FREEBIES AND BUDGET FRIENDLY FUN THROUGHOUT ORLANDO NORTH

As admission prices at Orlando-area theme parks keep going up, families must stretch their vacation dollars.  Struggle no more: a breezy 45 minutes from the theme parks you’ll discover Orlando North, where you’ll enjoy lots of budget-friendly fun at a fractional cost of a day at the theme parks. Say goodbye to parking and resort fees and start enjoying your vacation to the fullest in Orlando North!

FREEBIES WE LOVE

SEMINOLE STATE PLANETARIUM TELESCOPE THURSDAYS. Once a month on a Thursday evening, the staff of the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium hit the road with telescopes in tow and set up shop at a local park or business around Central Florida for Telescope Thursdays. The community is welcome to attend and take a peek at the beautiful night sky. Events typically last from 7-10pm during the months of October through March. And for a totally stellar family night, don’t miss out on Seminole State Planetarium’s incredible STAR PARTIES. These events invite the public to the planetarium for an evening of telescope observations, planetarium dome shows, speaker presentations, and more. Check out the Planetarium’s Facebook page for upcoming events.

Bring a bike or rent one and join CRITICAL MASS! SANFORD EDITION! on the last Friday of the month for a stroll through Sanford. Start at Pedal Driven Co. at 6:30pm and end at Deviant Wolfe Brewing for beers and fun.

HIKE OR BIKE THE SEMINOLE WEKIVA TRAIL. This scenic paved rail-trail in Seminole County features a 14-mile long trail as well as several trailheads with amenities. Consider exploring the first seven miles of the trail by bike, cruising along the shaded path through quiet neighborhoods.

CRANES ROOST PARK’s Rhythms at the Roost is a bi-annual free concert series featuring live music from great bands, food for purchase, and a variety of vendors. Sunset views, outdoor festivals, and SUNSET CINEMA, a schedule of free outdoor movies on select Saturdays, are just a few of the other free activities held at this 45-acre park in Altamonte Springs with a European-style plaza featuring a choreographed fountain show and a 62-foot picturesque tower. Check the calendar for upcoming events.

Sanford’s monthly ALIVE AFTER 5 STREET PARTY, Central Florida’s largest recurring monthly street party in Historic Downtown Sanford, celebrates with local art, live music, craft beer, food, and shopping. The fun takes place from 5-8 pm on the second  Thursday with a different theme each month.

WINE ART WEDNESDAYS IN LAKE MARY. On the first Wednesday of each month from 5-8 pm is a free event in the Downtown Lake Mary District featuring live music, dozens of artists and merchants, food trucks, and a beer & wine garden. Food and drink are extra, but the rest of the evening is totally free.

ART WALK. Held on the third Saturday each month in Historic Downtown Sanford, from 6-9 pm, the juried art show and walking tour showcase the area’s unique galleries. A fact sheet is available for each event providing additional details on each stop. Have the kids keep their eyes out for Sanford rocks along the way. These painted rocks can be found hidden just about anywhere.

CASSELBERRY ART AND MUSIC IN THE PARK is a monthly community event held at Lake Concord Park featuring a dozen food trucks, live music, and artisan goods. There’s no cost to peruse the local goods on display while listening to live entertainment. Held on the second Friday of each month from 6-9pm.

Enjoy the playground and watch youth, collegiate and non-professional teams playing at the 102-acre BOOMBAH SPORTS COMPLEX AT SEMINOLE COUNTY. 3450 E. Lake Mary Blvd., Sanford, FL.

Walk back into history at THE SANFORD MUSEUM, opened in 1957 as The Henry Shelton Sanford Memorial Library and Museum. City founder Henry S. Sanford was an American diplomat, attorney and investor, and is also considered a founder of the Florida citrus industry. The Sanford Family Collection includes his library and papers, all of which were donated to the city by Sanford’s daughter Carola Sanford Dow. On display are European and American paintings, furniture, personal objects and books from 1820-1890. The sports collection highlights the achievements of Sanford natives, including sportscaster Red Barber, Baseball stars Tim Raines and David Eckstein, professional football’s Jeff Blake and Reggie Branch and Drew “Bundini” Brown, Muhammed Ali’s cornerman.

FANTASTICALLY AFFORDABLE FUN

WEKIVA ISLAND. Located on the Wekiva River, Wekiva Island is a relaxing escape for a day of swimming, fishing, volleyball or relaxing in the Adirondack chairs along the river. Admission is $2 per person, $10 for trailer parking and launch fees for personal equipment. Canoe/kayak/paddleboard rentals are reasonably priced, as are the food and beverage options. Come for the nature and stay for the art. Held each year in March, Wekiva Paint Out is a week-long celebration of Plein Air artists that helps benefit charities such as Keep Seminole Beautiful and Wekiva Wilderness Trust. During the week, guests can visit Wekiva Island free of charge and witness world-class artists painting along the boardwalk, in kayaks, canoes, at the bar and at various locations along the Wekiva River. Wekiva Island is located in Longwood at 1014 Miami Springs Rd.

Enjoy a thrilling airboat ride with BLACK HAMMOCK ADVENTURES on Lake Jesup and learn about the ecosystem and the birds and beasts who call it home. Visit at 2356 Black Hammock Fish Camp Rd., Oviedo, FL. Their onsite fish camp style restaurant serves up gator bites if you want to try!

Seminole County is also home to some of Florida’s best natural attractions, including the Wekiva River, one of only two National & Wild Scenic Rivers in the entire state of Florida. The ST. JOHNS RIVER and WEKIWA SPRINGS STATE PARK are great places to become one with nature. With more than 30 parks and preserves, the area is a favorite destination for hiking, biking, bird watching, wildlife study, nature photography and more.

Get up close and personal with wildlife at the CENTRAL FLORIDA ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDENS, where you can even participate in giraffe feedings. Also at the zoo are both kids and adults zipline adventure courses that allow guests to explore natural habitats from an animal’s perspective—in the air traveling from tree to tree by zip lines and suspended rope bridges. Sunset at the Zoo is an adults-only event held on the 3rd Thursday, April through October. Gates open at 5:30 pm. Enjoy happy hour in a whole new way with live music, beer and wine, while interacting with some of the resident animals.

DISTRICT EAT AND PLAY at the Oviedo Mall is a new 26,000 sq.ft. entertainment complex that includes a restaurant and full bar. The play zones include 4 different escape rooms where guests are given 60 minutes to escape using clues, hints and strategy to complete the objectives at hand. Over 50 arcade games, boutique bowling, live entertainment and a number of event rooms round out the offerings.

ALTITUDE SANFORD is a cutting-edge trampoline park with activities including dodgeball, basketball, a performance wall, and performance trampoline, high 9 reaction wall, trapeze bar, battle beam, rock wall, wipeout warped wall, airbag, the main court, and kids court.

At PLANET OBSTACLE, kid-friendly activities include a kids’ ninja course, trampolines, bungees, ball pits and bumper cars, while adults can enjoy aerial ropes courses, an extreme zip-line, an adult ninja course, a giant rock-climbing wall and more. Planet Obstacle is located at 1150 Emma Oaks Trail in Lake Mary.