Disneyland on a Budget $5 Challenge: What Can You Get for $5 at Disneyland?
Disneyland is a work of love. We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money. —Walt Disney
How far can you stretch $5 at Disneyland? Would you believe you can get a snack, a souvenir, and a whole lot of fun at Disneyland for just $5—total, for two kids?
[Affiliate links are provided for your convenience, and they usually point you to Amazon products I love—with free shipping! Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial]
Real Rewards Await Those Who Choose Wisely
Food, drink, and merchandise prices have increased incrementally at the Disneyland Resort over the years—what can you get at Disneyland for $5 in 2016? Nearly all treats, pastries, confections, and drinks cost less than $5. You can even get a light meal for under $5: Bengal Barbecue still offers meat on a stick for $4.50 or less per skewer.
Choose wisely, and you can do a whole lot more with that same $5:
The $2.69 Snack for Two
The cheapest snack in Disneyland is a box of The Lion King themed animal crackers for $2.49 ($2.69 after tax). We always find the Lion King animal crackers in the Adventureland Bazaar and the Pooh Corner shop. There are two servings in each box; the serving size is 16 cookies and each serving has 140 calories, 7 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein—definitely a satisfying snack for a kid.
If you’re an Annual Passholder, you’ll keep a few extra pennies to use later on our $5 blowout; with 10% AP discount you’ll pay $2.42 after tax.
Runners up for Cheapest Snack in the Parks
Grab a bag of ten chocolate coins decorated with Disney characters for $2.95 plus tax at Pooh Corner (these have gone up to $3.50 at other shops).
The price of a Matterhorn Macaroon recently increased 50% to $2.99 plus tax, but it’s still one of the cutest edibles at Disneyland, and it’s super sweet, so sharing one between two kids could work.
Honorable Mention: Buy a pack of fifteen Mickey-shaped red suckers for $7.49 plus tax in the Candy Palace. The initial outlay is much higher than our $5 spending limit, but it works out to just 54 cents per sucker after tax. Dole them out slowly during your trip, give the extra suckers to friends at home, or save some for your next Disneyland vacation.
The 51-cent Souvenir
No souvenir in the Disneyland Resort offers a better value than a pressed penny! Pressed pennies don’t take up space in your house, if your kids lose one it’s not the end of the world, and they are the cheapest collectible ever. (Thankfully, my kids were never interested in collecting Disney pins!)
Every cashier stand in the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure shops keeps shiny pennies you can trade in for your drab ones; the Cast Members in the shops are also happy to change your dollars into quarters.
You may have noticed that I’ve only allowed for one pressed penny souvenir in the $5 budget, and this scenario includes two kids. That’s because we keep all our pressed pennies together as a family collection, and my kids pore over them together. My kids, and maybe yours too, have more toys than they could ever play with. Watching them work out (or argue about) which penny to choose this trip is half the fun.
Old Fashioned Fun for $1.50
One of the great things about Disneyland is that virtually everything but food is included with admission. I’m old enough to remember the ticket books, and knowing that there was a finite amount of fun to be had. Today, your Disneyland fun is limited only by your stamina—and to some extent, your understanding of the Fastpass system.
There are a handful of fun pay-to-play spots in Disneyland; I call them mini attractions.
I’m excluding Games of the Boardwalk in California Adventure, because the title of this list promises fun, and it’s not fun to spend even $2.50 (the minimum “bet”) to go home with yet another starfish stuffed animal. Truth be told, you’re much more likely to spend $20 and take home a giant wiener dog in a bun…or even nothing at all (I don’t know which is worse).
Each of the mini attractions costs just 25 or 50 cents per round. You’ll never wait in line to try your hand at these hidden Disney gems—most people don’t even know they exist, because only Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition is on the map; most of the mini attractions are tucked away in shops.
