Orlando is a blast. There's Disney World, incredible hotels and resorts, and all the shopping you could ever want. What about free entertainment? Can you spend a day without spending a dime and still have a great time? You bet! There are dozens of free and cheap options in Orlando. We've curated the top 20 that you should add to your next visit.
1. Universal's Citywalk
You'll have to wait until after 6 to get in for free, but if you're looking for exciting entertainment and exotic Florida style nightlife you're in the right place. Stroll the Citywalk and watch the free shows as long as you like.
2. Visit Lake Eola
You don't have to rent a paddle boat to enjoy the lake. The sidewalk runs almost a mile and goes all the way around this scenic lake in the center of town. Stop and smell the flowers and relax by the water without ever having to leave the heart of Orlando.
3. See Mead Botanical Garden
As long as you're enjoying nature, why not take a walk through the free botanical garden? With trails surrounded by gorgeous blooms and trees all year you can enjoy a casual stroll through the cultivated natural splendor. If you plan to stay a little longer in Orlando, you may want to look into their volunteer opportunities.
4. Hike Tibet Butler Preserve
One of the most excellent hikes in Florida, and that's saying something, is the 3.6-mile hike at Tibet Butler Preserve. Orlando is packed with remarkable natural wonders despite being a large tourist city with family attractions and a massive nightlife scene to test out. From swampland to lakes, you can see all the beauty of Florida in a short hike at Tibet Butler. You'll find this sweet spot on the west side of Orlando, and like most of the best attractions, you don't even have to leave town to see it.
5. *Spot Manatees at Blue Spring State Park
They do charge a fee for cars now, but it's only a few dollars. ($6.00 for a vehicle with up to eight people in it.) We're including Blue Spring anyhow because it's worth supporting our national parks. Also, where else in the world are you going to go manatee spotting? There aren't even that many places in Florida for manatees and you aren't likely to spot these 'sea cows' anywhere else.
6. Kraft Azalea Garden
Lovers of these unique flowers will find an entire garden to peruse on the shore of Lake Maitland. You can start early in the morning since the park opens at eight and closes at dusk. That means during winter you can probably catch the end of the sunrise and stay until sunset.
7. Family Fun at The Orlando Public Library
The library hosts numerous events throughout the year. While some may require a library card, many do not. Family friendly and personal enrichment are library specialties. Of course, those who love Florida too much to leave can also get a library card and come down regularly. The (lack of) fees are the same for everyone. Hours are Sunday: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m., Monday - Thursday: 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.,Friday - Saturday: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
8. Stroll Church Street
Gorgeous and wonderfully historical, Church street is worth wandering through. You can enjoy the architecture and get a good look at some of the best shopping and dining in town. Keep an eye on the local calendar since there are a handful of enticing events that happen in this lovely venue annually. Check out the Railroad Depot for a bit of local flavor. You can also catch an actual train or trolley here if you have other places to see when you're finished.
9. Picnic in Big Tree Park
Visit the countries' most beautiful monument. Though the tree that gave this park its name was burned in a fire, there is a memorial at the stump where the tree lived, and there's still plenty of beauty and hiking to be had. Like many of the free Florida attractions, this park is open from eight to dusk for visitors and those who wish to honor the life of one of the oldest living things in the US.
10. Get Some Sun on Cocoa Beach
You can't visit Florida without spending time on a beach. Though we wanted to avoid flooding this list with nothing but sand and surf, Cocoa Beach is worth mentioning. If you're going to get a tan, it might as well be at one of Americas most famed beach destinations. Enjoy the waves or spend your time people watching in the sand. You can grab your boards and paddle out when the waves are high, or kick back in a lounge chair with a tropical drink. There's nothing quite like a day at the beach to make a vacation feel complete.
11. View Some Art at Hurston Museum
When you need a break from all the hustle and bustle of modern entertainment and beautiful beach bodies, take a trip through a museum to catch your breath or end up breathless. It's all a matter of perspective of course, but all great art is. The Hurston Museum houses a stunning collection of art that's not to be missed. The exhibits change regularly, so there will always be something new to see here. Hurston embraces more than paintings. You'll find sculpture and other media as well from all eras in this exceptional and all-encompassing museum.
12. City Arts Factory - Free Tuesday-Saturday 11-6
Though the City Arts Factory is somewhat geared toward cultivating a local appreciation of the arts, outsiders are welcome to visit as well. There are several free galleries to peruse at your leisure. Here you can find local artists work. You are, of course, welcome to purchase some pieces as well if you like, but looking will cost you nothing. If you want to see the resident artists talents, this is the best place to find a collection of them together.
