The Happiest Place on Earth has also become known to many as "The Most Expensive Place on Earth", which is not far from the truth. Between the park tickets, hotel rooms, food, souvenirs, travel and whatever else you may need to spend, the price can seem to continually grow. However, don't be despaired. Disneyland actually offers quite a few things to park guests for free. That's right, FREE! You just need to know where to find them. That is where we come in!
- DOWNTOWN DISNEY - Often left out of the conversation about the Disneyland Resort, the Downtown Disney district is a completely free shopping district that often includes free live entertainment in the evenings. Try spending a little time there and you'll find it can be surprisingly fun!
- CELEBRATION BUTTONS - Have you ever noticed guests walking around with buttons declaring "It's My Birthday!" or "Happy Anniversary!"? If you're celebrating something as well, from weddings to reunions and even first visits, you can visit City Hall in Disneyland or Guest Services in DCA and get a pin for yourself and your party so you can let everyone know you're celebrating, too! (Also, most character dining experiences also give out buttons at the end of the meal, but that's not really free, now is it? :))
- PIN TRADING - Sure, you have to buy some pins to start with, but if you already have a small collection of Disney pins you can participate in Disney pin trading with any guest or Cast Member throughout the resort. I've never tried it myself, but I hear the experience can be quite addicting.
- CHARACTER MEET & GREETS - This may seem like a no-brainer, but just to remind all out there: character meet & greets are all included in your park admission so meet them all to your heart's content!
- GHIRADELLI CHOCOLATE - Did you know that you can get a free piece of Ghiradelli chocolate just for walking into the Ghiradelli Chocolate Fountain in Pacific Wharf at DCA? You had better believe I go there at least twice per visit! It's SO good!
- BOUDIN SOURDOUGH BREAD - Along the same line as the Ghiradelli Chocolate Fountain, if you just walk into the Bakery Tour in Pacific Wharf you can get a free piece of delicious sourdough bread from the Boudin Bakery baked fresh on site daily! Caution: this may entice you to spend even more money at the Pacific Wharf Cafe next door where you can get bread bowls made of the same amazing bread.
- PHOTOPASS PHOTOGRAPHERS - The Disney PhotoPass service is both a free and paid service in the parks. When you get your picture taken by a PhotoPass photographer you will have to pay to get the professional print from the photo shop on Main Street, USA. However, it costs nothing to just get your picture taken and they are very obliging and will also take pictures using your camera and/or phone so feel free to ask. Then you'll get some more professional-looking pictures from your vacation!
- POPPED BALLOONS & DROPPED ICE CREAM - If you lose your balloon or ice cream just after you bought it, don't worry! Disneyland replaces most popped balloons and dropped ice cream for free because they know that kids can't always hang on to everything (or even some adults).
- FASTPASSES - I cannot stress this enough: Fastpasses are free! So many visitors do not realise that this enormously time saving service by Disney is 100% completely free and can save so much time in line. Just go get a freakin' Fastpass already!
This is by no means an exhaustive list as Disney actually provides many other services complimentary to park guests and a few surprises you need to ask for (we'll get to those another time)! What other freebies at the parks would you recommend?