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27 Free Things to Do in the Tampa (Or Cheap) You Must Do!

Looking for free things to do in Tampa? Great you have come to the right place!

Tampa is one of the best places to visit in Florida as it is a stunning sun-soaked city with great tourist attractions. Like many cities, there are many costly activities to do, and this is only expected to increase in years to come as the city builds more casinos and beautiful beachfront hotels.

Luckily, there are still some great cheap and free activities in Tampa FL if you are traveling on a budget. From beautiful parks that you can walk and cycle to lots of free events, you will never get bored in Tampa Bay with little funds.

Here are some great free (and cheap) activities in Tampa for the whole family to enjoy. The best inexpensive stuff to do in Tampa here:

27 Free Things to Do in the Tampa Bay Area

Tampa Riverwalk

The Riverwalk located in downtown Tampa is easily one of the biggest hubs for daily entertainment. It serves as a center for art, leisurely lunches, performances, fitness, and more. This 2.4-mile trail is a great path for walking and biking that connects all the culture and entertainment at the heart of the downtown area. The north end of the Riverwalk features a stellar foodie menu with high rated restaurants including Ulele and Armature Works.

Outdoor tables and a large park sit outside Armature works, sometimes having live music. As you head up the Riverwalk, you will walk past the University of Tampa, the Glazer Children’s Museum, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, and the Florida Aquarium. The Tampa Riverwalk is a long and bustling stretch that will keep you entertained for the day.

One of the best free things to do in Tampa for the whole family.

Tampa Riverwalk

Tampa Riverwalk/ Flickr

Ybor City

Walking through the scenic Ybor City Historic District is a fun way to spend an afternoon while in downtown Tampa. Ybor City has a scene for the history buff, the art connoisseur, the foodie, and the night owl. Ybor City was founded in 1886 and is a step back in time when strolling through the District.

You can spend time at the Ybor City Museum, take a cigar tour, and enjoy the Tampa Baseball Museum. With Ybor’s vintage shops and many murals, the area feels alive with color and culture seeping through its foundations. There are many art galleries in the area in addition to many opportunities to create art including the Ybor City Architecture Hop and the Ybor Art Studio.

If you are craving Cuban food, Ybor City is a must-visit with the Cuban sandwich being a staple on almost all Ybor City menus. Lastly, when people bring up Ybor, they are most likely going to talk about the many clubs that are lined up in Ybor. Ybor City has it all and would make a good place to visit for the morning, afternoon, and of course for the late hours of the day.

Ybor City

Ybor City/ Flickr

Tampa Bay Farmers Market

Opened seven days a week during the morning and afternoon hours, the Tampa Bay Farmers Market has the best fresh produce and goods coming from locally sourced farmers and food vendors. In the farmers market, you can find a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as some vendors offering specialty pantry goods, flowers, meats, and dairy products.

During the holiday months, the market sells Christmas trees and poinsettias. The market is free to enter and walk around, but all purchases benefit the local farmers and producers.

Tampa Bay Farmers Market

Tampa Bay Farmers Market/ Flickr

Ben T. Davis Beach

If you are looking for great free beaches in Tampa, you can’t miss the awesome Ben T. Davis Beach. Ben T. Davis Beach is a narrow beach that stretches along the Courtney Campbell Causeway that connects Tampa to Clearwater. It is the closest beach to downtown Tampa being about 10 minutes west and is the perfect spot for soaking up the sun and enjoying amazing sunset views of Tampa Bay.

Hunting for seashells and spotting sea life are other activities that are popular at Ben T. Davis Beach. However, this beach is not the best place for swimming due to its shallow and stagnant water that results in frequent advisories of bacteria. Don’t let this stop you from going because Ben T. Davis Beach remains a top spot for locals to go to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Ben T. Davis Beach

Ben T. Davis Beach/ Flickr

Pinellas Trail

The 38-mile Pinellas Trail stretches from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg used to be a railway trail which has subsequently been repurposed as a multi-use walking and biking trail. Pinellas Trail makes for the perfect spot to get in exercise while soaking up the sun. Take your bike and hit the trail on two wheels with friends or family.

