Pricey theme parks, resorts and restaurants mean most visitors to Orlando have steeled themselves in advance for a costly summer break. But in fact there are plenty of ways to experience this town of top-end attractions at a much more affordable price. Just check out these five fantastic low-cost attractions, ranging from reptilian encounters in Gatorland to waterslide thrills at the CoCo Key Resort.
Reptilian Gatorland is a great stop-off for families with kids who get a thrill from confronting fearsome beasts - or who feel a certain kinship with the sharp-toothed predators. Spread over 110-acres of theme park and wildlife preserve, it has a dazzling array of alligator- and crocodile-themed exhibits, and visitors can watch wranglers wrestle massive alligators. A highlight for those who want to ramp up the fear is the Gator Night Shine Tour, where visitors are led over the dark marshes with a flashlight which reflects off the shining eyes and teeth of the resident crocs. There’s also an interactive show about Florida snakes and, if all these scaly creatures get a bit too creepy, you can slink away to the petting zoo or check out the colorful bird sanctuary.
Tickets to this miniature golf complex are a fraction of the cost of Orlando’s theme parks, but it’s a gloriously wild and well-designed place to pass a few hours. Lush jungle foliage, sparkling waterfalls and craggy peaks line the pair of safari-themed courses, which are packed with underground tunnels and unpredictable challenges. Visitors can also feed the alligators under the supervision of staff members, as well as the fish in the Koi ponds, before hitting the arcade with its on-site cafe.
Founded in 1961, the Henry P. Leu Gardens contain 50-acres of winding pathways and pretty bridges crossing bubbling streams. There are 40 colorful plant collections, including the the biggest rose garden in Florida and a wonderful butterfly garden. Strolling and lounging among the scented flower beds makes for a tranquil escape from the flashing lights and bustling crowds of Orlando’s biggest attractions. Best of all, the garden is free every first Monday of the month.
If you want rides and thrills without forking out for the fearsome Disney World entry price, then this water park is a great place to go. Tickets cost are about a fifth of the price of Disney World, and they give access to a massive outdoor water park with 14 water slides, heated pools, interactive play areas and a huge arcade. The scariest water slides snake out the side of a 60-foot tower, and include the double-rider Boomerango, which sends pairs up a nerve-wracking vertical climb before plunging them backwards through a waterfall. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Minnow Lagoon, a zero-depth entry pool which is perfect for toddlers.
Photo by cliff1066/Flickr.
Based on the original storehouse of eccentricity in London’s Piccadilly, Orlando’s Odditorium outpost is boggling from the moment you set eyes on it: the building looks like it’s moments from disappearing into a massive sinkhole. Once you’re through the grand front doors things only get odder, as you peruse the thousands of wildly weird artifacts collected by globe-trotting Robert Ripley. Mosey past Amazonian shrunken heads and cars made from a million matchsticks on self-guided tours which take about one or two hours.