15 unique things to do at Disney World (and some are even free)

by Shannon Albert 39 comments Like the Facebook page

(Article last updated: March 5, 2015)

So you know about Space Mountain and Toy Story Mania.

And you know about character meals and autographs.

What else is there?

Today, I'm showing you 15 unique things that most first-timers don't do that you might want to add to your trip plans.

Let's get started...

1. Have dessert with your fireworks

One hour prior to the fireworks starting at Magic Kingdom, there is a Fireworks Dessert Party that is held at Tomorrowland Terrace. There is a self-service buffet of desserts and beverages and a great view of the fireworks from this location.

Some people have reported that desserts have run out and advised getting there early (others have said desserts were plentiful). Some have also reported that viewing was difficult because people rushed to the front of the area once fireworks began (and others have reported there not being any issues at all).

It's possible that some of the issues happened at the beginning of this event being offered and Disney worked to correct them. I'm not sure but wanted to let you know.

Prices: $14.90 for children ages 3-9 and $27.68 for people ages 10+ (both prices include tax). During peak times, prices can go up.

Reservations: Reservations can be made online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Disney advertises that reservations open at 180 days; however, in reality, it works a bit differently and it is not uncommon for dates to open several days past the 180 day mark.

Note:  The Fireworks Dessert Party often has a start time of 6:00 PM listed, even though the actual party may start later.  If you plan to schedule a dinner Advanced Dining Reservation around 6:00 PM you will need to call 407-WDW-DINE for your Fireworks Dessert Party reservations as the online system won't let you hold 2 reservations with conflicting times.

2. Watch an outdoor movie

All of the Disney resorts have outdoor movies in the evenings, with many of them being pool-side using blow-up screens. Some resorts even include a dance party or campfire as part of the festivities.

Price: free

More info: outdoor movie schedule at http://www.buildabettermousetrip.com/activity-outdoormovie.php

3. Have family pics taken

You can have professional portraits taken of you and your family while you're at Disney World. You'll have the gorgeous resorts as a backdrop as they take dozens and dozens of photos.

Portrait session are available at these resorts:

  • Grand Floridian
  • Polynesian
  • Beach Club
  • Wilderness Lodge
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge

You can choose from Professional Print packages or get all of your session images on the Professional Portrait CD (separate from Disney's PhotoPass PhotoCD). Because the CD purchase gives you full copyright of your pictures, you can have prints done at less expensive places. And since they are kept separate on their own PhotoPass Card ID, you can use this online for the different products on Disney's PhotoPass website.

Price: Varies, depending on what you order

Reservations: 407-934-4004

More info: http://disneyfineartphotography.com/portraits/

4. Learn to draw

Hollywood Studios has an Animation Academy which has a class that is held every 30 minutes to teach you how to draw a Disney character. You don't know ahead of time which character you'll be drawing but there's a teacher who guides you through the process.

Classes are less crowded later in the day. After you get home, frame it for a nice memory of your trip.

Price: free

5. Get a haircut

Right when you walk into Magic Kingdom and just to the left, there is a place to get your hair cut called Harmony Barber Shop. This is an old-fashioned kind of place where you can get a quick trim or a full groom.

If your child doesn't need a haircut they can still have the old-fashioned barber shop experience by having their hair adorned with clear gel and colorful "pixie dust".

Services at Harmony Barber Shop used to be just available by walking in but they now take appointments.

Price: $15 for adult haircut, $19 for children 12 and under (other services are available as well)

Reservations: 407-WDW-DINE

See this post for a full review of the My First Haircut Experience.

Other places to get your hair cut at Disney World: American Beauty Shoppe and Captain's Chair (at Contemporary Resort), Casa de Belleza (Coronado Springs), Ivy Trellis (Grand Floridian) or Periwig's (Yacht and Beach Club)

6. Enjoy some water sports

At Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre (located at The Contemporary Resort), you can choose from several different water sports: water skiing, parasailing, wakeboarding, stand up paddle boarding or inner tubing.

Guests have to be 18 to rent, 16 to drive and any age to ride along. Parasailing has a minimum age of 6.

Price: $80 and up

Reservations: 407-939-0754

More info: discount and info available at SammyDuvall.com

7. Play miniature golf

There are 2 mini golf courses at Disney World: Fantasia Gardens (located near the Swan/Dolphin) and Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course (located near Blizzard Beach). Each golf course has 2 separate sections to choose from.

