35 Free Things To Do with Kids in Orlando
Orlando is a thrilling destination filled with plenty of activities for kids and families. It's, of course, most known for its attractions and theme parks, but the cost of these can add up fast.
Truth is, there is no need to empty your pockets to have a good time with your family in the Orlando area. We've compiled a list of 35 absolutely FREE things to do with kids in Central Florida.
Included here are playgrounds, outdoor adventures, theme park bargains, and more. Whatever might interest you, know that your friends at Mommy Poppins Orlando will keep you up to date on the best family happenings in Central Florida.
For even more free local events, check out our event calendar and filter the categories for the "Free" tag. And remember to sign up for our FREE newsletters to receive posts such as this right to your inbox.
1. Disney Springs — Lake Buena Vista
At Disney Springs, families can get a Disney fix without shelling out a lot of cash. Admission and covered parking are free. Kids can cool off at the splash pad on hot days, stop by the Lego store and enjoy one of several free build areas, or take a trip to the T-Rex Café, where little ones can excavate dino fossils in the Paleo Zone. End the day with a complimentary ride on the ferry boats that travel to the parks and resorts.
2. Disney's BoardWalk — Lake Buena Vista
Enjoy an evening at Disney’s BoardWalk with FREE street performers, including comedians, jugglers, musicians, and more. Stop by Ample Hills Creamery for a free ice cream sample, and bring a picnic to enjoy along the waterfront. As with Disney Springs, admission and parking are free, and visitors can take advantage of Disney’s free ferry boats. Plus, the new Skyliner aerial gondolas can be accessed just a short walk away via the International Gateway at Epcot station.
3. Universal CityWalk — Orlando
This entertainment complex offers free self-parking after 6pm, a splash area for the kids, live DJs and dance parties, and complimentary water taxi rides that travel from CityWalk to three of the deluxe Universal Orlando Resorts.
Spot herons and other wild birds along Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. Photo courtesy of St. Johns River Water Management District
4. Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive — Apopka
On this 11-mile drive, families can observe different species of wildlife, including alligators, birds, snakes, otters, bobcats, and more in their natural environments, all from the comfort of their vehicle. The drive takes roughly 2 hours, and there are spots where you can park and walk around to stretch your legs. The drive is open Fridays through Sundays as well as on federal holidays.
5. Stroll a Botanical Garden — Winter Park, Orlando
Kraft Azalea Garden and Mead Botanical Garden, both in Winter Park, offer free admission to the public every day. Plus, Harry P. Leu Gardens offers free admission on select first Mondays and various other days throughout the year.
6. Visit a Splash Pad — Multiple locations
While some area splash pads charge nominal fees, there are several that are completely free and most are open year round. For details visit our guide to splash pads and spray grounds in Orlando.
7. World’s Largest McDonald’s & PlayPlace — Orlando
Orlando is home to the World’s Largest Entertainment McDonald’s, a two-story attraction right off of I-4 near International Drive. It hosts activities each day, including Mickey D's Magic & Mayhem Comedy Magic Show and character appearances. There is an arcade upstairs as well as a free indoor playground with a toddler area for little ones.
8. Avian Reconditioning Center — Apopka
The Avian Reconditioning Center is a bird-of-prey rehabilitation facility dedicated to educating the community about Florida’s raptors. It is open to the public every Saturday (weather permitting) and offers free admission (donations are appreciated). It also offers several community events throughout the year.
9. Oakland Nature Preserve — Oakland
This hidden gem in West Orlando offers free admission and is open 365 days per year. There is a museum and education center complete with live fish and turtle exhibits, a NaturePlay trail, and a boardwalk that leads out to a covered pavilion overlooking Lake Apopka (a perfect spot for a picnic). It also offers events such as storytimes and insect safaris.
10. Free Museums — Multiple locations
There are a number of Orlando-area museums that do not charge admission fees. These include the Central Florida Railroad Museum, Orlando Fire Museum, St Cloud Heritage Museum, Winter Park History Museum, Lake Mary Historical Museum, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, and the sobering Holocaust Museum in Maitland.
11. Trout Lake Nature Center — Eustis
This 230-acre nature center north of Orlando is worth the drive. There is a museum as well as an environmental education center with displays and a kids' touch table with artifacts and fossils. Throughout the property are trails with fun features such as a swinging bridge and a bobcat boardwalk.
The Disney Wilderness Preserve is dedicated to nature and conservation. Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy
12. Disney Wilderness Preserve — Kissimmee
This 12,000-acre preserve is dedicated to habitat conservation for hundreds of wildlife species and is a testament to Walt Disney’s love of nature. Guests can enjoy hiking trails and bird-watching, and visit the eco-friendly Conservation Learning Center. Note: This preserve is not affiliated with Disney’s theme parks or resorts. There is no entrance fee, but donations are appreciated.
13. University of Central Florida Arboretum — Orlando
The UCF Arboretum is located on campus and is a free, 82-acre nature park open to the public. Families can stroll the nature trail and boardwalk, and enjoy a picnic lunch. UCF also offers guided tours for children for a small fee; those tours need to be scheduled in advance.
14. Fountain Show at Cranes Roost Park — Altamonte Springs
Cranes Roost Park offers a choreographed fountain display with three different shows taking place nightly on the hour from 6pm through 9pm. Visitors can enjoy the show and stroll the one-mile walkway and boardwalks around the lake. Note: The fountain show might not run during special events.
