I have yet to meet a person who has exhausted all that Disney World has to offer. You simply won’t convince me that it can be done (*fingers-in-ear-la-la-la*). The Disney Imagineers pay extremely close attention to detail, striving to constantly improve their processes to keep people coming back again and again. With all that there is to see, taste and experience, you won’t hit that “Disney wall.” Every time I turn around they have something new and fresh and exciting to experience, offering unique magical memories with each visit. And the beauty of it is that Disney can appeal to any type of budget. If you desire to experience the Disney magic and are looking for new ways to help ensure your family has a blast while keeping that budget in check, this list is for you! Here are our top 20 picks of frugally fun Disney activities, foods and souvenirs to help maximize the magic during your stay! And at just $20 (or under), you can bet your bottom dollar that you are getting your money’s worth (after all, Disney memories are truly priceless)!
20. Kayak/Canoe Rentals
While hitting all the major attractions at the Disney theme parks is certainly a blast, sometimes it’s nice to have a day of leisure and relaxation away from the hustle and bustle. The Disney resorts offer an array of recreation and amenities to provide that much needed down time, such as meandering through inlets and around beautiful lakes in a canoe or kayak. At Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds, you can rent a kayak or canoe for at most $11, depending on the length of time you choose. Enjoy these scenic and rustic grounds from a different point of view, capturing new memories at a low cost.
19. The Harmony Barber Shop, Main Street, USA
Want to make an extremely magical memory and not dish out major dough? Let that red and white striped pole lead you to The Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. First-time haircuts for kids are their specialty, but young or old, male or female, you can get a cut or specialty hair-do and not spend a fortune. I’ve always dreamed of having my child’s first haircut done at the “happiest place on earth” and for all that you get for the price (not to mention the awesome memory of it all!) it might just be the best “souvenir” on Disney property. For the “My 1st Haircut Service,” young guests are treated to a trim (from very trained and patient hands!) equipped with surprises from “pixie dust” to bubbles to Mickey Mouse stickers. They will also receive an extra-special “My 1st Haircut” set of Mouse Ears and a certificate. At $18, this is a STEAL (and think about the photos you will take to preserve this precious moment in time!). Though not required, appointments can be made up to 180 days in advance. Prices range anywhere from $15 (for kids) to $19 (for adults).
18. Lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant
With all the hype surrounding this restaurant located in the new Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom, you might expect Belle herself to be serving your food here. She isn’t and neither are any of her other friends from the Beast’s castle, but dining here is certainly a unique experience with all the attention to detail surrounding you. You can feast in one of three intricately decorated rooms—The Beast’s West Wing, Belle’s Library, or the Ballroom. Because dinner here is more expensive and the reservations difficult to secure, I recommend experiencing this new restaurant at lunch time. While the menu holds plenty of yummy options, I’ve only ever had the Carved Turkey Sandwich with Pomme Frites ($11.49) which was delicious and a VERY filling lunch! The lunches all run you around that same price point and if you have the room left in your tummy for it, your under $20 budget will allow for one of their delicious cupcakes for dessert. I highly recommend the delectable Strawberry Cream Cheese Cupcake ($4.19).
17. Jellyrolls Dueling Piano Bar
Disney’s Boardwalk resort is bristling with enjoyable nightlife and this particular spot is no exception. So much fun is to be had here as two piano maestros (seriously, they are SO GOOD) perform audience requested songs as far back as the 70s to today and encourage you to sing-along. They banter, they interact with the audience, they belt out familiar tunes and their fingers dance over those ivory keys with such exuberant expertise that you can’t help but be captivated by their talent. The performers switch out every hour and they won’t play the same song twice so you could stay the entire time they are open (7pm- 2am) and it never gets old. You may think the $12 cover charge is pricey, but give it a chance and you’ll see that the cost is well worth the laughter and memories this place provides. Jellyrolls is strictly for ages 21 and over.
16. Refillable Mugs
These Disney-themed mugs may be a bargain for the thirsty tourist, depending on what exactly you like to use to quench your thirst. Available in purple, red, yellow and blue, you may purchase these rapid refill mugs at any Disney resort, regardless of whether you are actually staying there or not. The prices vary, depending on the number of days the guest chooses to have “free” refills on ($8.99 for 1 day, $11.99 for 2 consecutive days, $14.99 for 3 consecutive days, and $17.99 for length of stay (up to 14 consecutive days)). The great thing about these mugs is that they can be used at ANY Disney Resort’s Rapid Refill machine and you have options ranging from soda to coffee to lemonade. These also serve as a neat souvenir to take home and use again and again. Keep in mind, there is no “beating the system” here with these as each one is embedded with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that actually activates the drink machine once the mug is placed on it. Once the time you have chosen to use it for has expired, the chip will no longer activate that spouting stream of soda (but don’t worry, you can always add more days on to it!). Again, this may not be a bargain for the stringent H2O consumer, but if you love your soda pop and coffee, this under $20 find may just be for you!
