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Orlando might be on the map for its world-renown theme park attractions that break the bank, but budget-conscious travelers shouldn’t overlook this family-friendly destination, as it’s also full of cultural gems such as art galleries, historic parks and local markets that are completely free. From the rolling hills of Lakeridge Winery to movies in the park and a kid-friendly Imagination Center, here are the top 15 free things to do in Orlando.
Lake Eola Park is a 43-acre recreational area that hosts free family-friendly events and activities throughout the year. Stroll through the walking trails, feed the swans, and enjoy free concerts held at the amphitheater. Explore the trendy area of nearby Thornton Park and its chic restaurants and boutiques and don’t miss Lake Eola’s Sunday farmer’s market with a beer and wine garden and live music.
You can’t beat the family-friendly fun at Disney’s Boardwalk. Nestled between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, this boardwalk area features free, live street entertainment in the evenings that include comedians, jazz ensembles and fire shows. The re-created 1930s-style Atlantic coastal village is lined with entertainment, where you can stroll along Crescent Lake and catch a glimpse of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks display.
The Winter Park Farmers’ Market is a popular farmer’s market, conveniently located near Park Avenue. Nestled around an old train depot, local vendors and farmers show off their best products every Saturday. Browse vendors and pick up homemade and homegrown specialties such as fresh and organic fruits and vegetables. Stroll around the market or enjoy a picnic under a mossy live oak tree.
One of the gems found on the beautiful Rollins College campus, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum combines art and history with more than 5,600 objects. It is the only teaching museum in the greater Orlando area.
Located in Downtown Orlando, the CityArts Factory boasts an eclectic collection of art galleries, showcasing an infusion of local and international works of art that is rotated on a monthly basis. You can enjoy free admission Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., where you’ll have the chance to admire work in the Kiera & Scarlett Kiene Community Gallery the Redefine Gallery and the Magic Gallery.
Offering a unique way to enjoy the outdoors, you can spend a night admiring the stars in Winter Park. On the second Thursday of every month, the popular “Popcorn Flicks in the Park” event showcases classic movies appropriate for the whole family. These events are free, allowing you to bring your own blankets, chairs, and snacks to keep you as comfortable as your own living room.
Learn about the history of the Holocaust at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, which offers free admission except for Saturdays when it’s closed. The poignant museum not only presents an overview of the history through survivor testimonies but it also serves as a memorial to victims. Catch one of their educational events, films and seminars.
One of Orlando’s microbrewery gems, the Orlando Brewing offers behind-the-scenes tours for free Monday through Saturday at 6 p.m. Offered on a first come first serve basis, this certified organic brewery gives you a personalized and informative tour through the warehouse and brewery where you can learn about the brewing process and sample some of their tasty varieties on tap.
A completely free historical park located 20 miles east of Orlando, Fort Christmas Historical Park is a perfect excursion for history enthusiasts. Built during the Second Seminole War, the boasts an Old Florida ambiance with its full-size replica of Fort Christmas and seven historical “Cracker-style” homes. Watch pioneer demonstrations, listen to video presentations or enjoy a picnic under the pavilion.
Admire one of the world’s most impressive collections of famed artist Louis Comfort Tiffany in the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which offers free entry on Fridays from 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. November through April. Marvel at the designer’s jewelry, pottery, art glass and glass lamps, then browse the 19th and 20th-century paintings.
A lakeside complex filled with shops, restaurants and outdoor entertainment, Disney Springs is a mecca of fun where you can spend a few hours strolling the area. Those traveling with kids won’t want to miss the LEGO Imagination Center, which offers a free play area where little ones can explore their creativity by building with colorful bricks and marvel at dinosaurs and sea serpents made of LEGO bricks.
Dubbed Central Florida’s “secret garden”, Kraft Azalea Garden is a great place to pack a picnic and soak up the serene landscapes of this lakeside oasis. Boasting five acres of lush foliage, the garden sits on the shore of Lake Maitland and is open throughout the year from 8 a.m. until dusk. Bring your binoculars for some birdwatching action or admire the colorful azaleas that bloom in spring.
East End Market is a part of a growing food movement in Orlando, inspired by local farmers to provide appreciation and education of food artisans. Visit the local market and attend one of their free live music events in their courtyard, held every first and third Saturday. Enjoy the tunes with a treat from the market, bring a book or just enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Spend a day outdoors at the University of Central Florida Arboretum, which houses over 600 plant species and at least eight unique ecosystems, including a swamp habitat. Explore the 80-acre area with an afternoon of walking its trails to admire its impressive native plant species, play a round of disc golf or bike along the picturesque, nine-acre lake.
Nestled in a 127-acre estate just 25 miles west of Orlando, you can enjoy the stunning countryside landscapes while sipping a complimentary taste of vino. Offered seven days a week, Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards offers complimentary tours and wine tasting for budget-conscious wine lovers. Keep up to date with the winery’s current happenings, as Lakeridge also hosts free events and festivals throughout the year.