At first I wasn’t really planning on going to the Orlando Wetlands Festival, but I’m sure glad we did! I added it to our Frugal Florida Fun calendar, but the details were vague. Other than the standard information of date, time, and price, I didn’t really have much to go on. So I loaded up the boy and went to Ft. Christmas! I figured that at the very least, Ft. Christmas is a great venue, and we could at least have some fun in the park so we geared up and went for a drive!
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but based on the flyer, I knew this festival would be eco-centered but I didn’t really quite know what we had in store for our afternoon. It turns out there were tons of things to do and see! Once we arrived, I was glad to see that parking was ample and absolutely FREE! When we crossed the road to enter Ft. Christmas park, I was again pleased to find that the Orlando Wetlands Festival was absolutely FREE!
Even before we reached the main event booth, my little guy was pleased to see two Orange County Fire Trucks. We got a quick tour and kiddos could take some time and sit behind the wheel. The fire fighters seemed more excited about this then the kids actually were! Not to mention they were a great form of community outreach. Once we walked a bit, there were tons of booths setup by eco-centered groups and organizations.
Amongst the numerous exhibitors at the Orlando Wetlands Festival, we got a chance to see everything from a working demonstration of Orlando’s water system to getting up front and personal with many of the local wildlife inhabitants. It sounds gross, but there was a huge display setup by the water management folks that showed how water goes from your home through the wastewater system. It was of course just a display, but you could actually see the water flow through plumbing, lift stations, representations of treatment plants, and finally to the wetlands.
There were numerous wildlife conservation groups with lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with wildlife. The Audubon Society had multiple birds of prey that guests could checkout including my favorite, a Bald Eagle! If birds, weren’t really your thing, you could take a few minutes and actually pet a baby alligator.
Even though this was primarily an eco-centered festival there were lots of activities for the little ones. Many of the groups brought and setup games like mini-golf displays, tic-tac-toilet (yes just like tic tac toe), skee ball, and a version of corn hole where kids were actually encouraged to clog the drain pipes! Standard festival activities were also present such as a bounce house and a rock climbing wall, but the star of the show as the tree climb. Dangling from the branches of one of the large trees at Ft. Christmas, the Orlando Wetlands Festival featured a great climbing exhibit. Kids were strapped into safety gear and shown how to ascend a rope via a rope step system. I have no clue what it is called, but looked like lots of fun.
Various forms of entertainment were also available including two great singers that really seemed to add a nice atmosphere to the Orlando Wetlands Festival. Setup on a mobile stage, they also used this area to announce a vast array of door prizes that were given away to the general public. Also featured were some Native American Dancers. I honestly have no clue how it fit into the theme, but my little guy got a kick out of it. I think it was the brightly colored costumes that were worn, but he was mesmerized by the display. I’m not sure if it’s the norm for Native American festivals or not, but most of the participants seemed to be children which really contributed to the fun factor for the spectators.
As part of the actual Orlando Wetlands Festival activities, guests could go on a guided tour of the Wetlands sponsored by Lynx. Again this tour was free of charge and lasted about an hour and a half. Since it was just the guys today, I was concerned about the little one having a meltdown half way through so we decided to skip it. We also had the option of taking a shuttle to the Wetlands Park to go on guided hikes and trails, but since I had the stroller we decided to restrict our adventure to Ft. Christmas.
It’s no secret that I usually pack a lunch, but this time I’m glad I didn’t. The food was very reasonable with two groups offering different varieties. The local Boy Scout troop offered hot dogs and snacks with a complete meal for around $4. Not too bad, but I decided to hit up their competition and grab a basket of fries and chicken strips for $6. The food was the only expense I incurred on this trip other than the gas to head on over. So why was I glad I bought lunch? All kidding aside, they were the very best chicken strips I have EVER had. It turns out they were hand breaded and weren’t some generic restaurant pre breaded chicken strips. I was very impressed! There were however lots of families that just packed a picnic lunch. It didn’t at all seem out-of-place. Ft. Christmas offers charcoal grills, but that may have been a bit much with all the people around.
When looking back on our day at the Orlando Wetlands Festival, I would say without a doubt that we would go back again next year! It was a fun day filled with lots of activities and learning opportunities. Even if you’re not really into the great eco-friendly theme, you can at the very least experience all that Ft. Christmas has to offer! We have been there before and toured the fort recreation as well as the historical Florida Cracker homes. The park itself rolled out the red carpet for visitors, historic buildings and all so you have absolutely nothing to lose!
Orlando Wetlands Festival Details:
Held Annually in Feb.
Fort Christmas, Orange County