If this is your first trip (or your 50th) you may not realize that the Disney World parks are full of experiences beyond their iconic attractions.
There are all sorts of things you can do in the parks and resorts that aren’t just riding rides, and a lot of them are free or low cost.
If you’re looking for something different (that won’t break the bank) to try during your next Disney World vacation, check out these free and low-cost options for adding some extra magic in the parks.
First things first: recommended ages
Although we list our thoughts on recommended ages below, we feel confident in saying that we think that nearly everything we’ve listed could be enjoyed by guests of ALL ages.
And how are we so sure about that? Because there are many of the items on this list that we do even when we don’t have kids with us!
So, use the age recommendations as a guideline, but know that whether you are a kid or just a kid at heart, you’ll likely find a lot of these activities a lot of fun.
Free and Cheap Things for Kids to Do in EPCOT
While adults may love the World Showcase, we hear far too many people say that it is boring for kids.
But, that doesn’t have to be the case.
There are several fun activities you can do to get everyone (adults included!) engaged in exploring the World Showcase.
Here are our favorite free and cheap things to do with kids in EPCOT:
EPCOT Festivals Scavenger Hunts
EPCOT is home to nearly year-round festivals now, and with each one there is a cute and inexpensive scavenger hunt that you can do, plus there are a couple of bonus seasonal scavenger hunts, as well:
- Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt (during the Festival of the Arts)
- Spike’s Pollen-Nation Exploration Scavenger Hunt (during Flower and Garden Festival)
- Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak (during the Food and Wine Festival)
- Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition Scavenger Hunt (during the Festival of the Holidays)
- Egg-Stravaganza Scavenger Hunt (around Easter)
- Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit (around Halloween)
There is a small charge for the scavenger hunt (typically around $10), but for that price you get a scavenger hunt board/map which includes stickers that you can use to track your finds, plus everyone also receives a prize for completing the hunt. And since this scavenger hunt is self-led, you can take as much time as you’d like to complete it – you don’t have to do it all in 1 day.
The prizes vary from festival to festival, but are typically really cute and well-themed.
You can usually find festival scavenger hunts at the following select EPCOT locations:
- Port of Entry (in World Showcase plaza; towards Canada)
- Disney Traders (in World Showcase plaza; towards Mexico)
- Creations Shop (in World Celebration)
- World Traveler (at International Gateway)
- Gateway Gifts (in World Celebration)
Tip: You can pick up your prize at any time, including when you buy your scavenger hunt map. You don’t have to wait until after you’ve found everything!
DuckTales World Showcase Adventure
DuckTales World Showcase Adventure is the newest digital scavenger hunt at EPCOT. This interactive game uses the Play Disney app to take visitors on a journey around the World Showcase at EPCOT, allowing kids and adults alike to become adventurers just like Huey, Dewey, Louie, and the rest of the DuckTales gang.
The premise of the game is simple: using your phone, you’ll “join Scrooge McDuck, his nephews and friends as they travel around EPCOT World Showcase on a quacky quest to find the priceless 7 Lost Magic Treasures—and return them to their rightful owners.”
To accomplish that, you’ll need to head into 7 of the countries of the World Showcase, where the treasures have been hidden:
- United Kingdom
Kidcot Fun Stops/Traveler Cards/Epcot Passports
Another fantastic way to get your younger children immersed in the different pavilions of EPCOT is to seek out the Kidcot Fun Stops. Located in each country, the Kidcot Fun Stops are basically tables set up to allow children to collect a traveler card with a fun fact about each country. The backside of the traveler card is a coloring sheet themed to the country and provides an opportunity to interact with a Cast Member representing that pavilion’s country.
While you may be thinking that you can color at home, so why spend precious vacation time coloring, the best part of the experience comes from the interactions children have with the Cast Members. While participants color, the Cast Members speak about their native country, sharing basic information and even teaching a word or two. Each Cast Member will also mark the traveler card or passport with a word in the language of the country, a stamp, or a sticker.
You can try to complete all the countries, or just hit a few and save the rest for your next trip. Once you complete all the countries, you will receive a completion postcard.
Design Your Own Dia de Muertos Skeleton
Tucked inside the pyramid of the Mexico pavilion are several activities for little ones:
- a Kidcot Fun Stop
- the Gran Fiesta Tour (which is a charming, slow boat ride perfect for kids and adults), and,
- they can design their own skeleton for the Day of the Dead!
This little activity is often skipped over, but it is a lot of fun for young ones since the prompts are easy-to-follow and designing your own skeleton is just kinda cool.
And, as an added treat, your creation gets added to your Disney PhotoPass account so you can always remember your time at the Mirror Muertos.
