August 29th, 2013 4:51 PM by Karyn Smith
Twenty minutes east of Orlando in Titusville is Fort Christmas Historical Park, a full-size replica of Fort Christmas, originally built for the Second Seminole Indian War (1835-1842). The Fort has several historical structures and many pioneer demonstrations (like musket and cannon firings) and craft fairs throughout the year. Closed Mondays and holidays.
Take a dip in the free-flowing natural spring at Kelly Park, Rock Springs. The 245-acre (100-hectare) park has camping, wildlife, hiking trails, and an abundance of recreational activities, both wet and dry. Check out their website or call +1 407 889 4179 for special events. Children under five get into the park for free. All others pay $1 admission.
Take a breather from downtown Orlando and visit the 43-acre (17-hectare) Lake Eola Park, located in the heart of the city. The lake is actually an 80-foot (24-meter) sinkhole. Enjoy a concert or play in the amphitheatre, check out the view of the Orlando skyline, or, on Sundays, stop by the farmers market.
See some 600 plant species at the 80-acre (32-hectare) University of Central Florida Arboretum. The Arboretum, opened in 1983, has at least eight natural ecosystems. Visitors can admire the Swamp Habitat, walk or bike along the 9-acre (3.6-hectare) lake, or play a game of disc golf.
Each September, 6,900-acre (2,792-hectare) Wekiwa Springs State Parkhonors International Literacy Day by offering free admission to those who bring their library card, donate a book, or show a checked-out library book. Enjoy hiking, nature trails, fishing, swimming, campfires, and a nature museum and interpretive exhibit in the park's Nature Center. (Regular admission to the park is $5 per vehicle.)
Whether you want to take a rejuvenating walk or play an intense game of volleyball, Winter Park has something for everyone. Take the kids to one of many playgrounds, browse for goodies at the Saturday Farmers Market, enjoy the blooms at the Kraft Azalea Garden, or learn about the park's history at theWinter Park Historical Museum.
The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park frequently hosts free concerts, like their "July 4th Celebration in the Park," or "Christmas in the Park." The society's choirs and instrument ensembles have been performing regularly in the Annie Russell Theatre (1931) and the Knowles Memorial Chapel (1932) at Rollins College (its most famous alumni is Mister Rogers) since the 1930s.
The Fred Stone Theatre at Rollins College has a student-produced "Second Stage Series" that is free. Evening performances are Thursday-Saturday, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. The shows are general admission and the audience is seated on a first-come, first-served basis.
The 4,000-seat Friends of the Bandshell has been offering free concerts since 1937. The nonprofit has hosted bands playing everything from country to classical. Previous concerts have featured New River Bluegrass Band, 5 O'Clock Charlie, Michael English, Percy Sledge, and the U.S. Air Force Academy Band.
Visit Winter Park on the second Thursday of each month for a free movie.Popcorn Flicks showcases classic films (Ghostbusters in October, Miracle on 34th Street in late November/December) in Winter Park's Central Park. Get there early for a good spot, and be sure to bring your own blankets, lawn chairs, and movie munchies.
For More Information
If you're in Orlando during the third week of the month, a variety of venues in downtown and Thornton Park participate in the city's Third Thursdays, a night where merchants and cultural venues feature new artists and exhibits, often with free food, drink, and/or entertainment.
Many hotels in Orlando offer free bonuses: The Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando gives its guests two free Disney/Universal park passes with four nights' accommodation; guests at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club on International Drive can participate in paddleboat races and a Ping Pong tournament. Check with several hotels to see what they offer for free before settling on a place to stay.