Wondering if there are any free souvenirs or things to do at Disneyland? This post gives you tips and tricks for saving money at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure by enjoying some of the freebies inside and outside the parks.
I know what you’re thinking, “the place where just about every ride exits into a gift shop has FREE things?” Your skepticism is well-founded, but this isn’t just a lame list with things like random rocks you find on the ground to befriend or park maps. There are actual, cool free things to do at Disneyland. Really!
While there are some basics here like park maps and newspapers, this isn’t a list meant to point out the obvious that you can get free water from a drinking fountain or “free” sunburn in Disneyland. These are mostly less-obvious freebies. If you are trying to do Disneyland on a budget, this list is a great way to give yourself some added fun without breaking the bank!
Let’s take a look at the list of freebies at Disneyland…
Vacation Planning – This is one for when you start planning…request a free vacation planning video from Disney. The video is a lot of fun and a great way to get hyped for your Disneyland vacation!
Celebration Buttons – As soon as you arrive, this is the first free thing you should get is a celebration button. Whether it’s your first trip, birthday, honeymoon, etc., be sure to get a celebration button at City Hall. The buttons are a freebie themselves, but you’re also more likely to receive other freebies or Cast Members who try to make your day special. Just don’t abuse the buttons or gain a sense of entitlement when wearing them. That’s unfortunately all too common, and will not help.
Park Maps. FastPasses, and Assorted Ephemera – Like to hoard paper goods? A trip to Disneyland is for you! All sorts of ephemera can be collected on a Disneyland vacation. Park Maps, FastPasses, Times Guides, paper coasters in your hotel room, and much more. I do this, and I personally find it fun to look back at old paper goods from the past. (Unfortunately, the Buena Vista Bugle newspaper has been discontinued. It was fun while it lasted.)
Licenses – The California DMV is probably the least efficient in the country. Don’t worry, through the magic of Disney, you can get your CA license in a snap, without any silly vision tests or age requirements! Just ride the Autopia, and ask for a license. Pilot’s licenses are also available on the Mark Twain if you’re able to make it into the Wheelhouse (ask a Cast Member on the dock early in the day).
On-Ride Photo – No, not of your choosing, but fortunately it’s of the best attraction known to man: I’M TALKING BUZZ LIGHTYEAR’S ASTRO BLASTERS! After the ride, there are kiosks where you can select your photo, and email it to yourself. (Not that you care, but on the day of the photo below, I got two top 10 daily scores. Some might say I’m the Chuck Norris of Astro Blasters. 😉 )
Water – No, not the drinking fountains (I promised that wouldn’t be a tip)! Disneyland Resort counter service restaurants will give you a free cup of water (ask for a large cup!) or a free cup of hot water.
Toppings Bar – One consolation of dining at Smokejumpers Grill is that it has a toppings bar with items such as pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, etc., allowing you to pile on the toppings to your food to get more bang for your buck. I have a “friend” who piles on so many toppings that it’s like they got themselves a free side salad. 😉
Chocolate – If you do go to Pacific Wharf in Disney California Adventure, Ghiradelli offers free chocolate samples.
Bread – Likewise at Pacific Wharf’s Boudin Bakery, you get free bread on the bakery tour (don’t worry, continuing the tour is optional).
Refills – There are a few counter service restaurants at Disneyland Resort with self-service beverage stations (Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port, Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, and Rancho del Zocalo) all of which used to consistently offer free refills. Recently, some have been sporadically enforcing a “no refills” policy. It’s very hit or miss, but I still try. However, one hidden gem, Whitewater Snacks in the Grand Californian, has a Coke Freestyle machine that does (always) allow free refills. Plus, it’s Coke Freestyle!
Dining Under Age 3 – At Disneyland buffets, kids under age 3 eat for free off of a parents’ plate. This is great news at the pricey Goofy’s Kitchen buffet!
Fireworks – Each night shortly before the fireworks begin at Disneyland, you will notice a ton of people seated in the Esplanade between the parks. They’re there to watch the fireworks, and this location actually provides a pretty good view. The fireworks can really be seen from anywhere in Anaheim, but I think this spot is best because you can actually hear part of the show, and the bursts appear much closer. The top of Mickey & Friends parking structure is another good spot.
World of Color – This one is only for Disney Vacation Club members, but these guests can access a special viewing platform in the Grand Californian Hotel’s DVC wing that offers views of World of Color. It’s not the best view, but if you don’t have park tickets, it’s a cool way to end the day!
Restaurant Tour – The lavishly detailed and historically rich Carthay Circle Restaurant offers a once-daily tour that lasts about 15 minutes. Last I checked, it was held pretty early in the morning, so I’d recommend checking with the restaurant shortly after rope drop.
Resort Tour – Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is a gorgeous hotel, brimming with detail and influenced by several real world locations in California. You can learn all about this on the “Art of the Craft Tour“. Check with the hotel concierge for specific times and make sure to sign up early.
Disney Chase Visa Cardholder Perks – We discuss these in depth in our Disney Chase Visa Review, but the biggest one of these is the private meet and greet location in each park, which includes a free PhotoPass photo. You can “Feel the power of the Force at the Star Wars™ Imperial Meet ‘N’ Greet at our private Cardmember location at the Disneyland® Park.” Disney Visa’s words, not mine. (Hence those quotation marks.)
WiFi – Staying in a stingy off-site hotel that charges for WiFi? Head to the lobby of one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels (I’d recommend the Grand Californian, where the speed is best in the lobby) and use the free WiFi. I sometimes take my laptop with me on a visit to Disneyland and spend a little time in a quiet alcove enjoying the ambiance and background music, and getting work done!
Photography – Many guests assume PhotoPass is not useful for them if they’re not going to purchase the CD or prints. That’s not true at all–any PhotoPass Cast Member will take photos of you with your camera. Same goes for character attendants. In the case of PhotoPass, take the card if you want to be polite, but that’s not necessary.
First Aid – As I “pretend” to be Californian, I sometimes wear my Rainbows to the parks. Bad idea, as I get terrible blisters after a long day. Following my stupidity, I stop at First Aid to get some free Band-Aids. They also have things like Aspirin, and a range of over the counter medications.
Valet Parking at Hotels – If you dine at Napa Rose or Steakhouse 55, you get 3 hours of free valet parking at the Grand Californian or Disneyland Hotel, respectively.
DVD Rentals – This one only applies to Disney Vacation Club members, but you can request DVDs from the library at the Grand Californian.
Wake Up Call – Guests of Disneyland Resort hotels can request a free wake up call from a Disney character on their hotel phone.
Luggage Storage & Transfer – If your flight isn’t until late in the day on your day of departure, Bell Services will hold your bags. Tips are customary in this situation.
I think that’s about it as far as free things at Disneyland go. I mean, you could expand upon it even further and include every single attraction since it’s all “free” after admission…but I think that’s a bit silly. Hopefully the line I’ve drawn makes some sense and gives you an idea of new things you can do, eat, and have without spending extra money! Given the cost of a Disneyland vacation, I think it’s nice to see a list with so many things that are basically added bonuses.
So that’s our list, what’s on your list of the best free things at Disneyland? Any other tips or lost-cost options? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!