have to go inside either park to do so, though the monorail track loops through Epcot and offers some stunning views of the park. On either option, you can collect monorail transportation cards. Just ask any monorail Cast Member that you see.
2. Visit Downtown Disney
Admittedly, 2014 has been a hard year for Downtown Disney with massive construction projects making it difficult to get around and nearly impossible to park. However, once the parking garage opens, the area will become much more accessible, and the upcoming enhancements to Downtown Disney will make it even more exciting to visit.
Parking at Downtown Disney is absolutely free, and so is your visit if you can refrain from shopping or dining in the area. Remember there are still plenty of free things to do at Downtown Disney.
3. Explore the Fort Wilderness stables
Park at Fort Wilderness (free) and take the bus back to The Settlement. Here, you’ll find the Tri-Circle-D Ranch stables where some of the park’s most famous horses reside. Keep an eye out for the massive black horses that carry the Headless Horseman for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and the white beauties that are often spotted pulling carriages.
You can enter and explore the stable free of charge, though you’re asked not to pet the horses. If you’re itching to get closer, small children can take a pony ride nearby. There’s also a picturesque trail about three miles long between Fort Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge if you have a longer afternoon to fill.