Orlando offers much to enjoy for visitors on a budget, including the Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk shopping and entertainment districts, which are free to enter and offer all the excitement of both resorts at a fraction of the cost. The city is also home to an array of contemporary art galleries and cultural museums, many of which offer free admission daily or on select visitor days. The city's beautiful outdoor parks also host a wide variety of special events throughout the year, including free outdoor concerts and film series that take advantage of the region's beautiful, warm year-round climate. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1.The Cornell Fine Arts Museum
© The Cornell Fine Arts Museum
The Cornell Fine Arts Museum is the Orlando region's only teaching museum, located on Rollins College's Winter Park campus. The free-admission museum was originally founded as a collection of notable natural history artifacts and portraits held by the campus at the turn of the 20th century, which eventually expanded to encompass fine arts collections. Since 1978, the collections have been housed at Florida's first American Alliance of Museums-accredited fine arts complex, showcasing over 5,000 artworks and artifacts spanning from the ancient era to the present day. Notable holdings include works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Childe Hassam, and Maya Lin, along with a large ethnographic item collection that includes donations from the Smithsonian Museum. The museum is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays, with free half-hour docent-led tours offered on weekends.
1000 Holt Avenue-2765, Winter Park, FL 32789, Phone: 407-646-2526
2.Mennello Museum of American Art
© Mennello Museum of American Art
Mennello Museum of American Art is a fine art museum located within the home of art connoisseur Howard Phillips, near Loch Haven park and Lake Formosa. The museum, which was opened to the public in 1998 and is overseen by the City of Orlando, showcases a permanent collection of works by American Folk artist Earl Cunningham, which was donated to the museum by Michael and Marilyn Mennello. A variety of other permanent and rotating exhibitions showcase the works of American painters and sculptors working in contemporary and traditional styles. The museum is open to the public for free each second Saturday of the month, with free docent tours available throughout the day. Family-friendly art workshops are also offered for visitors of all ages throughout the day.
900 East Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32832, Phone: 407-246-4278
3.Central Florida Railroad Museum
© Central Florida Railroad Museum
Central Florida Railroad Museum is the public museum and conservation project of the Central Florida Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, which was founded in 1970 to preserve Florida's railroad history and industry. The Society purchased land at the former Tavares and Gulf Railroad depot in Winter Garden in 1979 and converted it into a public railroad museum, which is open daily during the afternoon hours today with free admission. The museum showcases a large collection of memorabilia related to the history of railroading operations in Central Florida, including photographs, tools, railroad equipment, and technology and design elements from preserved railroad cars. Outside the museum, visitors can view rolling stock from the Society's collections, including the Clinchfield #1073 caboose.
101 South Boyd Street, Winter Garden, FL 34787, Phone: 407-656-0559
4.The Lake Mary Historical Museum
© The Lake Mary Historical Museum
The Lake Mary Historical Museum is a free-admission public museum operated by the Lake Mary Historical Society, preserving the civic and social history of Lake Mary, which has been known as a major Central Florida citrus cultivating center, railroading community, and resort area since the 19th century. Exhibits and artifacts within the museum highlight aspects of the city's history, including its connection to the South Florida Railroad and to chemist and circus performer Frank Evans. The museum is open to the public Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays during the morning and afternoon hours, with groups welcome to participate in free docent-led tours with advance reservations. Special events are hosted throughout the year at the museum, including demonstrations, workshops, holiday open houses, and special rotating exhibits.
158 N Country Club Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746, Phone: 407-585-1481
5.The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts
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The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, commonly referred to as the Hurston, is a nationally-renowned museum showcasing works of art and artifacts related to African-American artists and artists of African descent throughout the diaspora. The Eatonville museum is named in honor of famed African-American writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, and was opened to the public in 1990. Today, it houses an extensive collection of works of art in a variety of mediums and supports the local Zora Neale Hurston Trail in the Eatonville area, which highlights historic sites connected to African-American heritage and can be explored as part of free self-guided walking tours. The museum is free and open to the public during business hours Mondays through Saturdays. Public special events offered throughout the year include gallery talks and special event openings, as well as the city's annual Zora Festival.
