A family vacation in Orlando is pricey. Theme park tickets always give me sticker shock- whether it’s tickets for Universal Studios, SeaWorld, or Disney World. That’s why, on days when we are not visiting a theme park, I try to find free or nearly free activities. Here are free things to do in Orlando with kids during your non-theme park days.
1. Drive Thru Safari at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is a one-way 11-mile drive-through safari. Lake Apopka is home to over 362 species of birds, alligators, turtles, bobcat, otter, raccoon, snakes and coyote. Look for bald eagles, black vulture, herons, ospreys and hawks during the drive-through safari!
The drive takes 1–3 hours, depending on how many stops you take along the way. Restrooms and picnic pavilion are available on the property. Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays between sunrise and sunset. Admission is free to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. Located 30 minutes from Disney World, the drive begins at Lust Road and ends on Jones Road in Orange County, Fla.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive address at 2850 Lust Rd, Apopka, FL 32703
2. Disney Springs
Looking for free things to do with kids in Orlando? Go to Disney Springs! Going to Disney Springs is like going to one of the theme parks at Disney World. There is so much to do at Disney Springs that you can easily spend an entire day there. There are over 100 shops and restaurants at Disney Springs. Many of the shops have play areas- your kids can build with Legos at the LEGO store and dig for prehistoric dinosaur bones outside T-Rex restaurant.
Even shopping is a lot of fun and you can easily spend hours perusing the Dino Store at T-Rex or the Star Wars Store or the Superhero Store or the Disney stores. Then treat your family to a Dino themed lunch at T-Rex or grab a quick bite at one of the food trucks. Make sure you save room for dessert and snacks because there are so many eateries at Disney Springs! After that, take in some of Disney Spring’s live entertainment.
The best part? Disney Springs is completely free. Plus if you live in one of the Disney Hotels, you can catch a free Disney bus or ferry boats. Or drive and park for free!
3. Ride the Disney Water Taxis and Ferry Boats
If you have little kids who love boat rides then riding the Disney Water Taxis and Ferry Boats is the perfect free activity for your family during your non theme park days in Orlando. Go boat hopping- ride the Disney Water Taxi and Ferry Boats. Take in the scenery as you sail around Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.
Get off the boat, explore, burn off some energy and then get back on the boat. If the kids are hungry, take the Disney Water Taxi to Disney Springs for lunch or snack. Just make sure you do this in the middle of the day so you avoid the hoards of people getting in and out of the theme parks.
4. Lake Eola Park
A visit to Lake Eola Park is a fun free activity to do with kids in Orlando. Lake Eola Park is a 43 acre park located right in downtown Orlando. It’s a beautiful lakeside park with free concerts, outdoor shows, farmers markets and even outdoor yoga. Rent a swan boat and pedal around the lake to get up close to the fountain.
Burn off energy at the playground. There are 2 playgrounds at Lake Eola Park- one for little kids ages 2-5 years old and another playground for the big kids. Run around the paved sidewalk that circles the lake. There is so much to do at Lake Eola Park and the best part is it’s free!
Lake Eola Park address: 512 East Washington Street, Orlando, FL 32801
5. Universal CityWalk
Another free activity to do with kids in Orlando? Go to Universal CityWalk! Universal CityWalk is Universal Studio’s version of Disney Springs. There are over 30 shops and restaurants at Universal CityWalk. Go for lunch and choose from a wide selection of full service restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe to quick service restaurants.
After lunch, go shopping or play mini-golf or enjoy a free street performance. You can even hop on a free ferry boat ride with the kids (the ferry takes you to one of the Universal Resorts)! Just take the ferry back to Universal CityWalk. Parking is free after 6pm.
Universal CityWalk address: 6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819
6. Go Biking for Free at Blanchard Park
Take your kids biking during the days you are not visiting the theme parks. Go to Blanchard Park which is located 20 minutes from downtown Orlando, it’s a scenic paved bike trail that runs along a river. Watch out for ospreys, turtles and alligators!
Play at the playgrounds when you need a break from biking. You can rent your bike from West Orange Trail Bike and Blades, they will deliver the bike and bike rack to your hotel. It’s free to bike at Blanchard Park.
