Whether you’re looking for something to do on your arrival or departure day or just wanting to relax for some fun outside of the parks during your stay, there are many things to see and do for FREE around Walt Disney World, no park admission required.
Visit Bob Jackson at the River Roost Lounge at Port Orleans Resort-Riverside
My favorite resort with the best entertainer, simply put, Bob is awesome! If you’re hanging out for dinner or drinks in the lobby or River Roost Lounge, chances are you’ll hear Bob performing nightly beginning at 8:30 pm Wednesdays through Saturdays. Bob will mingle with his guests before the show asking your name and where you’re visiting from and if you’re celebrating any special occasions, be sure to let him know. He makes up songs on the spot, hosts sing-a-longs and provides high-energy entertainment for the whole family, who knows you may even be called upon to join the show!
Search For Hidden Mickeys
If you’re looking for something to do when you arrive at your resort while you wait for your room to be ready and you don’t want to head to the parks, the best way to become familiar with your resort is searching for Hidden Mickey’s. A Hidden Mickey is a representation of Mickey Mouse that has been inserted subtly into the design of many resorts and other areas on Disney property, you can find many of them without ever entering the parks. Once you check in at the resort, ask the concierge desk for the Hidden Mickey guide that will give you hints and clues to get you started. For example: The Beach Club gift shop has three sand dollars in the carpet design that form several Hidden Mickeys. Light brown classic Mickeys can be found near the top of the columns outside the World of Disney store. Over at Caribbean Beach Resort, behind Old Port Royale, a classic Mickey appears in the “Barefoot Bay Boat Yard” sign on the side of the lighthouse near the bike racks. You can also pick up a copy of the Hidden Mickey guide in bookstores or on-line and start hunting!
Watch the Electrical Water Pageant (various locations along the 7 Seas Lagoon)
Nightly, the 7 Seas Lagoon lights up with the barges carrying a moving lights display that is choreographed to music. While it is not a spectacular, it is something that you should experience while at Disney World. Starting at 9 pm (it is sometimes earlier during the winter months), this little water parade makes its way around the lagoon. For best viewing, check it out from the Polynesian, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness resorts. Better yet, score a dinner reservation at one of those resorts and ask the wait staff to alert you when it comes by!
Join Chip ‘n Dale For A Nightly Campfire Sing-A-Long & Disney Movie Under the Stars
Fort Wilderness Resort is the perfect place to roast marshmallows, sing songs and share hugs with Chip ‘n Dale! Bring your own marshmallows and sticks, or purchase a s’mores kit from the Chuckwagon Snack Bar and sing along to old-time favorites led by a guitar-playing cowboy, as Chip ‘n Dale visit for photos and autographs. After the sing-a-long, cozy up for a classic Disney movie in a theater under the stars on a giant screen. You can bring camping chairs and blankets or sit on the benches provided, the campfire sing-along and outdoor movie are complimentary and held nightly as weather permits. You can watch movies at other resorts as well including Port Orleans Resort Riverside, just check with the resort lobby for the movie and entertainment schedule.
Explore Animal Kingdom Lodge at Sunset
As the sun goes down, you can make your way to the Sunset Savanna Overlook viewing area behind the lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge. Open to any Disney resort guest, this savanna is designed specifically for viewing at sunset. Giraffes, zebra, impalas and even some unusual nocturnal activities will be active at this time of day, increasing your chances of seeing them up close. It’s free to take all the photos you want, and even tripods are welcome. Seeing these animals and activities up close creates a perfect way to cap off a romantic dinner at Boma, Sanaa, or to unwind with the family, no park ticket required.
You don’t need a park ticket to see the fireworks at Disney. The Wishes Fireworks show at Magic Kingdom is viewable from the Grand Floridian boat dock. Narcoossees restaurant, also located at the Grand Floridian, receives the audio soundtrack, so you can enjoy the fireworks synchronized to the music. If you’re dining at California Grill inside Contemporary Resort, be sure to save your dinner receipt and head back up to the 15th floor observation deck for special viewing from the roof and the music can be heard through speakers up there as well. If you’re lucky, you may even catch the electrical water pageant at the seven seas lagoon. If you want to catch IllumiNations you can walk to the “back door” of Epcot on the Boardwalk or head over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and maybe catch a glimpse of Fantasmic! The Hollywood Studios 10-15 minute walking path begins directly behind the Boardwalk’s Atlantic Dance Hall and continues to Disney’s Hollywood Studios parking lot.
Head to Downtown Disney
You can easily spend an entire day at Downtown Disney, parking is free and no park admission required. If you are not in the mood to shop, you can check out the wonderful interactive fountains or local entertainment. The Lego Imagination Center has a FREE 3,000-square foot outdoor play area. Visit the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop and enjoy a sundae or a shake. Go into the chocolate shop side of the store and sometimes score a FREE chocolate sample! Raglan Road often has free live music in the bar, particularly on weekends that you can enjoy, for just the cost of a drink!
Go For A Ride
Ok so you can’t ride any attractions inside the parks without park admission. But that doesn’t have to stop you from riding around Walt Disney World. Taking the monorail is free, and it just happens to be one of the fastest rides at Disney, no fastpasses or long wait times! Enjoy your highway in the sky as it cruises around the resorts in the Magic Kingdom area or ride the Epcot monorail from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Epcot, and you’ll even take a brief loop over Epcot. If you love the water, try a Disney boat, there is a route you can take to visit the Epcot resorts and even to the Epcot park entrance to watch the fireworks. You can also take a boat from Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter to Downtown Disney. If you get on the boat that goes from Hollywood Studios to Epcot, you can get off at any Epcot resort along the way to explore the Boardwalk area. Don’t forget the buses are free as well. This is a great way to get around so you can check out all the great resorts around property and look for hidden Mickeys.