21 Free Things to Do in Orlando Whether You’re a Tourist or a Local

People take a stroll around Lake Eola Park in Orlando, Fla.
People take a stroll around Lake Eola Park in Orlando, Fla. Aileen Perilla/The Penny Hoarder

When you think of Orlando, you might think Walt Disney World.

That’s fair. And sure, Disney is great and all, but the truth is The City Beautiful has a lot to offer outside its theme parks. There are plenty of free things to do in Orlando — attractions, tours, family activities and more that don’t cost you hundreds of dollars just to gain entry.

Free Activities in Orlando

Whether you live in Orlando or are planning your next trip, here are free things to fill your adventure.

Pro Tip

Although most places have reopened as pandemic restrictions have lifted, check with the attraction for modified hours, reservation requirements and social distancing guidelines before you go.

1. Lake Eola Park

Butting up to the heart of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park offers Insta-worthy views, a .9-mile walking sidewalk and some very large swans. (Really, they’re huge.) If you’re there on a Sunday, stop by the market.

Throughout the year, there are tons of free activities (like movie showings), so bookmark this calendar.

2. Disney Springs

Formerly known as Downtown Disney, Disney Springs is a lakeside corridor of shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment.

You don’t have to spend money to enjoy the lively outdoor atmosphere. There’s window shopping galore, plus a water taxi you can take from one end to the other. Parking is free, which is hard to come by in Orlando.

Bonus: You’ll find the Lego Store here, a wonderland of blocks that kids — and adults — will get lost in for hours. You don’t have to pay to play!

3. Disney’s Boardwalk

Tucked between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, Disney Boardwalk transports you to Coney Island in the 1920s.

Relax a bit as you walk along Crescent Lake, watch the street magicians perform and take in the fragrant funnel cakes. Depending on when you go, parking may only be available for guests with confirmed hotel or restaurant reservations. But you can use a rideshare to get dropped off at the Boardwalk.

Pro Tip

You can catch the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks display from here, one of the best free family hacks we've found!

4. Grand Bohemian Gallery

If you *heart* art, stop by the beautiful Grand Bohemian Gallery — even if you’re not staying at the hotel.

Parking downtown might be tricky, but use ParkMe to find your cheapest option (like the $2 City Commons Garage).

5. Orlando Brewing

Embark on a free tour of Orlando Brewing, Monday through Saturday at 6 p.m. Once you appreciate how this brewing company makes the magic elixir, start sippin’.

Pro Tip

If you want to do a beer tasting, check Groupon. You can usually find 50% off deals for parties of two.

6. Tasty Tuesdays

The Milk District (named for its proximity to T.G. Lee Dairy) is known for Tasty Tuesdays, a gathering of local food trucks each Tuesday, 6:30-10 p.m. Bring the kids — or your dog — and check out the live music and neighborly festivities.

7. Universal CityWalk

After 6 p.m., park for free, and take in the big lights of Universal CityWalk, which is comparable to Vegas — without the slots.

There’s also a fountain the kids can splash in. In the summer, keep an eye out for free concerts.

8. ICON Park

Sure, you can pay to enjoy an impressive view from The Wheel at ICON Park. The ride costs money, but since parking and admission are free, you can simply wander about the 20-acre park and enjoy some people watching at the various attractions, shops and restaurants. Wait around until sunset to catch the impressive 400-foot tall Wheel’s nightly light show.

Free Things to Do Near and Around Orlando

By venturing beyond the shadow of Walt Disney World, you’ll find plenty of free adventures and attractions year round in this beautiful part of Florida.

Central Park in Winter Park, FL
Photo courtesy of the City of Winter Park Communications Department

9. Winter Park

This charming Central Florida town is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Orlando. It’s home to Rollins College and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Natural Art as well as more than 70 parks where the city puts on many free events and festivals year round.

A favorite is Mead Botanical Garden, which boasts trails, lots of gorgeous Central Florida fauna, a butterfly garden — and free admission.

The Morse Museum houses a vast collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the lamp designer and artist. The museum normally charges a nominal entrance fee, but kids under 12 are free.

Stop by the Winter Park Historical Museum (in the Winter Park Farmers Market building) to pick up a free walking tour brochure. On it, you’ll find 21 stops, including the Winter Park Railroad Station, Knowles Cottage and the Colony Theatre.

Many hotels, airlines and rental car companies honor military service. If you served, check this huge list of military discounts before planning a trip.

10. Winter Park Farmers’ Market

Explore the local vendors at the Winter Park Farmers’ Market, hosted at the old train depot each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Note: The market is closed on the third Saturday in March due to the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, one of the oldest and largest outdoor art festivals in the country. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in town — and it’s free.

