Five Free Outings in Orlando Packed with Family Fun
Orlando is the type of tourist magnet that can drain the wallet quickly, with destinations such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World among the many spendy sites to see. Let your wallet recuperate with these five free destinations that offer plenty of family fun.
Enjoy an Afternoon or Evening at Lake Eola Park
Lake Eola (512 E. Washington St., Orlando, FL) offers a peaceful expanse of the outdoors right in the heart of downtown Orlando. Visit a playground, walk around the lake, feed the swans and watch the swan boats glide along its waters. On Sundays, stop by the year-round Orlando Farmer's Market. Beyond the typical fresh produce, this market offers a variety of plants and handcrafted items. It's also pet-friendly, so it's a perfect place to include the dog on a full-family outing. The market often features live music during its full operating hours each Sunday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Capture a hint of Las Vegas at Lake Eola Park at 8:30 any night, when the fountain's water is colorfully illuminated and the sprays are choreographed to music.
Partake in Family Funday at Mennello Museum of American Art
The Mennello Museum of American Art (900 E. Princeton St., Orlando, FL) holds its Free Family Funday the second Sunday of each month. The two-and-a-half-hour event features a different theme each month, based on current art exhibits. Participants get to work on an art project and then take a free tour of the museum. As an added bonus, the museum's outdoor Marilyn L. Mennello Sculpture Garden is always open and free to visit. It features a stunning 350-year-old oak tree dubbed "The Mayor," plus numerous sculptures and walking paths to enjoy on a pleasant day. The paths connect to the Orlando Urban Trail, if you're in the mood for a little more free family fun (and fitness). The museum also sits on the shores of Lake Formosa Loch Haven Cultural Park for an added element of peaceful enjoyment.
Spend a Morning with a Movie
Enjoy free children's movies in a real theater on select summer weekdays at Kids Summer Movie Escape at Cobb Plaza Cinema Cafe 12 (155 S. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL). Take in a different kid-friendly movie each week at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays in June, July and early August. While the movies are free, snacks, of course, are not.
Take in the Free Monthly Marvels at Leu Gardens
Harry P. Leu Gardens (1920 N. Forest Ave., Orlando, FL) offers free entry the first Monday of most months. This 50-acre botanical paradise offers numerous gardens to explore, connected by winding trails. Many of the gardens are set up by theme, such as the butterfly garden, vegetable garden and rose garden. There's even a tropical stream garden surrounding a small stream that leads into Lake Rowena. Each month of the year features different plants in bloom, so check the schedule when you visit. Kids will enjoy learning more about the plants throughout the gardens by scanning QR codes placed on nearby signs.
Disney Monorail and Fireworks
Even though admission to the park costs a pretty penny, Walt Disney World's Monorail is free for all riders. Visit the Ticket and Transportation Center and choose your option: a ride to Epcot or a ride that stops at all three of the park's resorts. The Epcot monorail circles around the huge orb, Spaceship Earth, making for an entertaining view. Time your ride on the 'rail so it ends a little before 9 p.m. to catch one of the park's nightly fireworks displays, visible for free from either the Ticket and Transportation Center area (on Topiary Lane) or from the beach at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort (1600 Seven Seas Drive, Orlando, FL). Fireworks may be canceled or postponed due to inclement weather, so ask a representative at the ticket booth beforehand if the evening's display will occur.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.