One of Disney’s best-kept secrets include the free or almost-free things to do at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. 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 year-round 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 Resort. 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. If you are celebrating a birthday, they will personalize it with your name and age. When the tadpoles celebrate their birthdays at Disneyland, the day is made extra special due to that free button. Disney employees and park guests tell them, “Happy birthday!” all day long.
You can also get buttons for your first visit, or to celebrate other events such as a wedding or anniversary or graduation. There is a general, "I'm Celebrating!" button, too. 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. At times, select restaurants may offer free buttons to annual passholders who use Mobile Order.
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 bread.
The Boudin Factory tour in Disney 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.
Sometimes, you can still get a free piece of chocolate at Ghirardelli across the way. It's no longer distributed at the door, but you can sometimes get one inside. It's worth asking about. Just sayin'.
4. Take an art lesson.
If you are in California Adventure visiting Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome in the Animation Building, hop on over to the Animation Academy next door. You can get an art lesson in sketching Disney characters from a Disney artist. You can keep your artwork (or recycle it). 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, Tigger and more Disney friends.
5. Get a driver’s license.
When you ride Autopia, you can get 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.
6. 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.
7. Store your souvenirs.
If you happen to buy something too big to carry around — ahem, we are thinking of the lightsabers and droids from Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in particular — Disney will hold it for you for free on the day of purchase. Bring your packages and receipts to one of the following locations:
- Pioneer Mercantile
- Star Trader
- Small World Toys
- Mlle. Antoinette's Parfumerie
- Port Orleans
- Elias & Co. in Disney California Adventure
- Stroller shop in the Esplanade
Just remember to pick it up at the end of the night! It's not free, but you can also ship you items home from First Order Cargo or Pioneer Mercantile.
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 $1. Many machines have recently changed so that the machine provides the penny and the price went from 51 cents to $1 per coin. 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 even more money saving tips to share, as well.
9. 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.
10. 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. Tad immediately dropped a souvenir recently, and we accidentally ran it over with our stroller. We took it back to the store with the receipt to see how we could fix it. The cast members sprinkled some pixie dust and replaced it.
11. 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. If you have PhotoPass+, which gives you unlimited PhotoPass downloads for the day, you can also download and share the high-res attraction images through the Disneyland Mobile app. Just type in the photo number from the monitor into the app. 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 (just know that the quality makes it evident that it was sent from outer space!).
12. Get three hours of short-term parking for Downtown Disney.
Parking rates at Downtown Disney have changed. You'll pay $10 for the first hour, but you can get additional hours for free. You can get an additional three hours of free parking at Downtown Disney if you make a $20 minimum purchase. We like to buy a Disney gift card to get he validation and use it to make purchases we would be making anyway, so it really doesn;t cost us anything. You can get up to five hours of parking at Downtown Disney from any Downtown Disney table-service restaurant. Just be sure to take that ticket with you and get it validated.
Do not park at Downtown Disney if you are going to character dining or other restaurants at the Disneyland Resort hotels. You can park at the hotel where your meal is located for free for a limited time. Goofy's Kitchen and Storytellers Cafe allow for three hours of valet parking. Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures gets you five hours of parking.
13. Build with Legos.
In Downtown Disney, anyone can build with Legos outside and inside the Lego store. You can construct a project and play with it. There are some interactive brick-building stations inside the store, as well.
(This activity is unavailable during the pandemic.)
14. 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 kiosks at Downtown Disney or in the theme parks. If you attend their presentation, they will give each member in your group (including kids) free FASTPASSES that you can load onto your pass or park ticket. They have videos and toys to entertain the kids while you listen to the presentation.
15. Get free locker rental or Ziploc.
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. You can also 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. Speaking of keeping your phone dry on water rides, sometimes you can collect a free Splash Mountain Ziploc bag as you enter the building. It's toadally cute and hopful. We hold onto them and reuse them for future visits. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah!
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 the record straight. There is not a free “death certificate” at the Haunted Mansion, and the employees who work this attraction must be tired (to death) of explaining this to guests. In 2019, the Haunted Mansion turned 50, and some of the merchandise for purchase for this occasion included a Death Certificate, signed by M.T. Tomb. It states, "This certifies that you have officially and voluntarily assumed the role of caretaker for a resident and happy haunt from the Haunted Mansion."
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!