15. Face Painting
Sure you can schedule to have your little girl “princessed up” at the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique (from $54.95-$194.95) or your little guy turned into a “Pirate League” swashbuckler ($34.95 and up), but why not have them display their “Disney side” at a fraction of the cost? There is a face painting station located at each of Disney’s four theme parks and even one at Downtown Disney. Prices range from only $12-$18 and great news—this price includes free touch-ups (save your receipt)! There are over 25 “face” designs to choose from including Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse!
14. Characters in Flight
Ever wanted a bird’s eye view of all that amazingly glorious Disney property? Take this giant tethered helium-filled balloon that takes you 400 feet in the air above Downtown Disney and you’ll get just that. If you’ve ever vacationed at Disney World before, odds are you’ve caught a glimpse of this enormous red and yellow striped balloon in the sky. Reviewers agree that it’s an experience like no other! Got an active child with you or have a mild fear of heights? No worries, this balloon is completely caged in and they only “take off” if weather is permitting. Costs are $18 for adults and $12 for kids. Time it just right and score the best seat EVER to the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks show, making it worth every penny!
13. Create-Your-Own Candy Apple
Yes, you can buy a beautiful and delicious pre-made candy apple, but why do that when you can create your very own mouthwatering masterpiece? Head on over to Goofy’s Candy Company located in Downtown Disney for this awesome and yummy experience (trust me, your kids mouths will be hanging open in awestruck wonder the whole time). Try not to get distracted by the rows upon rows of colorful and sweet-smelling candy as you make your way to the create-your-own station. Here, you can choose from a variety of treats to decorate (such as a Rice Krispy treat, marshmallows, pretzels and cookies). The caramel apple base will cost you $8.95 and includes a coating (white, milk or dark chocolate) and a topping. After that, tack on $1.00 for each additional topping. Choose between topping such as assorted sprinkles, mini M&M’s, peanut butter chips, chopped nuts, crushed Oreo cookie crumbs and much more. They will THEN finish your creation off with your choice of chocolate drizzle. Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard…
12. Miniature Golf
If mini-golfing is not really your thing, try giving it another chance at Disney. They offer two separate locations—Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland—on property where experiencing Disney magic outside of the theme parks is “above par!” Join Santa and his elves at Winter Summerland and choose from one of two courses. Here, you play to the tunes of your favorite Christmas songs and even get to snag a tasty candy cane on your way out. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you try out the Fantasia Gardens mini 18-hole courses (one is quite the challenge!) where everything is whimsical and bright. For $12 a child or $14 an adult, you will ensure a fun family-friendly adventure that won’t leave you “in the hole.”
11. Engraved Glass Drink ware
This is one of those not your average run-of-the- mill Disney World souvenirs that make excellent gifts and even better family keepsakes. The Arribas Bros. Company has set up camp at various locations on Disney property where you can peruse their collection of gorgeous glass figurines, jewelry and glassware. Most of these items are Disney themed or Disney influenced and the prices are shockingly pretty reasonable. One of my favorite treasured Disney mementos is a juice glass that was purchased for my daughter with Tinkerbell (her favorite) engraved on one side and my daughter’s name on the other. You can purchase a juice glass or mug as is—most of them have a character engraved on it or a Disney image such as Cinderella’s Castle—or you can personalize them for an additional fee. The costs of these vary but you can get away with spending under $20 with most of juice glasses and mugs, including the personalization! Find these engraving stations on Main Street, USA in the Magic Kingdom, at Downtown Disney and just outside of the Germany pavilion in Epcot.
Other great souvenirs worth the price tag are kitschy caricatures of you or your loved ones that can be made at several different locations throughout Walt Disney World. These are fun ways to capture a moment in time without using a camera. These artists are the real deal and not Disney cast members (they are contracted out) and have the talent to capture a true likeness of their subject in a fun setting (even if your child is super squirmy-wormy). Their subjects are mostly children but people of all ages can get one done of themselves! You’ll find these fold-up stands at every Value and Moderate Disney Resort. The cost for these caricatures currently run $15 for face only (black and white), $20 for face only (color); $20 for face and body (black and white) and— though it’s over our “budget” for our list—$30 for face and body (color). I imagine having one of these to look back on over the years would be well worth the price and the memory!
9. Mickey Ears
Yes, they are a little pricey (around $14 for classic black) and will only go up in price if you have your name embroidered on them but everyone’s gotta have at least one pair in their lifetime, right? And now they have Mickey Ears with serious personality that come in a large variety of different designs. Depending on what type of Ears you purchase and whether or not you have them personalized you can typically score this souvenir for under $20. Just make sure you get good use out of them after you leave the parks…like wearing them at the dinner table or to the grocery store.
8. Disney Park CDs
Have you ever had a rotten day and just wished you had the music of Soarin’ to blast in your speakers and lift up your mood? Or ever wanted to close your eyes and imagine you were standing near the Magic Kingdom, reliving your magical memories and watching the Wishes fireworks show? Well, you most certainly can with the various Disney Park CDs that are available to purchase inside the theme parks’ gift shops. Music from numerous attractions like The Haunted Mansion and firework shows such as Wishes are found on these CDs, sure to make you smile while you fold your laundry, wishing you were strolling down Main Street, USA. The prices vary depending on which CD you purchase, but the cost is generally around $20.
