Orlando on a Shoestring Budget

Orlando on A Shoestring Budget

Photo Credit: Eõ Inn

By Tyler Francischine

February 14, 2023

It doesn’t cost much to experience the art, culture, and nature that give Orlando the nickname ‘The City Beautiful.’

Even though most people equate Orlando to its numerous theme parks and shopping centers,
there’s so much more to do and see in ‘The City Beautiful’—especially for travelers looking for
affordable adventures fit for the whole family. Visitors on a budget can find tranquil, beautiful
surroundings at one of the Orlando area’s many tended gardens or wild, natural spaces, or you
can opt to view some art at a local museum or in one of the city’s quickly expanding public art
spaces. No matter how you choose to plan your day in Orlando, know that affordable places to
both refuel with delicious meals and rest your bones in a comfortable bed await you.

What to Do and See

Mead Botanical Garden

Orlando on a Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Mead Botanical Garden photo by Robert Sena

Open every day and always free to the public, Mead Botanical Garden is a massive park located
in Winter Park, just north of Orlando. This natural space contains many different habitats
including wetlands, a creek, a pond, butterfly gardens where hummingbirds feed, and the
longleaf pine canopy uplands, where hawks soar among the trees. To learn more about the
species that call this space home, take a tour from one of the park’s naturalists, or plan your
visit during one of the Orange Audubon Society’s regular birding excursions.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

Orlando on a Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Morse Museum photo Courtesy of The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, FL

Who knew that the world’s most comprehensive collection of Tiffany signature, leaded-glass
artworks resides in Winter Park, northeast of Orlando, at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum
of American Art? For only $6 for adults, the Morse Museum’s collection of works by artist and
designer Louis Comfort Tiffany includes plenty of his iconic leaded-glass lamps, as well as
jewelry, pottery, paintings, and art glass. The crown jewel of the museum’s collection is the
Byzantine-inspired chapel featuring century-old art objects created by Tiffany for an 1893
world’s fair in Chicago. Brightly colored windows, mosaics, and objects of marble, jewels, glass,
and stone make up this awe-inspiring room.

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Orlando on a Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Wekiwa Springs State Park photo by Florida DEP courtesy of Visit Florida

It only costs $6 per vehicle for the whole family to revel in a day of lush, natural beauty at
Wekiwa Springs State Park, located just north of Orlando in Apopka. Swim in the crystal-clear,
spring-fed waters that maintain their cool, 72-degree temperatures year-round, or escape the
crowds that often make this park reach capacity before high noon by paddling a canoe down the gentle currents. This second-magnitude spring has been a tourist attraction since the 1860s,
and it continues to pump out 43 million gallons of water each day.

Public Art in the Mills 50 District

Orlando on a Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Mills 50 District mural by Johnny Coppersnake

When you reach the corner of Mills Avenue and State Road 50 (or Colonial Drive) just north of
downtown Orlando, find a spot to pull over, strap on some comfortable walking shoes, and
head north on foot to begin a free tour of the Mills 50 District’s vibrant series of murals and art
boxes. You won’t be able to travel far without spotting a public art project–even the electrical
boxes, dumpsters, and storm drains feature bold splashes of paint from Orlando artists of all
ages and backgrounds.

Where to Eat and Drink

Tako Cheena

Orlando on a Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Tako Cheena

As you continue your public art tour up North Mills Avenue, you’ll pass a bright red building,
and you might stop in your tracks when you smell the flavor combinations cooked here. Tako
Cheena is a casual and affordable Asian fusion eatery inspired by food truck culture—stop in for
some finger-licking Asian Glaze Chicken Wangz tossed in a homemade, tangy teriyaki sauce, or
try to finish a nearly one-pound burrito “the size of a baby’s arm,” stuffed with your choice of
proteins like Korean beef, Indian butter chicken, or Thai sweet and spicy curried chicken.

Sofrito Latin Café

Orlando on a Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: Tripleta at Sofrito Latin Cafe photo courtesy of Sofrito Latin Cafe

Sofrito Latin Café, located in Orlando just northeast of Lake Buena Vista, home to a handful of
Disney resorts, honors traditional cuisine from across Latin America and offers handcrafted
drinks and meals at affordable prices. Choose from a wide selection of empanadas made in the
styles of Cuba, Venezuela, and Colombia, or go for a tripleta sandwich made with steak, roast
pork, ham, and gouda on pan sobao. Don’t forget to order some ham croquettes, made with
lightly breaded, fried ham and bechamel fritters.

Where to Stay

Eõ Inn

Tucked away on an unassuming, shady street in Thornton Park on the eastern edge of
downtown Orlando, the Eō Inn is a boutique hotel housed in an immaculately restored,
century-old building with rooms often well under $200 nightly. At the Eõ, you’re only steps
away from Lake Eola Park, where you can paddle in swan-shaped boats, meet the live swans
and other waterbirds who call the park home, or catch a performance at Walt Disney
Amphitheater, which hosts community events (and spectacular views of the downtown Orlando
skyline) all year.

The Historic Edgewater Hotel

Orlando on a Shoestring Budget
Photo Credit: The Edgewater Hotel

Built nearly a century ago in 1927, the Historic Edgewater Hotel in Winter Garden, northeast of
Orlando near Lake Apopka, is a nostalgic, bed and breakfast-style inn offering rooms usually
under $200 per night. Step back in time with the hotel’s preserved, antique interiors and
fixtures—when it opened, it was regarded as one of the most technologically advanced of its
time. Each room is individually designed with bright splashes of bold color, period-style
furniture, and modern upgrades like climate control and wireless internet. After a restful night’s
sleep, you’ll be served a full breakfast from the Edgewater’s innkeeper in true retro-B&B style.

READ MORE: Looking for an Escape? Here Are Florida’s 9 Best Budget-Friendly Staycations.


  • Tyler Francischine

    Tyler Francischine is a journalist who writes about travel, arts, culture and community. She's passionate about social justice, the Atlantic Ocean and live music.



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