Disney and all of the theme parks in Orlando hold a special place in my heart and have always been able to make me feel like a kid again. That is, until I remember that it cost my 3-person family $372 to get into one park, one day. At that rate, “vacation” turns into a 13-hour day racing around the park like a crazy person trying to ride/see as much as I can squeeze into that time just so I can get my fortune’s worth. Here’s me:
Just to be clear, I’m still all about getting my Disney or Universal on, just not every time I go to Orlando or every day I’m there. So, if you feel like you don’t have the money this time, want to protest the ticket price increases, or just feel like you need a break from all the screaming kids and churros, I offer you 3 fun alternative things to do near Orlando that won’t break the bank.
1. WILD Florida Airboats and Wildlife Park – My entire 3-person family paid $139.50 which included admission into the Wildlife Park, a 30-minute airboat ride, and a sloth encounter for two of us. It would have been just $79.50 if we didn’t do the Sloth encounter. There was enough to do there that we spent several hours walking around the swamp path by Lake Cypress, looking at the animals, having a nice lunch, and doing the boat ride, and it was just about a 40 minute drive away from Orlando in Kenansville, Fl. The airboat ride was so pretty and pleasant…
And we even spotted a little guy amongst the swamp grass……
We were also pretty impressed with the Wildlife Park, which had more gators, as well as lemurs, foxes, and an assortment of birds among other animals. There was even a talking parrot! Not the one photoed below though, as he asked to maintain his privacy after too much time in the spotlight.
And of course there were the SLOTHS!!!!!!!! For whatever reason, they love their pots, and we got to pet and feed them during the animal encounter!
They recommend making reservations, especially if you want to do one of the animal encounters, so plan ahead accordingly! And make sure you set aside enough time to do everything, as there are over 200 animals there to see!!
2. Bok Tower Gardens – This was a lucky find just by grabbing a brochure at the visitors center whilst sipping our free Florida orange juice. The gardens are absolutely gorgeous, and truly live up to the description on their website as “a contemplative and informal woodland setting offering a series of romantic recesses and tranquil resting spots, picturesque vistas and breathtaking views.” There are plenty of places to visit such as a boardwalk overlooking a pond, an endangered plant garden, or an edible garden and outdoor kitchen. Or maybe you would prefer to just walk and wander, searching for those tranquil resting spots scattered throughout the gardens. We saw plenty of people who found their little slice and laid out a blanket to just relax and enjoy their surroundings.
A special highlight is the singing tower that has a 60-bell carillon with lovely music floating out of it every 30 minutes. If you’d like to hear more though, you can sit for a longer concert that is played twice daily at 1 and 3. The tower is also a beautiful sight to be seen in and of itself, with a lovely reflection pond right in front of it.
The whole property is on 7 1/2 acres and also has the Pinewood Estate that you can tour, a 1930’s Mediterranean-style mansion. It’s fun to walk around and explore the house and some of its 20 rooms, and there are docents available if you have any questions or want more historical information about the home. Extra plus: If you visit around the holidays, it is also decorated for Christmas!!
Being just a 1-hour drive from Orlando, located in Lake Wales, Florida, and being only $20 for an adult ticket (which includes the estate tour), Bok Towers comes highly recommended. There’s enough to keep you occupied the whole day if you wish, and there is something to please every age (even my teenage son wanted to return the next year!!)
3. Winter Park – This is a little city about 15-20 minutes outside of Orlando that was established in 1882. Arts and culture is a focus of the town, and there is plenty to do from parks to community events (so check out their calendar), and a Saturday Farmers Market. Here are some highlights from our visit that we particularly enjoyed.
Kraft Azalea Garden is about 5 acres that overlook Lake Maitland and is referred to as Winter Park’s secret garden. We found it to be a very pleasant and quiet park, with some great cypress trees and a little bit of wildlife. Check out this adorable baby turtle we spotted, and see if you can find the photobombing lizard!
We also did the Scenic Boat Tour, which is an hour-long cruise around Lake Osceola. Tours leave every hour from 10-4, and it is just $14 making it super reasonable. The ride takes you down two narrow man-made canals which was kind of cool, and it was really fun taking in all of the architecture of the houses around the lake. Important tip: Make sure you bring cash or a check as they don’t take credit cards!!
And just to give a shout out to the cuisine of my peoples country, I recommend eating at Anna’s Polish Restaurant and getting yourself some good pierogies that you can wash down with some Zywiec.
Welp, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading while also getting some ideas of fun things to do while you’re in Orlando aside from the ridiculously expensive theme parks. Have other places you love near Orlando? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!