Is there any free parking left at Disneyland and Walt Disney World?
Published: October 22, 2009 at 9:38 AM
The tollbooths are coming! The tollbooths are coming! (At Walt Disney World)
At the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, if you park in the Downtown Disney lot, your first three hours are free. You can get an additional two hours free if you get a validation stamp from the movie theater or one of the table service restaurants. The parking rate is $6 an hour after that.
(Note: Anaheim's Downtown Disney is located within easy walking distance of Disneyland and California Adventure. If you are a Walt Disney World veteran and haven't been to the Disneyland Resort recently, the layout there is much like the layout at Universal Orlando - a parking garage, a central shopping area and two theme parks at the end of the shopping area.)
Given that you'll pay $14 to park in the Mickey and Friends garage at the Disneyland Resort, you're money ahead by parking in Downtown Disney if...
- You are staying less than five hours and 20 minutes, or
- Are staying less than seven hours and 20 minutes, and eat in one of the Downtown Disney restaurants.
I know of some annual passholders who have opted not to pay the extra $79 for the "free" parking option on their annual passes, opting instead to use the Downtown Disney lots for short visits. [Update: Forgot to mention that there's no extra charge for parking on the $429 Premium Annual Pass.]
At Walt Disney World, Disney's eliminated most of the loopholes in the system that allowed folks who aren't staying on site to park at the resort's hotels or Downtown Disney and use Disney shuttles to get into the theme parks without paying for parking.
But one loophole remains, or, at least, it did last time I was at WDW. It's a "back door" way into the Magic Kingdom parking lot, accessed from Vista Blvd. You can get to Vista Blvd. by one of two ways:
- Take State Road 535 (Apopka Vineland Rd) north from I-4. Turn left on Winter Garden Vineland Rd (also SR 535), then continue northeast to Vista Blvd.
- From Buena Vista Drive, turn north on Bonnet Creek Parkway (like you are going to Port Orleans), continue on Bonnet Creek north to Vista Blvd, and turn left.
Once on Vista Blvd., continue until it merges onto northbound World Drive. You'll see the parking lots on your left. Turn left at Seven Seas Drive (the first intersection). This will take you past the TTC and the Polynesian. That road will dead end into Floridian Way, on the other side of the parking lots. Stay in the far left lane and proceed south on Floridian Way, past the parking lots and the "Mickyard" speedway, until you come to the "Parking Return" sign, just before passing the tollbooths, which will be immediately ahead on the left. Make that hard left turn and blend into the traffic heading into the parking lots.
People staying at any of Walt Disney World's on-site hotels get free parking at the theme parks, but now have to pay $10 a day if they choose to use the valet parking option at their hotel.
My plan? Whenever I visit Orlando, my family stays with Grandma and Grandpa, who live in Celebration. So we just get them to drop us off at the parks, if they won't be joining us. :-) All of the Walt Disney World theme parks have free guest drop-off and pick-up zones, for which no parking fee is required.
What's your strategy for parking at a Disney theme park?