There's no doubt that the main attractions in Orlando are the massive theme parks that cost a small fortune. However, Orlando isn't out of reach for families on a tight budget. This theme park-packed city is filled with cost-conscious attractions and entertainment to keep your kids just as entertained as what the big parks offer. Even if you do plan to visit one of the major parks, you can fill out the rest of your family vacation with the less expensive attractions to keep costs down.
Mini Amusement Parks
Fun Spot Orlando, a 15-acre carnival-style amusement park, costs a fraction of what the major Orlando theme parks costs. Fun Spot has two roller coasters, including Orlando's only wooden roller coaster, thrill rides like SkyCoaster, a bungee jump-style swinging experience and an assortment family and kiddie rides. Fun Spot also has an arcade, midway games and a multilevel go-kart course. For affordable water park fun, get a day pass to Coco Key Water Resort. The passes give you access to the resorts mini water park area with 14 different slides, four pools and a giant interactive water play gym. Reserve a day pass well in advance, however, as there are a limited amount daily. If you opt to stay at the budget-friendly resort, you have access to the water park for free.
Reptile-loving kids can have a blast at Gatorland, home to thousands of Florida alligators and crocodiles. The park offers a variety of exciting gator-themed experiences, including gator feeding and gator wrestling shows, a behind-the-scenes adventure tour and trainer-for-a-day program. Gatorland also features the Screamin' Gator zip line, ideal for both adults and kids over 37 inches tall, and a gator-themed splash pad. Already reasonably priced, Gatorland always offers coupons, as well deep discounts for Florida residents. For a milder and even cheaper animal experience, head to Green Meadows Petting Farm, where kids can pet and learn about farm animals such as sheep, cows, goats, ducks and a rare Asian water buffalo. Green Meadows also offers pony rides, hay rides and train rides.
Orlando's leisure recreation spots won't break your budget. Go miniature golfing at Congo River Golf, which offers rainforest-themed golfing experience, an arcade, gem mining and live gators you can feed. Catch an afternoon matinee at the AMC Dine-in Theater, which features a restaurant-quality menu of food at your seat. The kids menu offers affordable favorites for those under age 12 and gives the whole family a different type of movie-going experience. Take older kids to Orlando Grand Prix for the ride of their life. This 70,000-square-foot indoor go-kart facility features two tracks and karts that go as fast a 50 mph.
Free Theme Park Fun
Parts of the major theme park areas in Orlando are open to the public and offer free or low-cost entertainment opportunities. Disney has an East Coast-style BoardWalk experience that includes spontaneous street performances, live entertainment, midway games and an arcade area. Your family can rent surrey bikes to ride along the BoardWalk as well. Universal's CityWalk area has free live entertainment on weekend evenings. At the CityWalk Lagoon, take the complimentary water taxi to the Portofino Bay Resort, where you can enjoy free Italian-themed musical entertainment and various free events at the Harborside Piazza. At Downtown Disney's Lego store, kids can see their favorite characters built out of Legos and play and create to their heart's content in the store's interaction play area entirely for free.