When tourists think of Florida, they think of Disney, which is on the west side of Orlando in Lake Buena Vista. But Orlando has MUCH more to offer than theme parks, and many things that come at a less expensive price. View our list and map of the Orlando area to find free and low cost activities! Also don’t skip the page on Kissimmee and St. Cloud, which is also in the same general area.
1. Lake Eola Park – FREE
Situated right in the center of downtown Orlando, is a park with a huge lake and a .9 mile walking/running path around the outside of it. Lake Eola boasts some nice scenic views of the skyline of downtown. You’ll find swans and geese as well as paddle boat rentals of swan boats (weather permitting- and $15 for 30 min). The park also hosts the free Orlando Farmers Market on Sundays. During the holiday season, the city puts up a beautiful and large light display in the park. The Christmas tree is lit with synchronized lights and music from early December until Early January.
2. Downtown Orlando -FREE
Downtown Orlando, while mostly skyscraper corporations and condos, does have a couple of walk-able sections of the city. One is right by Lake Eola, the Thornton park district. In that area off of Pine street is the City Arts Factory, a range of art exhibits free for viewing. If you drive or walk just outside of the this area you can take a free tour at 6pm Monday thru Saturday (first come first serve) at Orlando City Brewing. For other nightlife, you can take a walk down Church St.!
Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) is one of the few Disney owned properties where you can park for FREE! You’ll want to check out a MAP of Disney springs before deciding whether to park in the Orange or the Lime Garage, although either will give you plenty of opportunity to walk around. Some of our favorites at Disney springs are: seeing the display of Disney themed Christmas trees during holiday season, getting a free sample chocolate at the Ghirardelli store, posing on the Harley Davidson motorcycles at the store, and riding on the kids train ($3 a person) **Tip.. if you do eat and you like seafood, we recommend fish and chips at the casual Cooks of Dublin… they even have gluten free friend fish!!
4. Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve – FREE
This is a great placed to view unspoiled, natural Florida marsh. This is a place you can go to feel like you are not in the city. The park has a small nature center, boardwalks, and trails to walk on. There are no pets allowed. If it has been particularly rainy, it is a good idea to where boots on the trails as they may be muddy!
5. Ft. Christmas Historical Park – FREE
This historical park is a great place to visit with kids for a quick history lesson. The historical buildings are open Tuesday to Sunday 9-4. The site includes pioneer buildings, a school house, a mill, a sugar cane mill, and a replica of an 1837 Seminole Indian war fort. They host several events throughout the year that are listed on their website.
6. Winter Park – FREE
If you are looking for a spot to grab a cup of coffee or some lunch and take a stroll around, winter Park is your place. The downtown is small, but makes for a nice spot to stop and buy lunch or eat yours on a bench. While you are there, catch some free art and culture at the Cornel Fine Arts Museum (and also a gorgeous view of Lake Virginia!)
7. Wekiwa Springs State Park – $6 a car
Just on the Northeast side of the city, hidden behind neighborhoods, is a beautiful natural swimming hole. Wekiwa Springs State Park is known for its crystal clear (and cold!) water. This is a gorgeous area to take a picnic or if you have the gear, to do some snorkeling. We like to bring our inflatable tubes here and float around – keep in mind this is NOT a springs run, if you want to take a tube run, you need to go to nearby Kelly Springs.
If you have a kayak, canoe, or paddle board, you can paddle there are well. At the park, there are miles of hiking trails and places you can camp. We have enjoyed a few short stints tent camping at this park, and the campground is also nice and reasonably priced. ($18 for tent camping and $24 for an RV/camper).
8. Kelly Springs Park – $3-5 a car
Kelly Park is a summer destination in Orlando that you will not want to miss out on! It is $3 a car for 1-2 people and $5 for 4. The park has a swimming area and a short tube run – about 15 min long- that you can peacefully float down to cool off on a hot day in Florida. At Kelly Park you are welcome to bring your own float or rent one from one of the outfitters outside the park entrance. On the weekends, they also have a concession stand. Check out our video of the tube run below:
The park is often filled to capacity, and people wait outside SUPER early in the morning on summer weekends (think 5am!). When we have visited Kelly Park, we have chosen to be a little cold and have gone in the off season. When we visited in October of this year (2021) there were hardly any other people there. That is the way we like to do things! Whether you like a crowd or prefer to go on the off-season, you definitely want to make a stop at Kelly park while you’re in Orlando.
9. West Orange Trail – FREE
If you run or bike, you won’t want to miss West Orange rail to trail. This converted railway runs about 22 miles long. The views are scenic at points and in this area of town there are even some rolling hills! There are spots along the trail where you can rent a bike if you don’t have one. Our recommendation is West Orange Trail Bikes and Blades ($7 an hour for a rental).