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Hot days and rainy afternoons that are typical in Florida can make for a long, boring summer for kids. Sure, the theme parks beckon, but if you don't want to shell out for those, Orlando is chock-full of free things to do that will entertain kids and visitors.
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- Museums With Free Admission Days -- The Orlando Museum of Art, Mennello Museum of American Art, Orange County Regional History Center and Orlando Science Center offer free admission on Saturdays and Sundays with a Merrill Lynch or Bank of America debit or credit card. Many other smaller museums are always free.
- Free Weekend Family Festivals in Orlando -- Three weekends with free events.
- Places for Storytelling -- The Orange County Public Library has free storytelling at all branches.
- Free Indoor and Outdoor Movies -- Multiple venues offer free movies throughout Orlando.
- Musical Events for Kids -- Three venues offer a variety of different musical events.
- Free Events at Orlando Area Malls -- Indoor events, both ongoing and one-time-only at four malls.
- Lake Eola Park -- This large park in downtown Orlando is a mecca for kids, with a playground, swans on the lake, picnic areas and a magical fountain with lights and music.
- Free Bowling for Kids -- Kids bowl for free at several Orlando-area bowling alleys. Check for times and dates.
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On the Beach
Chances are, just about everyone who lives in Florida or is visiting loves the beach. It's what the Sunshine State, surrounded by ocean, is all about. And it's free, 24/7.
- Cocoa Beach -- Just 59 miles from Orlando down Florida Route 528, Cocoa Beach is the place to be on just about any summer afternoon -- especially on weekdays when the crowds are smaller. Sun, surf and sand castles await.
- New Smyrna Beach -- This quiet beach, about an hour northeast of Orlando via Interstate 4, has wide and flat sand and a small-town feel, with shops and restaurants for your off-beach moments.
- Canaveral National Seashore -- If you love a wildlife adventure, head to Canaveral National Seashore, about 58 miles due east of Orlando on Florida Route 50-East. Here you'll find hiking trails, bird-watching opportunities, and beach the way Mother Nature meant it to be -- no concessions or hotels. Just sun, ocean, dunes, birds -- and sea turtles. Kid heaven.
- Daytona Beach -- These words conjure up car racing, and if you are a fan you can get two-for-one here. Make a pit stop at its legendary NASCAR speedway, the Daytona International, and then chill out on its Atlantic beach, just about an hour north on I-4 from Orlando. If you want action with your sun time, this is the place to find it; Daytona Beach is loaded with bars and restaurants. And true to its iconic car connection, some beaches even allow you to drive on them. Check local maps for which beaches allow cruising.