A city in America synonymous with the beloved black-eared mouse and the magnificent Cinderella Castle, Orlando thrums with the background score of laughter, joy, and the whooshing of roller coasters. Yet, the city’s enchantment extends far beyond the entrances of its famous theme parks, which, while extremely fun, come at a hefty price tag—especially for families.

Lucky for us, there’s so much more to do in Orlando! And the best part? These experiences will fill up your heart without emptying your wallet.

Get lost in the heart of downtown Orlando, take in art at CityArts Factory, scour for hidden gems at kitschy flea markets, or find stillness in the nature-heavy spots of this lovely Floridian city. Element Vacation Homes boasts a deep-rooted presence in the nearby Kissimmee and Davenport areas, making us the perfect guides for your Orlando getaway. Keep reading for ten free events to enjoy in Orlando.

1. Traverse the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

If you’re staying in our rentals on a Friday or over the weekend, make sure to include a day trip to Lake Apopka’s wetlands in your plans. Grab a grouper sandwich or two and head to Lake Apopka to enjoy a free 11-mile drive through lush wildlife. This scenic route, open from sunrise to sunset, typically takes around 2 hours to complete.

Along the way, expect to spot majestic alligators basking in the sun, playful otters, turtles, and hundreds of species of birds like osprey, hawks, egrets, and herons.

Beginning at Lust Road and ending at Jones Road in Orange County, getting to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is an easy 20-minute car ride from downtown Orlando. Biking or walking on the path is allowed. But, it can quickly become a scary experience for visitors anxious about being near large gators.

Take the experience up a notch and use the free audio tour tool to learn about the area’s history and wildlife. Also, don’t forget your camera! The scenes along the drive are absolutely breathtaking and worth capturing.

2. Visit Kraft Azalea Garden

A mere 15-minute drive from Orland brings you to Winter Garden Park, a quaint town that’s home to Kraft Azalea Garden. This lovely botanical garden boasts endless shades of green along its nature trails and a waterfront setting, making it a favorite amongst birdwatchers and picnic goers. Kraft Azalea Garden welcomes guests all year with free admission, offering a quiet escape filled with natural beauty, especially during the fall.

Shutterbugs are drawn in droves during the early hours of the day to catch the light filtering through dense banyan trees. Spanning over five acres, there’s no shortage of photo ops in this stunning garden with a self guided walking tour. Couples can be spotted strolling hand-in-hand alongside the towering cypress. Tranquil lake views mirroring the surrounding foliage create a perfect backdrop for bonding with your family or for a quiet afternoon of self-reflection.

The garden also serves as a gateway to the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, a popular natural splash pad for kayaking enthusiasts. With facilities for launching kayaks and canoes, it’s a convenient starting point for water-based activities.

3. Spend a Day at Disney Springs

Photo Credit: VIAVAL TOURS

Looking for a free family activity in Orlando? Get a dose of Disney magic without the cost, by visiting Disney Springs. Sitting inside Walt Disney World, this free-to-enter sprawling shopping complex is brimming with restaurants, cafes, shops, live music, and the iconic World of Disney store— perfect for picking up Disney-themed items.

For a pocket-friendly souvenir, drop by Basin for a cute Mickey Mouse bath bomb, or head to Uniqlo and buy affordable but adorable Disney-themed apparel. Craving a bite? Go to Earl of Sandwich! They sell exciting flavors and ingredients packed away in hearty sandwiches.

Weekend visitors are in for a treat, with live entertainment lighting up the open spaces with tunes you’ll find yourself humming long after you’re home. Just a heads up – it’s a favorite hangout spot for the locals, too, thanks to the free entry, so expect a lively atmosphere!

4. Explore the Grounds of the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Teleport to South Africa’s grand savannahs at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Don’t worry; you don’t have to spend the night. Non-guests are welcome to explore the grounds of Jambo House and Kidani Village at no cost. The easiest way to get there is by taking a bus from Disney Springs and getting off at Lodge Jambo House. Dense green welcomes you when you get off the bus, making you forget you’re in a city.

Begin your family fun at the main lobby of Kidani Village, an architectural wonder offering stunning views of the savannah. Then, make your way to the viewing dock, where you can marvel at giraffes towering amidst tall trees alongside zebras and gazelles grazing nearby.

If time and budget allow, book a table at Sanaa, a one-of-a-kind restaurant with views of animals while you dine. It also boasts irresistible dishes like the crowd-favorite butter chicken.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge offers free parking for day visitors, making it convenient to visit this slice of African wilderness right here in Orlando.

