Though Florida is best known for its lavish theme park resorts and high-rise beachfront hotel districts, the state offers much to do for visitors traveling on a budget, including free or low-cost ways to experience some of the attractions of the Walt Disney World and Universal Studios theme park resorts. The state's lovely official museums and local community historical society facilities offer free admission on select days, showcasing exhibits related to the state's social, cultural, economic, and political history. Visitors can also sample wines for free at some of the state's top wineries or explore renowned attractions such as the Daytona Flea Market, named as one of the top free-admission markets in the world by the Travel Channel. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Daytona Flea Market
Daytona Flea Market has been voted as one of the United States' top five markets by USA Weekend and as one of the world's best flea markets by the Travel Channel. The market, which was opened to the public in 1981, attracts over 2.5 million visitors each year to peruse more than a thousand booths held by over 600 vendors. Daytona Beach area visitors can explore the market each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during business hours, enjoying free admission and free parking on site. Delightful vendors sell antique and vintage goods, crafts, and artisan items throughout the year rain or shine, ranging from custom jewelry and home decor to gourmet coffees, teas, and pantry items. Annual special events include a monthly classic car cruise-in series and spin-and-win prize events on Saturdays.
1425 Tomoka Farms Rd, Daytona Beach, FL 32124, Phone: 386-253-3330
2.Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a lovely national marine sanctuary in the Florida Keys, home to the world's third-largest coral barrier reef, the Florida Reef. The sanctuary extends from the southern tip of Miami through the parts of the Dry Tortugas not contained within Dry Tortugas National Park, protecting extensive seagrass fields and mangrove forest habitats. More than 6,000 species of marine life live within the park's boundaries, most within North America's only coastal barrier reef habitat. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for world-class swimming, diving, fishing, and snorkeling experiences and can explore archaeological ruins and shipwrecks under the park's waters. The lovely Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center showcases 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, including a full replica of the world's only underwater ocean laboratory, Aquarius.
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3.Fort Christmas Historical Park
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Fort Christmas Historical Park is a lovely public park in the aptly-named town of Christmas, preserving the historic Fort Christmas military fortifications, named in honor of their date of construction beginning on Christmas Day of 1837. The fort was one of over 200 forts developed by the United States in response to the Second Seminole Indian War and remains operational as a living history facility today, showcasing seven restored historic buildings and homes that recreate the lifestyle of 19th and 20th-century Florida pioneers. A free-admission park surrounds the historic buildings, showcasing a variety of visitor amenities, including sporting courts, children's playgrounds, and fully-equipped picnic pavilions. Each year, the park hosts public special events such as the Orlando Wetlands Festival and the Florida Living History Festival.
1300 North Fort Christmas Road (C.R. 420), Christmas, FL 32709, Phone: 407-254-9312
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4.Fort Matanzas National Monument
Fort Matanzas National Monument is a designated United States national monument preserving the remains of the 1740 Spanish Fort Matanzas, which sits on 100 acres of barrier island and salt marsh lands along Florida's Atlantic coastline at the Matanzas River. The monument, which was created in 1924, is overseen in conjunction with St. Augustine's Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2008. Visitors can explore the monument's lovely visitor center and headquarters for free throughout the week, housed within a 1936 National Park Service Rustic-style historic building approximately 15 miles south of St. Augustine. Museum exhibits detail the history and use of the fort, which can also be explored as part of self-guided or guided tours. A half-mile boardwalk trail meanders through a lovely maritime forest habitat on beautiful Anastasia Island, accessible via boat from the mainland.
8635 A1A South, Saint Augustine, FL 32080, Phone: 904-471-0116
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5.Gulf Gate Library
Gulf Gate Library has been named as Florida's most beautiful library facility by Tech Insider, showcasing stunning architectural design across its 25,000-square-foot campus. The library, which opened to the public in January of 2015, has been recognized by the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects for its unique flexible spaces and inviting design elements. Visitors can explore the library throughout the week, peruse its extensive literature and multimedia collections, and enjoy access to its technology lab and public-use computers. Unique features include two reading gardens, a spacious teen activity center, and a drive-through system for book returns. Year-round free special events include club meetings, lectures, and children's storytime events.
7112 Curtiss Ave, Sarasota, FL 34231, Phone: 941-861-1110
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6.Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards
Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards are the largest winery facility in the state of Florida, overseen as part of the same company as the state's acclaimed San Sebastian Winery. The winery, which was opened to the public in 1989, is best known for its production of native grape wines, showcasing delicious varietals throughout the year crafted from locally-grown Welder Muscadine, Red Noble, and Bronze Carlos grapes. Traditional varietals are also showcased, including favorites like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Grigio. Visitors can enjoy free tours and tastings each day of the week at the winery's 127-acre estate in Clermont, available for visitors ages 21 and older. Tours run every half hour throughout the morning and afternoon hours, lasting approximately 45 minutes and showcasing the history and operations of the company.
19239 US-27, Clermont, FL 34715, Phone: 352-394-8627
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7.Mound Key Archaeological State Park
Mound Key Archaeological State Park spans 113 island acres along Estero Bay in the city of Estero, protecting one of the state's most important archaeological complexes, which dates back to its indigenous and early Spanish eras. The park, which is overseen as part of the Florida state park system, preserves unearthed ceremonial mounds that are believed to have served as a significant civic center for the region's Calusa indigenous people prior to the arrival of Spanish explorers in the area. Since 1970, the park has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places to preserve the sensitive mound structures. Visitors can access the park from nearby Koreshan State Historic Site or Lovers Key State Park and peruse its interactive informational trail, which details the historical significance of the mounds.
Estero, FL 33928, Phone: 239-992-0311
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8.The Museum of Florida History
© The Museum of Florida History
The Museum of Florida History is the official state history museum of Florida, located within Tallahassee's R.A. Gray Building. The museum, which was opened to the public in 1977, is open to the public for free throughout the week, housing a plethora of permanent and temporary exhibits showcasing the state's history from the prehistoric era through the modern day. Permanent exhibits include Forever Changed: La Florida, which highlights 500 years of the state's history since its settlement by Spanish explorers, and Florida Remembers World War II, which documents the state's patriotic involvement in the Second World War, including participation by women and African American citizens. A rotating gallery showcases exhibits changing every several months, many accessible only with a ticketed upcharge.
500 S Bronough St, Tallahassee, FL 32399, Phone: 850-245-6400
9.The National Museum of Naval Aviation
© The National Museum of Naval Aviation
The National Museum of Naval Aviation is the world's largest aviation-related museum, dedicated to showcasing aircraft and memorabilia connected to the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The Pensacola museum is open to the public for free throughout the week, showcasing 300,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space and 37 acres of outdoor display space for preserved military aircraft. More than 150 restored military and civilian aircraft are showcased at the museum, including one-of-a-kind planes like the Curtiss NC-4, the first plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Special exhibits document the role of naval aviation in major conflicts, highlighting the stories of those who have worked in military aviation roles. For an upcharge, visitors can also enjoy daily film showings at the museum's 325-seat IMAX Theater or dine on delicious fare at the Cubi Bar Cafe, which reconstructs the bar of the former Cubi Point Officers' Club in the Philippines.
1750 Radford Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32508, Phone: 850-452-3604
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10.Old Courthouse Heritage Museum
Old Courthouse Heritage Museum showcases Inverness' cultural and social history in exhibits housed within the city's 1912 Old Courthouse building, which served as the Citrus County Courthouse until 1978. Today, the historic courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as the official headquarters for the Citrus County Historical Society, housing official county archives, special collections, and free-admission public exhibits. Visitors can explore the Neoclassical-style building and view exhibits connected to the city's social and cultural history, including a special exhibit documenting the 1961 filming of the Elvis Presley film Follow That Dream in the city. Other exhibits document the city's history from its prehistoric indigenous era through its pioneer days and modern citrus and film industries.
1 Courthouse Square, Inverness, FL 34450, Phone: 352-341-6428
© Old Town
Old Town is a unique 18-acre shopping and entertainment experience in Kissimmee, designed to recreate the traditional atmosphere of an historic 19th-century Florida town. The center, which is located just minutes from the vibrant Universal Studios and Walt Disney World theme park resorts, offers lively shopping, dining, and entertainment attractions for the entire family to enjoy. Attractions include an 85-foot custom-designed Ferris wheel, a family fun center and arcade, a haunted house, and The Great Magic Hall, which presents magic shows at several times each day. Visitors can also enjoy excellent dining options, ranging from local favorite pubs and pizzerias to national chains like Jimmy John's. Though many of the center's attractions require a ticketed upcharge or purchase, the center frequently hosts free special events, including live music performances, family-friendly movie nights, and antique car drive-ins.
5770 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746, Phone: 407-396-4888
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12.San Sebastian Winery
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San Sebastian Winery is one of Florida's most renowned premium wineries, founded in 1996 in the city of St. Augustine and housed within an historic building connected to the former East Coast Railway. The winery is known for its delicious vinifera wines, including classic Petit Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay varietals. Native Muscadine grape wines are also produced, along with port and cream sherry dessert wines. Visitors can enjoy complimentary winery tours and wine tastings seven days a week at the company's lovely public tasting room, located just blocks from the city's downtown district. All tour participants watch documentary film showings on the winery's history and receive guided walking tours of its 18,000-square-foot production facility, including its authentic barrel room.
157 King St, St. Augustine, FL 32084, Phone: 904-826-1594
© The Casements
The Casements preserves the former winter home of American oil magnate and entrepreneur John D. Rockefeller, located in the city of Ormond Beach. The mansion, which is named for its large hand-cut casement windows, has been fully restored to its historic splendor and is open to the public as a living history museum and cultural center overseen by the City of Ormond Beach. Visitors can explore the home's three floors Mondays through Saturdays as part of self-guided tours and learn about the mansion's history and Rockefeller's charitable work through permanent exhibits. Exhibits include a Boy Scout historical exhibit that contains one of the American Southeast's largest collections of Boy Scout memorabilia.
25 Riverside Dr, Ormond Beach, FL 32176, Phone: 386-676-3216
14.The Cornell Fine Arts Museum
The Cornell Fine Arts Museum a free-admission teaching museum located on the campus of Winter Park's Rollins College, open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours. The museum was founded to hold the college's natural history artifacts and portrait collections at the turn of the 20th century. Throughout its operations, its focus gradually shifted to showcase the fine arts in a variety of media, ranging from painting to sculpture. Today, it has become Florida's first American Alliance of Museums-accredited fine arts museum, holding a major collection of more than 5,000 works by internationally-renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Maya Lin, Childe Hassam, and Andy Warhol. Free docent-led museum tours are offered on weekends, lasting approximately 30 minutes.
1000 Holt Avenue-2765, Winter Park, FL 32789, Phone: 407-646-2526
15.The Florida Historic Capitol
© Felix Mizioznikov
The Florida Historic Capitol has been the seat of Florida's state government since 1845, restored to its historic 1902 appearance today and open to the public as a living history museum during business hours. The lovely building showcases a spectacular stained-glass dome and restored interior areas for visitors to explore, including its 1902-era Governor's office and chambers of its legislative and judicial branches. Permanent exhibits on display throughout the building include a retrospective of Florida's role in the 2000 presidential election, an analysis of the state's role in the Civil Rights Movement, and the lasting impact of the state's seminal Gideon v. Wainwright Supreme Court cast. Florida's educational systems and immigration history are also profiled in exhibits, which integrate photographs, recordings, and other audiovisual elements to bring the state's history to life.
400 S Monroe St, Tallahassee, FL 32399, Phone: 850-487-1902
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16.The Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway
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The Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway is a lovely scenic byway traversing several Florida state routes that extend throughout the picturesque river lagoon terrain of the same name, which is home to more than 4,000 species of native flora and fauna, more than any other estuary habitat in North America. The byway meanders through gorgeous stretches of three national wildlife refuges and a national seashore, along with several state and local parks and sanctuaries. Visitors can view landmarks such as the Kennedy Space Center Complex, located on the grounds of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, or explore attractions such as the McLarty Treasure Museum, which preserves the site of a Spanish salvors' encampment. Opportunities to pull off for recreation abound, including chances for swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, surfing, and boating.
17.The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the official state art museum of the state of Florida, located in lovely Sarasota and open to the public for free each Monday. The museum was the vision of circus magnate John Ringling, opened in 1930 as a memorial to his wife Mable. It was bequeathed to the state of Florida following Ringling's death in 1936 and was transferred to the care of Florida State University in 2000. Today, it houses a stunning collection of more than 10,000 artifacts and pieces of art, ranging from ancient and Medieval objects through contemporary and modern works from around the world. Important holdings include collections of Renaissance and modern European paintings by artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Giambattista Pittoni, and Marcel Duchamp. Visitors can explore the museum's Renaissance-style architecture and peruse its lovely grounds, which are designed as a sunken garden and home to ornate statues and fountains.
5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243, Phone: 941-359-5700
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18.The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art
The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art is the official art museum of the University of Florida at Gainesville, located within the campus' UF Cultural Plaza. The museum is named in honor of donor Samuel Peebles Harn and was opened to the public in 1990 within a beautiful 111,800-square-foot facility, one of the American South's largest art museum facilities. Visitors can explore the museum's collections for free as part of Museum Nights events, which take place on the second Thursday of each month between 6:00pm and 9:00pm. The museum's galleries are on display during events, showcasing a collection of more than 11,300 holdings with strengths in the areas of Asian and African art, modern and contemporary work, and photography. In addition to gallery openings, the event also offers a plethora of interactive experiences, including guest lectures, guided tours, and art-making opportunities.
3259 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611, Phone: 352-392-9826
© Universal CityWalk
Universal CityWalk is a unique free-admission experience on the campus of the Universal Orlando Resort, offering a lower-cost alternative to the hefty price tag of the resort's theme park experiences. The lovely retail and entertainment district was opened in 1999 as part of major expansions to the resort, now serving as the main entrance plaza for the resort's Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida theme parks. Visitors can enjoy national chain favorite restaurants such as the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, and Hard Rock Cafe Orlando alongside a plethora of family-friendly activities, including an AMC Theatres cinema, IMAX Theater, and Blue Man Group live theater. Other attractions include a 1950s-themed family miniature golf course and an array of favorite name-brand shopping experiences. Though the CityWalk is free to enter, visitors should note that most attractions require a ticketed upcharge or purchase.
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, Phone: 407-363-8000?
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19 Best Free Things to Do in Florida
- Daytona Flea Market, Photo: Myst/stock.adobe.com
- Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Photo: Tsado/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Christmas Historical Park, Photo: BJ Ray/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Matanzas National Monument, Photo: itsallgood/stock.adobe.com
- Gulf Gate Library, Photo: dusanpetkovic1/stock.adobe.com
- Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards, Photo: schapinskaja/stock.adobe.com
- Mound Key Archaeological State Park, Photo: Gajus/stock.adobe.com
- The Museum of Florida History, Photo: The Museum of Florida History
- The National Museum of Naval Aviation, Photo: The National Museum of Naval Aviation
- Old Courthouse Heritage Museum, Photo: Tupungato/stock.adobe.com
- Old Town, Photo: Old Town
- San Sebastian Winery, Photo: Maria Kasimova/stock.adobe.com
- The Casements, Photo: The Casements
- The Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Photo: JackF/stock.adobe.com
- The Florida Historic Capitol, Photo: Felix Mizioznikov
- The Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway, Photo: Jim Engelbrecht and Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Photo: Mariakray/stock.adobe.com
- The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Photo: Rawpixel.com/stock.adobe.com
- Universal CityWalk, Photo: Universal CityWalk
- Cover Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
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