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Light Up UCF’s free Holiday Light Show illuminates the arena several times a night. Credit: Kathryn Page.

By Amy Drew Thompson

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the holidays are in full swing, Orlando experiences low season — the cool slice of fall through mid-December, then again in January and February. Park lines are shorter, humidity’s a distant memory, and cheap Orlando hotels abound. From campfire sing-a-longs at Disney to SeaWorld Orlando, stretch your vacation dollar further with some of these budget-friendly options:

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground & Resort
The resort’s nightly Chip ‘n Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-Long is free and open to everyone. Fires are lit at 6:30 pm and marshmallow kits are available for purchase, but you’re welcome to economize and BYO. Character-led songs begin at 7:00 culminating in a classic Disney film under the stars, and December’s shows include a host of holiday selections. Where to stay: Seralago Hotel & Suites, walkable to Old Town Amusement Park, boasts in-room Xbox gaming systems, and offers complimentary shuttles to Disney, Universal and outlet shopping.

Light Up UCF!
Through Jan. 1, 2012, this University of Central Florida attraction — now in its fourth year — is one of Orlando’s most family-friendly and affordable. Running several times a night, find free elements — including parking, an outdoor holiday film festival, and the scintillating 75,000-light Holiday Light Show — carefully synchronized with festive holiday music. Also on tap: skating to DJ-spun tunes, a 100-foot ice slide, pictures with Santa, a massive Ferris wheel and more. Where to stay: La Quinta Inn Orlando Universal Studios’ spacious rooms are within walking distance of Universal CityWalk. Enjoy the free breakfast before hitting the attractions or the pool.

SeaWorld Orlando
Now through Christmas Day, enjoy one free kid’s admission (ages 3-9) with each full-price adult pass. And if you miss something — or need another Shamu fix — head back within seven days and get a second admission free. Where to stay: The recently renovated Hilton Garden Inn Orlando at SeaWorld is one city block from the park and offers free shuttle service to Disney, Universal and its namesake.

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Freelance travel writer Amy Drew Thompson is a proud SeaWorld Passport holder (and mom). She avoids the Splash Zone when temps are below 85. Visit her at

Tagged: Family, Florida, FREE!

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