By Kitty Bean Yancey
Spending $100 or more per person on a ticket to those must-see theme parks is pretty much a given for Orlando-area vacationers. To keep the entertainment budget from spiraling upward, add no-cost diversions and attractions. Here are 10 free activities in Orlando to consider:
Here are 10 ideas for free things to do in Orlando:
1. Disney Springs Street Performances
Enjoy nightly music performances on the streets of Disney Springs. You'll find strolling musicians and acts from the west side to the stage in front of the World of Disney store. During the holidays, you can also catch special performances and photo opportunities for the kids.
2. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
View what the museum calls the most comprehensive collection of jewelry, leaded glass lamps, art glass and other objects from artist/designer Louis Comfort Tiffany. Admission is free on Fridays from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Open November through April. morsemuseum.org
3. Classic Car Parades
Cruise into the past at the Old Town theme park in Kissimmee. Wednesday nights bring oldies concerts and a street dance, where everyone does The Stroll. Friday nights, muscle cars rev their engines; Saturday nights feature classic cars; and Sunday nights are the time to view shiny vintage trucks, jeeps and SUVs. Old Town also has rides, shops, a magic hall, arcade and eateries. myoldtownusa.com
4. LEGO Imagination Center in Disney Springs
Kids and adults can spend hours building with the iconic multicolored blocks without charge. A giant Tyrannosaurus Rex and sea serpent made of LEGOs are attractions, too, as are LEGO kits for most anything you can imagine. The mammoth store is in the Disney Springs center, formerly Downtown Disney Marketplace. stores.lego.com/en-us/stores/us/orlando
5. Live Gators on Display
That’s a free attraction at Black Hammock Adventures on Lake Jesup, a half-hour northeast of Orlando. Black Hammock is known for airboat wildlife-spotting tours, but it also is home to a collection of baby and adult alligators. Visitors can feed peanuts to the resident parrots. There’s a restaurant and Tiki bar too if you get hungry after the attraction. theblackhammock.com
6. Third Thursday Gallery-Hopping
On the third Thursday of each month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., downtown Orlando art galleries stage a lively open house, which is great for browsing.
7. Lakeridge Winery Tastings
Lovers of the grape can tour and taste at Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards at no charge. The vineyard, set on 127 acres about 25 miles west of downtown Orlando, produces more than 100,000 cases annually. It’s open daily. lakeridgewinery.com
8. Kissimmee Sculpture Experience
Artists lend their works, which are displayed downtown and navigated via a map available at the visitor center at 421 Broadway. Sculptures, which are for sale, have included “Granite Gator” and “Little Shirley Temple.” kissimmeemainstreet.wordpress.com/sculpture-experience
9. Mead Botanical Gardens
Escape the tourist crowds in 47.6 acres of gardens in Winter Park. Relax on the trails, enjoy a butterfly garden and bring your binoculars for some bird watching. meadgarden.org
10. Grand Bohemian Galleries
There are two in the Orlando area — one at the Grand Bohemian Hotel downtown, plus a smaller venue at Bohemian Hotel Celebration, near the theme parks. The galleries hold noteworthy paintings, sculptures and jewelry from a variety of artists and host rotating exhibitions. grandbohemiangallery.com
Before planning your Orlando activities, be sure to book an Orlando vacation rental home .
Kitty Bean Yancey is a Washington, D.C.-based award-winning former USA TODAY travel writer. She freelances for publications including AARP Magazine and AAA publications.