15 cheap, kid-friendly activities for holiday vacation

Who doesn’t love a family vacation to end the year with a bang? Problem is, it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg. If you’ve already booked your travel and stay for the holidays – the hard part is over. Here’s your guide to the best cheap and free activities for your kids at the five most popular holiday destinations. Save your cash and unwind this holiday season.

Orlando
Yes, it has Disney. But there’s a lot to do in Orlando if you don’t want to spend the Mickey Mouse prices. Treat yourselves at night and dine a deux in Downtown Disney. Don’t worry, it’s easy to easy to find an Orlando babysitter.

* The Baldwin Park Festival of Lights and Ivey Lane Christmas in the Park include face painting, live music, games, crafts, and carriage rides. And, it’s all free. Check out the City of Orlando’s event calendar for more information.

* If you love history – or DiCaprio, don’t miss “Titanic: The Experience.” Costumed guides walk you through full-scale recreations including the Grand Staircase and 200 artifacts from both the ship and its famous films. It’s $21.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids under 11, but ordering online will save $2 per ticket.

* Get your fill of the yuletide festivities at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios. Gaze at the millions of shimmering lights covering buildings, carousels and other items synchronized to holiday music. And hey, entry fee is included in your park pass.

Las Vegas
Save your money for the slots (and a date night) while in Vegas with the family. But be sure to check out these free family-friendly events during the day.

* Take a family stroll to the MGM Grand’s Lion Habitat. Go in between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. for a free glimpse. Feeding time is at 11:15 a.m. or 4:30 p.m.

* Venture a few miles from the Strip to the Silverton Hotel for a free aquarium visit. The 117,000 gallon tank houses more than 4,000 tropical fish, stingrays, and sharks. Catch the 15-minute mermaid shows scheduled Thursday through Sunday.

* Less than 10 miles from the Strip, the Ethel M Chocolate Factory is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with live chocolate production on weekdays. After, tour through the Botanical Cactus Garden and experience their holiday light show from mid-November to Jan. 1.

New York City
Start spreading the news: The Big Apple is filled with family fun to the core. In the city that never sleeps, spend the day with the kids and hire a babysitter for a date night with some of the finest food and theater in the world.

* Stop by Rockefeller Plaza to see the famous tree, the skaters and those wacky NBC hosts.

* The Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball isn’t just a treat at midnight. Walk over to One Times Square Building and catch a glimpse of the crystal structure before it rings in the new year.

* Grab your engineer’s cap and head over to the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. Ticket prices are $20 for adults, $10 for kids under 12 and free for children under 2.

Keystone, Colo.
Skip ski school, a $300-a-day cost, and opt for cheap, family-friendly options. Spend your savings on a sitter to enjoy some of the cheapest apres-ski deals in the state with your spouse.

* Take advantage of Keystone’s long ski days – slopes open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Enjoy night-skiing and give your family the flexibility to come and go all day.

* Keystone’s Kidtopia on Decorum Mountain offers free night skating, fireworks, disco tubing, a snow fort and more included with your lift-ticket.

* In town for the new year? Watch the free fireworks show at 8 p.m. in Lakeside Village. Also, with the purchase of dinner buffet ($27.95 for adults, $12.95 for kids 5-12, and kids under 5 are free), you get free ice skate rentals and can take part in the light show on Keystone’s five-acre outdoor ice rink.

Maui
What’s better than a Maui beach for a family get-away? Here are some sand and surf ideas that won’t break the bank.

* Great news, all beaches on Maui are free. Even cooler? They’re either black, red or white sand beaches or lava rock beaches.

* Opt for a free Polynesian hula show at Kaanapali’s Whalers Village complete with hula lessons and lei making classes for kids.

* Views of the Haleakala volcano are free, unique and memorable. Depending on kids ages, enjoy the view from the car, bike, or take a self-guided hike through the craters.

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