25 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 25 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 be with you throughout 2020 with updates on the best family happenings in Central Florida.
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. While there, stop by Ghiradelli’s chocolate for a free sample, and end the day with a complimentary ride on the ferry boats that travel to the parks and resorts.
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.
This entertainment complex offers free self-parking after 6pm, splash areas for the kids, live DJs and dance parties, and complimentarywater taxi rides that travel from CityWalk to three of the deluxe Universal Orlando Resorts.
Delight in nature along Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. Photo courtesy of St. Johns River Water Management District
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
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.
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.
Visit a Splash Pad
While some area splash pads charge nominal fees, there are several that are completely free and most are open year round. These include the Winter Garden splash pad, Bithlo Community Park splash pad, Capehart Park splash pad in East Orlando, Reiter Park splash pad in Longwood, Center Lake Park splash pad in Oviedo, and Barnett Park splash pad in Orlando.
World’s Largest McDonald’s & PlayPlace
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 treehouse-themed indoor playground with a toddler area for little ones.
Avian Reconditioning Center
The Avian Reconditioning Center is a bird-of-prey rehabilitation center 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.
Go on a free insect safari at Oakland Nature Preserve. Photo courtesy of the preserve
Oakland Nature Preserve
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.
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.
Trout Lake Nature Center
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 a tribute to Walt Disney's love of the outdoors. Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy
Disney Wilderness Preserve
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.
University of Central Florida Arboretum
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.
Fountain Show at Cranes Roost Park
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.
Soap Box Derby Races
Bring the kids to Derby Park to watch Soap Box Derby races, which are youth 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.
Hontoon Island State Park
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.
Free Community Movie Nights
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.
Bass Pro Shop
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.
When the weather is nice our family enjoys biking one of the many local trails. Visit 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. Other great biking trails include the Cross Seminole Trail, Little Econ Greenway Trail, Seminole Wekiva Trail and Spring to Spring Trail.
Fort Christmas Historical Park
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.
Fred Stone Theatre
Enjoy a free stage performance from the Second Stage Series by Rollins Players. These shows are designed, produced, and directed by Rollins College students.
The Melrose Center
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.
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.
The Tibet-Butler Preserve includes miles of hiking trails ideal for kids. Photo by Rain0975/CC BY 2.0
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.