Welcome to Theme Park Magazine’s brand new column, “Thrifty Theme Park Adventures!” As an ardent theme park lover, I understand that fun-filled theme park adventures can sometimes be a strain on your wallet. That’s why I’ve created this exclusive column to help you navigate exhilarating theme park lands without burning a hole in your pocket. Each column will unravel a world of budget-friendly secrets, free activities, and smart spending strategies specifically tailored for different theme parks around the globe. I’m here to ensure you get the maximum fun and magic out of every dollar. So, prepare to embark on an enchanting journey with us at “Thrifty Theme Park Adventures,” where we believe in making every penny count while ensuring your theme park experience is as enchanting and unforgettable as ever. ~ Samantha
Since opening to the public on October 1st, 1971, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has entertained and thrilled guests from all over the globe. On that grand opening day, guests paid just $3.50 for a ticket and $4.25 to ride seven of the rides.
While the rides, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options at the Magic Kingdom have skyrocketed since the ‘70s, so has the price tag. A 1-day ticket to the park now goes for $109-$189, while the average cost of a Disney vacation, sans snacks and souvenirs, goes for nearly
While some say the price is worth every cent to make magical memories with your loved ones, others want to pinch a few pennies. Fortunately, the Magic Kingdom has tons of free experiences for guests to enjoy without sacrificing any of the fun.
While the rides in the park are free, other free experiences await just beyond the gates that many guests may not know about.
Savor Something Sweet
Located on Main Street is Main Street Confectionary, where all your sweet dreams come true. This shop features gourmet caramel apples, marshmallows, cupcakes, fudge, cookies, and ice cream that will dazzle both your eyes and tastebuds.
The treats at Main Street Confectionary are always delicious, but the idea of spending $12.00 on a caramel apple might leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Luckily, there are often cast members outside the Confectionary giving out free samples of cookies, candy, and other delicious treats.
Sometimes that’s all you need to stave off the cravings and combat that sweet temptation to buy as much fudge as you can fit in your bag.
Have a Laugh
Inspired by the beloved film Monsters Inc. is the hilarious interactive comedy show Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor., located in Tomorrowland.
You might think the show is geared toward children only, but the clean and clever humor is nearly guaranteed to delight patrons of all ages.
When you first enter the Monstropolis’ comedy club, you’ll be greeted by Mike Wazowski, the “Monster of Ceremonies,” who will warmly welcome you as you take a seat. Once seated, you’ll get your first clue of what’s in store, as audience members are almost immediately incorporated into the show.
The inclusion of audience members is what makes the experience an underrated experience, as each repeat visit will be completely different from the one before. Luckily, the attraction rarely features a wait time longer than fifteen minutes, making it easy to keep the laughs rolling all day.
Get Pixie Dusted
Located in Fantasyland, you’ll find Sir Mickey’s, a gift shop that sells costumes, accessories, and other trinkets to commemorate your Disney World trip. What most people don’t know is that, in this souvenir shop, there is something free for guests of all ages.
For some free flair, approach a cast member and ask to be pixie dusted. They will be happy to sprinkle a little pixie dust, which is mostly glitter, into your hair, so you can flaunt your sparkle as you continue your adventure through the park.
Children can also get pixie dusted for free at the Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street, but walk-ins will have to yield to guests with haircut reservations.
Take a Different Kind of Ride
There are so many great themed rides at the Magic Kingdom, like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, but even transportation offers guests another way to ride in style.
The monorail not only takes guests to and from the park but it also makes a resort loop to allow visitors a relaxing way to take in the sights from a bird’s eye view.
Another less conventional way to make your way around the grounds is to hop on one of Disney World’s water taxis or ferries, which sail to and from the Magic Kingdom. The cool breeze coming off the water is a great way to beat the heat while getting a chance to see the park from
Have a 3D Experience
Mickey’s PhilharMagic is where a traditional concert meets 3D meets special effects to make for one unforgettable show.
Upon entering the concert hall, you will put on your 3D glasses so you can view the gigantic, 150-foot-wide screen. Donald Duck stars in this adventure, where magic and hilarity ensue when Donald finds Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat.
There are special effects that will further pull you into this exceptional show and make you feel like you are experiencing the action right alongside Donald.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic is a Walt Disney World gem that’s not only magical but free of charge.
Stay for Magic Kingdom’s Fireworks
After a long day of walking through the Magic Kingdom, it’s tempting to try and leave the park before sundown so you can beat the foot traffic to the gates.
Doing so, however, will cause you to miss out on one of the most spectacular free experiences the Magic Kingdom has to offer.
Located at the iconic Cinderella’s Castle is where you will see a fireworks display unlike any other.
Colorful blasts are coordinated with a light show; all projected onto the castle while various Disney songs play over the speakers.
For the best view, try snagging a space in the middle of Main Street. These spots fill up fast, so it can be quite crowded, but it’s well worth it to be as close to the front and center as possible.
The fireworks are also visible from Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. These locations make a great pick if you’re looking for a decent view without standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other guests.
It is truly a sight to behold in person and not one to be missed.
Just One More Show Before You Go
After watching the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks, you may think that this is the last of the nighttime shows this legendary theme park has to offer. Fortunately, there is no shortage of magic at the Magic Kingdom, and it doesn’t stop when the sun sets.
Just outside the park on the waters of Bay Lake is the Electrical Water Pageant. This one-of-a-kind parade shows various sea creatures making their way across the lake while showering the water’s surface in a cascade of colors.
As the procession moves, you will be treated to both classic Disney songs and patriotic melodies.
The Electrical Water Pageant can be viewed from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
This attraction offers all the spectacle without the crowd, making it one of the most underrated ways of ending a day at the Magic Kingdom.
There’s plenty to see and do at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, but you might find it hard to enjoy the magic when you’re worried about staying under budget. That’s why it’s helpful to factor in a few free experiences in between the ones you paid for.
So, try working a few of these recommendations into your next park visit, and you’ll have a great time, make great memories, and save a little money while you’re at it!
What theme parks would you like to see me offer free and thrifty activities for next? Let me know in the comments below.
Explore More: Videos
Pixie Dust at Sir Mickey’s in the Magic Kingdom
Happily Ever After Fireworks – June 2023
Explore More: Resources
Feature image – Kent Phillips, Photographer ©Disney