5. Enjoy Serious R&R at Element Vacation Home Rentals

Photo Credit: monticello

With a plethora of restaurants, activities, and galleries, Orlando sure knows how to keep you on your toes. After a day of taking in the sights of the city, treat yourself to a much-needed break by unwinding at our family-friendly Element Vacation Homes.

Escape from the heat with a dip in the pool, or sweat it out in the sauna. Play indoor games and sports with your family on our soccer field, or challenge your boo to a volleyball match. And as night falls, catch up on your favorite shows on our large HD-quality TVs. All these fun things come without any extra cost.

And when it’s time to call it a day, look forward to a peaceful night’s sleep in the coziest beds you’ve ever experienced. After all, our properties are designed with our guest’s utmost comfort in mind, ensuring that you wake up relaxed and ready for another day of fun under the Floridian sun.

6. Get Entertained at Universal CityWalk

Photo Credit: Wangkun Jia

What’s CityWalk? Picture the best shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences condensed into one spot. It’s no wonder Universal Orlando calls it “The Epicenter of Awesome” – and it truly is! Conveniently located on the way from Universal Studios Hollywood’s main parking area, CityWalk offers a plethora of free attractions that will keep you engaged for a solid 2-3 hours.

Expect to spend even longer if you’re keen on a sit-down meal at a restaurant or going on a shopping spree. Regardless of your plans, kick start your wandering with a visit to the famous dancing water fountain. Or come later, around sunset, and follow the tunes of live bands to enjoy a free concert or a light show.

Meal options are plentiful, from Italian fare at Vivo Italian Kitchen to Hard Rock Cafe. Hankering for something sweet? Why not pick up a box of sinful VooDoo Doughnuts to bring back to your rental?

7. Walk Along the Disney Boardwalk

Photo Credit: VIAVAL TOURS

Drawing inspiration from the early 20th-century coastal areas, the Disney Boardwalk is one of the best free activities to do in Orlando. Pause to watch street performances and grab hot dogs or ice cream from the stands and food trucks nearby.

If you prefer a sit-down meal, you have plenty of choices. Hungry for seafood? Cape May Cafe’s New England fare is just exceptional. For a delectable Italian meal, Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria will not disappoint. Just don’t forget to make reservations in advance. Given its location near Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the boardwalk and its establishments tend to get crowded.

8. Check Out Lake Eola Park

Photo Credit: aphotostory

Ask anyone in the Sunshine State what their favorite pastime is, and Lake Eola Park is likely to top that list. Home to swan boats, gorgeous swans, and several bird species, it’s the ideal place for catching a breather.

Families visiting with children will find joy at the playground, offering endless entertainment for the little ones. Fitness addicts will love going for a run along the paved path encircling the lake. Alternatively, you spend a relaxed evening people-watching, all set against the picturesque backdrop of Lake Eola.

Come summer, there’s a shift in energy, with the usual joggers replaced by fans of farmers and artisan markets. During the holiday season, Lake Eola Park lights up like a Christmas tree, creating an ideal setting for photo ops.

9. Find Inspiration at CityArts

Boundless creativity lives in Orlando’s CityArts. This creative hub hosts multiple forms of fine arts expression within its art galleries, like paintings, sculptures, and even digital art. Exhibits change monthly and include refreshing work by both local artists and timeless best-sellers from creatives around the world.

Entrance to the gallery is free on the 3rd Thursday of each month, with a paid option available to purchase drinks.

10. Browse Winter Park Saturday Farmer’s Market

Photo Credit: Pelow Media

Every Saturday, just 30 minutes from Orlando, the Winter Park Farmers Market comes to life. The aroma of freshly baked goods, complemented by colorful plants and handcrafted items for sale, fills the air as you wander through. The market exudes a welcoming vibe, fostering a sense of community even for those who are just looking around.

If you find yourself tempted to purchase some delicious artisanal cheese, we wouldn’t blame you.

Enjoy Orlando on a Budget with Element Vacations!

With this list of incredible free activities available in the Orlando area, your days in the Sunshine State will be packed to the brim with fun and adventure. And when you decide to call it a night,  our stunning rentals await to give you a deep, restful, and restorative sleep.

Eager to plunge into your Orlando adventure? Get in touch with us for even more insider tips or to lock in your favorite rental now. Our properties serve as the perfect starting and ending points to discover the less heralded yet equally magical sides of Orlando.

Book your Orlando vacation today!