It’s true that Central Florida is a year-round paradise for tourists from all around the world and across the United States. According to Visit Florida Research, in 2021 metro Orlando alone welcomed nearly 60 million visitors, and not exclusively to see Mickey, Minnie, and the gang at Disney. There is something special about the summers that abound with opportunities that are not only full of fun and excitement for all ages but do not dive deep into your wallet. Not sure where to begin? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Experience Lake Eola Park. This popular destination is situated in the heart of downtown Orlando and is a relaxed favorite for locals and tourists alike. A scenic walking trail circles the lake along with a playground, picnic area, and even swan boats available for rental. Throughout the summer, the park hosts enjoyable events like outdoor movie screenings, yoga sessions, food festivals, and concerts. The best part is that they’re free.
2. Longing for a peaceful respite from the city noise? Look no further than Mead Botanical Garden in Winter Park delivering that and a whole lot more. Visitors experience the grandeur of towering oak trees, along with exotic orchids and a variety of flora. Throughout summer there are outdoor concerts, nature walks, and even yoga classes. Admission is free to the garden, although donations are always welcomed.
3. Drive to the beach just over an hour away from Orlando. New Smyrna Beach is Volusia County’s perfect day trip destination or staycation beach experience Florida is known for around the globe. There are a variety of beachside amenities like restaurants, surf shops, equipment rentals, and free parking.
4. Find your solution to staving off the summer heat. Take a refreshing dip at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Just looking into the crystal-clear waters is enough to cool you off. The waters are chill and inviting year-round, making it perfect for a summer swim. The park also offers several hiking trails leading through lush forests, where you can engage in birdwatching and spot turtles and even gators. The cost for admission is $13 for adults, $8 for children 6-12. Children under five are admitted for free.
5. Bike through the heart of Central Florida. The 22-mile trail takes cyclists through charming small towns, past citrus groves, and shady woods making it a near-perfect retreat from the scorching summer’s heat. Best of all, the trail is completely free to use. All you need to do is bring your bike or rent one from a local bike shop. It’s really that easy!
6. Visit Orlando’s Wetlands Park just east of the City of Orlando. The park offers several walking trails and boardwalks that curl through the marshes and provide opportunities to spot native wildlife, from otters and alligators to a variety of bird species. Admission is free though donations are encouraged.
7. Savor fresh berries! Pappy’s Patch in Oviedo is just under a 45-minute drive from Orlando. It is the berry place for a family-friendly summer adventure with U-pick excursions for a variety of berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. You can pick berries to your heart’s content as you stroll through the fields. The farm also sells a variety of homemade jams and baked goods. Admission to the farm is free and the berries you pick are priced by the pound.
8. Enjoy a 30-minute free hitting session with a tennis, paddle, or pickleball pro at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Nation Campus in Tony Lake Nona near the Orlando International Airport. It offers a family-friendly viewing of USTA matches at Boxi Park and for more information about events and activities this summer, check out the USTA website.
9. Check out the summer's many free and fun activities and events at Icon Park in Orlando that adults and children will surely enjoy. With the interactive water displays that burst water into the air, kids will enjoy cooling off the day at the splash fountain. There are also streets of talented performers, captivating magicians, and entertaining musicians while dining or having a leisurely walk taking in all the fun while enjoying an ice cream cone or a puff of cotton candy. Performances are free to watch and are an entertaining way for adults and children to enjoy.
It may be the array of amusement parks that lure visitors to Central Florida from everywhere in the world, but it is so much more that keeps them coming back. We, locals, are fortunate to explore, experience, and share their magic all year round and without breaking the bank. A picnic in the park, taking a long bike ride, or having a seaside lunch at the beach, there is something magical for everyone to discover, explore, and enjoy all Central Florida has to offer.