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One of Disney’s best-kept secrets include the free or almost free things to do at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Of course all rides and shows in the parks are included in the cost of admission, but there are some freebies and extra bonuses that any frog can appreciate whether on a budget or not. These items can make your Disney day extra memorable and magical. Our frog squad is known for maximizing time and cost savings so of course we love our freebies!
You may hear a tip or two circulating the Internet about free things at Disneyland. As frog experts on all things Disney, we will debunk these myths and provide you with the facts! We speak from years of experience and from the mouths of actual Disney Cast Members.
Best Free or Almost Free Things to Do at Disneyland
1. Get a celebration button
In either park you can get free buttons from various locations such as the park entrance, information booths, City Hall, and even some food locations like the Tiki Juice Bar. If you are celebrating a birthday, they will personalize it with your name and age. When Lily celebrated her birthday at Disneyland, the day was made extra special due to that free button. Disney employees and park guests told her, “Happy birthday, Lily!” all day long. You can also get buttons for your first visit or to celebrate other events like a wedding or anniversary, graduation or first visit. We have even been surprised with Honorary Citizen buttons! With as much time as we spend in the parks, we really do feel like Disney is our home. Some of the character dining locations also provide buttons and a free dessert on your birthday.
2. Find free stickers
Some survey takers in the parks will give tadpoles Mickey Mouse stickers in exchange for your time in answering some quick questions. Street sweepers sometimes carry stickers too, so be sure to be friendly to them and you might get a treat! They seem to love it when guests are showing their Disney spirit through their personal style. We’ve also had Cast Members swoop in to save the day with a sticker if Lily has some tears welling up after a scary ride. It is amazing how powerful a sticker can be!
3. Sample the chocolate
The Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop in Disney California Adventure gives each guest a free piece of Ghirardelli chocolate. This is Mommy frog's favorite treat!
4. Sample the bread
The Boudin Factory tour in California Adventure gives each guest a free piece of sourdough bread. This comes in handy as a little snack, and the bread you see getting baked as you walk through the bakery is served at Pacific Wharf Café, next door. You can read all about that restaurant and others in the Best Quick Service Restaurants in California Adventure.
5. Take an art lesson
If you are in California Adventure visiting Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome in Animation Academy, hop on over to the Royal Academy next door. You can get an art lesson in sketching Disney characters from a Disney artist. You can keep your artwork. The last time we visited we learned how to draw vintage Minnie Mouse, and we have since learned to draw Winnie the Pooh, Dante from Coco, Goofy and more Disney friends,
6. Get a driver’s license
When you ride Autopia, they’ll give you a free driver’s license, even if you are not tall enough to reach the pedal. After you exit the ride, you have the option of getting a personalized license with your photo for a fee.
7. Take a cruise and then pick up a map
This map will actually cost you a ride on the Jungle Cruise and either a jungle animal sound (Ribbit ribbit!) or a jungle joke. But seriously, after your ride, approach the cast member at the desk and ask for a map — it makes a great souvenir.
8. Collect pressed pennies
Various stores in Disneyland and locations in Downtown Disney have machines that can press a penny into a souvenir keepsake. This is fun for the kids to make and will only cost you 51 cents. Plus it doesn’t take much to carry this tiny keepsake around or take home in a suitcase. You can also get a Pirate Red card from a machine near Pieces of Eight in New Orleans Square or a Shrunken Ned card (good for a laugh) inside the produce stand in Adventureland. Mommy frog has more money saving tips to share as well.
9. Store your souvenirs
If you happen buy something too big to carry around, Disney will hold it for you for free near the exit. Bring your packages and receipts to the stroller rental shop just outside the exit of Disneyland or to Five & Dime at Disney California Adventure.
10. Get free medicine
If you feel a headache coming on or have allergy symptoms flaring up, hop into the First Aid centers in the park. Sign in, let them know what’s going on and they may offer you a single dosage of over-the-counter meds to get you back to a zip-a-dee-doo-dah state of mind. Hop tip: Most stores in the parks sell all kinds of medicines from pain relievers to cough syrups. They are usually hidden in a cabinet behind the counter, so if you need more than a quick pick-me-up, just ask a store employee.
11. Get a free replacement
The following items are not necessarily free (since they replace an item for which you paid), but they can save you money on a replacement if something goes wrong. If you buy a balloon and it pops or flies away, just bring the broken balloon or weight to a balloon seller and they will replace it for free. Lily was a sad little froglet when she dropped her ice cream, but we told the ice cream shop what happened and they immediately turned her frown upside down with a replacement cone! We did not even have to wait in line. The same goes for broken souvenirs.
12. Snap a pic of your ride photos
Many rides, especially thrill rides, take your picture while you ride. The pictures are displayed on monitors for a short time immediately after the ride. You can purchase a copy in some locations, but Disney also allows guests to snap a picture of the image on the screen with their own device. Try that at any other amusement park and you will get a harsh reprimand. After you exit Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters you can use the screens to email yourself the photo souvenir for free. If you have MaxPass, which comes with unlimited PhotoPass downloads, you can also download and share the hi-res attraction images through the Disneyland Mobile App. Just type in the photo number from the monitor into the app.
13. Get free short-term parking for Downtown Disney
You can get three hours of free parking at Downtown Disney if you make a $20 minimum purchase. You can get up to five hours of parking at Downtown Disney from any Downtown Disney table service restaurant or AMC Theatres movie experience. Just be sure to take that ticket with you and get it validated.
14. Build with Legos
In Downtown Disney, anyone can build with Legos outside the Lego store. You can construct a project and play with it. There are some interactive brick-building stations inside the store as well.
15. Pick up free FASTPASSES
If you are willing to give up 60 to 90 minutes of your time in exchange for saving time later by skipping the lines, you might want to stop by the Disney Vacation Club kiosk (now located near Tortilla Jo’s) at Downtown Disney. If you attend their presentation they will give each member in your group (including kids) free FASTPASSES that you can load on your pass or park ticket. They have videos and toys to entertain the kids while you listen to the presentation.
16. Get free locker rental
At Disney California Adventure you can get up to two free hours of locker rental near Grizzly River Run. It comes in handy if you want to protect your phone or camera from getting soaked on the ride or need to store something for a short time. Just be sure to remove your items within two hours or a $7 per hour fee will apply after it expires. You can find these somewhat-hidden lockers to the left of the ride entrance and behind the large bear.
Mythical and Legendary Freebies at Disneyland
There are some fake stories circulating the Internet about free things to do at Disneyland. Let the frog family set them straight. There is not and has never been a “death certificate” at the Haunted Mansion, and the employees who work this attraction must be tired to death of explaining this to guests. The origins of this myth come from when they gave some particularly scared children a certificate (during the Year of a Million Dreams) that said something like, “I survived the Haunted Mansion.” This was somehow shared on the Internet and was turned into a legend of the death certificate. There is no longer a certificate of any kind associated with this ride.
Do not attempt to give birth (or lay tadpole eggs) in the park. Years ago, when a baby was accidentally born in the park the child received a lifetime admission to Disneyland. As word got out, Disney found that women were trying to induce labor in the park just to receive free Disneyland visits for life, so that policy stopped many years ago.
Hopefully you can use this list of free things at Disneyland to make your next trip just a little more special. We always want to know of any new free or inexpensive things to do at Disneyland, so let us know your discoveries too. Share them in comments below! Want to save big bucks on your Disneyland trip? Hop over to our discount Disneyland tickets!