Florida Guide > Planning your Trip
Things to Do for Free
A trip to Orlando can be very demanding on the wallet but there are plenty of things to do that cost nothing or very little and give you a breather from the parks.
Water, water everywhere! There are literaly hundreds of lakes throughout the Orlando area. Many have picnic tables and BBQ’s supplied. The vast Lake Tohopegalika or Lake Toho for short, is just off the main street of Kissimmee and is a peaceful area to spend some time. For a close up view of local wildlife including osprey, eagles and alligators, take an hour-long boat trip out onto the lake itself.
Lake Louisa State Park just off Highway 27 towards Clermont is one of our favourite get away from it all places. There is a modest entry fee worth every cent. There are 7 miles of roads, six lakes with bathing areas, hiking and nature trails and cabins for overnight stays. It is also one of the few places in Florida where there are gently rolling hills.
Downtown Disney has free parking and is a great place to go in the evening with an amazing atmosphere. You don’t need to spend any money here to have a good time but resisting temptation is hard!
There are three linked zones, West Side, Pleasure Island and the Marketplace. Starting at Westside by the theatre built for the incredible Cirque du Soleil there are great shops and art galleries for window shopping, including a huge Virgin Megastore, where you can listen to just about any CD they have in the store. A well kept secret is their small café on the upper floor. We love to take a coffee onto their outside balcony where you get a birds eye view of the area, great for people watching.
You can stroll along the lake through Pleasure Island to the Marketplace where the largest Disney store in the world can be found.
There are clubs, cafes and restaurants throughout, including Planet Hollywood, Wolfgang Pucks, The Rainforest Café, The House of Blues and our favourite Gloria Estefan’s Bongos Cuban Café. They have live music there nightly in summer, weekends only in winter and some hot Salsa dancing. The food is well worth splurging on but you need to be starving!
Disney’s BoardWalk also has free parking and is part of their BoardWalk Resort, you will need photo ID to show on the gate as you drive in. Beside a lake and modelled on a traditional American seaside boardwalk resort there are entertainers, shops, cafes, clubs and restaurants. It’s picturesque with a great night time atmosphere. Walk around the lake to the fabulous deluxe Disney’s Yacht and Beach club Resorts next to Epcot. There you can look back across the lake for a magical view of the BoardWalk after dark.
Universal City Walk is Universals version of Downtown Disney. Arrive at the multi storey car park after 6pm for free parking, saving $10! Again there are shops, clubs, cafés and restaurants. Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom is part museum with a recreation of Bob Marley’s home, part café, serving delicious Jamaican food in the courtyard and part music venue. There is also a huge Hard Rock Café.
City walk is connected to the Universal Park complex and like the Downtown Disney area it is set around a lake. Water taxis ferry guests from the 3 hotels that are part of the complex, the Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay and the Royal Pacific Resort. You don’t have to be staying at the hotels to visit their shops and restaurants. We love to wander through the beautiful tropically landscaped grounds between the hotels. At around 7pm from close to the Hard Rock Hotel the haunting sound of a live opera singer at the Portofino Hotel drifts across the lake. Don’t miss the Portofino Hotel itself. It is a recreation of the waterfront of Portofino on the Italian Riviera including the Piazzetta with its pavement cafes.
Finally if you are around International Drive just before 11am or 5pm, pop into the Peabody Hotel for the Peabody Duck March. A charming and novel tradition, the mallard ducks arrive at and leave their daytime residence of the magnificent lobby fountain. Accompanied by the uniformed Duck Master they are escorted along a red carpet from and to their specially reserved lift. A musical fanfare and announcement heralds their arrival and departure much to the delight of onlookers, especially children who are enchanted by the spectacle.
These are just a few ideas of the many things to do without spending a fortune, that is of course if you do manage to resist temptation!
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