Orlando is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing metropolises in the country. As such, it can feel hard to find fun on a budget. And considering there are so many huge names in entertainment, it seems like you have to spend a fortune to do anything on most weekends.
However, deals are surprisingly just as available. And finding something to do on the cheap is closer than one would expect. From shopping to outdoor activities, Central Florida has plenty to enjoy for every budget.
While Disney is seemingly everywhere in the Orlando area, there is some magic to be had without buying park admission. So first, the bad news. The newly renovated outdoor mall formerly called Downtown Disney is full of top brands. These brands include food and clothing from around the globe. This makes for a unique shopping experience that can’t be had anywhere else. The downside? Top brand names come with premium pricing.
The good news, as Will Ferrell once said, “lookin’s free.” Parking in the newly constructed parking garages are free and open to the public. The shopping plaza is also sprawling across several acres. And if you happen to be staying at a resort hotel, there is free shuttle service. There is plenty to see without spending anything, as well as many opportunities for some great photos.
Orlando Brewing Company
Located just a few miles from the downtown of Orlando proper, you can see how the home of “Darn Good Beer” gets made. This local favorite brew company hosts free tours most weeks starting Monday and running through Saturday until 6 pm. As of right now, there is no proper “sign up”; just first come, first serve until they stop.
I do feel bad including this on the list because I know I always wind up buying a couple of drinks after an excellent tour. But viewing the brewing process is fascinating and doesn’t cost anything. And it’s only a few miles away from the Orlando Science Center. So you can certainly find a crash course in chemistry in one day!
Lake Eola Park
Lake Eola Park has become the centerpiece of downtown Orlando, and with good reason. This lovely lake park is home to the surrounding skyscrapers. Also, there’s usually an event or two each and every month. Even on a slow day, it’s a great place to get in an outdoor walk. You can see the water fountain in the center and it stands as a perfect place to walk dogs.
The park is also home to an outdoor amphitheater which regularly hosts concerts. Fourth of July has an impressive fireworks display, and at night the fountain is illuminated. Gorgeous views and photo opportunities can be had at any point of the day, and if you’re anywhere near the area, it’s worth a visit. Best of all, it’s within walking distance of many local shops and eateries, making for a convenient detour.
Harry P. Leu Gardens
The Harry P. Leu Gardens has a $10 admission fee, but on the first Monday of the months of May through September, visitors can walk the 50 acres of tropical plants for free. This local landmark that sees plenty of beautiful weddings, as well as specialty temporary exhibits (currently dinosaurs) is a hidden gem among thrill attractions.
In addition to the hundreds of flowers, vegetables, vines, desert plants, and more, the gardens also have an onsite museum, the Leu House Museum. Restored from the late 1800s, this National Register of Historic Places listed home tells a storied history that adds a lot of historical value to any visit.
If you prefer to enjoy films over movies, but you’re a snob on a budget, Enzian Theater is the ideal choice out. This one-screen purveyor of old black and white tales of Tinseltown, as well as newer, lesser known pictures, does charge admission, does regularly host free movie nights. These nights, “Wednesday Pitcher Show Night,” usually occurs every other Wednesday and features a free outdoor screening, as well as $5 pitchers, which should make even Manos: the Hands of Fate tolerable.
If you are looking for a comfortable date night, the Enzian has an onsite bar which sells a great selection of drinks, as well as a large menu of made fresh food items. Considering they recommend showing up at least half an hour early, preferably 45 minutes, you may as well grab something before or after your screening.
The theater also hosts free screenings at the nearby Central Park in Winter Garden. The Popcorn Flicks are held on most second Thursday of most months and feature appropriate family films that aren’t necessarily kiddie.