My husband hails from Orlando so we go there for every summer vacation. Before his dad retired from Universal Studios, one of his perks was free tickets to give to his family. Now that the ticket well has dried up, we look for less expensive things to do down there.
My favorite thing is to go to Cocoa Beach. It is only about 40 minutes away and they have a very nice public beach that is free. The park is named Lori Wilson Park and the street is I Dream of Jeannie Way. This park has a great stretch of beach, along with bathroom, shower, and swing sets, picnic area.
Cocoa Beach also has a pier, Ron-Jon's Surf shop, and some great places to eat. There are also places in the area where you can watch for manatee. One preserve I remember was down a side street near Zachary's Greek restaurant near the public works water plant.
You can usually find a good price on a room for the night. There are several mom and pop motels. My favorite is the South Beach Inn, which is on the South end of A1A and right on the ocean. We stayed there last July for about $100/night. This included a large suite-type room with queen bed, queen sleeper sofa, and kitchenette with stove and refrigerator. We took one air mattress with us and all three kids slept comfortably. The beach there is so quiet, not like the Spring Break beaches you see on TV. There were times that our family was the only one in the immediate area and it felt like we had the entire beach to ourselves. This is a pretty good feat in the middle of July.
Of course, Cocoa Beach is right on the "Space Coast" and it is very close to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. We like to drive by and see the huge space shuttle outside. The kids enjoy this drive, because there are always lots of alligators on the roadside along this route. Sometimes we also see armadillos. Since these critters are not native to Virginia, it is a treat.
Back in Orlando, you can walk around Pointe Orlando featuring Muvico with an IMAX theatre, Downtown Disney featuring the Lego Store, or Church Street Station downtown. All are free, but of course, you will probably end up spending money in the shops. It is also fun to drive down International Drive at night to see all the pretty lights. Universal Studios used to have a nightly fireworks show, and we parked across the street at Dr. Phillips High School to get a free viewing.
Since we usually stay with family when we go down there, and avoid the theme parks, we get a longer and more relaxed vacation.
I know these tips probably make me sound cheap, but hey this is the "thrifty fun" newsletter.
By Kelly from Shenandoah Valley, VA
Thanks for the fun info. Will go to the beach next time we go down there. Our cheapest and most enjoyable vacation ever was to Daytona. We stayed on the beach in an inexpensive motel that had a kitchenette in it and I cooked all of our meals except for one. We ate better than if we had eaten out. We also took advantage of all the free things resorts give out for listening to their sales pitches. (03/04/2006)
When we went on a family trip to Disney World/Universal Studios, etc. We took one day and went to Cocoa Beach. You're right it's lots of fun, way more fun than standing in long, hot lines at the expensive theme parks. I enjoyed this beach day the most out of our whole trip. Plus, growing up watching the I Dream of Jeannie TV show, it was a just a kick to be there. (03/04/2006)
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