Orlando has long been a popular choice among families. There’s Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, of course, but there are also a lot of free activities to do as a family. Take a look at 20 of my favorite free things to do with kids in the Orlando area.
1. See a Rocket Launch. Head east to Cape Canaveral (less than one hour away) on Florida’s Space Coast for rocket launches that take place throughout the year. Get a prime viewing spot along the shores of the Indian River, the Cocoa Beach Pier or from any of the beaches south of Port Canaveral.
2. Check Out What’s for Sale at a Flea Market. Head to FleaWorld, America’s largest flea market, to explore the vendor booths and see what’s for sale. FleaWorld is open every Friday through Sunday and you’ll find loads of watches, collectibles, perfumes, flowers, produce and more.
3. Watch a Free Movie. The city of Winter Park hosts a monthly outdoor movie series called Popcorn Flicks at Enzian Theatre. Or, head to Lake Eola Park for Movieola, a free outdoor movie series with new movies the last Friday of each month through August. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket.
4. Explore a Botanical Garden. Enjoy free admission to the Harry P. Leu Gardens the first Monday of each month. Look for palm trees, azaleas and various tropical plants. Also, keep your eyes open for various sculptures on display throughout the gardens.
5. Enjoy a Concert and Classic Car Show. Every Friday and Saturday night, Old Town in Kissimmee is the place to be to check out classic cars and live music. The cars begin to arrive mid-afternoon and bands start to play in the evening.
6. Splash in the Fountains at Downtown Disney. Bring along bathing suits for your kids and some Crocs for them to wear as they splash in the fountains at Downtown Disney. You may also want to bring along towels and a change of clothes for each of your kids so they can dry off before you leave.
7. Learn About Pioneer Life. Make a stop at Fort Christmas Historical Park to explore seven historic homes and learn how early pioneers lived. Watch a short video on the Seminole Indian Wars and learn more about cattle, hunting, fishing and trapping.
8. Go on a Family Hike. There are several parks and forests that are ideal for easy hikes as a family. Grab a water bottle for each member of the family and head to Ocala National Forest or Enchanted Forest Nature Sanctuary. Or, hop on the Florida National Scenic Trail.
9. Visit a Farmers Market. Every Sunday, a weekly farmers market is held in Orlando. This is a great opportunity to try out local foods and experience fresh produce specific to central Florida. You’ll often find arts and crafts vendors, as well as free live music as well.
10. Watch a Musical Fountain Show. Head to Lake Eola Park in Downtown Orlando for a nightly fountain show at Lake Eola Fountain. Also, be sure to bring along some bread so you can feed the swans that make Lake Eola their home either before or after the show.
11. Explore Contemporary Works of Art. Throughout 2014, it’s free to enter the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, which has various paintings, sculptures and other works of art on display. Also, look out for family day activities and programs throughout the year.
12. Sing & Dance at Chip ‘n Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-Long. Every evening at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, you and your kids can listen to a cowboy sing songs and play his guitar, pose for pictures with Chip ‘n Dale and watch a movie at the campground cinema.
13. Get Up Close with an Alligator. Head to Black Hammock Adventures to enjoy a free wildlife exhibit, featuring Hammy, a live 12’ alligator. You’ll also be able to see smaller alligators, macaws, a python and more exotic animals.
14. Watch Street Performers at Disney’s Boardwalk. Every evening, you’ll find various performers, like magicians, acrobats and comedians, entertaining families on Disney’s Boardwalk. While you’re there, take a free boat cruise around Crescent Lake, too.
15. Build Your Own Creations with LEGO Bricks. Head to the LEGO Store at Downtown Disney where you can check out LEGO models on display and build your own LEGO creations. There’s also an outdoor play area and regular in-store events and workshops for kids.
16. Explore a Collection of Art Galleries. Stop by CityArts Factory to explore a variety of local and international works of art, which are rotated on a monthly basis. Managed by the Downtown Arts District, admission is free Tuesday through Saturday (11 am to 6 pm).
17. Enjoy Family Day at the Museum. On the third Saturday of each month, head to the Art & History Museums in Maitland for Family Days at the Museum. Children will have the opportunity learn about art and history through interactive activities and experiences.
18. Go Bowling. Several bowling alleys in the Orlando area offer free bowling for children as part of the Kids Bowl Free program. It’s a fun way to beat the heat and have fun as a family. Colonial Lanes in Orlando and Orange Bowl Lanes in Kissimmee both participate in the program.
19. Attend a Storytime as a Family. Every public library in the central Florida area offers storytime programs for young children. Free storytimes are also available monthly at Harry P. Leu Gardens and every Tuesday at Pottery Barn at the Mall at Millenia.
20. Watch the Electric Water Pageant: Stake out a spot at one of several hotels, including Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Wilderness Lodge, to watch this 15-minute water parade. The water pageant takes place multiple times each night, with a separate start time for each resort where it can be viewed.