Afterwards, explore Park Avenue, which is laced with shops, restaurants, museums and theaters.

11. Cornell Fine Arts Museum

On the beautiful campus of Rollins College, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum holds more than 500 paintings and a whole lot of artifacts and archaeological fragments. The museum offers free tours, but it’s a good idea to schedule ahead.

(Note: It’s closed on Mondays and some holidays.)

12. Kraft Azalea Garden

Kraft Azalea Garden is nestled on the shore of Lake Maitland in Winter Park. Pack a picnic and soak up the serenity under enormous cypress trees. Then break out your bird-watching binoculars, and see what you can spot.

Pro Tip

The azaleas in Florida tend to bloom from late February to early April if you want a colorful show. If you miss that window, opt for one of Florida’s classic colorful sunsets throughout the year.

13. Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards

Want a real taste of Florida? And maybe a buzz? Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards rests on a 127-acre estate in Clermont, Florida, and serves award-winning wines. The site offers free tours and a free tasting when you visit.

Keep an eye on upcoming events, too, like the free summer music series or the grape-stomping competition, which the kids can enter for free and will love.

old town kissimmee florida
Photo courtesy of Experience Kissimmee

14. Old Town in Kissimmee

Free to enter and peruse, Old Town is a retro Florida landmark that offers amusement rides, souvenir shops and lots of food options.

On Friday and Saturday nights, secure a spot on the sidewalk, and watch muscle and classic cars make their way down Main Street.

15. Big Tree Park

This park was once famous for The Senator, a 3,500-year-old bald cypress tree that burned down in 2012 due to a drug-fueled incident. (Long story.)

Although The Senator no longer remains (RIP), you’ll still find its memorial, as well as its 2,000-year-old sister tree, Lady Liberty.

Plus, there’s a nice trail and playground, and the shade will protect you from the Florida sun.

Pro Tip

If you're planning an outdoor activity in the summer, pack plenty of sunscreen and bug spray.

16. Celebration Town Center

This “perfect town” was designed by Disney and is lined with pastel-colored houses and white picket fences. Many people visit to take in the pleasant sights and walk around the lake.

The town’s center is host to a number of dining, entertainment and shopping options. Keep tabs on events that coincide with your Orlando vacation, like exotic car shows and arts strolls.

17. Winter Garden

This former citrus town lies about 20 minutes west of Orlando and offers a great escape from the bustling theme parks. The city’s downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Free things to do in Winter Garden include the famous local farmer’s market, art galleries, live music and other free events for families around the scenic plaza.

18. Black Hammock Adventures

Black Hammock Adventures is situated on Lake Jesup, which is home to something like 9,000 gators (the largest concentration of ’em in the States). While you’re in the great outdoors you might spot a wide range of Florida wildlife including bald eagles, wild boars, bobcats — you name it.

According to its website, you can view a free gator exhibit. If you want to splurge, there are airboat rides, too.

Two teenage girls look at their phone while standing in the water at Coca Beach during sunset.
Getty Images

19. Cocoa Beach

The closest beach to Orlando is Cocoa Beach, which is about an hour away (depending on where you’re staying).

Parking for the popular Alan Shepard Park is $15, but Lori Wilson Park, right down the road, is free.

There’s even a dog park if your furry friend wants to tag along.

20. Fort Christmas

If you decide to head to the beach, stop by Fort Christmas Historical Park on your way.

Built during the Second Seminole War, the site features a full-size replica of Fort Christmas and seven historical “Cracker-style” homes. Listen to video presentations before enjoying a picnic under one of the pavilions.

There’s free admission, and you can enjoy additional free family events like the annual bluegrass festival in March and Cracker Christmas in December.

21. Spook Hill

If you really want to embark on an adventure, head south a ways to Lake Wales. Around 600 N. Wales Dr., you’ll find a sign marking “The Legend of Spook Hill.”

Pull over, and read the story, then follow the directions. Apparently, if you do it right, your car will roll uphill.

The TripAdvisor reviews are mixed, so don’t go too far out of your way for this local haunt.

Bonus: Wekiva Island

Enter this environmentally friendly oasis on the Wekiva River for $2 per person. Hang out dockside, or float around while listening to live bands.

If you want to get adventurous, you can rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboard; a half-day rental costs less than $40. When you get tired, stop by the Tooting Otter for a snack and a craft beer.

Note: We know many of you like to resort pool hop. Unfortunately many hotels don’t appreciate it, so we didn’t include the suggestion. Get kicked out of your own free will.

Carson Kohler is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Former editorial assistant Haley Gonzalez contributed to this post. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors updated this post.