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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. Click any of the numbered titles for a link to that activity.
Heritage Village is at the top of our list of free Tampa Bay things to do. 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.
Cost: free (donations welcome)
Read our full Guide to Heritage Village.
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. You won’t even have to move the car if you’re also visiting Heritage Village.
Grab your beach bag and towel and head 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. If you get there early enough and look hard enough, you can also find public beach access with free parking in Treasure Island and Indian Rocks Beach.
My Beach Must-Haves:
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 is a must-do free Tampa activity if you love manatees!
Read our post about How to See Manatees in Florida.
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, but Riverwalk is a fun and free Tampa activity.
Or turn your walk into a scavenger hunt. Take this self guided art walking tour of the Tampa Riverwalk. You’ll see murals, sculptures and bridges.
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.
Cost: $2 per vehicle
See more of our Must Visit Tampa Bay Parks.
My hiking must-haves:
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. You can easily find free parking in Ybor during the day. Ybor City Museum State Park is small, but has an informative museum about Tampa’s diverse history and a small garden.
Cost: free, Museum $4 per person
Read our full Guide to Ybor City.
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.
This free Tampa park will be a favorite for the whole family. It’s located in the heart of downtown on the Tampa Riverwalk, near favorite restaurants like Armature Works and Ulele. it features lots of green space, a dog park, picnic areas and a splash pad for the kids.
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.
On the first Sunday of each month, enjoy a huge market in Hyde Park Village. Shop for locally-made products, fresh produce, and tasty treats. Or simply enjoy the atmosphere and people watching.
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.
Cost: free, wine prices vary
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!
This trail runs from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg. It’s completely paved and is great for walking, running, biking and skating. Hop on the trail wherever is closest to you and get some fresh air!
The Upper Tampa Bay Trail is located in North Tampa and is also paved. Enjoy walking, running and biking with a view!
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. Avoid pricy parking at the pier and find free or metered parking around downtown St. Pete.
Every night is a festival at Pier 60 in Clearwater! Enjoy a Sunset Festival every night around sunset with a variety of local vendors and performers at the pier.
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.
Cost: $6 per vehicle
Read our full Guide to Hillsborough River State Park.
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.
Cost: free, activities vary
See our Day Trip to Tarpon Springs Guide.
One of Tampa’s food halls, Armature Works is a great place to grab a cheap-ish bite to eat and hang out with friends. They have a variety of cuisines from sushi to empanadas to barbecue. Or just grab an ice cream or a drink. They also host many events like pop-up markets and drive-in movies.
Cost: free admission and parking, food prices vary
Check out more Must Try Restaurants in Tampa.
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 free Tampa parks for catching the sunset or having a quick picnic, and it’s much closer if you’re located 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.
Cost: free tastings, liquor prices vary
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 our favorites are Seminole Heights Antiques (Tampa), and Park Street Antique Center (St. Petersburg)
If it happens to be Saturday during your trip to Ybor City, stop at the Saturday Market. You’ll find local goods, produce and handmade products.
Check the USF calendar for available sporting events. Many games like softball, soccer, and tennis are cheap or may even be free on certain dates.
Edit: Haslam’s closed due to the pandemic and has remained closed as of July 2021. Check their hours before visiting.
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 hidden gem among free Tampa activities. 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.
Stroll the Beach Walk at Clearwater Beach. With beautiful ocean views, artistic touches, and plenty of shops and restaurants, you’re sure to have a good time.
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.
Cost: free, metered parking available
This museum contains artifacts, photographs and an extensive research library about Florida history. Exhibits range from the history of the railroad to the citrus industry.
Cost: $5 per adult
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.
Cost: $3 per adult, $1.50 per child
See our full post about Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.
This park in Downtown St. Petersburg is a wonderful place for a picnic or a stroll in the park. Waterfront views, walking paths, statues, and seasonal events are all features of the park.
This beautiful park in the middle of Largo is a huge 70-acre area with a fun playground, fountains, picnic areas and more. They often have seasonal events, so be sure to check the calendar.
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.
Cost: $5 per person
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.
A hidden gem in St. Petersburg, the arboretum has over 500 palms and cycads. With benches, gazebos and lots of green space, it’s a great spot for a scenic picnic.
Vinoy Park is one of the most visited parks in St. Petersburg. It has beautiful waterfront views and recreation trails. It’s also a popular place for events including local markets and concerts.
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 dollars in tolls if you’re coming from I-275)
See our full post about Fort de Soto Park.