[Updated May 2016]
Toss aside the notion that Walt Disney World is just for kids. The Orlando resort is a popular vacation destination for adult singles and couples alike; it’s even become a hotspot for weddings and honeymoons. But even without kids, the price of accommodation, park tickets, and dining adds up fast in the House of Mouse. Fortunately, Walt Disney World actually offers plenty of activities that are free or reasonably inexpensive, and fully geared toward adults. Here are just a few...
1. Disney Springs
For those in search of a Disney quick fix, Disney Springs gets the job done. There are no admission fees to enter the area, and self-parking is complimentary. It’s full of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues like the STK Orlando, Vera Bradley, the World of Disney, and Morimoto Asia, among others. You’ll also find an AMC movie theater, Splitsville bowling alley, and a Cirque du Soleil show. If you're not in the mood to do any spending, you can always pull up a chair and watch the ferries from nearby hotels sail into the marina. Don’t forget to stop by during the holiday season, when Disney Springs is decked out for the season.
2. Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long
You don't have to pay park admission to enjoy this classic Disney experience. Anyone can head to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort to sing along (or just snap photos) around the campfire with Chip and Dale. Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long, held on select nights, is entirely free. If you’d like to maximize your campfire experience, you can purchase a s’mores kit for less than $10 at the Chuckwagon Snack Bar.
3. Disney’s BoardWalk
Disney’s BoardWalk is a quarter-mile stretch located near Epcot and is inspired by the boardwalks of Coney Island and Atlantic City. You won’t have to pay to take a stroll and enjoy free entertainment, like street performers, in the evening. You can even catch a view of Epcot’s nighttime fireworks from the promenade. Those looking for something slightly more energetic can try the BoardWalk’s bars, Jellyrolls and the Atlantic Dance Hall. Jellyrolls, a "dueling piano" bar, has a cover charge of about $12 while Atlantic Dance Hall, which plays music from the 80s and 90s, does not charge admission.
4. Character Meet-and-Greets
You can't take a trip to Walt Disney World without meeting some of the characters from your favorite Disney films and TV shows. While you can meet characters at certain restaurants, these tend to be pricier than at other restaurants in the parks. An alternative? Pick up a Times Guide and map upon arrival at the theme parks; the guides will let you know when and where your favorite characters will be out and about. Photo opportunities won’t cost you a dime and Disney Cast Members can even use your camera to capture that special moment between you and Mickey.
5. Electrical Water Pageant
You’ve heard of the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Electrical Parade and SpectroMagic, but did you know Disney hosts a similar parade on the water? Each night starting at 9 p.m. you can watch floats light up the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake as they pass Disney’s Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, and Contemporary resorts. The great part about this parade is that you don’t have to pay for admission and crowds are significantly smaller than those in the park.
6. Mini Golf
For a leisurely break from the parks, head over to Walt Disney World’s two mini golf courses, Fantasia Gardens and Fairway, and Winter Summerland. Expect Disney’s signature whimsy throughout the courses but be prepared for some obstacles like sand traps and water hazards that make the courses grown-up-appropriate. Winter Summerland is home to two separate courses: the Winter Course and the Summer Course. Prices for adults at both facilities are $14 each.
7. Bike and Boat Rentals
Guests can explore by renting bikes or boats at select hotels. Guests must stay within the resort area where the bikes have been rented and rentals come with complimentary helmets. Prices are $18 per day. Several hotels offer rentals of motorized boats that hold between two and 10 passengers. Prices for a Sea Raycer, which fits two people, start at $34 for a half hour and $48 for an hour. Canoes and kayaks are also available, with prices starting at $11.
8. Yehaa Bob Jackson at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside
On select nights, you can catch veteran Disney performer Yehaa Bob Jackson perform at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside. Vaudeville-style comedy and a nifty piano routine is guaranteed, and there's even a bit of audience participation. The best part? It’s free.
9. Behind-the-Scenes Tours
The resort offers a number of park tours to guests that can cost more than $50 per person -- before the price of admission -- but many guests don't know that there are five free tours that can be taken at some of the resort's hotels. Stop by Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort for the one-hour Wonders of the Wilderness Tour at 9 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday to learn about the lodge's architecture and history. On the same days, you can pop on over to the Belle Vue Lounge at Disney's BoardWalk Inn for the BoardWalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour, during which participants learn about the boardwalk and the inn's architecture, artifacts, artwork, and more.
Want to learn more about the newest hotel to open at Walt Disney World? Disney's Art of Animation offers a one-hour tour that starts in the lobby every day, giving guests the ins and outs of the resort's planning, design, and creation. Head over to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge for a culinary tour that starts every day at 4 p.m. at the hotel's Boma restaurant; you may even get treated to some tasty samples. At Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village, Sanaa has a 4 p.m. tour during which you can meet the chef and try the restaurant's signature flatbreads.
Just make sure you call the hotel or visit the front desk in advance to confirm that the tours are available.
10. Club Cool
Quench your thirst at this attraction located in Epcot’s Innoventions West Pavilion. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, it offers unlimited free samples of the soft drink company’s beverages and certainly comes in handy on Florida’s hot and humid days.