Free and Cheap things for Kids to do at Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom used to be home to a super popular game called Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, however that’s been discontinued.
But, they still have a fun scavenger hunt in Adventureland that you can do.
A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas
Pirates Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas is a fun treasure hunt at Magic Kingdom. While participating, you’ll get to explore Adventureland and solve clues to help Captain Jack Sparrow while you find hidden treasure.
First, you’ll head to The Crow’s Nest, a little booth in Adventureland, to get a map and talisman to help you get started. There are five different maps to choose from, each leading to different clues and treasures.
As you follow the map, you’ll visit cool places in Adventureland, like the Jungle Cruise and Swiss Family Treehouse. At each spot, you’ll have puzzles to solve and challenges to complete.
Once you complete all the challenges and find the treasure, you will be rewarded with a special pirate loot of your own.
Free and Cheap Things You Can Do With Kids at Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom has several fun trails you can explore with your kids and little ones, plus they have a fun playground where they can get out and stretch their legs.
But one of our most favorite things to do with kids who are a bit older is to join the free Wilderness Explorers.
What do you get when you combine a scavenger hunt filled with activities centered around nature, animals, and conservation with one of the most beautiful theme parks in the world?
You get the Wilderness Explorers – a unique experience that has you following in the footsteps of Russell and Dug (from the movie Up!) as you and your family work to become members of the famed Wilderness Explorers.
Your adventure awaits as you participate in self-guided activities that will have you learning new things and exploring new areas of the park. Plus, once you complete each of the mini-challenges, you’ll be rewarded with a sticker badge for your very own Field Guide (which is a fun and free souvenir from the park).
One of the highlights of this experience is that participating in the Wilderness Explorers allows you to interact with lots of the fantastic Animal Kingdom Cast Members as you complete each mini-challenge.
Tip: There are a lot of challenges (over 30) so this may be something you need more than 1 visit to complete.
Hop on the Wilderness Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and the Conservation Station where you can learn to draw some of your favorite animal friends with a real Disney animator!
Long-time Disney World guests might remember a similar experience (now closed) at Hollywood Studios, but here’s how it works:
Guests are seated and provided a writing desk (to hold on their lap) as well as paper and a pencil.
A Disney animator leads the class through the process of drawing a specific character, such as Simba from “The Lion King” or Pua from “Moana”. It is really fast-paced, but the animator provides step-by-step instructions and tips on how to bring the character to life on paper.
Plus, as you draw, the animator shares some behind-the-scenes information about the making of the film and the animation process.
And the best part? At the end of the session, guests get to take home their drawings as a souvenir of the experience!
You do NOT have to be an artist to participate, but like we said, they go FAST, which is why we don’t often recommend this for young kids as they may find that frustrating.
Free and Cheap Things You Can Do With Kids at Hollywood Studios
Star Wars: Datapad
The Play Disney app has lots of games and activities you can do across all the theme parks, but once you walk into Batuu at Galaxy’s Edge, the app turns your smartphone into an immersive Star Wars-themed tool that allows you to explore this popular Star Wars land and interact with your surroundings in a new and exciting way.
With the Datapad app, you can hack into droids, scan cargo crates, and translate Aurebesh, the written language of the Star Wars universe.
And, if you have a MagicBand+, you can play the very popular Batuu Bounty Hunters (also inside the Play Disney app). This game has you using your MagicBand+ to aid you as you hunt for 20 bounties spread throughout all of Batuu.
Another one of the popular activities is the interactive game, “Outpost Control,” where you can choose to align yourself with the Resistance or the First Order and compete against other guests to gain control of key locations within Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
All the activities are very well themed, and the way they connect with the entire land (including the attractions and other guests) is extremely unique and a lot of fun.
VIDEO: Our FAVORITE Free (and Cheap!) Things to Do With Kids at Disney World
Free and Cheap Things You Can do at Disney Resorts
Movies Under the Stars
All of the onsite Disney Resorts offer activities you can do. And, one of our most favorite are the Movies under the Stars.
Using inflatable screens, popular Disney animated movies are shown, often nightly (especially during busy times of the year).
Every resort is different, but you can usually find them set up near the pool or other common areas near the main building.
To find the exact time and location at your resort, you can check at the front desk or look for one of the posted Activities signs. You’ll also find a bunch of different activites often listed, too.
Tip: While pool hopping is not generally allowed, you don’t have to be staying at a resort to participate in any of the other activities offered there. Check out our guide on How to tour Disney Resorts (even if you aren’t staying there).
We know, we know – swimming isn’t usually anything “special” for adults, but trust us on this, to your kids, it is.
Kids (and adults) love swimming. And we personally have had lots of trips where the kids voted to head back and swim vs. waiting in line for another attraction.