7. Design-A-Tee—Downtown Disney
You can now be a fashion designer as talented as Cinderella’s mice friends with a fun and unique experience at Design-A-Tee in Downtown Disney where you can, as the name notates, create your own custom Disney t-shirt. There are over 400 clipart images to choose from, including characters not commonly seen on the Disney souvenir shop racks, and you can select from pre-chosen phrases such as “Happy Anniversary” or “Happy Birthday” or simply type your own text into the kiosk. With all the colors and options available, this experience is a definite memory maker! The prices vary and can jump over that $20 mark, but the average rings up to about $18.
6. Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian Resort
If you’re like me, you feel “fancy” and “grand” when you roam the lobby and grounds of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. This resort is gorgeous and is decked out to the nines in Victorian-esque design, giving this place a very expensive feel (and yes, it can be!). But there are ways you can experience this resort and not spend a fortune. Head over to the Garden View Tea Room which overlooks the lush green gardens and feel refined as you are served delicious offerings of tea and delectable treats or plan a special date with your little one as they are pampered with their own platter of delicious servings, complete with magical dark tea (chocolate milk!) for $12.00. Again, the prices vary on each menu item but you can typically order a tea and a menu item (such as a scone or tea sandwiches or cheese) and pay around $20. With these fair prices and the elegant nature of your afternoon spent here, you will leave feeling richer than when you came! The Garden View Tea Room is open daily from 2pm-5pm.
This is a memory that will be cherished forever in the form of a cut-paper silhouette. Available at the Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney, you or your little one can sit for a Disney artist who will then cut your silhouette right then and there will perfect precision (it will take only a few minutes of your time!). This traditional Victorian-era practice adds charm and sentiment to your walls for a nominal fee. The prices are always changing, but the last time we had these done they were $8 for the silhouette and an additional $8-$10 for the oval frame (which is beautiful!). They will cut silhouettes for anyone, even babies! Don’t have your loved one with you at the time? They’ll perform their mastered skill and create your portrait with just a photograph as well! Don’t miss the opportunity to have this moment in time captured forever!
4. Wine Walk—Epcot’s World Showcase
Can’t make it to Epcot’s Annual Food & Wine Festival in the fall? No worries, you can still sip your way through the countries and sample some of the best wines they have to offer. For just $20 you can enjoy six 2-ounce samples of your choice of select wines located in Germany, France and Italy. Offered year-round, your “Wine Walk Passport” will be stamped with each tasting and can be purchased at the gift shops within these countries’ pavilions. More of a tequila fan? You MUST try an authentic margarita made inside Mexico’s La Cava del Tequila ($13-ish). Inside tip: If you follow La Cava del Tequila on Twitter, you’ll receive free chips and salsa and a discount on a particular shot of tequila. You’re welcome!
3. Pick-a-Pearl Station
Inside the Japan pavilion at Epcot you’ll find a large, shallow tank of water housing dozens upon dozens of oysters. For just $15 you can choose the oyster of your liking for them to open right in front of you. What’s so special about this? Most all of these oysters contain a beautiful, sometimes colored, pearl! And bonus, a few of them even encloses TWO! It’s always a surprise, and the anticipation and reveal is well worth the price. There are four locations on the Disney property which contain a Pick-a-Pearl station, but the best show is at the Japan pavilion where an enthusiastic cast member might bang a drum, measure your pearl in wonder and announce your find to the entire shop. If you want your pearl mounted inside one of the beautiful jewelry settings they offer you will certainly go over that $20 mark, but keep in mind, you can always purchase a much cheaper and similar setting online before or after your trip.
2. Personalize Your Disney Merchandise
What better way to commemorate your magical Disney vacation than to have your Disney merchandise personalized and embroidered? At Adrian and Edith’s Head to Toe Costume Shop in Disney’s Hollywood Studios guests are invited to watch through a glass while specialists perform custom embroidery on a wide variety of Disney Park merchandise. The store offers a ton of Disney character goods to have your name, favorite phrase, etc. embroidered on or you can simply bring your own previously purchased souvenir with you! Almost all embroidery, including designs on mouse ears, aprons, towels and T-shirts, is $10 or less.
1. Narcoossee’s Almond Crusted Cheesecake
Have you ever tried a dessert that is so good that you are ruined for all other sweets because they just can’t measure up? No? Well then, head on over to Narcoossee’s, an upscale, fine dining restaurant located right on the water at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. How is this possibly going to work with just $20 in your pocket? You can sit at this beautiful restaurant’s bar and order one of the BEST desserts on Disney property. The Almond Crusted Cheesecake gets rave reviews from pretty much anyone who has ever had the pleasure of indulging in one and you can get this delectable dessert for just $10 (and tax/tip). Here’s another secret: if you time this just right, you will get a chance to stand on the restaurant’s outside deck during the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks show, securing one of the best viewing spots outside of the theme park itself.