227 E Kennedy Blvd, Eatonville, FL 32751, Phone: 407-647-3307
6.Crealdé School of Art Galleries
© Crealdé School of Art Galleries
Crealdé School of Art Galleries showcase contemporary art works by students at the Crealdé School of Art, which was originally opened in 1975 and offers multimedia art courses for students of all ages. Two exhibition galleries at the school are open to the public for free, located at the school's main campus. Exhibits also showcase works by regional, national and international artists in a variety of media, with a focus on the works of Florida artists. Visitors can also peruse the school's outdoor sculpture garden, which features a variety of beautiful permanent collection pieces. The galleries and sculpture garden are open to the public daily during business hours.
600 St. Andrews Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32792, Phone: 407-671-1886
© Casa Feliz
Casa Feliz is one of the best-known works designed by famed architect James Gamble Rogers II, constructed as the residence of Florida citizen Robert Bruce Barbour. The Winter Park home was relocated to a site overlooking the city's public golf course in 2000 and has been listed on the American Institute of Architect's Florida Architecture: 100 Years, 100 Places list of fine architecture within the state. The Spanish-style farmhouse is open to the public for free tours Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays during the morning and early afternoon hours, with live music performances and open house festivities showcased as part of the Sunday "Music at the Casa" series.
656 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, Phone: 407-628-8200
8.Friday Nights at the Morse
© Friday Nights at the Morse
Friday Nights at the Morse offer a chance for visitors to explore the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, known for its impressive collections of fine Tiffany stained glass, for free on Friday evenings between November and April. Each Friday evening event showcases live musical performances between 5:00pm and 8:00pm, meant to enhance visitor experience of the museum's exhibits. Musicians featured include performances by regional classical music performers and quartets, including performances by renowned harpists and flutists. Art demonstrations are offered on select evenings, featuring art activities for visitors of all ages to take home after completion. Guided tours on select evenings also showcase the museum's Louis Comfort Tiffany Laurelton Hall, which is home to the largest collection of Tiffany glass artworks in the world.
445 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, Phone: 407-645-5311
9.The Winter Park Farmers' Market
© The Winter Park Farmers' Market
The Winter Park Farmers' Market is Central Florida's top regularly-held farmers' market, held at Winter Park's restored train depot facility, which has been preserved as an historic landmark in the city. The market is hosted each week between 7:00am and 1:00pm, showcasing a wide variety of farmers and vendors selling produce, meats, dairy, baked goods, and pantry items. Plants and flowers are also sold by vendors, and local food vendors are hosted on site, including Monika’s BLD Smoothies and A to Z Coffee. Visitors should note that the market is closed once a year on the third Saturday of March to make way for the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, which is also hosted at the site.
200 W New England Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, Phone: 407-599-3397
10.Lake Eola Park
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Lake Eola Park is a downtown Orlando park surrounding Lake Eola, which features the beautiful Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain as its most recognizable sight. The fountain was originally constructed in 1957 and is known today as the city's official civic landmark, highlighting choreographed nightly fountain shows twice each evening that last approximately six minutes. A 0.9-mile sidewalk encircles the lake, popular with walkers and runners. For an additional fee, visitors can rent swan-shaped pedal boats or feed live swans that reside at the lake. A wide variety of public special events are held at the park annually, including a weekly Sunday Market showcasing produce and local cuisine vendors and a free downtown concert series.
512 East Washington Street, Orlando, FL 32801, Phone: 407-246-4484
11.Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival
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Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival is the premiere annual event held at the site of Winter Park's farmer's market and restored train depot, showcasing the works of more than 200 artists from around the United States. The festival is held each year in March and has become one of the nation's longest-running and most prestigious outdoor arts festivals, originally began in 1950. Today, it attracts more than 350,000 annual visitors, showcasing works in mediums such as drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, jewelry, and digital art. 63 awards are presented throughout the festival, granting artists with cash prizes for works of distinction. Visitor activities include a Children's Workshop Village, which offers hands-on activities for participants of all ages. For a lower-cost and eco-friendly transportation option, the festival provides complimentary bike valet service for all visitors.
P.O. Box 597, Winter Park, FL 32790, Phone: 407-644-7207
12.Old Town in Kissimmee
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Old Town in Kissimmee is a unique 18-acre shopping center meant to evoke the atmosphere of an historic 19th-century Florida town, offering lively shopping, dining, and entertainment attractions housed within replica historic storefronts. The center is located just minutes away from the Walt Disney World and Universal Studios resorts, perfect for visitors looking for a lower-cost alternative for family-friendly fun. A custom-designed Ferris wheel soars more than 85 feet in the air and overlooks the center, which is home to attractions such as the Happy Days Family Fun Center arcade, Mortem Manor haunted house, and the Great Magic Hall, which presents three magic-themed shows daily. Unique shops abound, with dining options ranging from pizzerias and pubs to national chain favorites such as Jimmy John's and Auntie Anne's. Free family-friendly movie nights are presented weekly, with antique car drive-ins and live music performances presented throughout the week. Visitors should note that while Old Town is free to enter, many attractions require a purchase or ticketed upcharge.
