Millions of travelers came through Orlando last year – no doubt in large part for the city’s amazing theme park selection, world-class shopping, and award-winning restaurants. Nicknamed the City Beautiful for its abundant trees and lakes, Orlando is a hub of fun things to do in summer – plenty of which don’t cost a cent.
Here are 10 free things to do in Orlando that you won’t want to miss.
1. Roam free at Disney Springs
At the promenade known as Disney Springs, kids flock to the LEGO Imagination Center, where they build figures for free on a shaded terrace. There’s even a racetrack where they can race custom LEGO cars they put together themselves. When the temperature soars, they can run through two free splash zones with fountains set to Disney music or visit the giant dinosaur-themed sandbox inside the gift shop at T-Rex Café, where they can dig for faux fossils. But kids aren’t the only winners here. The whole family can enjoy the free entertainment found throughout Disney Springs, whether it’s an authentic Irish dance show at Raglan Road Irish Pub or a concert at the Marketplace Stage, Riverboat Square or any of the other venues around the complex. Both admission and parking to Disney Springs are free.
2. Swing a racket
Sporty families will love a visit to the United States Tennis Association’s National Campus in Lake Nona, just 20 minutes from the Orlando International Airport. With 100 hard and clay courts spread throughout the state-of-the-art facility, it’s quickly becoming the new home of American tennis. The Nemours Family Zone offers both 36- and 60-foot Rebound Ace courts that allow younger players to learn the game more quickly and easily – and they’re free of charge! Reservations are strongly recommended.
3. Make a quantum leap
Occupying a former warehouse in downtown Orlando’s burgeoning Mills 50 District, Florida’s only sustainable winery, Quantum Leap, offers free tours by request during tasting-room hours, usually Tuesdays through Saturdays from 12–8 pm. Monthly events on the second Friday of each month are also free. Thanks to relationships with boutique wine producers all over the world, wines arrive at Quantum Leap in large vessels and are then transferred to huge onsite tanks and barrels for finishing before being packaged in containers with low carbon footprints.
4. “Cruise” down memory lane in Old Town
Step back in time to a sweet, old-fashioned version of small-town America in Old Town, an 18-acre district similar to Disney Springs that’s been welcoming families for more than 30 years. You can spend an afternoon window-shopping along nostalgic, tree-lined streets flanked by more than 70 shops and restaurants. Visit Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday nights when Old Town plays host to classic car shows, including the longest-running weekly car show in America, Saturday Nite Car Cruise. On select nights, the hot rods line up at 8:30 pm and “cruise” around Old Town, as if it were a classic car parade. And from Latin bands to country crooners, take in the free, nightly entertainment at the Trophy Stage – weekly events such as family movie nights and karaoke shows are also free of charge.
5. Make Sunday a fun, “Feliz” Day
Spend a Sunday afternoon enjoying the soulful sounds of a jazz saxophonist or flamenco guitarist at one of Orlando’s most beloved architectural jewels, Casa Feliz Historic Home and Venue. Tucked away on a side street in the tony suburb of Winter Park, this Andalusian-style masonry farmhouse was built in 1932 as a private home. Today, it’s the site of myriad private events – except on Sundays, when Casa Feliz, which means “happy home” in Spanish, opens to the public for free from 12–3 pm. Join a docent-led tour of the historic home and grounds, and enjoy light refreshments and relaxing music. Feel free to bring the kids to this family-friendly fête.
6. Stop to smell the flowers
Pack a picnic and spend the day relaxing in the peaceful oasis known as Mead Botanical Garden in the suburb of Winter Park, just 15 minutes from downtown Orlando. Sign up for free guided hikes with herbalists, renowned foragers, and even expert birders who lead tours during the spring and fall migration seasons. You can also stroll the boardwalk, check out the butterfly garden or bring your bike and explore the garden’s lush trails. Mead Botanical Garden was also the first Central Florida site for geocaching, a high-tech treasure hunt perfect for adventurous families. Nearby, Harry P. Leu Gardens offers free admission on the first Mondays of the month between June and September.
7. Fire up your vocal cords
Cozy up with Disney’s adorable chipmunks at the nightly Chip ‘n Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. Bring your own sticks and marshmallows to roast over the campfire at this cowboy-themed gathering, or purchase s’mores kits from the Chuckwagon Snack Bar for a small fee. Snap selfies with the two crazy chipmunks before settling down with the kids to watch a Disney movie under the stars. Both the sing-a-long and the movie are free.
8. Enjoy a movie under the stars
Movieola, a free outdoor film series hosted by the city of Orlando in downtown’s Lake Eola Park, features family-friendly flicks on the last Friday of each month from April through August. The evening’s festivities kick off at 6 pm with music from local radio station Mix 105.1, fun lawn games, and some of the city’s most popular food trucks. Enjoy a stroll around the lake, take the kids to the playground or feed the extraordinary black and white swans that live around Lake Eola (swan-food vending machines are near the International Bridge) before settling in for the movie at 8:15 pm.
9. Immerse yourself in art
With free admission every day and the only Old Masters collection in the greater Orlando area, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the campus of Rollins College is a must-see. The museum collection features more than 500 paintings and 1,600 works on paper, including drawings, prints, and photography. A significant portion of the museum’s prized collection, the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, can also be seen for free at the Alfond Inn at Rollins just a few blocks from campus and includes hundreds of works by established and emerging international artists. Free 30-minute, docent-led tours occur every Saturday at 1 pm at the museum and Sundays at 1 pm at the Alfond Inn. For an up-close view of the rotating exhibitions at the museum, there are also free tours on the third Thursday of every month at 12:30 pm.
10. Take a brewery tour
Beer lovers who fancy themselves purists will love taste-testing the organic beers at Orlando Brewing, where free tours are offered Monday through Saturday at 6 pm. All beers are made with only four ingredients: water, hops, yeast, and malted barley, making this the only USDA-certified organic brewery east of Colorado. Visit the taproom and find your favorite flavor – a must-try is the Orlando Weiss, a crisp, refreshing, citrus-laced wheat beer that’s perfect for warm summer days.