With its rich history and charming things to do with kids, Downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola has been bringing families and nature lovers out for a nice day along the waterfront for over 150 years. Once a sinkhole in the late 1800’s, stormwater and a natural aquifer 200 feet below the surface created “Sandy Beach”, which eventually became a city park in 1888 and was renamed Lake Eola.
Whether dining along the shoreline, walking the sidewalk around the park, seeing the birds, or enjoying a self-propelled swan boat, the lake brings serenity and fun to all who visit.
Annual festivals and weekly farmer’s markets bring crowds from all over the state, and the Walt Disney Amphitheater entertains with concerts, movies and events year-round. It’s one of our favorite free things to do with kids in Orlando.
Keep reading for helpful info and things kids love about Lake Eola.
1. The Lake Eola Swans
The lake is home to five types of swans including the stunning Australian black swan. Lettuce, spinach, and readily available duck pellet food is best for feeding the swans, so bring coins for the feeder machines.
It is not advised to throw bread at the birds, not only because it can make them ill, but it can create unwanted algae in the lake.
Don’t expect to get cozy with the swans, but if they do come close to you or your kids, rest assured they are rounded up annually for their botulism vaccines.
2. The sculptures
As you walk the sidewalk loop around the lake, spot the different sculptures and discuss them with your child. You aren’t supposed to climb the large stone woman who rests in the grass near the amphitheater, but children love to do it anyway. We won’t tell if you won’t.
3. The Chinese Ting and Japanese Rock Garden
Little havens of serenity (and great photo taking opportunities), the Chinese Ting gazebo and Japanese Rock Garden offer children some shade from the sun and intriguing architecture to ooh and aah at. The black marble that rests in the garden is said to have been “sculpted by the winds of 10,000 years”, making it a whimsical stop on your mile-long journey around the lake.
4. The Lake Eola Fountain Light Show
Music and lights bounce in the night sky every evening at 8pm and 930pm for about 6 minutes of choreographed fun. Times vary based on dusk (especially in the summer months), but generally expect this charming light show by dark.
After a show at the Dr. Phillips Center or a late dinner and a movie downtown, nothing beats a stroll around the lake for some night lights.
5. The Swan Boats at Lake Eola
Tuesday – Sunday
10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Closed on Mondays
The swan boats are foot-powered pedal boats, so be prepared to get a workout! The boats are not able to be reserved in advance, so just arrive at the dock between the amphitheater/band shell and the Relax Grill to find your boat.
Boats seat up to 5 people with a max weight of 1400 lbs. Pets are welcome, and the boats are even wheelchair accessible now!
Note that there is a canopy on the boat for shade, but it is advised to also wear sunblock or a hat. Tickets are $15 for a 30 minute rental, debit or credit cards only.
6. The Playgrounds at Lake Eola
With two playgrounds focused on ages 2-5 and 5-12 respectively, kids of all ages will be thrilled to romp around in the play areas at the lake.
Convenient to the restrooms and the most populous area of the weekly farmer’s market, it’s a great spot to let the kiddos burn off steam while mom shops, or to just enjoy a quiet afternoon on a nice day.
7. Family-Friendly Events at Lake Eola
Lake Eola is host to numerous events throughout the year from yoga sessions, concerts, food festivals and more. It acts as a starting point for 5K runs like the annual IOA 5K Corporate Run, and provides a community space for any number of heritage, cultural or local organizations wanting to host something.
Fiesta in the Park
Every spring and fall, Fiesta in the Park is a huge showcase for local craft and food vendors, bringing in thousands of visitors for the weekend-long event.
Happening every Sunday from 10am-3pm, Lake Eola boasts a large and wonderful farmer’s market. Full of craft and food vendors, there is something for everyone. Pets are welcome, as are picnics! Purchase some fresh produce and set out a blanket to enjoy the lovely park.
Or, simply enjoy a stroll around the lake in the sunshine, popping in to see the vendor’s wares for the week.
Note that there is free on-street parking on Sundays in the city.
DISCOVER: Kid Friendly Farmers’ Markets in Orlando
Fireworks at the Fountain
Every July 4th, the mayor plays host to a spectacular fireworks event. Fit for the occasion, a patriotic concert accompanies the show in the night sky.
Walt Disney Amphitheater Movies and Concerts
Catch dance recitals, opera performances, and even Christmas movies like Elf at the band shell at Lake Eola. This large open-air theater is host to countless events throughout the year.
Annual Holiday Lights Trail
Every holiday season enjoy a weekend holiday market (complete with snowfall and visits with Santa), the annual tree lighting ceremony, a Christmas tree light show (offered several times a night), and nightly lights trail around the park sidewalk.
Not only great for date night, this dazzling display of Christmas and festive holiday lights will delight children and families as well.
For more information on holiday events at Lake Eola, visit Downtown for the Holidays here.
Plan Your Visit
512 East Washington Street, Orlando, FL 32801
There are two public restrooms in the park, one located by the amphitheater and the other by the playground. Lake Eola Park is open 7 days a week, 6am – midnight.
There is no swimming at Lake Eola.
It is safe to walk around at night, as the paths are well-lit, but be aware folks often loiter around the park, especially along the southern wall by Central Blvd. Although typically not dangerous, they may make children or parents uncomfortable.
Whether taking a Sunday stroll with the family, visiting the playground, or one of the many festive fun family events throughout the year, Lake Eola has countless options for a day out with the kids.