Blanchard Park Address: 2451 N Dean RD, Orlando, FL 32817
7. Fort Christmas Historical Park
Visiting a historical fort is another free activity with kids in Orlando. Fort Christmas is a fort built on Christmas day 1837 during the Second Seminole Indian War. It’s located 20 miles east of Orlando and is a good option to spend your day away from theme parks. Check out replicas of Fort Christmas fort, historical homes, a schoolhouse and a sugar mill. Learn about pioneer life during the 1870s to 1930s.
Have a picnic lunch at one of the picnic pavilions. Burn off some energy at the playground and basketball court. Admission to Fort Christmas Historical Park is free.
Fort Christmas Historical Park address: 1300 North Fort Christmas Road (C.R. 420), Christmas, Florida 32709
8. Disney’s BoardWalk
Stop by Disney’s BoardWalk during one of your free evenings. Disney’s BoardWalk will remind you of a quaint, turn-of-the-century Atlantic City. Take a stroll down the old-fashioned boardwalk, enjoy free nightly entertainment and grab a bite at one of the eateries.
Admission is free to Disney’s BoardWalk but know that there is limited parking. It is located within walking distance of EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios so you can park at the Epcot lot. It is also connected to Disney’s complimentary ferry lines. If you are staying in one of the Disney World Resort hotels, its best to take the free ferry to Disney’s BoardWalk.
Disney’s BoardWalk Address: 2101 North Epcot Resorts Boulevard, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
9. Go Hiking with Kids at Tibet-Butler Preserve
Hike the 3.6 miles of hiking trails and raised boardwalks at Tibet-Butler Preserve with your kids. You’ll go through cypress swamps, freshwater marshes, and pine flatwoods during the hike. Keep your eyes out for bobcats, foxes, gopher tortoises, bald eagles, indigo snake, and a variety of songbirds. These animals live in the preserve, although you might not see them all.
After that, go see the live animal exhibits at the Vera Carter Environmental Center. Don’t forget to stop by the Butterfly Garden as well. Tibet-Butler Preserve is free to visit. It’s a fun way to spend a non-park day.
Tibet-Butler Preserve Address: 8777 Winter Garden Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32836
10. Visit the World’s Largest McDonald’s
Looking for a free indoor activity with kids in Orlando? Bring the kids to the world’s largest McDonald’s for lunch. The world’s largest McDonald’s is a three-story, 19,000-square-foot restaurant located in Orlando, just 20 minutes from Disney World. The big 22-foot-tall PlayPlace and large arcade with over 100 games will easily keep your kids occupied for hours. Admission to the World’s Largest McDonald’s is free.
World’s Largest McDonald’s Address: 6875 Sandlake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819
11. Indoor Play Area at the Florida Mall
The Florida Mall is a great indoor option to take the kids to on a day when you are not visiting the theme parks. Your kids will have a blast running around the 3000 square foot play area inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Dr. Seuss. Have older kids? Visit the Game PARK arcade.
When the kids get hungry, grab a bite at one of the food court’s eateries. Then take a stroll through the mall and visit one of the many kid-friendly stores, like American Girl Place, Build a Bear Workshop, Slime Factory, Crayola Store, and more! You can easily spend hours at the mall! The best thing is that you’ll be out of the scorching Florida sun and it’s free!
The Florida Mall address: 8001 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809. The Florida Mall Play Park is located in the Dick’s Sporting Goods and Crayola Experience wing.
12. Oakland Nature Preserve
Going to Oakland Nature Preserve is a fun free activity to do with kids in Orlando. Oakland Nature Preserve is a 150 acre preserve located 30 minutes from Disney World.
Check out a kids exploration backpack. Go on a scavenger hunt at Oakland Nature Preserve. You can download their interactive scavenger hunt and do the scavenger hunt on your mobile phone.
Hike on the trail and look for alligators, birds, snakes, vultures and turtles. Burn off some energy at the NaturePlay, an interactive, woodsy play area. Admission to Oakland Nature Preserve is free.
Oakland Nature Preserve address: 747 Machete Trail, Oakland, FL 34760