You don’t need to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to have a good time in Florida. There’s a lot more than expensive theme parks and overpriced tourist experiences here. In fact, it’s very possible to have a GREAT time in Florida completely free! The truth is that the Sunshine State is full of fun things to do, and the best part is, most of them won’t cost you a thing other than your time! So, if you’ve been wondering about fun things to do in Florida that won’t cost a fortune, read on!
Here we’ve compiled some of our personal favorites below into a list of 20 great things to do in Florida – all of them are totally free. There is something for everyone, families, couples, young and old. So, whether you’re a local Floridian looking for something new to do around the state, or you’re someone planning your next trip who wouldn’t mind some budget-friendly freebies to fill in your itinerary, we’re sure you’ll find something fun to enjoy on this list!
1. Relax or Go For a Swim at Florida’s Famous Beaches
No matter where you are in the Sunshine state, you are never very far from great beaches. And the best part is that some of the best beaches are open to the public year-round are absolutely free to visit! While even the local municipal beaches are worthwhile for any true sun worshipper, there are a few famous beaches you may want to check out if you are visiting.
- Key West, Floridais one of the best known and most beautiful of the 1,700 islands that make up the Florida Keys. Beach lovers will enjoy the aquamarine waters and where else can you say you’ve swam off of the southernmost point of the United States!? If you go, you should know that Smathers Beach is a favorite for locals and there is also a dog beach near here too.
- Destin, Florida in the panhandle is home to stunning white sand beaches and emerald waters. The white sand in Destin is famously soft and is often called “sugar sand” for this reason. The sand also doesn’t get too hot for your feet, no trip to Florida’s Panhandle is complete without seeing it for yourself.
- The St. Petersburg area just west of Tampa offers over 35 continuous miles of stunning coastal beaches. Almost every foot of beach is free and open to the public, and with so much variety, there promises to be a beach for every mood. Families looking for activities and concessions might want to stick with the St. Petersburg Municipal Beach. Those looking for more of an adventure may wish to check out Egmont Key, a state preserve and island just off the coast of the city, which is filled with unspoiled beaches and even an abandoned fort.
2. Go Birding and Admire Exotic Birds All Around the State
Now, I’m not an ornithologist or major bird enthusiast. However, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Florida is home to some species of birds that you can’t find anywhere else in the United States. Florida is also a key stop along many exotic birds’ migratory routes. Seeing so many different birds has gotten me more interested in them, and I must admit that I do enjoy seeing their bright colors and unique shapes and sounds. So spending a little time to admire these wild birds in their natural habitat is actually kind of fun!
Because of its unique and varied environments, there are always bound to be birds of interest, no matter where in Florida you happen to be. A really great resource to check out is the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail’s website. The “trail” really covers all of Florida! Not only does their website highlight different sections of the trail, broken into the East, Panhandle, South and West areas of the state, but it will also let you know what birds and wildlife you can expect to encounter and what times of year are the best to go. They also share directions for driving and walking trails and other natural areas where you can enjoy — much of which is totally free to get to and check out!
3. Enjoy a Sunset Celebration
What can possibly be better than celebrating the end of another perfect Florida day than with a sunset celebration? Watching the sun go down in Florida is honestly a popular ritual for many locals as well as visitors to the state. Luckily, the sunsets in Florida are pretty spectacular almost anywhere you happen to be. But especially beautiful will be the panoramic views afforded to sunset watchers who happen to be along the water on any of the state’s wonderful beaches. And if you’re looking to take some beach pictures during the golden hour, one of the most popular sunset celebration is at Clearwater Beach‘s Pier 60, but also Mallory Square in Key West is another famous hot spot to watch the sun go down. Celebrations take place every day of the year, they include music, food, and goods from local artisans and the fun can often go on for hours.
4. Wander Through a Charming Beach Town
One of the appeals of Florida is the number of quaint beach towns the state has. One such example on the Gulf Coast would be Venice, Florida, which is located in Southwest Florida, just 23 miles south of Sarasota. Consistently rated as one of the happiest seaside towns in America, one visit to Venice and you can easily see why it’s true. Besides friendly people and charming shops, the town also has many great beaches within just a few miles of town, with Caspersen Beach and Venice Beach being 2 of the most popular. The former is one of the best beaches for shell collecting and also for shark tooth hunting — which is what makes this town famous! Take a stroll through the downtown boulevards after a day at the beach and discover Venice’s own beautiful Italian architecture right in the middle of Florida.
5. Tour a Winery (Yeah, Some Are Free!)
Most people probably think of a wine tour as a normal part of a trip to California’s famed Napa Valley, but don’t think that just because you’re in Florida that you can’t enjoy a nice day at the vineyard as well. This is because, even though it may surprise some, Florida actually has a burgeoning wine production industry. This means you can take a wine tour easily in most parts of the state. And, of course, we found a few wineries that offer not only free tours but tastings as well. One such winery called Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards in Clermont, Florida has free offerings like vineyard tours and wine tastings. After your tour, be sure to give the wines a sample with your complimentary tasting. All wines are produced with the local varieties of the red Noble, Bronze Carlos and Chardonnay grapes.
6. Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, Key West
The Florida Keys are one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the country, with two national parks, four national wildlife refuges and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary all located within the archipelago’s boundary, the amount of nature they contain is immense. And if you would like to learn more about the natural bio-diversity that surrounds the Keys, a great, and free, place to visit is the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. This natural history museum is great for learning about the natural habitats that surround the Keys, and features exhibits on topics like coral reefs and underwater sea labs.
7. Go for a Nature Walk
One thing that is always rewarding and rarely costs a thing is a nature walk. And Florida has a lot of great options for nature walks as well. Filled with exotic animals such as alligators and iguanas sunbathing, many nature areas offer free admission or may charge a nominal fee for on-sight parking.
One great place to check out if you are interested in a free walk in nature is the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida. Though you would never know it by looking at it today, this park was built on land reclaimed from an old wastewater utility in the 90s. These days the Wakodahatchee Wetlands is a part of the southern section of the aforementioned Great Florida Birding trail, which means that this park is a great place to catch a glimpse of over 180 different species of birds. The highlight of any nature walk here is the over half mile of raised boardwalk that allows visitors to traverse the parks water features and enjoy the elevated views.
8. Check Out Classic Cars
Those of you interested in classic cars will enjoy a few options that are free around Florida. In Kissimmee (near Orlando) Old Town regularly holds classic car shows. You can also make a pit-stop in Venice, Florida in order to check out the Ideal Classic Cars Museum & Showroom. Admission to the museum is free and so is on-site parking. Visitors will be able to see a truly amazing collection of vintage automobiles that includes some famous showstoppers such as the several classic Batmobile. Just be sure to resist the urge to make a purchase, as the museum is a part of a working car dealership!
If you are really into classic cars and don’t mind paying a small fee, then you might also be interested in the Classic Cars Museum in Sarasota, Florida – the second oldest continuously operating antique car museum in the USA! While this museum is not free, we did want to mention it in case any of you are big fans!
9. Take a Relaxing Stroll Through a Garden Walk
If you are a fan of tropical gardens, then you may already find Florida is a paradise. One of the best ways to enjoy one of Florida’s many cultivated gardens is by taking a garden walk, and one of the very best places to do so is at the West Martello Gardens and Fort. The gardens themselves have been exquisitely planned and well taken care of, with tropical plants of interest in bloom most times of year. However, what truly sets West Martello Gardens apart is the historic Civil War era fort that provides the gardens unique and beautifully styled setting.
This is just one example. In fact, you can find many tropical gardens and parks all around Florida in various towns which are totally free to the public. You just need to keep your eyes open to them!
10. Hit the Water in your Canoe or Kayak
One of the best free things to do in Florida is to get out on the water in a canoe or kayak in order to get a different perspective on the beaches of the Sunshine State. For those of you who already have access to your own canoe or kayak, hitting the water in Florida can be a great free activity! And because you are never too far from the water in Florida, almost every municipality in the state will have a boat launch, and often one that is free to use for the public. To find the nearest boat launch near you can also try the FWC Boat Ramp Finder.
If you don’t have your own canoe or kayak, there are many places you can rent them for relatively cheap. Although it’s not free, it is cheaper than those theme parks!
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11. Learn Something New at One of Florida’s Many Museums
Florida is home to some world-class museums that are great for families and the curious alike. For those who are interested, many museums throughout the state are always free or have regularly scheduled free admission days. For example, Orlando regularly promotes its museums through a partnership with Bank of America that provides free access to local museums on the first weekend of every month.
Finally, the following museums are free year-round, you can find more information by clicking the links below:
- The Florida Museum of Natural History
- The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Florida
- Fort Christmas Historical Museum & Park in Christmas, Florida
- The Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach
- The Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee, Florida
- The National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida (Where you can see the Blue Angels practice!)
12. Soak up Florida’s Entertainment Districts
One of the best perks of living in Florida is the fact that there are so many entertainment areas created for tourists. And some of these shopping / dining / entertainment complexes are totally FREE to go for a stroll and soak up the atmosphere. Districts in Orlando such as Disney Springs or ICON Park in Orlando. ICON park is most recognizable for its 400-foot-tall illuminated Ferris wheel, but it is also home to over 40 of Orlando’s best shops, restaurants and bars. This makes the district an attraction in of itself and you can happily walk along its streets and browse for hours without having to spend anything.
** Note – sometimes there are parking fees associated with these districts, but not always. For example, Disney Springs is free to park. Be sure to keep this in mind before you go.
13. Sample Fresh Local Citrus at Farmers Markets
One of the joys of spending time in Florida is being able to enjoy all the fresh produce that the state has to offer. One of the best ways to enjoy the freshest local products is to visit a nearby farmers markets in local communities. Two markets you should be sure to take note of are the Jacksonville Farmers Market and the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market. The former is a quaint and charming farmers market that offers fresh produce and goods made by local artisans. The Jacksonville Farmers Market is one of the largest and best attended farmers markets in the country, with over a million visitors estimated each year.