There are pit stops along the way including Tarpon Springs where you can check out the sponge docks, the Sun Brewing company in Dunedin, and the hip downtown area of Dunedin. You can visit Honeymoon Island State Park (however the fee is $2 for cyclists) from the trail by making a side trip across the Dunedin Causeway.

One of the best things to do in Tampa for free.

Pinellas Trail

Pinellas Trail/ Flickr

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Just off Tampa Riverwalk, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park provides a long strip of lush green space in the downtown area that is perfect for kids, couples, and families to enjoy the fresh breeze coming off of the water. Keep an eye out for events at the park including free outdoor Rock the Park concerts each month, movies on the lawn, and more.

The park also features a dog park, a splash pad for kids to cool off in, and a pavilion with restrooms, water fountains, and a spot away from the sun. While in the downtown area, you will most likely pass through Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, but make sure you check their website to see what free events are going on that week.

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park/ Flickr

Gasparilla Parade

Once you have experienced your first Gasparilla, then you can call yourself a true Tampa local.  Gasparilla is an annual festival held in late January and draws a massive crowd every year. If we are talking about Tampa’s biggest event, this would be in the top 3.

The streets and riverwalk downtown are filled with people decked out in pirate gear awaiting the epic Gasparilla Pirate Fest including the legendary Gasparilla Invasion and the Parade of the Pirates. This day is a big day for college students and other young adults as they wake up at 8 am and begin drinking immediately. The question is if this crowd of people even makes it for the parade at 1:00 pm.

Gasparilla Parade

Gasparilla Parade/ Flickr

Upper Tampa Bay Trail

The Upper Tampa Bay Trail is located in residential northwest Hillsborough County. This trail offers 7 well-paved miles of routes for bikers and walkers to enjoy and get in their exercise. Along the way, there are many bathrooms as well as picnic areas for snack breaks. There are a total of 6 trailheads, which are great as it gives you options as to where to start your ride. If you are interested in a longer ride it  meets up with the Suncoast Trail.

From the Peterson Park trailhead, you will run past grazing cattle, sheep, and other livestock in the first mile. Soon enough you will be transported over busy Gunn Highway on a pedestrian bridge then launched onto Channel A waterway where you will be surrounded by cypress trees and other vegetation.

Upper Tampa Bay Trail

Upper Tampa Bay Trail/ Flickr

3rd Thursday Tampa

This place has some great free stuff to do in Tampa. Since 2012, every 3rd Thursday at Grand Central at Kennedy in the center of the Channel District of Downtown Tampa, Food Trucks line up, and live music and cocktails are provided by the Pour House Tampa.

This is one of the most popular free things to do in Tampa on a weeknight. You can also find free 2-hour parking which is always nice. The event starts at 6 pm sharp and ends at 10 pm.

3rd Thursday Tampa

3rd Thursday Tampa/ Flickr

Courtney Campbell Trail

The Courtney Campbell Trail is another awesome free activity to do in Tampa. Have fun walking or biking one of the best spots in the area which links Tampa and Clearwater. Spectacular views of Tampa Bay make Courtney Campbell Trail worth the trek, and make sure to look out for dolphins.

One of the best activities in the Tampa area for anyone who likes to be active including walkers, bicyclists, and runners. It is also a popular bird watching spot.

 Courtney Campbell Trail

via Facebook

Ballast Point Park

Situated on the east coast of South Tampa, Ballast Point Park is the ideal spot to take in a golden sunrise over Hillsborough Bay.

At the park, a long 600-foot pier stretches out into the bay, offering a picture-worthy view of the Tampa skyline. Additional features at the park include a splash pad, picnic areas, a boat ramp, and restaurants nearby like The Taste of Boston.

A convenient bait shop on the pair makes Ballast Point Park a great place to try your hand at fishing. Or you can just relax at the outdoor seating and great views at the Taste of Boston restaurant and enjoy their wonderful food.

Ballast Point Park

Ballast Point Park/ Flickr

Heights Night Market

A relaxing stroll through the Heights Night Market is the best way to get your mind off of the busy work week. Taking place on the 2nd Wednesday of every month from 5:30 to 9:30 pm in front of Armature Works, locals gather to listen to the live music by a rotating cast of artisanal artists.

Vendors line the market selling handmade goods, jewelry, art, woodwork, and gifts. It is one of the best free things to do in Tampa as it is free to visit, and could make for a great night out to celebrate the halfway point of the workweek.

See Florida Manatees at Tampa’s Manatee Viewing Center

Since 1986, the warm water leaking from a canal at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station has drawn manatees, especially during the winter months. The designated Manatee Viewing Center is a free place to find these gentle giants almost 9/10 times. While you are here, make your way through the habitat loop trail to the boardwalk that leads to the wildlife observation tower.

From a 50ft high vantage point, the views of the estuary below are mind-blowing. To learn more about manatees, the Manatee Viewing Center environmental education building displays colorful exhibits to immerse you in the world of the manatee and its habitat. If you are craving to see the native sea cows and learn more about them, Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center would be a memorable visit for you.

where-to-see-manatees

Sparkman’s Wharf

Similar to Armature Works, Sparkman Wharf is an energetic and vibrant piece of Tampa Bay’s downtown waterfront. Located at the south end of the Tampa Riverwalk and a short distance away from Amalie Arena, where the Tampa Bay Lightning call home, Sparkman’s Wharf features an intimate dining garden, Biergarten, and a recreational lawn full of games like cornhole and giant chess.

Everything is good at Sparkman’s Wharf because there you can enjoy everything Tampa has to offer including delicious draft beer, perfect weather, waterfront views, and fun activities like bowling. To enter, there is no fee, but obviously, you might want to check out some of the food from the many vendors.

One of the best free things to do in Tampa at night.

Sparkman’s Wharf

Sparkman’s Wharf/ Flickr

Tampa Premium Outlets

North of Tampa in Lutz, Florida, Tampa Premium Outlets has over 110 shops including Marc Jacobs, Coach, Michael Kors, and Polo Ralph Lauren. You will also enjoy delicious dining options at Market Hall including Johnny Rockets, Poke Lulu, and Bianco Gelato along with restaurants nearby like Longhorn Steakhouse, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, and Crumbl Cookies.

Tampa Premium Outlets are designed with pastel colors that give off a beachy feel and create a very relaxing environment for you to relax in. You do not have to spend money to enjoy a day looking around at this deluxe shopping center.

Tampa Premium Outlets

Glazer Children’s Museum

The Glazer Children’s Museum is a 53,000-square-foot museum in Tampa’s downtown district right off the Tampa Riverwalk. More than 170 hands-on exhibitions are displayed within cool interactive themed areas, making this destination a perfect place for children.

At Glazer Children’s Museum, children are encouraged to expand their minds and the promotion of a lifelong long love of learning is present. The many exhibits focus on science, civics, the arts, a Vet Clinic, an Artsmart studio, and more.

Admission is free on the first Tuesday of each month between 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Mark this on your calendar for a fun evening for your children to run around and learn.

Glazer Children’s Museum

Glazer Children’s Museum/ Flickr

Cypress Point Park

Being a local favorite spot for people to enjoy lunch breaks or evening sunsets, Cypress Point Park is a neighborhood park that has a beach on the bay, a trail, sand volleyball court, playground, disc golf course, and pavillions. The park is located minutes from the airport and downtown, and its main feature is the gorgeous sandy beach.

Unfortunately, it is not advised to go swimming in the water due to it being shallow and stagnant. That does not mean that Cypress Point Park doesn’t make a good spot to hangout because it still makes for a great place to get some sun or view one of Tampa’s colorful sunsets.

Cypress Point Park

Cypress Point Park/ Flickr

USF Sporting Events

All USF students receive free admission to USF sporting events, however, some events are free to the public. If you are eager to experience some of the school pride and spirit of the University of South Florida Bulls, then this is your chance.

Football games at James Raymond Stadium and basketball games at the Yuengling Center offer electric atmospheres for you to enjoy a memorable night in Tampa. Although the D1 sports teams at the school do not have the best records, it is still enjoyable to cheer the teams on and join the student crowds.

Fourth Fridays

On the fourth Friday of each month, many participating locations join in this event to celebrate the lively atmosphere belonging to the city they call home.

Live music and art galleries are free to everyone who picks up their lanyard as well as many food and drink specials. Enjoy live music in the Henry B. Plant Museum and Sparkman Wharf and take advantage of the food and drink deals from the Sail Plaza and The Straz Center.

If you happen to be in the Tampa Bay area on the fourth friday of the month, plan on spending the evening in downtown along the Riverwalk where you can enjoy an electric scene that brings the locals together each month.

Hyde park village

Hyde Park Village is an outdoor lifestyle center that offers a unique shopping, dining, and entertainment experience. The village, made up of several buildings, sits between Swann Avenue and Rome Avenue in Tampa, Florida.

Many well-known retailers such as Francesca’s, J. Mclaughlin, Lululemon, Nike, and Pottery Barn make Hyde Park a popular shopping destination.

Not to mention the top-tier restaurants that offer delicious menu items. Bartaco, Clean Juice, and Timpano, an Italian restaurant that brings a tableside parmesan wheel to cook pasta in, to name a few. This is the place to enjoy an afternoon or night with relaxation in an upscale retail and restaurant center.

JC newman cigar

Dozens of cigar shops are located throughout Ybor City, but only J.C. Newman Cigar Company actively produces cigars in Cigar City including Brick House, Perla del Mar, Julius Caesar, and Black Diamond.

Being a four-generation business starting in 1895, J.C Newman Cigar Co. now opens its doors to visitors from Tampa Bay to share their story and exhibit their cigar inheritance.

You can wander through the three floor cigar museum for free and open to the public, however consider paying for a guided 1-hour behind the scenes tour which includes an immersive theater showing old films and even learning how to roll a cigar yourself.

Armature works

Armature Works is a fully renovated multipurpose warehouse that creates a new vibe in the downtown Tampa area.

Located on the north end of the Tampa Riverwalk, Armature Works is a destination with unique eateries including high-end restaurants like Steelbach, Oak & Ola, and Stone’s Throw. Also located in Armature works is Heights Public Market, a lively place full of different vendors exhibiting foods from all types of cultures. Although the food is not free at Armature Works, it is worth the splurge.

For free, you can enjoy the outdoor seating area which features cornhole and other lawn games, as well as spectacular views. On certain nights, you can enjoy Heights Night Market and live music right outside of Armature Works.

Armature works

via Facebook

Bayshore Boulevard

At 4.5 miles, Bayshore Boulevard is not only one of the best free things to do in Tampa but also one of the longest stretches of sidewalk in the USA.

On one side you have the glistening water of Tampa Bay blowing a nice breeze while the other side is lined with beautiful, historic homes. This road is a nice spot to explore on foot or by bike if you enjoy looking at upscale living areas.

There are no intersections, breaks, or obstacles in your way on these sidewalks, so take your time and soak up the views of the Tampa skyline during sunrise or sunset. Honestly, the most fun part is to look at the mansions lining the other side of the street and bonus points if you spot Tom Brady because he supposedly lives across the bay.

Henry B Plant Museum

A visit to the reinstated rooms of the former Tampa Bay Hotel will transport you to Victorian splendor at the Henry B. Plant Museum.

This museum is located on the campus of the University of Tampa (and actually holds some classrooms for students to learn in there) that protects the history of the Tampa Bay Hotel from 1891 constructed by Henry B. Plant. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am to 5pm and is free for University of Tampa students, faculty, and staff.

