And it doesn't have to be expensive to have a great vacation in the Sunshine State. With plenty of free green spaces and attractions, you can have a great time and only spend money on the gas it takes to get there. Read below to see the best free things to do in Tampa.
1) Manatee Viewing Center
The Manatee Viewing Center at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach is a short drive away from Downtown Tampa. From November 1 through April 15, visitors can see gatherings of manatees in the discharge canal that now serves as a federally designated sanctuary. Opened from 9 am to 5 pm, guests can see the manatees and park for free. You can also see a diverse collection of plant life, flowers, and butterflies in the renowned butterfly gardens. Additionally, a habitat loop trail takes visitors to the wildlife observation tower, giving guests a 50-foot high vantage point.
2) Green Spaces
Florida is known for its natural beauty! Take advantage of parks and trails, especially with kids! Grab comfortable shoes and soak up some sun:
- Water Works Park
- Courtney Campbell Trail
- Florida Botanical Gardens
- The Upper Tampa Bay Trail
- Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
3) Fourth Friday Downtown
Fourth Friday Tampa celebrates the city's vibrant arts and culture. Guests can see live local music, gain free admission or discounts to local museums and theaters, and gain discounts at several downtown restaurants. Event hours vary by venue, and many bars and restaurants extend past 9 pm if you don't mind spending money. Also, guests can take a complimentary ride on the TECO Line Streetcar, hail a free downtown rider service via your smartphone, or get a free day with Coastal Bike rental with a promo code.
4) Gasparilla Pirate Fest
Since 1904, crowds have gathered around Tampa Bay to celebrate the Gasparilla Pirate Fest. A day for reveling, Floridians flood Downtown Tampa and Tampa Bay to party like pirates. Participate in wearing costumes, day-drinking, and watching the fantastical Parade of Pirates presented by the Ye Music Krewe of Gasparilla. Featuring over a hundred floats, multiple marching bands, and dozens of organizations, the Pirate Fest is one of the top-rated free things to do in Tampa. Moreover, the fest features other events for cost such as the Gasparilla Invasion Brunch, and naturally, any bar and restaurant where folks care to indulge.
5) The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts showcases local and regional artists, entertainment, children's activities, and refreshments and food for the public. Run by volunteers, this historic festival takes place along the Hillsborough River. In addition, guests can also participate in interactive events like adding to murals, watching glassblowing demonstrations, and viewing artistically-themed performances and entertainment! In 2020, the festival will take place in Julia B. Lane Riverfront Park on February 29 and March 1st.
6) Bayshore Boulevard
Referred to as the "World's Longest Continuous Sidewalk", Bayshore Boulevard presents 4.5 miles of picturesque views of Tampa Bay. The ten foot-wide sidewalk begins at Columbus Statue Park at Platt Street and ends at Gandy Boulevard. One of the best free things to do in Tampa, visitors can see gorgeous greenery, blue skies, and prestigious homes in Old Hyde Park. Additionally, visitors can access a three-mile on-road bike lane along the north-bound lane of the boulevard between Rome Avenue and Gandy Boulevard.
7) Farmers Markets
Who doesn't love farm-to-market products, hand-crafted items, and live entertainment? Whether you're looking for fresh vegetables, kombucha, flowers, hand-crafted jewelry, or a free day out in the sun, you can spend time here without breaking the bank. Check out some of the local markets as one of the best free things to do in Tampa:
- Green & Golds Market at USF
- North Tampa Market
- Fresh Market at Hyde Park Village
- Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market
8) Florida Cane Distillery Tour
Situated in historic Ybor City, the Florida Cane Distillery offers free tours to guests. Guests receive a guided 30-minute tour as well as sample popular products made with Florida sugarcane. The distillery makes traditional and flavored vodka, rum, whiskey, gin, and moonshine. Also, the distillery showcases workshops and classes for a fee if you want to learn how to make your own spirits! Further, we suggest reserving tours in advance to guarantee a spot.
Tours are offered:
- Thursday 6:30 PM
- Friday 6:30 PM
- Saturday 2:00 & 4:00 PM
- Sunday 2:00 & 4:00 PM
9) Beautiful Beaches
Of course, you can't skip out on Florida's beautiful beaches. If you have kayaks at your disposal, I highly suggest kayaking around Honeymoon Island--just make sure to bring sunscreen and bug repellant!
- Ben T. Davis Beach
- Clearwater Beach
- Honeymoon Island
- Treasure Island
- St. Pete Beach
- Tampa Bay Beach
10) Tampa Riverwalk
Stroll down the Tampa Riverwalk for lovely weather, views of the water, and sights of the city skyline. Visitors can also bike or boat in the Riverwalk area as well, which features an array of businesses if you stop and get hungry! Additionally, the Riverwalk showcases a public art walking tour, playgrounds, shopping, and a historic monument trail of bronze and marble busts of local notable historic figures.
Visit Tampa to Experience the Best Beach Vacation
For one of the best family vacations, head to Tampa, FL! Explore the beauty and history of this popular destination as well as the surrounding cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater. For more discounts and travel ideas, refer to Tripster Tampa.