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There’s Magic in the Air with New Disney Skyliner
Photograph: David Roark

The 9 best free things to do in Orlando

From floating in a cool river to soaring over Walt Disney World in a gondola, these are the best free things to do in Orlando

Megan duBois
Written by
Derrik J. Lang
Contributor
Megan duBois
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There’s more to do in Orlando besides spin around in larger-than-life tea cups and hang out in Harry Potter's fictional world. While those things are fun – and don't get us wrong, we LOVE the Orlando theme parks – there’s actually a secret world of free activities in the city, if you know where to look.

In fact, there's actually so many many free things to do in Orlando that you could spend a few days in the city and only spend a little money on food and maybe a ride-share. So why not escape the heat at a perfectly temperate river oasis? Or hang out in one of the city’s best museums? All for free. And if you absolutely must go to Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort, there are things to do there that won’t break the bank too.

Enjoy all that Orlando has to offer without breaking the bank by following our guide of free things to do in Orlando. You can use the extra dough you saved to treat yourself to dinner at one of Orlando’s best restaurants.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Orlando

Best free things to do in Orlando

The Enzian Theater, the city’s popular independent cinema, hosts free movie screenings once a month in Winter Park’s charming Central Park. In the past, screening selections have included Willow, Captain America: The First Avenger and Men in Black. Movies begin at sunset and attendees are encouraged to bring their own snacks and beverages, along with blankets or chairs to sit on. As always, check the weather before plopping down for the feature presentation because Florida’s evening rains can be unpredictable. 

Ditch the crowds and the high prices at Wekiva Island. Just 20 minutes from downtown Orlando, the amenity-laden park is free to enter on weekdays, though it’s only $1 on weekends and holidays. The centerpiece is the Wekiva River, where the water is a constant 72 degrees throughout the year. Volleyball courts are free to play, and there’s an option to rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards for nominal fees.

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Add a little Disney magic to your day of free fun, minus the park admission prices. Disney Springs is Disney’s expansive shopping and dining district, where parking is free and it doesn’t cost anything to soak up the enchanting atmosphere. There’s often live entertainment at the lakeside stages to enjoy and you can even meet and pose for a photo with a famous character. Sorry, it’s not a mouse or a princess. The seven-foot-tall Coca-Cola Polar Bear is camped out on the second floor of the Coca-Cola Store for bear hugs and selfies.

  • Art
  • Orwin Manor

On Rollins College campus, in the posh Winter Park neighborhood, The Cornell Fine Arts Museum boasts more than 5,500 works. The impressive collection includes Renaissance and Baroque paintings, Restoration-period portraitures, early American modernism and even abstract works. There’s never a charge for admission, though you are asked to register when you plan to go to the museum online.  Every Saturday there’s free docent-led tours, which allow visitors and art enthusiasts to ask questions and learn more about the artist behind the masterpiece.

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Walt Disney World now boasts one attraction that won’t cost a penny to ride. The Skyliner is a recently opened gondola that shuttles visitors from EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to seven hotels across the sprawling 40-square-mile resort. The Skyliner soars over man-made lakes and reaches heights of 60 feet, so it’s more thrilling than a regular bus ride. While onboard, listen for fun facts about the resorts and upcoming attractions like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at EPCOT.

  • Bars
  • South Division

Florida’s craft beer scene is booming, and Orlando is part of the reason why. Orlando Brewing offers a free, 30-minute tour, during which a brewmaster will explain the site’s history and approach to making organic beer that pleases even the most discerning palette. Don’t forget to stop by the tap room beforehand to grab a pint for the tour. After, spend a little time enjoying live music while you taste a few more beers with a flight. 

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Every evening, Universal Orlando Resort’s posh Loews Portofino Bay Hotel hosts the Musica della Notte concert. Beginning at sunset from a balcony overlooking the property’s Harbor Piazza, classically trained singers belt out opera standards mixed with pop tunes. The Italian-themed hotel is accessible via a lush walking path or a free water taxi service from Universal CityWalk. Parking at Universal Orlando Resort is free after 6pm, but you'll still need a reservation for your car. 

Orlando isn’t exactly known as a bike-friendly haven, but on the last Friday of each month, cyclists swarm downtown for Critical Mass. With roads blocked to traffic, the community-organized ride provides bikers the chance to safely pedal through downtown, starting at Loch Haven Park. Everyone from kids with training wheels to professional cyclists are encouraged to get out on the street and promote the use of alternative transportation. If you don’t have wheels, there are a limited number of bikes available to rent. 

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Every Saturday night in Kissimme’s Old Town – a retro destination lined with shops, eateries and amusement rides – a classic car show takes over the streets. Resembling a scene out of American Graffiti, owners of 1980s-and-older rides cruise down the street beginning around 8:30pm before lining up their vehicles to be admired. Besides the car show, there’s typically free live entertainment almost every night of the week in Old Town.

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