Free Things to Do in Orlando
A trip to Orlando can be costly. There are countless entertainment options in the area. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to choose! Southern Dream Vacation Rentals would like to another side of Orlando - a city of unique art and culture, lakes, and parks, wineries and breweries. The best part? It won’t cost you a dime. Welcome to "Free Orlando"!
Arts & Culture
Embrace Orlando’s vibrant arts and culture scene as you explore the streets of this beautiful city.
- Downtown the CityArts Factory is Orlando’s largest collection of galleries, abuzz with live music, entertainment, and fun events. Admission is free from Tuesday through Saturday.
- Set on the shorelines of Lake Formosa is the Mennello Museum of American Art. Admission to the gallery is free on the second Sunday of every month, however, you can always freely explore the hiking and biking trails of Lake Formosa. Be sure to look for the lakeside sculpture garden.
- Just moments away from the thrills of the theme parks lies the Grand Bohemian Gallery, a visually stimulating collection of eclectic jewelry, glass, sculpture, and art.
- Winter Park is a hub of energy and activity, where the quaint cobblestone streets are lined with shops, bistros, and markets. The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival in March is the perfect place to be to experience the vibe of this town. View the impressive works of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum or enjoy a fun and free student-produced show at the Fred Stone Theatre, both set on the campus of Rollins College along the shores of Lake Virginia. The Jewel of Winter Park is the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art where displays of the world’s largest and most impressive collection of Tiffany Glass is safely kept. Admission is free on Independence Day, Easter weekend, Christmas weekend, and the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival weekend, as well as 5pm to 8pm every Friday night from November to April.
- Two more unique museums await you a little further out of town. The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center explores the history of the Holocaust, and the vibrant Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts celebrates the live and works of this writer and anthropologist.
Entertainment is expensive, but Orlando has a few sneaky surprises up its sleeves!
- Enjoy the best of Italian music nightly at the Portofino Bay Hotel’s piazza or hum along to the strolling musicians that meander the halls.
- Old Town Amusement Park comes alive twice a week. Get down to the beat of the doo-wop hits every Wednesday and hear the sound of car lovers rejoicing at the Saturday Classic Car Cruises. Admission is free for the shows but visitors must buy tickets for the rides.
- Again, Winter Park shows its glory with ‘Popcorn Flicks’ at sunset on the second Thursday of each month and the Enzian Theatre shows movies under the large oak trees every Wednesday. Grab a chair, pack a picnic and enjoy a family gathering under the stars.
- Nearby Casa Feliz offers live music and a tour of their restored historic Spanish farmhouse every Sunday from 12pm to 3pm.
Lakes & Parks
When you think of “Orlando parks,” you typically think of theme parks, right? Well, think again! Orlando is home to 83 public parks and too many lakes to count.
- Loch Haven Culture Park sits on 45 acres surrounded by three lakes (Lake Estelle, Lake Rowena & Lake Formosa), as well as a handful of museums and attractions. This is the cultural heart of Central Florida and the perfect place to lay out your picnic blanket to feel the true vibe of Orlando. The beautifully restored Leu House Museum and the inspirational Harry P. Leu Gardens have free tours of the grounds on the first Monday of each month.
- Lake Eola Park also tops the list of favorites with 43 acres of walking paths, public art shows, and a great Sunday Farmers Market. Swan boats and gondolas are available to rent for a fee.
- The iconic Lake Eola Fountain puts on a nightly light display at 8pm and 9:30pm.
- Tibet Butler Preserve is a nature and wildlife preserve on the border of Walt Disney World with gentle trails for all levels or head to the West Orange Trail on the scenic Lake Apopka.
- On the shores of Lake Maitland you will discover the secret and secluded Kraft Azalea Gardens and, for the perfect end to an action packed day, watch a spectacular sunset over the waters of nearby Lake Killarney.
Wineries, Breweries & Markets
Bring the kids along as you tour the area's best brewery and winery. Yep! They're family friendly and even have games for the kids. Or, maybe window shopping is more your style. Here are some of our favorites.
- Sample local beer at the Orlando Brewing Company on one of their free tours held Monday through Saturday at 6pm with live music each Friday and Saturday. If wine is your preference, the Lakeridge Winery offers free daily tours of their 80-acre scenic vineyard! You may even catch some live music.
- Go treasure hunting along ‘Antiques Row’ in the lakeside Ivanhoe Village or stroll the cobbled lanes of Winter Park’s Farmers Market each Saturday from 7am to 1pm. Park Avenue is the hub of Winter Park - the perfect place to window shop and sip coffee watching the passers-by.
It’s Family Fun Time
Happy kids, happy parents! Here in Orlando, we know how to keep kids happy, and it’s not only in the theme parks! Here’s how to do it for free.
- The Lego Imagination Center in Disney Springs offers 4,400 square feet of fun with free events for the kids.
- Entertainment at its best may be found on Disney’s BoardWalk, a coastal style village with amazing street entertainment. Kids will love the Chip n’ Dale campfire sing-alongs, Disney movies on a giant screen at the Fort Wilderness Resort, and Disney’s spectacular fireworks – all just a quick tram ride away. For something a little different, discover the fun of Hula Dancing with free lessons at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Yes, all for free!
- For a little outdoor adventure, visit Big Tree Park - home to Orlando’s Oldest Tree whose massive branches are waiting to be climbed by little feet.
- If you are in the Winter Park area, rough and tumble on the community playground Castle Park or cast a line from the dock at Winter Park’s 1.5-acre Dinky Dock.
- Animal lovers should head north to the free live alligator and bird exhibit at Black Hammock Adventures in Lake Jessup.
Explore a little further
If you have a car and time on your hands to explore Orlando’s surrounding areas, here are a couple of suggestions that will take you a little further out of town.
- Discover over 600 plant species alongside a 9-acre lake at the University of Central Florida’s Arboretum
- Have you heard of the old Indian Legend of Spook Hill? Head to Lake Wales, park your car on the sign that marks the spot and watch your car roll uphill! Fact or fiction?
- Fort Christmas Historical Park features historical structures set in the shade of massive trees, a great hiking trail and a playground for the kids. A great experience for history buffs.
- The Kennedy Space Center itself isn’t free, however, it is free to pack a picnic and watch the rockets launch from nearby parks along the shores of the Indian Rivers.
- Fancy some sand between your toes? Take a fun day trip to explore the beaches of the Space Coast. Discover quaint boardwalks, picturesque piers, docked cruise ships and Florida’s tallest lighthouse – the Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse.