You may think that Orlando is all about mouse ears and amusement parks, but you don’t need to wish upon a star–there are lots of free things and stuff to do in Orlando as well!
Many people who have visited Disney World have said, “I wish I could live here.” Disney made it possible to live in Disney-perfection with the development of the real town of Celebration. Stroll the streets for free and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting. Admire the historic-themed architecture and well-groomed lawns and gardens. Visit the quaint downtown shops. Relax to music playing from speakers hidden beneath the trees–the town even pumps “snow” out of the tops of the olde world street lanterns during the December.
Save some time to hit the walking trail that winds around the lakes; during the day you can usually spot an alligator or two sunning on the banks or cruising slowly through the water. When you’re ready to take a break from exploring Celebration a great place to pause is Front Street where there’s places to sit and take in the view of the lake and Kilwin’s ice cream shop.
Now the prices at Kilwin’s are anything but thrifty, but if you are an ice cream lover you may decide it’s worth the splurge. At Kilwin’s you’ll find a large assortment of ice cream flavours to choose from as well as fudge, chocolates and candies. Some of the favourite flavours of ice cream include toasted coconut, peanut butter and chocolate, cappuccino chocolate chip, blueberry pie, Celebration mud and more.
If all the walking and exploring has made you hungrier for something more substantial, there are a number of restaurant options in Celebration. If you’re craving Italian, Cafe D’Antonio will hit the spot. Again, the prices here are not what you would call Thrifty but if your daily travel budget includes one decadent meal out, Cafe D’Antonio makes a good choice. It’s wise to make a reservation if you want to ensure you can get a table as this is a busy restaurant. Among the list of popular choices are the veal parmigiana, rigotoni, lasagna, brick oven pizzas and more. If you’re planning to enjoy a drink with your meal you can save a little if you make reservations to dine during Happy Hour which is between 5:00-7:00 Monday to Friday.
If you still got energy for exploration after your time in Celebration and you’re interested in something a little unusual, steer your rental car over to Lake Wales, Florida and look for the sign proclaiming the “Legend of Spook Hill”. To enjoy this free thing to do, ease your car up to the white line on the road, put your car in neutral and discover the legend for yourself—that’s right, your vehicle will defy gravity and coast UP hill.
Another free thing you can do to experience Disney is by visiting Disney’s Boardwalk. This area is a recreation of a 1930s coastal village—you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time and are visiting Coney Island or Atlantic City. Walk along the water and enjoy stuff like the free music and entertainment provided by acrobats, musicians, magicians and other street performers. Another hot spot for free night life is Uptown Altamonte. A great place to chill by the lakefront where every night the streets come alive with people and free live music, street performers and comedians. Looking for something to do on the weekend? Go for a cruise down memory lane at the Old Town Classic Car Saturday Nite Cruise. Get there for 7:00 P.M. and shake, rattle and roll to the free 50s and 60s liverock ‘n’ roll. Then grab a spot on the curb and enjoy the sight of over 300 classic cars, hot rods, street rods and antiques parading down the brick streets. In the mood for a little bargain hunting? Why not browse the wares of over 1,500 vendors at Fleaworld, the largest flea market in the United States. Admission is free and there’s entertainment too–acrobats, circus performers, live animals and, of course, people watching.
Florida is gator country and Lake Jesup is home to over 9,000 alligators—the greatest concentration of gators of any lake in America. This is where you’ll find Black Hammock Adventures, and your chance to watch free, live alligator and bird exhibits. Better still, stop by on a Sunday and you can watch the trainers feed Hammy, a 12-foot, 650-pound alligator. The luxurious Peabody Orlando Hotel is another place to witness a unique display of Mother Nature. Be there by 11:00 A.M., that’s when five mallard ducks descend from their $100,000 marble home via an elevator, exit and then waddle along a crimson red carpet accompanied by music, through the marble halls of the hotel until they reach the opulent, orchid-crowned fountain in the Atrium Lobby which they climb into and swim in for the rest of the day. It’s The March of the Peabody Ducks, a twice daily tradition (11:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M.) at The Peabody Orlando that’s been a free thing to do since the hotel opened in 1986. You can park for free in the hotel’s parking garage if you keep your stay under 30 minutes.
Nothing gets the mojo goin’ like chillin’ in a beautiful park for free. The Orlando area is blessed with quite a few and each offers something unique to see and do.43-acre Lake Eola Park is found right in the middle of the city. The Lake itself is actually an 80-foot sinkhole. Floating in the lake is a fountain which is the unofficial symbol of Orlando. In 2009 it was struck by lighting. It was refurbished at a cost of $2.3 million and now features water jets and changes colours at night. When you’re not admiring the fountain you can also feed the swans, picnic under a palm tree, take in the Orlando skyline and enjoy a free concert. Ocala National Forest is the southernmost forest in the United States and one of the most popular State Parks in the whole country. Don’t forget your trunks–water is everywhere at Oscala—lakes, streams and springs, like Alexander Springs which is a constant 72°F and incredibly, crystal clear making it awesome for swimming and snorkeling. The hiking and fishing are great too and it’s all free.
The Gaylord Palms Hotel has one of the coolest gardens in Florida and it’s totally free to check out. It’s actually a 4.5 acre atrium and within it are three distinct settings, representing the Florida Keys, Saint Augustine and the Everglades. Walk along the winding pathways, breathe in the tropical scents, drink in the lush plants, chill by a waterfall; there’s even a fort and 60-foot sailboat. Tropical fish, stingrays and alligators are on display. And three nights a week, another free thing you can do at the hotel is watch gators being fed. Park in the Gaylord’s parking garage for free if you keep your visit under 30 minutes. Green thumbs and art aficionados will enjoy a jaunt at The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens. Albin Polasek was an internationally-renowned sculptor. His home and property now showcase his work. Entry to the Gardens is free. A long, winding path takes you on a journey past manicured lawns, beautiful gardens bursting with gingers, hibiscus, snap dragons, orchids and bouganvillas and everywhere you look are Polasek’s classical, life-size sculptures—over 200 of them—including his signature, award-winning piece Man Carving His Own Destiny.
It gets hot in Florida. What better way to refresh your lips than with a free beer? Put on your dancing shoes and head out to Crush at Back Booth on Monday nights. The music ranges from Motown to rock, pop and indie and the beer is on the house. Can’t make it out on Monday? How about Thursday at Club Firestone? Dance away to the electronic beats and enjoy complimentary beer if you arrive before 11:00 P.M.
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: Castles, Capes & Clones, firstname.lastname@example.org, Town of Celebration, Photography MC, Uptown Altamonte, Svadilfari, Black Hammock Adventures, Reliv International, Tearstone, soulsurvivor08, mrkathika, Perosha and Vox Efx.