While Orlando boasts some of the most famous tourist attractions in the world (see: Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld) and a plethora of water parks, taking an entire family on a trip to the City Beautiful can cost a pretty penny.
While hitting the theme parks is, of course, an important part of any trip to Orlando, the city has a lot to offer families traveling on a budget. Head down to Downtown Disney and Universal CityWalk, spinoffs from each respective theme park that offer free entrance, movie theaters, dining, shopping and events on occasion.
Downtown Disney — Photo courtesy of Downtown Disney
Even still, there are plenty of other attractions lining tourist row – International Drive: Dave And Buster’s, Magical Midway, and WonderWorks. All of which are large indoor and outdoor arcades filled with attractions for kids and adults.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
U.S. News and World Reports lists San Antonio as a top vacation spot. Specifically, as #2 in the nation! Providing unending adventure and celebration, families with children of all ages agree: San Antonio has it all.
Hotel Valencia on the River Walk — Photo courtesy of Hotel Valencia
Trip planning savings are at the San Antonio Visitor’s Center. You’ll find coupons and an event calendar. One example of something on the event calendar is San Antonio's annual Fiesta. This 11-day affair offers over 100 affordable, family-friendly events such as parades and carnivals. Many hotels, like Hotel Valencia, offer seasonal specials on the historic River Walk. From Sea World, to the San Antonio Zoo, your family will treasure their time in sunny San Antonio.
CABLE BEACH, BAHAMAS
Entrance to the Atlantis Aquarium — Photo courtesy of lotopspin
If staying on Cable Beach in the Bahamas, you and your family can find many fun things to do on a budget. After a day on one of the many free beaches, join the locals at Arawak Cay for yummy seafood at a very reasonable price. The food stands are the best in value and taste. At night there, it is more of a party atmosphere with live music and junkanoo celebrations.
Explore downtown and see the historic Gregory Arch landmark from 1852 or the Queens Staircase, built by slaves celebrating the Queen's help in abolition. The Pink Buildings of Parliament Square in Old Nassau are worth seeing, as are the local policemen in their distinct white uniforms and hats. Visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum on a rainy day ($12 adults, $6 kids).
The kids might love to see the large crab migration that takes place at dawn or dusk at Adelaide Village (they trek from the ocean across the road to the high grass and back again). At the famous local Straw Market, you can see the locals making purses, baskets and find souvenirs aplenty. On Paradise Island, the beautiful Atlantis Resort has the most incredible aquarium, which is free after 5 PM.
Live performancer at National Gallery of Art — Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Art
In Washington, D.C., there are a plethora of family-friendly things to do on the cheap. D.C. by Foot offers kid-friendly tours (the highest rated) seeing the National Mall; the guides offer fun bits of trivia (make sure to tip them). They also offer bus tours.
There on the weekend? Go to Saturday Morning at the National, where you can find a wide range of shows from puppet or magic to music and ballet. Arrive 30 minutes early to the National Theatre, as tickets are given on a first-come, first-served basis.
On Sunday afternoon, enjoy an arousing cultural drum circle from 3-9 PM at Meridian Hill Park; you can even bring your own drum and join in! Also on Sunday evening, at 6:30 PM, is free live music in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art. Older aged children will appreciate seeing our nation's most famous government documents housed in the National Archives Building.