Yes, Orlando is the home to expensive theme parks, but there are plenty of cheap, fun things to see and do that will make your gang happy and your wallet smile.
When people head to Orlando with theme parks in mind, they have Disney World and Universal at the top of their list. But if you want to have a fun, fantastic time and be thrifty as well, you can’t beat buying a SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens multi-park ticket. It’s one of the best cheap things to see and do in Orlando.
Because it gives you access to all three parks and it’s cheaper than three days admission to Disney World! And your pass isn’t just good for one day–it’s good for two weeks!
They even throw in a free shuttle bus to take you from Orlando to Busch Gardens which is located in Tampa Bay. Busch Gardens has lots of animals including kangaroos, elephants and tigers, shows and hair-raising rides. SeaWorld features dolphins, killer whales, seals, stingrays, entertaining shows and some awesome roller coasters. Across the street from SeaWorld is Acquatica. It’s a great waterpark with a lazy river, waterslides, kids splash area and wave pool.
What makes heading to SeaWorld and Aquatica even better is, most people who visit Orlando go to Disney and Universal, so these two parks are never overrun with people which means lineups for waterslides move fast–get there first thing in the morning and there probably won’t be any lineups at all!
When you think of Florida, yes theme parks are probably one of the first things that come to mind but a close second is oranges. Did you know that Florida produces 70% of the oranges and other citrus consumed in the United States? And that over 90% of the orange juice drank in the US every year is made from Florida oranges?
Orange growing is big business in Florida. Over 76,000 people are employed in the industry and it generates over $9 billion in revenue each year.
A great way to get a taste of what an orange grove is like is to visit the Showcase of Citrus where you can go out in the groves and pick a bag of fresh off the tree oranges. Located just 15 minutes west of Disney World, this family-owned, 2500-acre farm that offers other activities for you and your family to do including a monster truck bus tour of the farm, citrus wine tasting, farm animals, a circus show and more.
Gatorland is a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve in Florida, located just south of Orlando. Most people visit during the day to take in the alligator shows, petting zoo, exotic birds, the zip line that runs over top of swamps filled with gators and the off-road adventure. But if you’re up for something eerie and cool you can’t beat the Gator Night Shine, a night time, guided tour through the park.
Tour size is a maximum of 25 people so it’s a great opportunity to cozy up to the interpretive guide and ask everything you ever wanted to know about gators. The tour starts at dusk but when it gets dark, it really gets freaky.
Equipped with a flashlight and pieces of hotdog your last tour stop is the wooden walkaway that traverses through Gatorland’s Alligator Breeding Marsh. Turn your flashlight towards the water and within seconds a sea of glowing read eyes begin moving towards you. Within seconds, just a few feet below the walkaway there a gators everywhere. Toss in a chunk of hotdog and the feeding frenzy begins.
Want to see a bald eagle up close? What about an owl, falcon or hawk? Hop in the car and drive 15 minutes north of Orlando to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, where they treat injured or orphaned birds of prey. This is a great cheap, fun thing to do in Orlando with wonderful reviews and–check out the price–just $5 for adults, $4 for kids and kids three and under are free. Well worth flocking to, don’t you think? If you’re up for a little longer drive (approximately 45 minutes) head north of Orlando to Blue Spring State Park, which just happens to be a designated Manatee refuge and the winter home to a growing population of West Indian Manatees. The park also offers swimming, fishing, hiking trails and lots of tables so bring a picnic and spend the day. Oh, and the price? Just $6 for a vehicle with up to 8 people–now that’s an awesome cheap thing to do in Orlando! Another way to get your animal fix and keep things on the cheap and cheerful is to visit the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Here you’ll find over 400 animals including the world’s largest collection of venomous snakes and non-venomous reptiles. And if it’s a hot day, the tropical splash ground is a fun way to cool off. Admission to the zoo is penny-pinching perfect–$12.95 for adults and $8.95 for kids aged 3-12.
If you and your gang get a kick out of go karting a cheap, fun place to head to is the Fun Spot America Amusement Park. For your convenience there’s a location in Orlando and nearby Kissimmee.
As the name implies, Fun Spot is an amusement park but a scaled down version compared to Disney or Universal but, as they say, size doesn’t always matter, when it comes to fun especially when it comes to go karting.
Both of these Fun Spot locations have some very cool go kart tracks that both kids and adults will have a blast racing around. My personal favourites were the Vortex and Chaos tracks at the Kissimmee Fun Spot location.
THRIFTY TIP: visit these Fun Spot America parks during the morning of a weekday and the lineup to get on the go kart tracks will be extremely short or non-existent which means your Fun Spot pass will buy you almost endless rides on the tracks!
The Orlando Science Center is four floors of discovery, including interactive activities, live presentations, animals, dinosaur skeletons, a hurricane simulator and giant IMAX films. It’s a relatively cheap, fun thing to do with admission for adults $17 and kids 3-11 at $12. Aircraft aficionados will enjoy a visit to the Kissimmee Air Museum. A working air museum, you’ll see vintage aircraft in the process of being restored, plus completed aircraft from World War II to the Vietnam war. And the price? Let’s just say it’s anything but sky-high. Adults can get in for just $6 and kids 12 and under are only $3. From the air to the sea; Titanic The Experience is an interactive museum which features artifacts recovered from the Titanic and recreations of famous parts of the ship such as the Grand Staircase, a first-class cabin and more. This one may be a little pricey for the true thrifty traveller–$21.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids 12 and under– but if you’ve always been intrigued by the Titanic it’s worth prying open the purse strings.
If you’re looking for a cheap way to cool off one of the best, fun things to do in Orlando is to head to one of the nearby springs. They’re around 70 degrees and crystal clear which makes them awesome for swimming, snorkeling and canoeing. With over 700 springs located throughout Florida there’s always one nearby, many have been turned into park areas, and the entrance fee is very affordable–in some cases as low as $1. And don’t forget, just because Orlando is situated in central Florida doesn’t mean you’re far from the beach. Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach are about a hour away by car, and the Gulf of Mexico is a drive of approximately one and a half hours. Many people prefer the Gulf side because the waves are a little calmer. In most cases, the only cost for visiting the beach is the fee for parking which is usually $5 per vehicle.
You can’t go very far in Orlando without spotting an elaborate mini putt place. One that will definitely leave you impressed is Congo River Golf, located in nearby Kissimmee. The price for most courses is reasonable and quite often you can find coupons online or in tourist booklets. And if you want to play another round, that’s when mini putt becomes a really cheap, fun thing to do–you can usually tee it up again for around half price.
One great way to save on local fun things to do in Orlando is to peruse Groupon, the money-saving website that features local discounts in 150 cities. Visit the Orlando “Things to Do” Groupon page or Orlando “Food & Drink” Groupon page and you’ll find savings of anywhere from 40-90% on attractions, tours, boat cruises, theatre tickets, dinner spots and accommodations. The Groupon Orlando pages are a smart place to start when you’re first planning your trip and even when you’re in the middle of your Orlando visit because new deals get added weekly and even daily many times.
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.
Photo Credits: JSeekford, JΛCK VIΞW, colleenpence, foxypar4, USFWS/Southeast, gvgoebel, cliff1066™, inazakira, systemslibrarian, Ricymar Photography and Experience Kissimmee, Florida, Gatorland, TripAdvisor.