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Monday, July 4, 2011

Money Monday: Free Disney

Often when people think of Disney World, they think of the parks and the rides.  Subsequently, folks will often think of the cost that goes with them.  It’s true, you can shell out a pretty penny in the World, but you don’t necessarily have to!  Quite frankly, you could make a whole vacation out of Disney World without stepping into the parks!  This is for example…I’m not sure I could go to Disney World and never enter one park, but stay with me here-  I’m saying it’s possible.  As a Disney veteran, I can attest to the fact that “all park, all day, every day” can seriously wear a person out.  A few days doing other things can bring back that vacation feeling (and maybe even save a few dollars)!  Here are some things to fill your time:

Magical Express: Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?  You get off the airplane at Orlando International Airport.  It used to be that you would have to either rent a car, or shell out $50 for a taxi.  Not anymore.  Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up,  show you Disney cartoons along the way and deposit you at your resort.  The bonus is you don’t even have to worry about your luggage!  Even better?  This service is free!

The Pool: This is usually my next stop after arriving.  At very least I want to walk around and check it out.  The pools on Disney property are like a theme park in themselves and offer hours of enjoyment!

Movies Under the Stars:  Several resorts are beginning to offer this fun activity.  The first to have it was Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  They begin with a campfire and sing along, complete with S’mores and Chip and Dale.  Yep, you read that right: free character meet and greet!  You can purchase items to make S’mores, or you can bring your own.  After the sing along, a movie begins right there in the great outdoors.  It’s kind of like a drive-in.  Many of the other resorts have a movie as well.  They put up a large screen near their beach or pool area.  Guests can come sit on chairs or plop on blankets in the sand.

Resort Hopping:  When I mention this to people, they often look at me as if I have a third eye…that is, until they do it themselves!  It is actually quite a lot of fun to be submerged in all the theming of the different resorts.  All of the architecture and design is fascinating and I love to see the many shops, restaurants, pools and gardens.  An easy way to check out three is to hop aboard the monorail!  The Contemporary, The Polynesian and the Grand Floridian are all spectacular and quite different.  If you still wish to explore after the monorail resorts, you can grab a boat from the Contemporary and visit both the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campground.  Of course, you can get to any resort from any park by taking Disney transportation.

Downtown Disney:  So how does a shopping/dining district count as free?  I assure you, it does.  There is no cost to go there, and it offers more than just window shopping.  There are water play areas and often you will see performances along the way.  There is a lego store, which is home to some pretty incredible lego sculptures.  Plus, it offers some play time.

The Boardwalk:  This is the area that sits between Hollywood Studios and Epcot and is home to the resorts the Yacht Club, Beach Club and Boardwalk.  It is a nice area to walk around.  In the evening, the street performers come out. 

Watch the Fireworks: You don’t necessarily have to be in the parks to see the fireworks.  My favorite spot to watch Wishes is from the beach at the Polynesian Resort.  They pipe in the music, so you really get the full experience.  Any of the resorts around Seven Seas Lagoon have great viewing spots.  Clementine Beach at Fort Wilderness Campground isn’t half bad either!  If you are looking to see Illuminations, you are able to view the fireworks portion of that show from the Boardwalk area.

As you can see, Disney World is more than just rides, crowds and money to be spent.   The whole 47-square miles is brimming with possibility and not all of it expensive!  An added benefit to having a few park free days?  The relaxed pace.  Go ahead- have a vacation!

XO, Ami