Think Orlando, and chances are you conjure images of Disney World and all of its extensive and expensive entertainment options. But there are plenty of free things to do to help make a trip to Orlando an affordable family vacation.
The city of Winter Park, which hosts many of the following free activities, has more park space than any other city in Florida. The town was settled by wealthy New England industrialists before the turn of the 20th Century and many of its structures are more than 100 years old. The area is punctuated by winding brick streets and is covered by a canopy of Live Oak and Camhor trees draped in Spanish Moss.
1. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art - Located in Winter Park, this museum features the most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany in the world. The collection includes lamps, art glass, pottery and jewelry. Free on Fridays from 4-8 p.m. November-April and on certain holidays. Concerts, tours, and gallery demonstrations.
2. Harry P. Leu Gardens - Offers free storytelling for young children on the third Monday of every month and free admission to the gardens from 9 a.m.-noon on Mondays. Leu Gardens includes three miles of paved scenic walkways, a butterfly garden, tropical stream garden, bamboo and palm gardens and an 1880s house museum.
3. Winter Park Popcorn Flicks - Presented by the City of Winter Park and Enzian Theatre. Free movie presentations beginning at sunset in Winter Park’s Central Park and Shady Park featuring classic films. Second Thursday of each month. Arrive early for best seating and bring blankets, chairs, and snacks.
4. Lake Eola Park - A 43-acre (17-hectare) recreational area in the heart of downtown Orlando. Visitors can picnic along the shore, enjoy a concert at the amphitheatre, feed the swans and ride in paddleboats.
5. Celebrate Downtown Orlando – The town created by Walt Disney is suitable for strolling. Visitors can admire the mixture of historic-themed architecture and modern technology or let little ones play in the interactive fountain. Enjoy an artificial snowfall in the winter months.
6. March of the Peabody Ducks – Occurs twice daily at the Peabody Orlando hotel. Watch as the famous ducks are escorted from the hotel at 11 a.m. along a red carpet to the Royal Duck Fountain to the music of John Philip Sousa. At 5 p.m. the ducks are ushered back with a gourmet meal of worms, lettuce and carrots.
7. Big Tree Park - A small Seminole county recreational area in Longwood boasts one of America’s oldest bald cypress trees. Standing at 118 feet tall and 35 feet in diameter, this 3,500-year-old tree is nicknamed “The Senator.” The park also features a boardwalk through natural marsh lands, a playground and a picnic area.