Other favorites include the Punta Gorda Saturday morning farmers market and the Sarasota farmers market. No matter where you are in Florida, there will typically be a farmers market near a local community on any day of the week. But most often they tend to occur on the weekend – which makes for a fun thing to do on a sunny Saturday!
14. Biking or Walk Historic Trails
If you enjoy going on a nice relaxing or challenging bike ride, or even walk down a biking trail, then you’ll should definitely look into some of the trails around Florida. In fact, many cities and towns are creating these biking and walking trails on old railroad tracks, along beaches, and around towns. Two examples of trails that fit the bill would be the Legacy Trail, and the West Orange Trail around Orlando.
- The Legacy Trail stretches from Sarasota in the north past Venice to the south, is still being completed, but already it is well worth a visit. Bikers will want to take frequent breaks to check out the local color that the trail contains, such as a historic train depot in Venice and the many beautiful old bridges they will cross as they ride.
- The West Orange Trail in Central Florida connects the communities surrounding Lake Apopka just outside of Orlando with over 20 miles of dedicated, paved bike paths. Highlights include biking through downtown Winter Garden, which is a picturesque joy of a town, and how the trail mostly follows abandoned railroad tracks through the charming villages spread throughout the area.
15. Visit Hollis Garden & Lake Mirror in Lakeland
One of the best free things to do in Central Florida is to enjoy a day discovering the botanic delights of Hollis Garden and Lakeland’s famous Lake Mirror. Hollis Garden is filled with interesting tropical plant life from around the world and is set in a neo-classical architectural design which makes walking its many graveled paths easy to enjoy. Be sure to pace yourself by stopping to rest at one the garden’s many gazebos. The adjoining Lake Mirror provides a stunning backdrop for the gardens and can be easily enjoyed by strolling or biking around it as well.
16. Tour the Florida Botanical Gardens
Another wonderful botanic garden that is completely free to visit is the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo, Florida. This garden stretches to an amazing 182-acres that are filled with native and exotic flora and fauna. Highlights include a children’s trail with interactive stations and a replica heritage village. The garden is also pet friendly for those that want to bring Fido along. It is recommended to go early in the morning during the summer months in order to beat the muggy Tampa Bay weather and best enjoy the garden.
17. Take a Dip in Royal Springs Park
This modest five-acre park located in Suwannee County‘s tiny unincorporated community of O’Brien, Florida might first appear unremarkable and obscure. And though it is off the beaten path, this park is notable for one thing you can’t find almost anywhere else in the continental United States, and that is a free access to jump into a 42-feet-deep naturally fed spring. The park features a raised platform from which you can enjoy views of the spring’s crystal blue waters, and from which the brave are allowed to jump into the spring. Though slightly out of the way for some, the seclusion and beauty that this natural spring offer makes it well worth the trip.
18. Visit the Hindu Temple of Florida
With over a billion adherents, Hinduism is one of the most popular religions in the world. Yet, most people know nothing about the religion. Completed in 1996, the Hindu Temple of Florida is a great place to learn about Hinduism’s practices, beliefs and culture. The temple is designed in a classical Hindu style that will make visitors feel as if they have been transported to India or Nepal instead of Tampa.
The Hindu Temple of Florida is always free to visit, though donations are appreciated. And the Hindu Temple of Florida often puts on classes and special programming for both adults and children, and the temple even offers vegetarian meals!
19. Chill With Sea Cows at the Manatee Viewing Center
Manatees, which are also known as Sea Cows, are unique as they are fully aquatic mammals that feed exclusively on herbaceous sea grasses. These gentle creatures can be hard to spot in the wild, which is what makes the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, FL such a great free entertainment option, because when you’re there you are almost guaranteed to see a Manatee. This is due to the fact that Manatees are attracted to the warm water put off by a nearby power station and they frequently flock here to bask in the warmth in scores. If you want a chance to see a Manatee without leaving home, be sure to check out the center’s Manatee webcam.
20. Catch Some Culture with Local Movie Nights & Concerts
Lastly, another one of the best ways to put a cap on a perfect Florida day is to enjoy an outdoor movie or concert at night. If this sounds like your idea of a fun night out, then you will love the free options that many cities and towns put on around Florida.
For example, Orlando regularly has free movie nights at Lake Eola Park downtown during the holiday season, and they put on showings of classic favorites such as Elf, Love Actually and The Santa Clause. Check the city’s events page for more free upcoming events and possible movie showings.
Venice is also another town that frequently holds outdoor concerts and movie nights in the park. The concerts are held in the town’s historic downtown gazebo in Centennial Park and the music featured is an eclectic mix that can include jazz, classical and contemporary music. Tickets are free, but registration is necessary and should be taken care of well in advance as the events do fill-up. More info can be found on the city’s online calendar right here.
Which Free Things to Do in Florida Sound Fun to You?
So next time you think that you have to spend money to have fun in Florida, remember that there are plenty of fun free things to do in Florida if you just do a little research and take the time to find them. We hope this list helps give you some ideas so that you can enjoy during a weekend or a vacation to Florida that won’t break the bank.