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Free Disney: How I Spent a Perfect Evening in Disney and Never Opened My Wallet

We’ve all heard the jokes. We’ve all seen the sad dad trailing along in the “Most Expensive Day Ever” t-shirt. From snacks to balloons to souvenirs to resorts to parking, Disney generally ain’t cheap. So it’s always satisfying to have a great time around here without spending a mint.

Last weekend we headed to Disney Springs for an evening and had SUCH a great time – and it occurred to me after that I didn’t open my wallet once. Given that the price is often one of the hardest things to manage on a trip to Walt Disney World, I thought it was worth sharing just how our totally cost free evening came to be.

It all started when I was at the neighborhood pool with the kids listening to the train whistle and growing increasingly stir crazy. They’d been home all week and we just desperately needed to get out together. I’d heard that Disney Springs was having a kid-focused Beat the Heat event on the splash pad near Once Upon a Toy so we decided to check it out since they already had their suits on anyway.

  • Beat the Heat is a fabulous, fun, and FREE DJ dance party at the splash pad near Once Upon a Toy. As of right now, it’s running this summer from 6-10 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (ending on August 12th). You’ll find the splash pad itself for the kids to enjoy, a DJ playing fun Disney-inspired beats, lots of other games, and interactive fun with the party hosts.

And it was made that much better because…

  • Babybel – the official snack cheese of Disney World – was there!!! That’s right – around the Beat the Heat Party were carts full of FREE Babybel snack packs. And if your kids are anything like mine, they’ll find this extremely exciting – as nothing beats the fun of peeling a round of Babybel cheese and then eating it and rolling the wax into a satisfying little ball. The snack packs also included little Triscuit-like crackers to enjoy with your cheese circle. Unconventional dinner? Check!
  • Ghiradelli – After dancing and hulahooping and playing in the water for awhile, the kids got tired enough to move on, so we dried off a bit and took a stroll around Disney Springs. First stop? Dessert!! In the shape of a free Ghiradelli chocolate at the Ghiradelli shop. Delicious. And did I mention free? They hand them out to visiting guests. 🙂

  • Lego Store Fun – And then we wandered over to the Lego Store at the kids’ request, where they spent about 45 minutes happily playing with the Legos out front and competing in the car races. If you haven’t been there, the Lego Store at Disney Springs has a great setup out front where the kids can create freely or build cars with wheels that they race against other kids’ creations down a ramp with the help of a Cast Member. I sometimes think my kids would forgo every other attraction at WDW for the chance to play here. It’s one of their favorite things to do…and did I mention? Free.
  • PhotoPass! – Then we wandered back toward the stage area and decided to check out the Photopass location nearby for the first time. One of our favorite perks with our Annual Passes are the free Photopass pictures. Particularly as locals, we get countless family memories from the amazing CM photographers throughout the parks – but I’d never checked out the Photopass location at Disney Springs. We wandered in and found two photo areas side-by-side – the first with a blank backdrop (they use computer effects to add Disney-inspired backdrops to the pictures) and the other with a more typical “formal family photo” blue backdrop. The photographers were AMAZING with the kids and I swear to you we were in and out in less than 10 minutes. Later that night I checked my Photopass account and we had 86 – no that’s not a typo…EIGHTY-SIX – amazing pictures. And this is saying something since we’d just wandered in out of the heat after a couple of hours on a splash pad and were not at all dressed for any sort of picture taking. Here are just a few of the pictures from those 10 minutes….

Note that this one is only free if you’re an AP holder…but we seriously had a full on impromptu photo shoot with amazing results spur of the moment and out-of-pocket absolutely nothing. And then last but not least…

  • Concerts at the Marketplace Stage – We couldn’t resist the draw of the music and ended up grabbing seats at the Marketplace Stage after we finished our pictures. There are performances there nightly from 7-11pm. We watched (and danced!) to the amazing Bon Jovi cover band first; then a phenomenal a capella group took to the stage and performed some of our favorites. (The kids were especially excited to hear All About That Bass….) And the price? Free.

At that point the kids were exhausted and we hopped in the car to go home. They passed out on the drive and I carried them both into bed – and followed suit soon after, pretty much feeling like I was winning at life.

I write all of this not to give you an exact itinerary. The offerings on Disney property change constantly and I cannot promise you Babybel cheese or a specific square of chocolate on any given night. I write this instead to point out just how many amazing things there are to do around here for little to no money at all. Because while we all certainly spend more than enough around here, WDW offers us so very many things to do for little or nothing if only you take the time to explore a bit.

So have fun out there my friends!! And tell me what YOUR favorite *free* Disney World activity is.

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