Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando, golf courses and world-class spas. These are only a few reasons Orlando is a tourism hotbed and known as the “theme park capital of the world.”
But there is a lot more to Orlando than roller coasters and putting greens. The city also has another nickname, “the city beautiful,” and as you slip away from the crowds and explore what Orlando has to offer, you’ll realize how true that name is. And best of all, you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to appreciate the city.
Here are 10 of the best things to do in Orlando on a budget.
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are among the best ways to explore a new city. In Orlando, consider joining the Big City Hunt, which gives you two hours to solve 15 clues. To play, just download a launch code on your phone and start whenever you want. The clues are delivered to your smartphone, and contain fun, fascinating facts about the places in Orlando you discover. When the game ends you, a virtual leaderboard displays your score against players from around the world.
Visit the Harry P. Leu Gardens
Ecology might not seem like the most exciting time, but if you take some time to smell the roses then plants certainly can be a fun time. To learn more about Florida’s plant ecosystem, visit the Harry P. Leu Gardens. The gardens cover nearly 50 acres and have lakes, shaded oak trails and a forest of camellias flowers. The garden was created by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Leu, a couple who traveled the world collecting plants and flowers together. Two of the can’t-miss experiences are taking a tour through the butterfly garden and snagging photos of yourself in front of the flowering tree collection. There’s also a demonstration garden that does educational displays.
Rent a Swan Boat
Did you know swans mate for life? If you’re visiting Orlando with your loved one, then celebrate lifelong love and enact a corny movie by renting a swan boat at Lake Eola Park. The paddle boats are cost $15 to rent for a half hour and no reservations are needed. As a bonus, the park is in the heart of downtown Orlando and there are often live performances in the area, an all levels yoga at the park for $5 on Sunday mornings, and a farmer’s market on Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
Explore the Orlando Museum of Art
Art lovers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see work from Orlando’s up and coming artists at the Orlando Museum of Art. The museum features enticing events to showcase local artists, including the Florida Prize in Contemporary Art exhibition, which features the 10 most-exciting artists doing work in Florida. This exhibition’s artists include Domingo Castillo, Coco Fusco and Dana Hargrove. The exhibition includes a variety of photos, sculptures and paintings. The museum also has 900 works of art by more than 35 ancient cultures in the Art of the Ancient Americas collection, making the exhibit the most comprehensive in its kind in the Southeast United States.
Treat Your Tastebuds at Urbain 40
If you want to taste food at one of best and modestly affordable restaurants in Orlando, then make a reservation for dinner at Urbain 40. Florida Trend awarded the restaurant the Golden Spoon award to signify it as the best new restaurant in Orlando. Urbain 40 is known for its French cuisine, especially the freshly baked baguettes and mushroom crepes, and the restaurant also serves a variety of pasta dishes. The decor echos the 1940’s swing era, and Orlando weekly describes it as “arguably the most beautiful restaurant space in the city.” What’s more, a live jazz band often performs at the restaurant.
Embrace Your Inner Kid at the Hollywood Drive-In Golf
If you’re in the mood for a fun night out in Orlando, but don’t want the costs associated with a theme park, then you might enjoy a late night mini-golf at the Hollywood Drive-In. The 18-hole course is located at Universal Orlando CityWalk, and has a 1950’s sci-fi and horror movie theme. The courses include trying and score a hole in one through the mouth of a three eyed monster or hit the golf ball through a glowing spaceship. The venue includes special lighting at night, and a movie trivia challenge throughout the course.
Appreciate Nature in Bill Frederick Park
The hustle and bustle of Orlando might make you forget how close you are to nature and a relaxing outdoor adventure. While you’re in town, make sure to find time for exploring Bill Frederick Park, also known as Turkey Lake Park, which is the largest public park in Orlando, totalling 178 acres. The outdoor retreat has a calm 2.4 mile hiking trail, and camping areas for tents or cabins. The park also has two 18-hole disc golf courses, a fishing pier, swimming pool, picnic area and a paved bicycle path.
Savor a Drink at Herman’s Loan Office
Sip at a cocktail, beer or glass of wine at Herman’s Loan Office, a speakeasy-inspired lounge. The lounge has a robust history. It used to be a pawn shop and loan shark office in the mid 1900’s, which inspired some of the lounge’s more traditional design choices. The Loan Office has an intimate feel and a fireplace, which makes it great for conversations with over an expertly-crafted drink.
Enjoy a Themed Restaurant
Being an adventurous eater pays off when you visit new cities, and Orlando offers fun opportunities to chow down in themed restaurants. Try the Downtown Disney and Universal City Walk, both of which are are home to several great theme restaurants. The eateries let you get the excitement of eating inside a theme park, with all of the immersion you could ask for, but at a fraction of the cost. A few of the fun choices in Downtown Disney include Planet Hollywood, House of Blues, Rainforest Cafe, and Raglan Road Irish Pub. Universal City Walk is home to options such as Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, and NBA City.
Kayak Through the Florida Everglades
Orlando always has another adventure around the corner. If you’re a nature enthusiast, rather than take a motorized track guiding you through a faux jungle with fake hippos and zebras in a theme park, go on a kayaking tour through the mossy, cypress-lined Florida Everglades and see alligators, bald eagles and other local wildlife and fauna. Keep your kids and pets safe safe around the alligators though!