The Tampa Bay Area has plenty of fun things to do, but it also has a ton of free and cheap options. There’s something on this list for everyone whether you’re a local looking to do something new, or vacationing in the Tampa Bay area. Here are 45 cheap and free Tampa Bay Area activities to try.
**Please note some of these attractions may be closed or operating at limited capacity at the moment. Check their website for the most up-to-date information before going!**
Heritage Village is the top of our list. What better way to spend the afternoon than exploring historic buildings from the 18 and 1900s like a general store, train depot and log cabin? The whole experience is free, from guided tours of some houses to a museum with period artifacts, to the parking.
Right next to Heritage Village is the Florida Botanical Gardens. This is a beautiful garden full of flowers, trees, fountains and more. Its very peaceful and tranquil, and we’ve never found it to be too busy. Best of all it’s completely free, including parking.
The Tampa Bay Area is home to some of the best beaches in the country. Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island, Treasure Island Beach, St. Pete Beach, and Pass-a-Grille are some favorites, just to name a few! The beach is completely free is most cases (unless you’re opting to visit a beach park) and the only fee you’ll need to pay is parking. In Pinellas County the hourly parking rate is typically around $2.50 per hour.
Many of the cities around Tampa Bay have eclectic and artsy downtown areas. Tampa, St. Pete, and Dunedin all have a ton of beautiful murals. Do a little research before heading out to locate specific murals, or just hit the streets and see what you can find! They are around nearly every corner!
The two shown here can be found in St. Pete outside Green Bench Brewing and Bandit Coffee Co., respectively.
One of the quintessential parks in downtown Tampa. It’s surrounded by beautiful buildings and the Hillsborough River. Stop here after a day spent in Tampa to watch and enjoy the atmosphere. They also host a ton of free events such as movie nights and yoga in the park, so check the event schedule for more info.
A little bit farther out is this Apollo Beach gem, the Manatee Viewing Center. During November-April, you can see hundreds of manatees gather around the warm water runoff from the TECO power plant. They also have nature trails, an interactive manatee education center, a butterfly garden and more.
This 2.4 mile path next to the Hillsborough River is very popular in Tampa. Head out for a stroll or bike ride and admire the river views and Tampa skyline. There are a ton of different places to stop along the way for dinner, drinks, shopping and more. Keep in mind you may have to pay for parking in downtown Tampa.
This park is one of my favorites in the Tampa Bay Area. Located near USF, the park offers paved and unpaved trails, a boardwalk and an observation tower over the Hillsborough River. Rent a canoe, have a picnic, look for birds and alligators, or let the kids enjoy the playground.
Ybor City is full of rich history and a ton of things to see and do. Visit the Columbia, the oldest restaurant in Florida, or look at the beautiful parks and architecture. Ybor City Museum State Park is small, but has an informative museum about Tampa’s diverse history and a small garden.
Get around Tampa quickly on the TECO Streetcar. The free historic trolley can take you from Ybor City through Downtown Tampa. You’ll save time waiting in traffic, and you’ll save money having to pay for multiple parking lots in Tampa, which can get pricey.
A popular stop in downtown Tampa, Sparkman Wharf is Tampa’s latest foodie concept. Eclectic food, drinks and a biergarten make it one of Tampa’s hippest hangouts. Even if you don’t order a meal, you can spend time with friends in the vast park right on the water. You’ll also find the big pink TAMPA sign next to the wharf.
Fourth Friday in Tampa is an opportunity to enjoy free and discounted admission to some of Tampa’s museums and cultural venues. Some of these include: Henry Plant Museum, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Tampa Museum of Art, and Tampa Bay History Museum. This is a great chance to check out some of the museums at a lower cost. Check the website for updated schedules and participating venues.
Located in St. Petersburg, Florida Orange Groves Winery is an iconic stop for unique wines. They offer free tours and tastings daily. Any fruit you can think of, they have probably made a wine out of it from kiwi to key lime.
If you haven’t heard of geocaching, it’s basically a huge worldwide treasure hunt! Download the free app, and start looking for “caches” in your neighborhood or at local parks. There’s not a prize for finding them, but it’s definitely exciting to search and get to write your name on the log. Bring a pen!
The St. Pete Pier is newly rebuilt and just opened in July 2020! It offers beautiful views of the water and downtown St. Petersburg. Enjoy the greenery around the pier, dining, walking, biking and even fishing.
One of my favorite Florida State Parks! Hillsborough River State Park has so much to do, from hiking, horseback riding, biking, wildlife viewing, fishing swimming, paddling, and walking the suspension bridge. It’s a must do if you’re looking for some time in nature.
About 45 minutes north of Tampa, you’ll feel transported into a quaint coastal Greek town. Watch sponge divers haul in their catches, shop at the local gift shops, or enjoy a traditional greek meal at one of the many family owned restaurants.
This little beach park is tucked away in South Tampa on Tampa Bay. If you’re looking to spend a whole day on a true beach, check out the Pinellas County beaches. But this is one of our favorite parks for catching the sunset or having a quick picnic, and it’s much closer if you’re in Tampa.
The Florida Cane Distillery is located in Ybor City. You can enjoy free tours and tastings of various liquors like vodka, gin and rum. You can also make your own cocktail using one of their cocktail kits.
Antique shopping is a great way to spend an afternoon and beat the Florida heat (or rain!), even if you don’t end up purchasing anything. There are many great antique stores in the Tampa Bay area. Two of are favorites are Seminole Heights Antiques (Tampa), and Park Street Antique Center (St. Petersburg)
Haslam’s Book Store is Florida’s largest new and used bookstore. There are so many books you may find yourself lost amongst the shelves. It’s definitely a must do for book lovers, even if you don’t purachase anything!
The Tampa Firefighters Museum is a bit of hidden gem in Tampa. Located in a historic 1911 fire house, the non-profit museum will be a hit with the kids who can see actual firefighter gear and devices and even play in an interactive area.
The small art museum located on USF Tampa campus gives you the opportunity to see modern art without the hefty price tag. You will have to pay metered parking on USF Campus (unless you already have a parking pass), but the small cost is offset by the free museum.
The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is a hidden gem in Indian Shores. The sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates sick or injured seabirds. View nearly 100 permanently disabled seabirds in the facility, take great photos, learn about avian medicine, and climb the observation tower.
John’s Pass is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Pinellas County. Filled with shopping, dining, and things to do, you can easily spend a day at John’s Pass. Pick up some souvenirs and sundries, or enjoy ice cream on the boardwalk while you dolphin watch.
This nature park in St. Petersburg is a great place to spend some time outdoors. With boardwalks and trails through different ecosystems, a playground, plus a birds of prey sanctuary, you’ll have plenty to do at this park.
This museum is situated on Spring Bayou, where the first settlers of Tarpon Springs built their homes. The museum features exhibits about the Greek community, the sponge industry, and Native American inhabitants.
Weedon Island is an amazing park to spend the day. It has plenty of hiking trails and boardwalks, plus a paddling trail, observation tower, and Cultural and Natural History Center. They also host free guided nature walks a few times a month.
This weekly St. Petersburg Market is one of the most popular in the area. With over 125 vendors to see each Saturday, you’ll be sure to find handmade goods, farm fresh produce and international cuisine you’ll love.
Fort de Soto Park is one of my all time favorite things to do in Tampa Bay. Not only is it a pristine, uncrowded beach — it also has nature trails, bike rentals, kayak rentals, a historic fort, picnic areas, camping, and a museum. It is on my must-visit list, and the best part is, it’s pretty cheap!
Cost: $5 per car (Plus a few tolls if you’re coming from I-275)