15. Soap Box Derby Races — Sanford
Bring the kids to Derby Park to watch these gravity races for kids and young adults ages 7-20. Races are free to watch and kids can enjoy the playground at the park afterward.
Admission is free to Hontoon Island State Park, where kids can enjoy the great outdoors. Photo by Rain0975/CC BY 2.0
16. Hontoon Island State Park — Deland
This state park is situated on an island on St. Johns River, and is accessible only by private boat or free park ferry. There is no park entrance fee. Hontoon Island offers several amenities, including a fun playground for kids, fishing, hiking, and a small museum. Kids can also participate in the free Junior Ranger Program by asking at the visitor center. Upon completing six activities kids receive an official Junior Ranger Patch.
17. Free Community Movie Nights — Multiple locations
Visit our event calendar to find several free community movie nights, including Movieola at Lake Eola’s Amphitheater, Oviedo Movie in the Park, Kissimmee Movie in the Park, Popcorn Flicks in the Park, and more.
18. Bass Pro Shop — Orlando
Bass Pro Shop offers multiple free events throughout the year with kids' crafts and activities, including a Go Outdoors event in the late spring, summer activities and workshops, and a free Winter Wonderland during the holidays.
19. Bike the West Orange Trail — Winter Garden
When the weather is nice our family enjoys biking the West Orange Trail, where families can bike part (or all) of the 20-mile paved trail from Oakland to Apopka, with several great stops in between, including a playground at Winter Garden Station and a butterfly garden at the Tildenville outpost.
20. Fort Christmas Historical Park — Christmas
Entrance to this county park is free and includes an 1837 fort replica, a Florida “cracker” style house, pioneer homes, a sugar cane mill and historical farm equipment. Amenities include a playground, sand volleyball, basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball diamond, and picnic pavilions.
21. Lyman Blackbox Theatre — Winter Park
Enjoy a free stage performance from the Second Stage Series by Rollins Players. These shows are designed, produced, and directed by Rollins College students.
22. The Melrose Center — Orlando
The Melrose Center for Technology, Innovation and Creativity offers a variety of tech-based services and classes, most of which are free to Orange County library cardholders. Services include a professional audio studio, sound booths, and editing bays. Classes and events offered range from Family STEM Saturdays to Designing 3D Prototypes, How to Make Green Screen Videos, and Introduction to Virtual Reality.
Enjoy free admission to ICON Park. Photo courtesy of the park
23. ICON Park — Orlando
While the attractions at ICON Orlando charge a fee, visitors can enjoy free parking and free admission to the complex. Bring picnic supplies and relax on the green in front of the The Wheel and watch the nightly lighting of the iconic Ferris wheel. Stroll the area afterward for a fun family evening.
24. Tibet-Butler Preserve — Orlando
This free nature preserve and education center offers miles of hiking trails and numerous educational programs throughout the year. Some trails tend to get muddy during the rainy season, so be sure to wear waterproof shoes and bring bug spray.
25. Visit a Playground — Multiple locations
Central Florida has a variety of great playgrounds for kids of all ages. See our rundown of the best children’s playgrounds in Orlando to find one near you.
26. National Night Out — Multiple locations
Several Central Florida cities host this annual community-building event to promote police-community partnerships. Events include fun activities for the whole family to enjoy.
27. Classic Car Show at Old Town — Kissimmee
The Old Town entertainment district is home to one of Central Florida’s premier weekly car shows, with show-quality hot rods and antique cars. At the end of the night, cars will cruise through the streets of Old Town. Families can also visit the many stores, dining options, and attractions that Old Town offers.
28. Sidewalk Art Festival — Winter Park
Stroll one of the nation’s oldest and largest outdoor art festivals in the streets of beautiful downtown Winter Park. The festival boasts a variety of arts and crafts, music, entertainment, and a children’s art tent.
29. Visit a Disney-Made Town — Celebration
Founded by the Walt Disney Company, this picturesque town features huge houses, beautiful gardens, shops, restaurants, an interactive fountain, and more. If visiting during the holidays, catch artificial snowfall and drive through the town to enjoy elaborate Christmas light displays (an entire street in Celebration was featured on The Great Christmas Light Fight!).
30. Black Hammock Live Gator Exhibit — Oviedo
Located on Lake Jessup (known for its many alligators), Black Hammock offers a restaurant and airboat tours, and it also has free live bird and gator exhibits.
31. Kids Fringe Festival — Orlando
Part of the annual Orlando Fringe Theatre Festival, Kids Fringe includes arts, crafts, games, a puppet parade, animal meet-and-greets, scavenger hunts, and more fun activities just for kids.
32. Take Photos at Mills 50 — Orlando
Snap some Instagram-worthy pics with the artistic murals along the Mills 50 district.
33. Florida License-Free Fishing Days — Statewide
Get the kids outdoors and introduce them to fishing. On certain days, the fishing license requirement is waived for Florida residents and nonresidents.
34. Nunan Butterfly Garden — Mount Dora
Just outside of the Mount Dora library sits a beautiful butterfly garden that is free to visit. It is home to many species of pollinators, as well as birds and animals.
35. Ocala National Forest — Ocala
Ocala National Forest features more than 600 lakes and rivers, 100 miles of paved roads to explore, and several hiking trails of all difficulty levels. There is also a sinkhole and remains from a 19th-century homestead visitors can explore on some of the hiking trails. Keep your eyes peeled for Florida black bears and even free-range monkeys near the river.
This post was originally published in 2020. It was updated in July 2021.