Spending a week in Orlando on a budget: The best things I came across, did, and suggest for future visitors
Sorry for my week-long absence, I was just visiting Orlando for a week! October isn't my usual time to visit, so it was great to get another look at what's going on in the city during this festive season. Unfortunately, a week is no where near enough time to really spend exploring everything that the big O has to offer, but I think I made the most of my time there and can accurately suggest some of the best things to do if you are in Orlando this fall.
First and foremost, I want to say that I skipped out on the major theme parks this time around since I heard that wait times were back up to near-normal (think 1+ hour for the best rides) and because it wasn't warm enough to justify spending so much money on water park tickets either when really, I'd probably have spent most of the time lounging in the sun anyways, I opted out on those too.
That said, temperatures during this time of year are very mild and rain is relatively infrequent, which makes it waaaay better for doing outdoor tourism activities (except for maybe the waterparks).
Though, obviously, we are still bound to earlier sunset times which can leave you feeling pretty bored after 6p.m. I highly suggest embarking on your day's adventures early during this time of year, as soon as the sun goes down it gets much cooler and some businesses close earlier during this off season too.
Despite those few minor setbacks, I managed to make the most out of my trip to Orlando by visiting some local springs, nature parks, downtown, giftshops, and lesser-known theme parks --fyi, saving money was a top priority.
So, how did I make the most of Orlando without spending a small fortunate? Easy...
Undoubtedly the highlight of my cheap adventure was the daytrip to Kelly Park Rock Spring, a natural spring just over an hour drive north of Orlando. The only regret I had was not bringing my own tube since it's a great place to tube at, --and for no extra charge.
Entrance into the park was only $3 and since it was the off season (+during the week) it wasn't crowded at all. There were no lines to wait in, no pushing past other visitors, and no "sorry, we're full, try again next time," mishaps that we ran into --and anyone who is familiar with public Florida springs knows how unusual that is!
Though the water was kind of cold, averaging around 68-degrees, once you got in and were used to it, it wasn't so bad and at times was quite refreshing after exploring trails around the park in the 80-degree weather. We saw tons of wildlife at the park including fish, birds and even a family of deer, however, while the wildlife was great --ticks were aplenty too.
Both my boyfriend and I managed to get a tick --hardly bigger than the period at the end of this sentence-- on us during our time at the spring. As someone who lived their whole life in PA, I am no stranger to ticks, however this was my first run in with the nasty little creatures since I moved here 4 years ago.
All things considered, the spring was still my favorite part of getting to visit that area of mid-central Florida, only to be followed up by the adorable, lesser-known theme park in Kissimmee, Old Town. (Not to be confused with ICON Park).
While I was just cruising around the area, the Ferris wheel and main entrance sign caught my eye. I wasn't totally sure if the park was open as there didn't seem to be much traffic coming and going, but the moving rides told me otherwise.
I asked my boyfriend to pull over so we could check it out and parking was free, so why not? We were pleasantly surprised to find out that entrance to the vintage-themed park, it's many shops and restaurants was totally free!
Better yet, we went around the park's opening time on that particular weekday (4p.m.) and there were virtually no other people there. You could hop on the rides one right after another without any wait times (rides weren't free, they were $10 each or you could purchase a wristband). We didn't stick around to see if the park filled after the sun went down, but by judging how dead it still was when we left (around 7p.m.) I assume it wouldn't have gotten too much crazier.
With themed gift shops like rock 'n' roll, England, candy, and so much more, this park made for a great alternative to what's offered at the bigger amusement parks and certainly had something that anyone of any age could have enjoyed, even if they didn't ride anything. Their Halloween decorations were just the icing on the cake for a festive, free thing to do in Orlando.
Last, but not least, I have to mention my excursion to downtown Orlando.
As a self-proclaimed night owl, I had to do at least one thing at night, and one place that's open 24/7 is, you guessed it, the city --plus street parking is usually free. To my dismay, one of the arcade bars in the area that I had on my bucket list for a few years had went out of business in 2020, so instead of having one specific place in the city to visit, I chose to walk around Lake Eola Park.
To my surprise, I was in good company. There were plenty of other couples, college students and individuals who opted to take a late night stroll through the park.
Perhaps it was the way the skyline and art installations glistened against the lake that inspired so many people to visit after the sun went down, or maybe it was just that the resident swans weren't so rowdy --whatever the reason, a visit to downtown at night was nothing short of breathtaking (and cheap).
To be fair there were plenty more things that I wanted to do on my trip to Orlando, but alas, I needed a break from doing too much on my week off. So, to answer your question of what I did in between all of those things, the answer is: relax at the resort and swim in the heated pool. I mean, it's included in the stay so why not?
All in all, I say that October is a brilliant time to visit Orlando as there are plenty of festivities going on, some expensive, like Halloween Horror Nights, some free, like a walk around the park, and plenty that are in between, such as spending a day at a local pumpkin patch.