The pools at Walt Disney World are so well themed, and they often host games and other activities for kids in and around them, too.
So, make sure you carve out time in your trip to spend some time in the resort pools. The time spent there may just be some of your kids’ favorite memories.
Tip: Pool hopping is not allowed, so in most cases you’ll need to use the pool at your resort. Learn everything you need to know about the Disney World Resort pools.
Mine for Gem Stones
We love, love, love Fort Wilderness. Staying there is like a vacation inside of a vacation!
There are tons of activities there, like archery lessons, bike riding, fishing, horseback riding, and one of our favorites: mining for gemstones at the assay station.
If you’ve ever watched Gold Rush, you probably understand the process, but basically, you purchase a bag of rough (which is just dirt loaded with gemstones). You’ll get a screen that you then take over to a wash station, where you can wash the dirt away to uncover your treasures!
When you’re done, you get to keep your freshly cleaned gems as a souvenir.
Tip: Fort Wilderness is a great place to spend a non-park day, and all the activities are open to anyone (even guests not staying there).
Other Free and Cheap Things You Can at Walt Disney World
Self-led Transportation Tour
Is there anything more iconic than the monorail driving through Disney’s Contemporary Resort? Or, what about the site of the colorful Disney Skyliner silently whisking across the sky?
And don’t even get me started on the boats. There are ferry boats and friendship boats and resort launches.
And the best part?
All Disney transportation (except for Minnie Vans) is FREE.
We don’t think a trip to Disney World is complete without spending some time using the Disney transportation just for the fun of it.
If you are taking transportation just for the fun of it (and not to get to the parks for rope drop or at the end of the evening), opt for off times of the day for the lowest crowds. We like mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
If buses are your favorite, you can board those just about anywhere. But, most people seek out the forms of Disney transportation they may not have the chance to regularly ride. Here’s where you can find those:
- Board at Hollywood Studios, EPCOT (International Gateway), Pop Century, Art of Animation, or Disney Riviera.
- Board at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Transportation and Ticket Center, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian, or The Polynesian
- Board at the Transportation and Ticket Center or Magic Kingdom
- Board at Hollywood Studios, Swan/Dolphin, Yacht Club, Disney’s Boardwalk, or EPCOT
Resort launches to Magic Kingdom:
- Board at Polynesian, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Ft. Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, Boulder Ridge
Water taxis to Disney Springs:
- Board at Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, Port Orleans – Riverside, Port Orleans – French Quarter
Tip: In the middle of a long day at EPCOT and need a break from the park but don’t want to go to your resort? Consider exiting at the International Gateway and hopping on a ride on the Disney Skyliner.
Pressed pennies and quarters
Pressed pennies can be found at a lot of vacation destinations, but Walt Disney World is jam-packed with fantastic pressed penny (and quarter) machines.
There are machines commemorating everything from attractions to restaurants to characters and more.
Every year, pressed penny designs are retired, and new ones are introduced, meaning this is an easy collection to add to if you plan to return. In addition, the machines are entertaining to watch – nostalgic even – and keeping with most things Disney, are usually heavily themed, making it fun to search them out.
Tip: You can purchase holders for your penny collections in gift shops at Walt Disney World.
Hidden Mickey scavenger hunts
According to Steven M. Barrett (a.k.a., the “Hidden Mickey Guy”), a Hidden Mickey is “a partial or complete impression of Mickey Mouse placed by the Imagineers and artists to blend into the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas.”
Plainly put – a Hidden Mickey is that cute little Mickey shape we all know and love “hidden” in things like the print of a carpet or the stones in a wall. You can spend hours and hours at Walt Disney World seeking out Hidden Mickeys, or you can make it a casual game that you play while waiting in line or walking between attractions.
Tips: For people that would like a more organized method of hunting, I highly recommend spending a little money on either one of Steven Barrett’s books or apps.
Character photographs & autographs
Disney and characters go hand-in-hand and, for some, a trip wouldn’t be complete without meeting a few (or more) of their favorites.
The only thing it costs you to meet a character is time! A lot of the characters will also sign autographs, so if that is something you’re interested in, don’t forget to bring something for them to sign AND something for them to sign with.
If you’re looking for a unique souvenir (and you like to be crafty), check out some of the ideas for character autographs.
Some characters have PhotoPass photographers stationed with them, so if you’ll be taking lots of pictures, it might be a good idea to consider Memory Maker. Even if you choose to not buy Memory Maker, don’t forget that you can still ask the Cast Members and PhotoPass photographers to take a photo with your camera or phone, too.
Tips: Character meals are a great way to meet lots of characters without waiting in lines.
Have you tried or are you planning to try any of these activities out on your next trip? Share in the comments below.
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