You are going on a trip to Orlando, Florida with your family of four. Your main destination here is Walt Disney World. Your lifelong dream of being able to hug Mickey Mouse, show off your Pooh tattoo to the "real" Winnie the Pooh, and to get punched by Tigger will finally come true. You are extremely happy about your trip. You plan on spending two weeks on Disney property without leaving. For weeks before you leave, you dream happy thoughts about your trip every morning as you eat your breakfast consisting of mouse-shaped waffles and drink your Disney brand coffee.
Then one day you get the travel information that you ordered from Disney's website. Your dreams are suddenly squashed like Jiminy Cricket under Pinocchio's wooden foot. Your happy thoughts fly out the window as you realize that Mickey Mouse really doesn't care about you, all the rat really cares about is your money.
A one day ticket into one of Walt Disney World's four major parks is $75.62 each (last time I checked). That means that if you and your family go into one of the major theme parks for one day, it would cost you $302.48. So if you spend your entire two week Walt Disney World vacation at the theme parks without planning and buying a new ticket every day, it will cost you $4234.72 in admission tickets alone. There are several discounts available to lower this high price such as multi-day tickets, park hopper passes, Florida resident tickets, and even annual passes if you're going to enter the parks enough, but despite any savings, your vacation will still be expensive regardless. Be sure to research the different ticket deals before you go on your vacation to get the best deal. Then add in the cost of getting to Orlando, transportation, a place to stay, food, parking fees, and everything else, you realize that Mickey Mouse doesn't just care about your money. He loves your money. You know you can't afford it, but due to your unhealthy Disney obsession, you plan on making your pilgrimage to the happiest place on earth regardless...
Perhaps you are not as obsessed as the person described above but are still planning a Walt Disney World vacation. Disney will charge you the same amount of money, regardless of your sanity and level of obsession, and a visit can get very expensive. And that is why this Instructable may be helpful to you. In this Instructable, I will show you a few of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World that are completely free. This way, your Disney vacation won't hurt your wallet quite as much and you can put your money towards better things. Like the gas required to get to Disney...
Step 1: Visit Disney's Entertainment Complexes
Walt Disney World's biggest and most popular entertainment complex is called Downtown Disney. It consists of three sections called The Marketplace, Hyperion Wharf (formerly Pleasure Island), and the West Side. The Marketplace is filled with mostly stores. The majority of this area is nothing more than a massive Disney Store, only with better decorations. These stores are filled with lots of eye candy to look at to keep you entertained, such as stuff like animatronic pirates. The major restaurant in the Marketplace is a Rainforest Cafe. It's overpriced tourist food, but since you are about saving money, just go inside and wander around the gift shop and seating area. It's filled with giant aquariums and all sorts of animatronic animals. Once you have had your fun, walk out and move on. Also be sure to visit the Ghiradelli store. They always give free chocolate samples!
Hyperion Wharf is in transition currently and really doesn't have much going. In fact, up until recently, this area was known as Pleasure Island. At one time, Pleasure Island was filled with all sorts of club but apparently they didn't fit into the Disney image. They all closed up and now this whole area is awaiting something new. For some free entertainment, go take a picture in front of Fulton's Crab House, decorated to look like a giant river boat. Wander into Planet Hollywood and climb the stairs and look at all of the movie props.
The West Side is filled with most of the expensive stuff in Downtown Disney. They have a Cirque du Soleil show that is awesome, but is also very expensive. Disney Quest is a virtual reality theme park. It's a whole lot of fun, but since it's in Disney, it is also costs to get in. There are more overpriced restaurants here, and some higher end shops. These are fun to look around in...
Walking through all of Downtown Disney is a nice walk, and if you don't eat here or buy anything, it's a free way to spend a few hours of your Disney vacation.
Disney's Boardwalk technically doubles as one of Disney's many hotels (more on hotels later) as well as an entertainment complex. There are lots of restaurants here as well as two nightclubs, but they all cost money. During the day there really isn't too much to do here if you don't want to spend money on renting bicycles or eating. It's a nice mile walk around the lake that the Boardwalk is built around. In the evening, the free entertainment picks up a bit. Every night there are several different street performers that rotate through their acts. These acts are normally somewhere between 10-15 minutes long and can be anything from juggling to magic to a guy playing a piano on a bicycle. Some nights the acts are good. Other nights they are a waste of time. But don't complain, because they are free!
The Boardwalk is located right next door to EPCOT. At 9:00 each night, EPCOT explodes with their fireworks show. Since you are right next door, you can see some of the show over the trees if you find a good spot. It will be far from the full show, but again, it's free! More on how to see fireworks for free later.