As we already know, Orlando is the capital of amusement or theme parks. In Central Florida (Orlando and nearby places) you have Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and if you drive an hour to Tampa you can get to Busch Gardens. Each ticket for each park is at least $100 per person, plus meals, a souvenir to take home, some extra payments to be able to enter the attractions faster, parking, drinks… uff… yes, it’s spent lot.
But in the area there are also a lot of activities and places to visit for free (or almost free) that you cannot miss and here I will tell you about some of those options:
At Disney Springs you can arrive and walk for a while without paying or parking. It’s an entertainment district with shops, restaurants and live shows, so if you’re going to eat or shop it’s obviously not free. But at night you can enjoy live music at various points, browse through the shops and take lots of fun photos.
City Walk, the Universal Orlando entertainment center is also another place to visit. If you go during the day you will have to pay for parking since it is a single point for all the parks in this tourist complex, but if you visit after 6pm (it may vary depending on if there is a special event like Halloween) parking is free. Many shops, restaurants and bars, even the night is very active between the bars. Sometimes you can find live music or other kind of entertainment. Also (not free) there are cinemas and even mini golf with different themes.
In Downtown Orlando you’ll find Lake Eola Park. Enjoy a walk through this beautiful park in downtown Orlando, completely free without parking, but you can be entertained by the beautiful views of the lake and relax in a peaceful environment. You can also take advantage of a Sunday morning to visit the little market that they have in the area, which is very good.
Celebration Town Center: It is located near Disney World. It’s a charming urban center that offers free cobblestone streets, shops, restaurants, and community events throughout the year. If you visit during the Christmas season, this is a point that you cannot miss, especially at night. Also for the Halloween and Christmas season, you cannot miss visiting “Jeater Bend” street, which for both celebrations the street is pedestrianized and fully decorated with lights and entertainment among all the houses in the area.
Old Town Kissimmee: This old town-style entertainment area offers rides some free events, including classic car shows and live music. You also find bars, shops, a haunted house and the amusement park area that you pay for each attraction you want to do.
Disney’s Boardwalk: You have 2 options, you can make a reservation for lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants at the resorts in the area (obviously it’s not free but it will be easier to get around) or park at Disney Springs, take a bus from the resorts (free) to Beach, Yacht, Boardwalk, Swan or Dolphin and then enjoy a walk around the area. You can also enjoy a boat ride (free) between the area resorts and also go to the entrance of Hollywood Studios or you can take the Skyliner (free) that takes you high up to the Caribbean resorts and then, changing routes, to Pop Century/Art of Animation. If you are with children, they will surely love to visit the Art of Animation because of the resort’s themes (The Little Mermaid, Cars, The Lion King and Finding Nemo). The Caribbean is also beautiful next to the Riviera, I would say maybe more ‘adult’ if you are looking for something more relaxing and romantic. If you parked at Disney Springs, take a bus from one of those resorts to Disney Springs and off you go. Just remember that if the weather is rainy, the Skyliner may close.
Wekiva Island: Right next to the “Wekiwa Springs” State Park which is a beautiful natural spring for swimming and enjoying nature (you just have to pay a car entrance fee to the Springs), is this pleasant place on the edge of the river. You can just go and relax in front of the river or cool off for a while in it (remember that this is Florida so you can find not only fish, but also turtles and the famous alligators) or have a few drinks at the bar with a good view of the river ( which is no longer free). The atmosphere is very fun especially during the weekends, which can get very crowded and sometimes they charge admission for that reason (in order to control the number of people arriving). You can also rent a kayak or paddle board and take a ride on the river.
Lakeridge Winery Tours: In Clermont, about 30 minutes from Disney or Downtown Orlando, is this vineyard that offers free tours of the place and at the end you can try some of their wines. The tour is 100% in English, but it’s worth it.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive: I have already commented on this car ride in other publications, so I cannot leave it out of free activities. It is only open from Friday to Sunday from 7am to 3pm. It’s a long way outside to drive and enjoy nature among lots of birds and of course, Alligators.