5770 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746, Phone: 407-396-4888
13.The Lego Imagination Center
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The Lego Imagination Center is the second-largest LEGO Store in the United States, located within the fanciful Downtown Disney shopping district. The store is designed to spark the imaginations of young visitors, decked out in bright, fun colors and offering a wide variety of interactive play areas and displays to delight visitors of all ages. Life-sized replicas of Disney characters have been crafted from LEGO bricks throughout the store, staged in iconic poses from their well-known animated films. Children are welcome to bring their own LEGO brick sets to the store or purchase additional bricks from the store's Pick-a-Brick Wall. Indoor and outdoor LEGO play spaces are offered, along with a Brand Ribbon chronological display about the history of the LEGO company and its toys. Workshops and meetings are held at the store periodically, engaging LEGO enthusiasts of all ages.
1672 E Buena Vista Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830, Phone: 407-828-0065
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Disney’s Boardwalk is a charming recreation of a turn-of-the-century Atlantic Coast boardwalk, full of activities, restaurants, and shops reminiscent of historic boardwalks at Coney Island and Atlantic City. The quarter-mile promenade is anchored around Disney's Boardwalk Inn and Beach Club resorts, with ferry boat service provided for guests to the nearby Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios theme parks. Visitors can explore the boardwalk for free without resort stay, watching street performers and caricature artists and perusing beachfront galleries and souvenir shops. Midway-style carnival games are offered along the boardwalk, along with a full indoor arcade facility at the Yard Arcade. Dining options include the rollercoaster-themed Flying Fish Cafe, the ESPN Club, and the Jellyrolls dueling piano bar, which offers live entertainment throughout the evening. Visitors should note that while the boardwalk is free to stroll, many attractions require a purchase or ticketed upcharge.
2101 North Epcot Resorts Boulevard Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, Phone: 407-824-4321
© CityArts Factory
CityArts Factory is the largest collective of art galleries within the Orlando region, bringing together six galleries, an artist studio, and classroom and event space under a Downtown Arts District-managed nonprofit organization umbrella. All galleries and exhibits at the collective are open to the public each day between Tuesday and Sunday during the morning and afternoon hours for free admission. Works by local and international artists are showcased at the Keria and Scarlett Kiene Community Gallery, Gallery 29, the Magic Gallery, the Star Gallery, the Redefine Gallery, and the O Gallery, with additional works on display by young regional artists at the Young Artists Gallery. Visitors should note that while free parking is not offered in the area, flat-rate parking is available for a significantly discounted charge at the Plaza Parking Garage with validation at the factory's main desk.
29 S Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, Phone: 407-648-7060
16.The Winter Park Historical Museum
© The Winter Park Historical Museum
The Winter Park Historical Museum is the official museum facility of the Winter Park Historical Association, which strives to preserve the civic and social history of the Winter Park region throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The museum is located within Winter Park's historic railroad depot building and showcases a wide variety of exhibits related to the region's economy, schools, tourism, and culture, including artifacts related to the city's Colony Theatre and businesses connected to its former turpentine industry. Visitors can explore the museum for free Tuesdays through Saturdays during the morning and afternoon hours. Information is also available for a free-self guided walking tour of historical sites throughout Winter Park, including the city's Original Winter Park Library, Park Plaza Hotel, and First Methodist and All Saints Episcopal Churches.
200 W New England Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789, Phone: 407-647-2330
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17.Celebration Town Center
© Celebration Town Center
Celebration Town Center is the heart of Celebration, Florida's business district, showcasing a wide array of boutiques, restaurants, and civic services for visitors, including the city's town hall and post office buildings. The center overlooks a beautiful lake area, with a wide circular promenade offered for strolling and exploring retail options. Stores within the center include the Market Street Gallery, which features jewelry and home decor by top brands such as Vera Bradley, the interactive Little Thimble Craft Studio, which hosts periodic workshops and events, and the one-stop pet superstore Woof Gang Bakery and Grooming. Dining options range from local favorites such as the Market Street Diner to favorite national chains such as Starbucks and Kilwin's Fudge. Medical, banking, and real estate services are also offered.
