Most of us who are lucky enough to call Central Florida home also live within a short drive of more than one destination that other folks can get to only after spending big bucks on airfare, gas, and hotel rooms.  While many think of fun in Orlando 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.

Enjoy a Day-cation

  • 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.  The sun, surf and sand are always free.
  • A Walk in the Park. If you have a fourth grader in your life, take advantage of the Every Kid in a Park pass, which admits fourth graders and their guests to parks on all federal lands and waters.  Just a short drive north and you will be in the Ocala National Forest, the largest national forest east of the Mississippi. Or head east to the Canaveral National Seashore and spend a day exploring the barrier island that has long provided sanctuary to people and wildlife.  Fees may be charged for parking but you these parks offer plenty of free activities.  Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it hiking, canoeing, biking, or relaxing at the Springs or on the beach.
  • The great outdoors in your backyard. If you want to get back to nature without getting too far from home, check out the 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. 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. Just twenty miles east of Orlando, the Fort Christmas Museum and Park offers a full-size replica of the original fort 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 to the Garden. Leu Gardens is a 50-acre botanical oasis located just minutes from Downtown Orlando. Leu Gardens offers free admission on the first Monday of each month, including July 1 and August 5. The Orange County Library System’s storytelling program also visits Leu Gardens on the first Monday of each month for a free indoor event tailored to younger children.

 

Take in an Outdoor Movie

 

  • Winter Park’s Central Park. Enjoy Popcorn Flicks in the Park courtesy of the Enzian 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 ‘The Little Mermaid’ on July 11 and ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ on August 8.  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 and don’t forget the bugspray.
  • Old Town in Kissimmee is offering ‘Family Movie Night’ under the stars next to the A&W Restaurant. From June 30 through September 1, a family-friendly classic movie will be shown each Sunday night starting around 7 p.m.
  • Cranes Roost in Altamonte Springs and Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando will bring back outdoor movies in September.

 

Appreciate the Arts

  • 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 showcases its collection at both the museum and at The Alfond Inn a few blocks from the campus of Rollins College.  Free tours of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum are offered Saturdays at 1 pm and free tours of The Alfond Inn 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, glass and word 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, 2019.

Have Fun for a Good Cause

  • Help them, help you. Did you know that people feel more satisfied and grateful and experience less stress and when engaged in altruistic activities?  Volunteers also tend to live longer and often have better physical health than non-volunteers.  If you are in search fun and an opportunity to do something meaningful in your community, here are just a few places you could start looking:
  • Team Grace. If you can smile (Greeters) or point (Parking Team), you are equipped to serve at Grace. Because He loves you and wants you to grow and to belong, God has uniquely gifted you to serve.
  • Hands on Orlando is a non-profit charity that manages a variety community projects in our area that need volunteers. If you are not ready to make a long-term commitment but have about three hours available to participate as a volunteer, this may be the perfect fit for you. .
  • Support for your favorite cause doing something you love.Whether your favorite activity is running or running out for coffee, there is probably a way you can support a worthy cause by doing it. Get some friends together for a Sip’n’ Shop to support the work of Samaritan’s Village in meeting the needs of victims of human trafficking Check out Eventbrite for races, tournaments, rallies, and even parties in your area that are happening in in support of a charity or 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.

When You Just Can’t Stay Away from the Theme Parks but Don’t Want to Pay Park Admissions

  • Disney Springs. There are lots of activities and events happening at the hotspot formerly known as Downtown Disney. There is also a water taxi you can take from one end of the facility to the other.  Many of the offerings – and the parking – are available for free.
  • Disney Boardwalk. When you want to go to 1920s Coney Island but don’t have a time machine, Disney’s Boardwalk fits the bill.  It offers everything from funnel cakes to street magicians and the parking is free.  Bonus: You can see the 9pm fireworks from Epcot from here.
  • Universal CityWalk. Free self-parking after 6pm, splash fountain for the kiddos, and the occasional free summer concert make this a spot keep your eye on if you’re looking for something fun to do one summer evening.