Hubby and Baby Boy pose outside the fountain that greets guests to Downtown Disney. © Photo by Francesca Di Meglio
Although our stay at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resorts only lasted one week, we spent an extra two weeks at my sister’s house in the area. As a result, we snuck in some extra Disney time over the weekends when I wasn’t locked in the closet working. (I literally had to work in my sister’s walk-in closet, so Baby Boy would actually let me do my writing and editing.) Since we had already doled out major cash to stay at the Disney resort, All-Star Music, visit the parks, and use the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan, I opted for more affordable options during the rest of our stay in the Sunshine State.
Downtown Disney costs nothing to enter. Even though there’s no admission fee, you have to stick to your guns to have a free or nearly free day there. The place is loaded with charming Disney-centric shops. The kids will be wooed by the Disney toys and gear, so expect some whining and begging for you to buy things. I admit I gave in and bought my son an Izzy (from Jake and the Neverland Pirates) doll. If you are in the market for Disney souvenirs, Downtown Disney is the best place for them because there’s a very wide selection. There are also restaurants and small eateries if you are hungry. But you’ll have to pay for those.
Still, walking around and browsing costs you nothing. Each shop has an interesting display out front, which makes for fabulous photo ops. In addition to the beautiful Mickey fountain and garden scene out front, you’ll find Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear, and Mr. Potato Head statues to name a few. There are free concerts galore if you want to take in some music or a brief theatrical performance. Nearby, there’s a little train and a Merry-go-round, both of which will cost you $2 each per child. Baby boy had a blast on both. Although not free, these two rides are pretty affordable.
Finally, there’s the Lego store, which is a gold mine for free fun. Outside there are large Lego structures of a dragon fighting a knight, a gigantic sea creature that is in an actual lake, Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs, and Buzz and Woody on a rocket. My favorite one is of a family of tourists – replete with daughter dressed like princess, son dressed like pirate, and mom and dad with Disney-inspired hats – walking their dogs. In addition, outside the store, there are little tables for the kids to create their own Lego art and even race Lego cars that they put together. You pay no money for it, but some parents seemed to be paying with their patience. Their kids didn’t want to leave. Can you blame them?