A trip to Walt Disney World can be expensive…very expensive. Depending on the length of your stay, you can save some cash by spending a day (or more) taking advantage of the activities outside of the parks. In no particular order…
Downtown Disney (DTD) is a great place to start, or end, your non-park day. Check out the musical entertainment in front of several shops and restaurants. When we last visited, we saw stilt walkers and several passerby-participation contests.
You can also window shop – DTD has something for everyone. But remember, look with your eyes :).
The Lego Imagination Center is particularly cool for the younger set. Take a peak at the Lego dinosaur named Brickley just outside and visit their website to see if a free build day coincides with your visit.
DTD is also host to several special events this year, including the upcoming Car Masters Weekend held over Father’s Day. If you’re looking for a low cost activity, the Marketplace Carousel is only $2.00/person.
It will be interesting to see what new activities and changes come into effect when Downtown Disney fully converts to Disney Springs.
The Boardwalk is convenient to the Epcot area resorts. The adult set should consider stopping by the Atlantic Dance Hall for dancing and dueling pianos. Others may enjoy the rotating entertainers or viewing the Epcot fireworks, Illuminations Reflections of Earth.
Sometimes a trip on the monorail can be entertainment in itself; my kids love to track which color monorails they’ve ridden during any given trip. Or try a boat ride between one of various resorts and the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Ft. Wilderness and Downtown Disney. I find ride between the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom to be particularly relaxing.
Actually Use Your Resort (and visit other Resorts!)
The resorts are fabulous, but so are the parks, so I always feel torn when planning my day. On our next trip I hope to follow my own advice and actually take advantage of the activities and amenities at our resort – and to check out those on my bucket list.
All Disney resorts have pools, some boast several. Pool hopping is not permitted (though Youtube videos suggest otherwise) so chill out (or go crazy) at your own resort.
Unlike pools, other recreation options are available to all guests, regardless which hotel you choose. Take in a flick at one of the Movies Under the Stars or warm up and enjoy a snack at the Campfires.
A few resort-specific recommendations:
- Ft. Wilderness – Visit the Main Street horses at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. In the evenings, BYO marshmallows and stay for Chip and Dale’s Campfire Sing Along. If you’re on site during Halloween or Christmas, take a look at the campers’ festive decorations.
- Wilderness Lodge – ask for Hidden Mickey info at the front desk and visit the Fire Rock Geyser.
- Polynesian – Bring snack or grab a Dole Whip or beverage of your choice from Captain Cooks and head for the beach at the Polynesian. Relax and enjoy the Electric Water Pageant as it glides by (viewing also from Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, Ft. Wilderness and Grand Floridian) and or the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks display.
- Port Orleans Riverside – listen to the music of the legendary YeHaa Bob Jackson at the River Roost Lounge.
- Grand Floridian – relax with the Lobby Pianist or Lobby Society Orchestra.
We’re staying at the Art of Animation on our next trip – I’ll let you know if the stroll through Radiator Springs is all I hope it is! A visit to other hotels, just to check out design, search for Hidden Mickeys, or to research amenities can be really fun. During the holidays, touring resorts can be a feast for the eyes. Nancy’s December 2012 post provides great information on resort Christmas decorations.
If you’re looking for a no-cost souvenir, ask your the guest relations desk at your resort or in the parks for special pins to commemorate your visit, including those for birthdays, anniversaries and first visits. Make sure to wear them and to and note any special occasions when making table service reservations. You just might score a free dessert!
We’ve also found free stickers at the Disney Vacation Club kiosks with no hard DVC sell. Kids. Love. Stickers.
I hope you enjoyed these ideas! What are your best ‘free’ tips? Remember, each of the above featured free things to do outside of the parks. What are your free ideas for inside (c’mon Club Cool fans)?
See you real soon!
Amy works as a college administrator and instructor in the Philadelphia area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She visited Walt Disney World for the first time as an adult for a conference. But Amy truly caught the “Disneybug” when she traveled with her young daughter. Amy loves all things travel and especially enjoys trip preparation and strategy: trying to find the best deals, exploring new resorts and restaurants, and planning an extra something special for each trip.