However, visitors can explore the museum for free between 5:00pm and 7:00pm on the first Friday of each month. The Henry B. Plant Museum is a thrilling destination for antique lovers due to the rustic and Victorian style furniture that is authentic to the hotel. While you are there, be sure to check out the campus belonging to the University of Tampa!

International plaza and bay street

Just minutes from Tampa International Airport, International Plaza is one of the most high-end shopping centers along Florida’s West Coast.

Loaded with hundreds of specialty stores and luxury brand names including Gucci and Louis Vuitton as well as prime restaurant options including Aussie Grill, Brio Italian Grille and the Cheesecake Factory, this mall attracts tourists and locals alike.

Be prepared to be here for at least several hours with the seemingly endless loop with dozens of high end and mid range stores that has something for everyone. In the middle of the mall is Bay Street, an outdoor strip that allows for fresh air to get through the craze of the shopping crowd.

Hillsborough river state park

Located a few minutes from downtown Tampa, Hillsborough River State Park offers another scenic atmosphere in the heart of Tampa with seven miles of paved trails and access to the thriving wildlife of Florida. Walk beside the river rapids, spend the night at the expansive campgrounds, bring friends for a picnic, or simply escape the urban life for a natural environment.

This park provides many opportunities for outdoor recreation including hiking or biking on the trails to fishing in the Hillsborough River.

For a fee, you can rent out a kayak or canoe and enjoy the class II river rapids which is rare in Florida. Outdoorsy people who want to escape from the typical beach and blazing sun should check Hillsborough River State Park out.

 Hillsborough river state park

via Facebook

Cheap and Free Things to do Near Tampa

Pinellas County Heritage Village (31 minutes drive)

The Heritage Village in Pinellas County is a historical village and museum which dates back to the mid-late 19th century. The village features an beautiful restored homes and buildings in the woods.

The historical museum, which features two museum galleries with exhibits, is the centerpiece of this park. Here you can see a variety of cool demonstrations including spinning and weaving, like would be done bcak in the day.

The best part is that everything is completely free, but donations are always welcome. Make sure to check the bungalows, homes, sugar cane mill, store, and garden in the village as well!

Pinellas County Heritage Village

Pinellas County Heritage Village/ Flickr

Lettuce Lake Conservation Park (19 mins to Tampa)

Lettuce Lake Conservation Park is one of Hillsborough County’s more popular parks due to its close proximity to the University of South Florida.

Features of the park include picnic areas and playgrounds, an exercise trail stretching 1.25mi long, and a wooden boardwalk with a tower that offers great views of the Hillsborough River. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available for a small fee to provide for up-close encounters with a variety of Florida wildlife on the Hillsborough River including Florida gators.

If you are looking for a day to take in the Florida wilderness, then Lettuce Lake will provide that scenic opportunity for you.

Florida botanical gardens (34 mins to Tampa)

Free admission to Florida Botanical Gardens from 7am to 5pm daily is convenient for you to unwind and pause in a beautiful and natural environment where you can enjoy a peaceful walk through acres of manicured grounds and flowery panoramas in Largo, Florida.

Even better, the place is picnic- and dog-friendly so pack a blanket and your pet. At the Florida Botanical Gardens, you can walk into exhibits that are backyard-themed with patio decorations dedicated to home gardens, desert and tropic arrays that transport you to a different part of the world.

Around the holidays, be sure to check out Holiday Lights in the Gardens where the whole place is lit up with bright lights.  If you are into nature and fauna, a day at the Gardens would be perfect for you.

Ringling Museum of Art (1 hour to Tampa)

The Ringling Museum of Art is built in Sarasota and overlooks the Bay. It is made up of many buildings and separate museums including the Circus Museum, the Ca’ d’Zan Mansion as well as primitive displays such as the Secret Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Millenium Tree Trail.

The art museum has even more to offer from the Ruben’s Galleries to the Turrell Skyspace. You can view the stunning exhibitions from around the world and the classical sculptures that fill the grand courtyard for free.

A few bucks might be spent to enjoy the grand shows in the Circus Museum or to awe at the spectacle of the Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, but it is well worth it.

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