Taking a family vacation in Orlando can be an expensive trip; in fact long-haul visitors spend an average of $4,000 per visit. If you want to take a break from shopping and expensive theme parks, here are some great things to do in Orlando that are completely free.
In the heart of downtown Orlando, just a couple of blocks from the restaurants at Church Street Station, is Lake Eola Park. This peaceful oasis is surrounded by the high-rise architecture of the financial district. Walk the one-mile path around the lake spotting the black swans, Japanese-style bridge, the pagoda and children’s playground along the way. Admire the cooling Art Deco fountain in the centre of the lake. On weekends there are frequently craft markets, charity fun runs and other events to join in.
The Orlando Brewing Company is on Atlanta Avenue, also in downtown Orlando. It offers free guided tours of the brewery at 6pm every day except Sunday. However, you can drop in at any time and enjoy one of their excellent locally brewed beers along with great food.
Winter Park is a delightful area in northeast Orlando. Free things to enjoy include the Saturday Farmer’s Market, and an excellent museum – if you plan your visit right. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Art has the largest collection of beautiful Tiffany glass as well as some fine American art exhibits. Admission charges are waived on Friday evening between 4pm and 8pm from November through April.
Four miles further north is the Harry P. Leu Gardens, a splendid colorful display of rose gardens, bamboo and exotic flowers. Look for the flower clock and the butterfly gardens and book a free tour of the historic house. The gardens normally charge admission but it offers free admission on Monday mornings, which is well worth taking advantage of. Unfortunately the gardens do not have a café onsite but there are plenty of places nearby for refreshments.
On the shores of Lake Apopka is the 22-mile former rail-trail known as the West Orange Trail. Ideal for walking, roller blading and cycling, this paved trail passes the Oakland Nature Preserve, Xeriscape Butterfly Gardens and a Korean Temple along with a host of native Florida wildlife.
If you are staying in Kissimmee, the Old Town is a great place to find restaurants and shops. On Saturdays, it hosts a Vintage Car Cruise-In with around 300 vehicles from nostalgic Studebakers to huge Ford Thunderbird convertibles. There is also a live band and dancing. On Wednesday evening the live entertainment includes free line dancing lessons at 7.30pm.
You do not need to buy admission tickets to visit the Downtown Disney Marketplace at Lake Buena Vista. This promenade of shops and restaurants is in a beautiful setting and there is always something going on entertainment-wise. The Lego Imagination Centre is a popular place for families to try their skills with Lego bricks, and the superb Disney Store is ideal for souvenirs and gifts.
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Day Trips Around Orlando Florida