Price: $12 for kids 3-9 and $14 for people 10+ (also something you can do if you purchase the Water Parks Fun and More park tickets)

8. Take a dive

Inside The Seas Pavilion at EPCOT is DiveQuest, which allows visitors to dive inside the 5.7-million-gallon saltwater tank. Scuba-certified guests can swim with over 6,000 sea creatures—including sea turtles, angelfish, dolphins, eagle rays and sharks.

All Guests must be SCUBA-certified and at least 10 years of age to participate. Guests ages 10 to 12 must be accompanied by a paying, participating parent or guardian.

The experience lasts 3 hours, and guests will spend about 40 minutes underwater in the huge Caribbean Coral Reef aquarium—which until 2005 was the largest saltwater tank in the world. Participants also get to see the massive backstage infrastructure required to filter and maintain a vast manmade ocean.

Price: $175/person

Reservations: 407-WDW-TOUR

9. Have a campfire

Near the Meadow Trading Post at Ft. Wilderness is Chip and Dale's Campfire, held around 7 p.m. during the fall/winter season and 8 p.m. beginning sometime in April through the summer. A cast member starts it off with a sing-along, followed by a marshmallow roast and a visit from Chip and Dale.

Price: free

10. Go fishing

Guests can go on private fishing excursions in a catch-and-release program for large-mouth bass. The excursions include a guide, rod and reel, tackle, bait and beverages.

Guests are not allowed to bring their own food, beverages or coolers.

Most excursions accommodate up to 5 people. They're available at the following locations:

  • Disney's BoardWalk Resort
  • Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney's Contemporary Resort
  • Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
  • Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
  • Disney's Old Key West Resort
  • Disney's Polynesian Resort
  • Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa
  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney's Yacht Club Resort
  • Downtown Disney® Marketplace

7 a.m.: $270 for two-hour excursion; $455 for four-hour excursion
10 a.m.: $270 for two-hour excursion; $455 for four-hour excursion
1:30 p.m.: $235 (a single guest can take this excursion for only $170)

Reservations: 407-WDW-BASS

11. Take surfing lessons

At Typhoon Lagoon, guests 8 and up can learn to surf in the gigantic wave pool. Surf lessons are offered on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, early in the morning before the park opens. Each lesson is 2 1/2 hours and includes:

  • 2 professional instructors
  • Soft-sided surfboard for use during the lesson
  • Instruction on land
  • Opportunities to ride waves up to 6 feet tall

Price: $165/person

Reservations: 407-WDW-SURF

12. Play at the arcade

Most Disney resorts have an arcade that's open from 7 a.m. to midnight with a wide variety of games to play. Most of the arcades use a rechargeable card that holds credits for game play.

These resorts have arcades available:

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Beach Club Resort
  • BoardWalk Inn Resort
  • Contemporary Resort
  • Grand Floridian Resort
  • Polynesian Resort
  • Wilderness Lodge
  • Yacht Club Resort
  • Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Coronado Springs Resort
  • Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter
  • Port Orleans Resort - Riverside
  • All-Star Movies Resort
  • All-Star Music Resort
  • All-Star Sports Resort
  • Pop Century Resort
  • Saratoga Springs Resort
  • Old Key West Resort
  • Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

13. Ride a cowboy horse

The Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Ft. Wilderness Resort has lots of ways to enjoy horses - trail rides (offered daily at 8:30 am, 10 am, 11:30 am, 1:00 pm, 2:30 pm, and 4:00 pm for riders age 9+), pony rides and carriage rides*. Also available at the ranch: hay rides and wagon rides.

Available in October: haunted carriage rides.

Available in December: horse-drawn sleigh rides.

Prices: Trail rides - $46, pony rides - $5, carriage rides - $45

Reservations: 407-824-2832

* carriage rides also available at Port Orleans Riverside

14. Drive a race car

Drive or ride in a NASCAR car up to 140 mph at the Walt Disney World Speedway as part of the Richard Petty Driving Experience. You can choose between 8, 18 or 30 lap programs.

Prices: $99 to ride, $449+ to drive

Reservations: 800-BE-PETTY

More info: http://www.drivepetty.com/race-tracks/orlando-walt-disney-world-speedway

15. Play an interactive game

Falling under the nerdy category (i.e., I love it) are these 2 games: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure at EPCOT and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom at the....Magic Kingdom.

Both of these games involve an interactive scavenger hunt where you solve things and you are able to make things happen in the parks as you go through the game.

Price: free

More info:
Sorcerers of Magic Kingdom info


Thoughts? Questions? I know some of you have things that could be added to this list. Talk about it in the comments.