610-Sycamore St. Suite 220, Celebration, FL 34747, Phone: 407-566-4007
18.Fort Christmas Historical Park
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Fort Christmas Historical Park preserves the historic Fort Christmas, which began construction on Christmas Day of 1837 as one of more than 200 forts developed in response to the Second Seminole Indian War. Today, the historic fort complex features seven resorted historic homes and a variety of exhibits related to the history of the Seminole Indian Wars, including a video documentary shown several times per day. Restored building recreate the lifestyle of Florida pioneers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A surrounding park houses children's playgrounds and jungle gyms, sporting courts, and three large picnic pavilions equipped with grills, outlets, and water service. The free-admission park is open daily throughout the day with the exception of Christmas Eve and Day, with limited operation hours available for exploration of the fort buildings. Special events held at the park annually include the Florida Living History Festival and the Orlando Wetlands Festival.
1300 North Fort Christmas Road (C.R. 420), Christmas, FL 32709, Phone: 407-254-9312
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19.Kraft Azalea Garden
© Kraft Azalea Garden
Kraft Azalea Garden is a five-acre public garden within a wider 11-acre public park that is open to the public daily for free between dawn and dusk, located along the shores of beautiful Lake Maitland. The park is known as Winter Park's "secret garden," surrounded by immense cypress trees that provide shade and seclusion for visitors. A public dock is provided for bass, bluegill, carp, gar, and tilapia fishing, along with benches throughout the park for relaxation and wildlife observation. Short visitor trails are also offered throughout the park for walkers and joggers. Guests may reserve the park's Exedra Monument for wedding ceremonies and other private special events with advance registration. Visitors should note that the park is located within a residential neighborhood offering limited street parking.
1365 Alabama Drive, Winter Park, FL 32789, Phone: 407-599-3334
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Universal CityWalk provides Orlando visitors with an opportunity to experience the excitement of the Universal Orlando Resort without the hefty admission price tag. The retail and entertainment district was originally opened to the public in 1999 as part of major resort expansions and serves as the main entrance plaza to the resort's Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks. Modern architectural elements frame a wide variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, including national chain favorite restaurants such as Hard Rock Cafe Orlando, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. AMC Theatres and IMAX cinemas are also offered, along with a 1950s-themed miniature golf course, a Blue Man Group live theater, and an array of name-brand retail options. Visitors should note that while CityWalk is free to enter, most attractions require a ticketed upcharge or purchase.
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, Phone: 407-363-8000?
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21.Lake Eola Park's Free Outdoor Movie Series
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Lake Eola Park's Free Outdoor Movie Series is held at downtown Orlando's beautiful Lake Eola park, home to the city's iconic Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain. The film series brings families to the park on the last Friday of each month between April and August, with pre-film festivities beginning at 6:00pm and movies starting at approximately 8:15pm. Family-friendly activities are offered before the film, along with American-style concessions and food vendors serving favorites such as hot dogs, kettle corn, and shaved ice cones. Film selections vary each year, focusing on classic family-friendly hits and recent blockbusters. Well-behaved pets are permitted at showings if kept on leashes.
512 East Washington Street, Orlando, FL 32801, Phone: 407-246-4484
© Lakeridge Winery
Lakeridge Winery is Florida's largest winery, overseen by the Seavin corporation, which also owns the state's second-largest winery, San Sebastian. The winery was opened to the public in 1989 and is known for its production of wines using native bronze Carlos, red Noble, and Welder Muscatine grapes, along with traditional Chardonnay, pinot grigio, and cabernet sauvignon varietals. Free tours and tastings are offered each day at the 127-acre winery estate, available every 30 minutes during the morning and afternoon hours. 45-minute tours showcase the history of wine grape growing in Florida and the company's winemaking, bottling, and labeling processes, led by experienced and informative tour guides. Following tours, visitors over the age of 21 with valid IDs are welcome to taste a selection of the company's award-winning dry, sweet, and sparkling wines.