13. Orlando Brewing Company - Free Weekends
If you want some "Darn Good Beer," take a free tour at this fun local brewery. As Orlando's only organic beer company the offerings are above and beyond, and you'll probably get to taste some of their latest flavors on the tour. Of course, it's just good manners to buy a pint when you're done, but since you technically don't have to to take the tour, so we include them on the list. Seriously though, buy yourself a drink, they'll appreciate it, you'll appreciate it, and you'll be supporting a great small business while you do. The brewery offers free tours on weekends and on weekdays at 6pm.
14. Chamberlin’s Market Offers Free Wellness Workshops
You'll love this organic grocery store. If you have special dietary needs, or just prefer a healthier lifestyle then you probably already plan to visit this spot for the shopping. However, there's a second reason to drop in. Chamberlins is so committed to health that they offer frequent free wellness workshops. Vacations can be about more than just your mental health and taking a break to have a good time. You could go home a little healthier than you were and learn some great tips for healthy living anywhere. The times and types of workshops vary, so you'll have to check with the store to see what upcoming events they might have planned, but it's worth the two minutes it will take to check their calendar or shoot off a message. Sometimes they even offer relevant samples of their organic foods for guests to try.
15. Work For Your Beer by Running for Brews
We legitimately hope you don't have a drinking problem, if so please seek help instead of checking out this cool suggestion. For everyone else, the question of how far you're willing to go for your drinks is easy enough to answer with this unique running club. If you can keep up with their 5k, then you can drink free with fellow runners when you finish. It's a great way to meet people, stay healthy and reward yourself for your workouts all in one weekly event. If you want to support the cause, then you can pitch in for a raffle ticket or two when you're done. Locations and details may vary so always check with the Running for Brews crew first.
16. Show at the Fred Stone Theater at Rollins College in Winter Park
For years this was one of our favorite places to catch a show. Then in August of last year, Rollins College tore the Fred Stone Theater down. There's a silver lining for fans of the old Fred Stone. They are building a new location. In the meantime, they'll be sharing space and continuing to perform until the new building is done. You can still catch an excellent student show as long as you check ahead of time to make sure they aren't in the middle of rehearsing the next production.
17. Popcorn Flicks in Winter Park
Hit the park every second Thursday for a free movie. If you have not yet had the pleasure of seeing a film in a park because they don't do this type of show where you live then don't miss your chance in Orlando. The theater in the park and movies in the park tradition is well worth keeping alive. We know drive-in theaters are getting harder and harder to come by, so these unique picnic-able shows may be as close as this generation gets to that great American tradition. Bring the family or some friends and enjoy the show together
18. Come to Orlando’s Creative City Project
There's so much more to Orlando than tourist trap attractions. It's home to some immensely talented individuals and groups. Only the kids get this show free, but adults get in for $10, so it's a steal. For one of the most extravagant and opulent public extravaganzas in the whole country, you cannot skip this show. Though it only happens once a year in mid-October, it's worth planning a vacation around it to attend. Naturally, if you're local or planning to become one, take time off for this event, or you'll be seriously missing out.
19. Residents Learn Free at The Melrose Center
Inside the Orlando Public Library, you can learn a lot for nothing if you're a local to Orlando. You do need a library card to participate, but other than that there is no cost. Like the library itself and other locations that have variable offerings throughout the year, you'll have to check before you can attend. You'll find a huge variety of free classes to enrich skills you possess or learn something new. At the time of this publication, a photography class and several others are going on, but that will change or be added to soon enough.
20. Free Disney at Disney Springs and Disney Boardwalk
The mouse rarely gives anything away for free, but you can enjoy Disney Springs and the Disney Boardwalk without buying anything they're offering. Parking can be problematic and costly, but the view is spectacular. The Boardwalk is an old fashioned promenade precisely as you'd expect if you stepped back in time, but with every modern amenity. Disney Springs is equally appealing and filled with shopping and excellent dining, but it's like a small town. You can appreciate architecture and the quaint appeal of the entire area. Both offer excellent entertainment and lots to see. If you're visiting Disney World or a Disney hotel in Orlando, they even have complimentary transportation.
With so many choices that don't charge you can save all your cash for souvenirs and eating out. Even if you aren't worried about the price tag, you can still enjoy some of these gorgeous free attractions. The hardest part about vacationing in Florida is deciding what to do. We suggest you pick three to start with for a weekend or use the whole list as an itinerary if you're going to be here a while.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith