Free Things to Do in Tampa

10 fun and free things to do in Tampa when you're on a budget

With travel costs soaring, travelers to Tampa will be happy to know that there are plenty of things to do and see that won't bust the budget. Year-round sunshine and warmer temperatures make for lots of free (or almost free) outdoor activities, but there are also tempting indoor attractions to choose from as well. To help you make the most of your vacation dollars, 10 Best has put together a list of the top freebies in Tampa.

Tops on our list is the Tampa Riverwalk. Part scenic walkway, part history lesson, this 2.8-mile trail is studded with small parks and hugs the downtown waterfront, linking the city's most popular attractions, including the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Aquarium. There are also plenty of rest spots along the way where you can enjoy a beverage or a bite to eat.  

Just $6 for a car-full will get you a taste of Florida nature at Hillsborough River State Park. Just a half-hour away from downtown Tampa is this gem of a park that features hiking, picnics, kayaking, and more. If you really want to get away, reserve a spot in the adjacent campground. They have recently started renting several glamping sites if you don't have your own gear.


Tampa Firefighters Museum
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

The Tampa Firefighters Museum is located in downtown Tampa next to Tampa Fire Rescue Station One. Built in 1911, the beautifully restored building served as the Fire Department Headquarters until 1974. A tribute to all those who have served and continue to serve the city of Tampa, the 18,000-square-foot facility is designed to preserve the history of the fire department and to promote fire safety and prevention throughout the community. Included among the historical exhibits and interactive educational displays is an early fire wagon looking as bright and shiny as the day it was made, and a piece of metal recovered from the World Trade Towers on 9/11.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Tampa Firefighters Museum is a tribute to the city's first responders and features a vintage fire truck and piece of the World Trade Towers.

Skye's expert tip: Currently, the museum is open for small groups by appointment only Monday - Friday between 10 am and 2 pm. Call (813) 964-6862 or email

Read more about Tampa Firefighters Museum →

Hillsborough River State Park
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

To see the natural beauty of Florida without having to drive very far out of town, Hillsborough River State Park is your best bet. Located upriver from downtown Tampa, in northeastern Hillsborough County, this is one of Florida's oldest and most popular state parks. The list of things to do here is expansive, starting with both full-facility and primitive camping. Canoes and kayaks can be rented to go down the river. In contrast to most segments of the Hillsborough River which are very slow-moving, the river here has a rare section of fast-moving water with Class II rapids. There are also numerous picnic areas, a public pool, and numerous hiking trails where, if you're lucky, you will be able to spot some native Florida wildlife.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: For $6 per car, you can experience Florida wilderness at Hillsborough River State Park complete with hiking, picnic areas, and a canoe/kayak launch.

Skye's expert tip: If you can stay the night, consider booking one of their glamping camp sites offered by the Timberline Glamping Company.

Read more about Hillsborough River State Park →

J. C. Newman Cigar Company
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

The J. C. Newman Cigar Company was founded in 1915 by Julius Ceasar Newman as a one-man operation in Ohio. The company grew and flourished and in the mid-50s, J.C. decided to relocate to Tampa to pursue his dream of producing a premium cigar line. A relative latecomer to Tampa's cigar industry, J.C. Newman took over another cigar factory, the Regensburg factory, one of the last and largest cigar factories built in Tampa. Known for its famous clock tower with hourly chimes, the factory was nicknamed El Reloj, Spanish for "The Clock." In honor of the family's 125th anniversary and the factory's 110th anniversary, the factory was fully restored and re-opened to the public in 2021. Today the factory remains as Ybor City's last operating cigar factory and features a free 3-floor museum and cigar shop. Factory tours are offered Monday, Thursday, and Friday mornings for a $15 fee.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Learn more about Tampa's cigar-making history by visiting the museum and shop at the J. C. Newman Cigar Company, Ybor City's last working cigar factory.

Skye's expert tip: Make plans to visit on a weekday as the museum is closed and tours are not offered on weekends.

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Ben T. Davis Beach
Photo courtesy of Dylan Stinson/Film Tampa Bay

If you're vacationing in Tampa and are looking for a beach close by that offers powdery white sand for lounging, calm water for cooling off and shelters for picnics, then Davis Beach is for you. This is the closest beach to downtown Tampa and the locals' favorite tailgate spot. Davis offers ideal proximity to the airport for travelers who value efficiency. Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings see the beach populated by local volleyball players. This is one of the best spots in town to watch the sunset and is located adjacent to the new Courtney Campbell Trail, a four-mile biking and pedestrian bridge. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Tampa's best municipal beach is Ben T. Davis, offering plenty of sun, sand, beach volleyball and covered picnic areas.

Skye's expert tip: Parking can be a challenge when the beach is busy, and you do have to pay. Try to arrive early or late to snag a spot.