19239 US-27, Clermont, FL 34715, Phone: 352-394-8627
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© Orlando Brewing
Orlando Brewing is the premiere organic craft brewery of the Orlando area, originally opened to the public in 2004 by owners John Cheek and Ed Canty. Today, the brewery produces more than 20 unique ales and lagers, known for favorites such as its Organic Blonde Ale, O-Town Brown Ale, Olde Pelican English Pale Ale, and D.A.S. Rye-PA. Free brewery tours are available at 6:00pm Mondays through Saturdays, with slots available on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours highlight the company's brewing process, led by brewery staff. Visitors should note that samples are not offered during the tour, though beer pints and flights are available for purchase following tours. Live music performances are offered on Friday and Saturday evenings, with visitors welcome to order food into the taproom. Visitors should note that tours are not held on the day of the brewery's monthly BEER:30 celebration, held on the 30th of each month.
1301 Atlanta Ave, Orlando, FL 32806, Phone: 407-872-1117
24.Big Tree Park
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Big Tree Park is a popular visitor park located within the Spring Hammock Preserve, accessible via General Hutchinson Parkway in Longwood. The park is home to a huge collection of ancient cypress trees, including the remains of The Senator, an impressive 3,500-year-old national champion tree that was lost in a 2012 arson fire. A memorial to the tree has been developed along the park's boardwalk, which is home to a new clone of the tree planted in 2012, known as The Phoenix. Other significant trees include the 2,000-year-old tree Lady Liberty, which was donated to Seminole County in 1929 with a dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge. Nature trails and picnic tables are offered throughout the park, which is open to the public for free daily from dawn to dusk.
761 General Hutchinson Parkway, Longwood, FL, Phone: 407-665-2001
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© Disney Springs
Disney Springs is the vibrant center of nightlife within the Walt Disney World Resort, offering a wide array of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. The complex, which was opened to the public in 1975, was designed as an immersive, eclectic nightlife experience for older Disney World visitors and has been known by the names Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island in the past. Today, it is designed to mimic quaint Florida coastal towns such as St. Augustine and features four distinct entertainment areas, including the Marketplace, which is home to unique eateries such as national favorite Rainforest Cafe and the dinosaur-themed T-Rex Cafe. Nautical-themed attractions are offered at The Landing, which serves as the town's harbor and marina, while upscale retailers such as Sephora, ZARA, and L'Occitane populate the area's Town Center. On the district's West Side, an AMC Disney Springs 24 shows first-run feature films and will house the future NBA Experience attraction. Visitors should note that while the district is free to peruse, most attractions require purchases or ticketed upcharges.
1486 Buena Vista Dr, Orlando, FL 32830, Phone: 407-939-2698
25 Best Free Things to Do in Orlando Year Round
- The Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Photo: The Cornell Fine Arts Museum
- Mennello Museum of American Art, Photo: Mennello Museum of American Art
- Central Florida Railroad Museum, Photo: Central Florida Railroad Museum
- The Lake Mary Historical Museum, Photo: The Lake Mary Historical Museum
- The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, Photo: Courtesy of bluraz - Fotolia.com
- Crealdé School of Art Galleries, Photo: Crealdé School of Art Galleries
- Casa Feliz, Photo: Casa Feliz
- Friday Nights at the Morse, Photo: Friday Nights at the Morse
- The Winter Park Farmers' Market, Photo: The Winter Park Farmers' Market
- Lake Eola Park, Photo: Courtesy of aphotostory - Fotolia.com
- Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, Photo: Courtesy of slonme - Fotolia.com
- Old Town in Kissimmee, Photo: Courtesy of LifeGemz - Fotolia.com
- The Lego Imagination Center, Photo: Courtesy of joy - Fotolia.com
- Disney’s Boardwalk, Photo: Courtesy of VIAVAL - Fotolia.com
- CityArts Factory, Photo: CityArts Factory
- The Winter Park Historical Museum, Photo: The Winter Park Historical Museum
- Celebration Town Center, Photo: Celebration Town Center
- Fort Christmas Historical Park, Photo: Courtesy of Zoya - Fotolia.com
- Kraft Azalea Garden, Photo: Kraft Azalea Garden
- Universal CityWalk, Photo: Courtesy of Paula - Fotolia.com
- Lake Eola Park's Free Outdoor Movie Series, Photo: Courtesy of phpetrunina14 - Fotolia.com
- Lakeridge Winery, Photo: Lakeridge Winery
- Orlando Brewing, Photo: Orlando Brewing
- Big Tree Park, Photo: Courtesy of niki_alex - Fotolia.com
- Disney Springs, Photo: Disney Springs
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of jccain - Fotolia.com