There’s no doubt that Florida is one of the most exciting study destinations in the US. With an endless stream of sunshine, incredible theme parks, and vibrant, busy beaches that stretch out as far as the eye can see, there’s no limit to things to do in Florida. It’s one of the many reasons the Sunshine State has drawn in visitors from far and wide to its fun-loving shores.
In this, international students are lucky to have a front-row seat. However, navigating things to do in Florida can be difficult if you’re on a budget. After all, the prices of Disneyworld are skyrocketing — making it largely inaccessible for students looking for a cheap, fun way to spend their weekends.
Fortunately, there are still lots of alternative (and free!) experiences students can still take advantage of. Here’s four unique things to do in Florida on a student budget:
1. Visit Spook Hill for a thrill of a lifetime
A drive to the Polk County town in Lake Wales will bring you to Spook Hill, one of Florida’s pre-Disney roadside attractions. It’s an eerie little spot — tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood at the end of a one-way road draped with large, looming oak trees. Once there, you’ll see a sign spelling out its name: SPOOK HILL.
Spook Hill is allegedly haunted, with a classic Florida twist — local folklore believe it’s visited by the ghost of a giant alligator and an Indigenous warrior who was killed while trying (and succeeding!) in fighting him off.
The spookiest part, though, lies at the bottom of the hill: stop your car at the white line below the large sign, and you’ll feel it being pulled upwards by some strange, invisible force. Sound impossible? Try it out for yourself!
2. Take part in a complimentary wine tasting and vineyard tour
Here’s something you won’t usually find on a list of things to do in Florida: a 30-minute drive from Orlando will take you to Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards in Clermont, where — you guessed it — you’ll be able to treat yourself to a free wine tasting session — that is if you meet the legal drinking age.
Yes, you heard that right. Gone are the days when you watch your friends’ vineyard tours in Europe — here, you can experience all of that, and the added benefit of not paying a single penny. Guided tours are offered seven days a week from 10 a.m. daily, where you can experience the entire winemaking process and history of Florida wine. Throw on your finest and prep your phone cameras — this isn’t an experience to be missed!
3. Get up close and personal with wildlife at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
If there’s anything Florida has in droves, it’s large bodies of water, though many of them are inaccessible due to the many alligators crawling around. One space that’s safe for you to visit, though, is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: 2,800 square miles of water with a vast ecosystem that’s as tranquil as it gets.
You could choose to explore the Florida Reef, the only barrier coral reef in North America and the third-largest in the world. Or perhaps you’d like to traverse some underwater archaeological sites. Either way, pack up your kayaks and wear something waterproof — you’re guaranteed an adventure that will stick with you for years to come.
4. Get transported to the past in St. Augustine
If you love a slice of history, you’ll find paradise in St. Augustine. The city was founded by Spanish colonists in 1565 and is, to this date, the oldest occupied settlement in the US. Look around and you’ll see remnants of its older days — large, colonial structures and forts that are still lovingly maintained by its thriving population.
You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to 18th century Spain, all without having to leave the US.