Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
Whether you’re heading to Central Florida to visit Disney World or Universal Orlando — two of the world’s most popular theme park resorts — or just hoping to explore the city, there’s plenty to see and do in Orlando. But if you’re traveling on a budget, you know that paying for admission to the city’s top attractions can get pretty pricey. Disney World and Universal Orlando theme park admission prices start at over $100 for a one-day ticket, and other area attractions can be expensive, too, so you’ll want to find ways to save money when exploring the city. With a plethora of public parks, galleries, and fun shopping and dining destinations, you can find many free things to do in Orlando so you can enjoy your time in the Sunshine State without breaking the bank.
Here are the top 10 things to do in Orlando for free.
1. Visit Disney Springs
Located within Walt Disney World, this shopping, dining, and entertainment district is worth checking out during your next trip to Orlando. Even though it’s on Disney property, you don’t have to pay to visit Disney Springs, and self-parking is complimentary, so you can enjoy the Disney vibes for free. With 104 shops, 62 dining locations, and 23 attractions, shows, and events, there’s so much to see here. Keep it budget-friendly with window shopping and a quick meal at a casual eatery, or splurge on new Disney merchandise and a nice meal out — the choice is yours.
2. Check Out Universal CityWalk
Another theme park-adjacent dining, shopping, and entertainment complex, Universal Orlando’s CityWalk offers plenty to see and do steps from the theme parks. In fact, the resort calls it “The Epicenter of Awesome,” and it has a number of unique dining venues, attractions, and shops. During the day, standard parking is $26 per vehicle, but guests can enjoy free parking after 6 p.m. on most nights. Visit after six and just enjoy the ambiance for a totally free evening out, or grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants.
3. Go for a Stroll in Lake Eola Park
Located in downtown Orlando, this public park is ideal for those looking for a bit of peace in the middle of the city. Take a stroll around the lake on the nearly one-mile-long sidewalk loop for views of the water with a skyline backdrop.
4. Birdwatch at Shingle Creek Regional Park
Known as the “Northernmost Headwaters of the Florida Everglades,” the water from Shingle Creek flows from Orlando, eventually reaching the Everglades. Explore the trails, and keep an eye out for the birds that live in the area.
5. Browse Art Galleries at CityArts
Get a feel for the local art scene at CityArts, a gallery collective in the Downtown Arts District. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and it’s free to visit. With several galleries and interesting exhibitions and events, this is a must-do for art lovers visiting Orlando.
6. See Vintage Cars in Old Town in Kissimmee
Find shopping, dining, and carnival rides at Old Town in nearby Kissimmee. Plan your visit for a Friday or Saturday to enjoy free live music and car shows and cruises — people bring their classic cars out for display on Saturdays.
7. Go for a Hike in the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve
Go for a 3.6-mile hike through a preserved piece of Florida wilderness at this park. Even though it’s just a short distance from the Disney World theme parks, you can enjoy nature and maybe even spot some wildlife at the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve.
8. Head to the Beach
Find sand and surf on beautiful Cocoa Beach, located about an hour’s drive from Orlando. Lori Wilson Park offers free parking and admission, and it has restrooms, outdoor showers, and other amenities that will make your beach day even better.
9. Kraft Azalea Garden
Escape the bustle of the city and go for a relaxing stroll in the scenic Kraft Azalea Garden, located in Winter Park, Florida, just outside of Orlando. And, like everything else on this list, it’s free to enter, so why not head here to enjoy lake views under the shade of cypress trees?
10. Check Out International Drive and Icon Park
There’s always something happening along International Drive, a bustling thoroughfare in the heart of Orlando. Icon Park is home to tons of attractions, shops, and restaurants, and parking for the complex is free.
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