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Lettuce Lake Regional Park
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Lettuce Lake Regional Park is located along the Hillsborough River about half an hour north of downtown Tampa. The river at this point is in its natural state, untouched by houses and development giving visitors a chance to experience natural Florida at its best. The park features 240 acres of wooded picnic areas, a playground and a paved path for bikes and joggers complete with a fitness course. A haven for nature lovers and bird watchers, the park features an amazing 3,500-foot boardwalk and observation tower where visitors can view a variety of wildlife. Visit the interpretive center for exhibits on the local birds, vegetation, and animals. On Saturday and Sunday morning, the park features a free guided nature walk. You can also explore the river by canoe and kayak as the park features a boat launch and rentals.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Visitors can enjoy the natural beauty and wildlife of Lettuce Lake from the 3,500-foot boardwalk.

Skye's expert tip: There is a $2 park entrance fee per car that is cash only.

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Ballast Point Park and Pier
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Named for the spot where arriving ships would off-load their ballast to enter the harbor, Ballast Point Park and Pier is located in a quiet neighborhood of South Tampa. It features a wonderful splash park for the kids, a large playground area, shade trees and picnic tables. One of the most impressive features of the park is the view of the downtown skyline and Davis Islands. There is a long pier that juts out into the Bay and a conveniently located bait shop if you wish to try your hand at fishing. Alternatively, you can grab a bite at the Taste of Boston restaurant. The food is good, and you can sit outside and enjoy the views. There is also a boat dock and ramp.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This park and fishing pier with beautiful views of downtown is not only free, but you can catch your dinner!

Skye's expert tip: There is a bait shop that will rent you all the fishing gear you need, but you have to clean your own fish.

Read more about Ballast Point Park and Pier →

Bayshore Boulevard
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Yes, a sidewalk is one of Tampa's best attractions. However, this is a special sidewalk. Running along Bayshore Boulevard from MacDill Air Force Base to downtown Tampa, this sidewalk is the longest continuous sidewalk in the US. And, with Hillsborough Bay on one side and some of Tampa's most expensive real estate on the other, the scenery can't be beaten. It's also the location of our most important celebration, the annual Gasparilla parade in late January. As South Tampa's unofficial gym, at all hours of the day, you can find locals walking, jogging, biking, and rollerblading down the long, flat ribbon of pavement.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Bayshore Boulevard is the longest sidewalk in the U.S. and offers beautiful views of the bay and downtown Tampa skyline.

Skye's expert tip: There is not much shade, so make sure to bring water, wear a hat, and use sunscreen.

Read more about Bayshore Boulevard →

Located in the heart of Tampa's historic district, the Ybor City Visitor Center is the perfect place to start your exploration of this charming neighborhood. Operated by the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, the Visitor Center offers free attraction maps and expert advice on where to go and what to see. There is also an abundance of other Tampa travel-related brochures and pamphlets. Take some time to explore the small museum and video presentation to provide some background and context to the colorful history of what was once known as the "Cigar Capital of the World." This is also a good spot to shop for authentic and local souvenirs of your visit.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Ybor City Visitor Center offers visitors free maps and advice for exploring the neighborhood as well as a small museum.

Skye's expert tip: Masks are required while inside the Visitor Center and social distancing is encouraged.

Read more about Ybor City Visitor Center →

Outside the city
St. Pete Beach
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

St. Pete Beach truly has something for everyone and is frequently named as one of the most popular beaches in the U.S. Yes, it has white sand beaches and warm Gulf waters, but it's the extras that make this beach special. There are plenty of beach-side amenities including restaurants, Tiki bars, cabana rentals, jet ski rentals and other adventure opportunities. If you're staying overnight there are plenty of full-service resorts and boutique hotels lining the beach. Explore the shopping opportunities along historic Corey Avenue and take some time to tour the beautiful Don Cesar Resort. This huge pink Mediterranean-style hotel was built during the jazz age and has been the standard of luxury ever since.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Fun, laid-back, St. Pete Beach was named No. 1 beach in America by Tripadvisor in their 2021 Travelers' Choice Awards.

Skye's expert tip: The only thing that costs money at the beach is the parking! Currently, the fee is $3.25 an hour.

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Tampa Riverwalk
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

The Tampa Riverwalk is a scenic exploration of the downtown waterfront and connects many of the city's most popular attractions, parks, and restaurants. The broad paved path follows the banks of the Hillsborough River and Garrison Channel and is easily accessible to everyone including the disabled, kids, and furry friends. There are also many ways to navigate the Riverwalk which accommodates walkers, joggers, and bikers. A few of the landmarks you will pass include the Heights Public Market, Waterworks Park, Tampa Museum of Art, Curtis Hixon Park, the Convention Center, and the Tampa Bay History Center. Along the way, you can discover numerous interpretive exhibits highlighting Tampa's history and public art exhibits. The path is almost 3 miles long, but there are plenty of spots to stop for a rest and grab a drink or a quick bite along the way.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The 2.8-mile Riverwalk is a scenic walkway that hugs the downtown waterfront and connects many of Tampa's most popular attractions.

Skye's expert tip: Explore by bike ($5 per/hr) with self-serve rentals available at several spots along the Riverwalk.

Read more about Tampa Riverwalk →


Meet Skye Rodgers

Skye is a freelance writer that adopted Tampa as her hometown over a decade ago and never looked back. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no snow climate, and in her spare time...  More About Skye