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If you call Central Florida home, there is a good chance that you live within a short drive of more than one destination that other folks can only get to in their dreams. While many think of Orlando fun exclusively in terms of its pricey theme parks, our area has so much more to offer and a surprising amount of it is absolutely free!

If you are looking for some summer entertainment that won’t require you to raid the piggy bank, here are just a few fun free activities you can enjoy with family or friends.


Take a beach day. Although much of the world looks to Orlando as its vacation headquarters, locals know that a day at the beach is just 45 minutes east at New Smyrna Beach. The sun, surf and sand are always free — look for lots and parking off the sand and walk to the shore.

Head into the woods. Just a short drive north and you will be in the Ocala National Forest, the largest national forest east of the Mississippi. Although entry fees are charged at the springs and day use areas, the Juniper Prairie Wilderness and other areas offer are plenty of free activities. Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it hiking, canoeing, or biking.

Go local for nature. If you want to get back to nature without getting too far from home, check out the UCF Arboretum. Home to over 600 plant species and at least 8 ecosystems, the arboretum is located on 80 acres, where visitors can walk or bike along a 9-acre lake or have fun geocaching. Guided tours are available for a small (usually $3.00 per person per hour) fee. Get more information and keep up with events by following the UCF Arboretum on Facebook.

Step back in time. History buffs will enjoy Fort Christmas, a full-size replica of the original built for the Second Seminole Indian War (1835-1842). Included are seven restored pioneer homes and exhibits showing pioneer life from the 1870s through the 1930s. Key themes are homesteading, cattle, citrus, hunting, fishing, and trapping.

Go fish. Although Florida generally requires a license for fishing, everyone can enjoy license-free fishing on designated days. For saltwater fishing, those days are the first consecutive Saturday and Sunday in June (June 2 and 3, 2018), the first Saturday in September (September. 1, 2018) and the Saturday after Thanksgiving (November. 24, 2018). For freshwater fishing, the license free days are the are the first consecutive Saturday and Sunday in April and the second consecutive Saturday and Sunday in June (June 9 and 10, 2018). During the rest of the year, there are still quite a few free or nearly free ways to enjoy fishing in our state. For example, a number of folks are  exempt from the license requirement, including children under 16 and Florida residents age 65 or older. A free “shoreline-only” license is available to Florida residents, but a small fee will be charged for the convenience of purchasing online ($2.25) or over the phone ($4.25).

Bowl the kids over.  It’s not a whole day away, but sign up at and you can get two free games of bowling for your kids every single day of the summer at participating AMF locations including Orange Bowl Lanes, Winter Garden Lanes, and Mount Dora Lanes. Shoe rental costs extra, but some local lanes offer a one-price pass for the summer.


Winter Park’s Central Park. Enjoy Popcorn Flicks in the Park courtesy of the Enzian Theatre and the City of Winter Park on the second Thursday of the month. Pack a picnic, grab a chair, and meet your friends for dinner and movie – and free popcorn — under the stars starting around 8pm. Featured movies include Enchanted on June 14, 2018 and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on July 12, 2018. More information available by calling the Enzian Box Office at 407.629.1088×230. If it looks like rain the night of the show, be sure to check details on the Enzian’s Facebook page. website

Lake Eola Park. MoviEola returns for Summer 2018 with pre-movie lawn games, music and other activities starting at 6 pm. The featured movie begins around 8:15pm. Upcoming movies include Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on June 29, 2018, Peter Rabbit on July 27, 2018 and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial on August 31, 2018. Find more information at  Keep an eye on the weather and bring the bug spray! website

Old Town in Kissimmee and Cranes Roost in Altamonte Springs will also be hosting outdoor movies this summer; check their websites for details!


Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Always free; closed Mondays. Home to more than 5,500 works ranging from antiquity to contemporary, the Cornell Fine Arts museum at Rollins showcases its collection at both the museum and at The Alfond Inn a few blocks away. Free tours of the Cornell are offered Saturdays at 1 pm and free tours of The Alfond are offered Sundays at 1 pm.

The Grand Bohemian Gallery. Even if you’re not staying at the Grand Bohemian Hotel, stop by the downtown Orlando location for a free tour of the original artwork housed at the Grand Bohemian Gallery. The artwork includes paintings and glass works, as well as jewelry and sculpture.

Mennello Museum of American Art. Admission is free every second Sunday of the month as part of the museum’s Free Family Funday, which also includes free docent touring and a free miniature art project. Children ages 6 and under are always free and the Sculpture Garden is always open to the public.

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. The museum, which features a comprehensive collection of jewelry, pottery, paintings, and art glass designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, is open for free on July 4, 2018. From November to April, it’s free every Friday night from 4p – 8p.


Did you know?  Volunteers tend to live longer and often have better physical health than non-volunteers. Here are some places to make a difference this summer:

Feed the children. If you are in search of a meaningful, short-term opportunity, a great one is coming up on July 14 when volunteers are need to package 300,000 healthy meals for the people of South Sudan at the Feeding Children Everywhere Headquarters in Longwood.

Find a project. Looking to get into action sooner? The folks at Hands on Orlando, a non-profit charity that manages a variety community volunteer projects in our area, would love to help get you into action.

Drink coffee for a cause. When you enjoy a great cup of coffee from one of the three name-your-price Downtown CREDO shops in our area, you are also supporting a local business focused on strengthening local communities through events like Orlando Together and Rally Makers.

This article was written by Lori Ager and originally appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Grace Magazine. Know about more free things to do this summer in your neighborhood? Send them our way at [email protected]

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