Orlando, Florida is home to some of the greatest family vacation hot spots, from Disney World to Universal Studios, but many of these tourist attractions can be rather expensive, especially for larger families. Fortunately, Orlando is also home to a plethora of city parks, shopping malls, and public beaches, perfect for a fun day spent with family and friends absolutely free.
Although much of Orlando suffered major damage in the mid-2017 Hurricane Maria, most of the city has been restored and is accessible to the public. Please be sure to check each attraction's website for up-to-date information on closures and restorations of these potentially storm-battered locations.
This shopping, dining, and entertainment venue located in the heart of the tourist district in Kissimmee has live music and shows nightly with a classic Friday and Saturday Nite Cruise—a parade of custom, exotic, and special interest vehicles highlighted with music from the 1950's and '60's. Throughout the year, special weekend family events include December snowfalls, Latin Sundays, and pinewood derby races—all of which are free to watch.
Check the current monthly calendar for a list of free events, or just visit Old Town Kissimmee and explore one of the many niche shops and specialty stores around. Great for the whole family, this historic location will transport you and your children back in time for a day filled with treats from decades past.
Address: 5770 W. U.S. Highway 192, Kissimmee, FL 34746
You may know this popular spot by its prior name, Crane's Roost Park, but the City of Altamonte Springs has recently added an entire shopping, dining, and entertainment complex along the lake and rebranded the area as Uptown Altamonte.
On just about any given evening, you will find free entertainment including live music, karaoke, comedians, and street performers along the waterfront, with the 45-acre Crane's Roost Park and European-style plaza surrounding Crane's Roost Lake at the heart of it all. Here you can check out a choreographed fountain show, walk the one-mile cobblestone-style pathway around the lake, check out live events and music, or even rent out the entire park for a special event.
Uptown Altamonte is free to visit, though you could wind up spending hundreds of dollars at the trendy stores, restaurants, and bars. Check out the area's website for up-to-date information regarding free weekly, monthly, and annual events in this exciting newly renovated neighborhood of northern Orlando.
Address: 150 Cranes Roost Blvd. Suite 2200 Altamonte Springs, FL 32701
One of the oldest Holocaust museums in the country, founded in 1982, the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida features both permanent and traveling exhibits. It also houses a 6,000-volume library and curates a film series, with free admission to the museum.
Additionally, the Center hosts a number of free community programs each year including the commemoration of Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass") and Yom HaShoah (the Day of Remembrance).
Here, you can explore the history of the Holocaust with a minimum of graphic images and disturbing representations, giving your children an understanding of this terrible time in history without traumatizing them.
Address: 851 N Maitland Ave, Maitland, FL 32751
Although the big tree that this fantastic nature preserve and public park is named after was destroyed in a fire in February of 2012, Big Tree Park's boardwalk reopened as part of the Seminole County Centennial celebration in 2013 and a clone of "The Senator" was planted on the day of the grand reopening in honor of the fallen 3,500-year-old Bald Cypress.
Although The Senator used to be one of the largest and oldest trees in North America, a second big tree known as Lady Liberty is still standing at Big Tree Park, and a hike into Spring Hammock Preserve will delight nature enthusiasts with numerous cypresses each more than 1,000 years old.
Access to this public park is free and open daily from sunrise to sunset—depending on the season—and families are encouraged to bring picnic lunches to enjoy a day of nature with their loved ones. If you'd like to find out more about the demise of The Senator, check out tourist information on site.
LEGO Imagination Center and Downtown Disney
Free to the public and located in the area of Lake Buena Vista known as Downtown Disney, this store is designed to let kids explore their imaginations with is bright, welcoming space and plethora of creative outlets and possibilities to play.
For kids who love building and playing with LEGOs, the unique play place out front of the retail store is guarded by sea serpents and Disney characters—from a fire-breathing Maleficent to Belle and the Beast—made out of these tiny building blocks. The store also features a "LEGO museum" of sorts, offering a line of displays and historical moments in the legacy of LEGO.
Each month, the LEGO store also hosts a highly popular and free-to-the-public mini build where the creators at LEGO build a new character while crowds of fans come to watch. The LEGO store also hosts workshops and LEGO Club Meetings, though some of these come with a price. Check out the Disney Springs Downtown Marketplace website for more information on these events and other places to explore in the marketplace.
Address: 1672 E Buena Vista Dr., Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830