One of the greatest things about the University of Central Florida is the fact that we are in an absolutely amazing location. While there are definitely plenty of things to do in Orlando, a lot of them aren’t necessarily college-budget friendly. To help you out in planning your next adventure, here are a few of my favorite free things to do around UCF!
1. Winter Park
Whether you’re looking for that perfect solid colored photo wall, or you just want to do some expensive window shopping, Winter Park is a beautiful place to walk around and explore. Start on Park Ave, but don’t be afraid to wander around through the different alleys and cute hidden stores – just don’t forget where you parked!
2. Disney Springs
Or Downtown Disney, if you’re real. Spend the afternoon walking through the dozens of fun shops . These are some of my faves: Basin-to wash your hands with the free sugar scrub, World of Disney, because it’s gigantic and has great AC during the summer, and Arribas Brothers to try on the fancy princess crowns.
3. Universal CityWalk
Once 6PM rolls around, parking at CityWalk is free! This is another fun place to hang out with friends and soak up some touristy Orlando nightlife. Take some cute pics down by the water and sit down for some grade-A people watching.
4. Lake Eola
Every Sunday from 10am-4pm, you’ll find the Orlando Farmers Market at Lake Eola. There are tents and booths selling all sorts of things, and, for you animal lovers, so many cute pups strolling through with their owners. Even if it’s not Sunday, this area is still gorgeous to take in, and a great place to relax.
5. Florida Cactus Inc.
The place is where Instagram aesthetic dreams become a reality. Seriously, this place is amazing. There are several different greenhouses, full of beautiful plants to admire (and take home if your budget allows). So much beauty. So much zen.
6. Cocoa Beach
If you’re in need of an even bigger escape, a drive down to Cocoa and a walk on the pier at night could be exactly what the doctor ordered. You can wander down to the sand, put your feet in the water, and let your worries wash away with the tide.
7. Lukas Nursery
A short trip over to Oviedo will lead you to this quaint and quiet nursery. There are so many different plants and art pieces to take in, and if you want to spend a couple of dollars, you can head inside to the insta-famous Butterfly Encounter!
This one sounds weird, but trust me. Some of the most fun adventures I had with my summer roommate happened when we discovered that there are THEMED McDonald’s locations all across Central Florida. Our favorite was definitely the “Club Safari” McDonald’s. Now, I do want to warn you that some of these have abandoned their themes, and some are closed altogether, but driving around aimlessly trying to find these hidden gems is half the fun!
9. Disney Boardwalk
Even if you aren’t staying on Disney property, you can still visit the boardwalk and surrounding resort areas. If you’re a runner, the boardwalk makes a perfect and extremely picturesque track that would be a nice break from your usual routine.
10. Give Kids The World
This adventure is a little different, but definitely the most rewarding of them all. If you find yourself with an empty day in your schedule, or even a few free hours, consider volunteering at the Give Kids the World Village-a nonprofit resort that provides week-long, cost-free vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. After a short application process and orientation, you’ll be able to start helping the hundreds of wish-families who come to the Village each year. Whether you want to make banana splits at the Ice Cream Palace, or paint kids faces at the La Ti Da Spa, there are always plenty of shifts available, and they’re always in need of volunteers like you.