The mini attractions offer all-ages entertainment, and hunting for them is a great way to distract toddlers and smaller kids while their bigger siblings are on an E Ticket ride. If you have kids under the age of four, you may not even need to put your quarters in at all to experience the mini attractions; as a toddler, my son spent many sessions at Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition, happily shooting blanks.
Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition: $1.00 for Two Sharpshooters to Play
If you read Disneyland’s description of the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition, you may be scared off:
Additional Fee Required
Frontier Shootin’ Exposition requires an extra fee to play. One credit will procure you approximately 25 shots. Additional credits are required for extra play time.”
Yikes! I’d assume it would cost at least $5 to play, wouldn’t you? But it costs just 50 cents per round to shoot targets in Tombstone (a detail that was completely lost on me until I moved to Arizona!).
Stick to one round per kid to stay on our $5 budget, or keep pumping quarters in until the cows come home; dealer’s choice.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition is a must do, but each kid can pick one of these options for our $5 challenge:
Woody’s Ho-down: Make Him Dance for a Quarter
I can only assume a disgruntled Cast Member crafted the signage since everyone knows hoedown has an e. I will also assume that the “typo” will go over your kids’ heads. Chuckle to yourself while your kids push buttons to make Woody dance. At the hoEdown.
Find this mini attraction in Pioneer Mercantile, Frontierland.
Pinocchio: Make Him Dance
Pulling Pinocchio’s strings is a dream come true, and you can do just that for 25 cents in the Penny Arcade on Main Street.
Runner up: Fortune Teller Machines
Get your fortune told plus take home a souvenir fortune card at several locations in Disneyland. Esmeralda at the Penny Arcade on Main Street is cheaper by half at 25 cents.
For 50 cents you can enquire of Fortune Red near the Pieces of Eight shop in New Orleans Square, or Shrunken Ned or Aladdin’s Other Lamp in the Adventureland Bazaar. You won’t get a printed fortune keepsake at Aladdin’s Other Lamp like you do at the other fortune telling spots, but you will get corny jokes and a pretty fun personal show (not to be confused with a Ho-Down).
For our Disneyland on a Budget $5 challenge, have each kid take one turn with either Woody or Pinocchio, plus visit Esmeralda for one souvenir fortune. Total: 75 cents. My kids have alternately been afraid of and not interested in the fortune teller machines; if you skip Esmeralda, take another turn controlling Pinocchio, or change that quarter in for pennies and have a penny arcade blowout.
Honorable Mention: It doesn’t fit in this $5 plan, but my kids love to play the Indiana Jones pinball game in the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost for $1 per game.
Penny Arcade, 4 Cents
It’s not just an old fashioned sign—you can really play in this shop for a penny a turn! In this digital age, it is a delight to discover that a primitive frame-by-frame movie can still entertain kids. Spend four cents on two movies for each kid at the Penny Arcade on Main Street.
Yes, you have one cent left over, but any mom knows that she cannot possibly give one kid an extra turn on a penny movie, so she has to either drop the penny, or hand it to a stranger’s kid and hope they don’t take it the wrong way. You could throw the last penny into one of the many wishing wells in the Disneyland Resort (my favorite is the one on Big Thunder), but you’d have to scrounge up at least one more penny so each kid can toss one.
Disneyland on a Budget $5 Challenge Results
$2.69 The Lion King animal crackers snack for two.
$0.51 Pressed penny souvenir.
$1.00 Two rounds at Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition (one round each).
$0.25 Make Woody Dance at the Ho-Down. (Still giggling.)
$0.25 Pull Pinnochio’s strings.
$0.25 Esmeralda fortune and souvenir card.
$0.04 Watch four Penny Arcade movies, two per kid.
$4.99 Total for two kids for a snack, a souvenir, and a whole lot of Disney magic!
This article includes an excerpt from the updated and expanded second edition of Disneyland on a Budget: How Our Family Spends 30 Days a Year at Disneyland without Breaking the Bank.
More Disney magic on All Day Mom:
What would you buy on a Disneyland on a Budget $5 challenge?