Free attractions abound in Tampa, including the beautiful Florida Botanical Gardens and attractions within the city's vibrant Ybor City neighborhood. For low-cost transportation, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit system offers bus routes and the TECO Line Streetcar System. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1.Florida Botanical Gardens
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Florida Botanical Gardens are a 182-acre public botanical garden facility, home to 10 landscaped visitor gardens and over 10,000 native and exotic plants. The gardens, which were opened to the public in 2000, are located in Tampa suburb Largo and are open to the public every day of the year for free during daylight hours. Demonstration gardens include an herb garden, a tropical fruit garden, a native plants garden, a cacti and succulent garden, and a butterfly garden. A tropical walk is also offered, along with a vinery display and a relaxing tropical courtyard. Natural areas offered at the site include McKay's Creek, which is home to significant aquatic habitats. Visitors can explore the gardens' beautiful public art, including murals, mosaic benches, and water fountains. A children's trail area also offers outdoor musical instruments and an interactive butterfly puzzle for young visitors.
12520 Ulmerton Rd, Largo, FL 33774, Phone: 727-582-2100
2.The Henry B. Plant Museum
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The Henry B. Plant Museum is a unique public museum on the campus of the University of Tampa preserving the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel, a former Victorian railroad resort that was constructed by transportation entrepreneur Henry B. Plant. The opulent resort, which was designed by architect J.A. Wood, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1972 and was listed on the American Institute of Architects' Florida Architecture: 100 Years, 100 Places list in 2012. It preserves the splendor and charm of the original historic resort, with original furnishings kept intact as a living history museum. Exhibits detail the building's history as a Gilded Age resort and its use during the Spanish-American War. Visitors can explore the museum for free as part of First Friday celebrations between 5:00pm and 7:00pm.
401 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606, Phone: 813-254-1891
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Tampa Riverwalk is a gorgeous 2.6-mile pedestrian trail and public park spanning the length of the Hillsborough River within downtown Tampa, open to the public for visitor use daily. The riverwalk project's inspiration dates back to the 1970s, though construction was completed on the project between 2002 and 2016. Today, the riverwalk traverses downtown Tampa's Arts District and provides access to a number of the city's top tourist attractions, including the Tampa Museum of Art, Glazer Children's Museum, and Curtis Hixon Park. In all, it begins at the city's Channelside District and travels to the city's Water Works Park at Tampa Heights. A wide variety of beautiful public art is showcased along the trail, including the Historical Monument Trail, which presents bronze busts of prominent city civic figures.
4.The Tampa Firefighters Museum
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The Tampa Firefighters Museum preserves the history and culture of the Tampa Fire Department, located adjacent to the Tampa Fire Rescue Station One in the city's downtown district. The 18,000-square-foot museum is housed within the city's former fire department headquarters, operated between 1911 and 1974, and has been designated as a local historical landmark by the City of Tampa. Visitors can view a variety of exhibits at the museum, including restored historic fire trucks and fire equipment and a variety of uniforms worn by city firefighters over the years. The museum is free and open to the public daily, also offering a gift shop and fire safety awareness classroom for student education.
720 E Zack St, Tampa, FL 33602, Phone: 813-964-6862
© Heritage Village
Heritage Village is a 21-acre living history complex, preserving some of Pinellas County's most historic buildings and businesses. The museum is free and open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours, with the exception of county holidays. 33 preserved historic attractions may be explored by visitors, including a general store, a railroad depot, and historic homes, churches, and school buildings. The village's visitor center offers free permanent and rotating art and history exhibits, and living history demonstrations are presented on site throughout the year, including smoke house and sugar cane mill demonstrations. Though the museum is free to enter, donations are strongly suggested to aid with future museum operations.
11909 125th Street N, Largo, FL 33774, Phone: 727-582-2123
6.Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center
© Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center
Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center chronicles the history of Tampa's Sulphur Springs neighborhood, which became a nationally-renowned tourist attraction during the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to its mineral hot springs, shopping arcade, and alligator farm. The museum is housed within Mann-Wagnon Memorial Park and was opened to the public in 2010. Exhibits detail the rise and fall of "Florida's Coney Island," along with the neighborhood's African-American history and the park's former natural history museum, which operated until the 1970s. The museum is open to the public for free Wednesdays through Saturdays, with additional Sunday hours during public special events.
1101 E River Cove St, Tampa, FL 33604, Phone: 813-935-9402
7.The Manatee Viewing Center
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The Manatee Viewing Center is a federally-designated Florida state manatee sanctuary, opened to the public for free daily during business hours between November and mid-April. The center strives to educate Tampa area residents and visitors on environmental and biological issues related to the Florida manatee and its natural habitat. Interactive visitor exhibits are offered at the center for visitors of all ages, including exhibits on the manatee's life cycle and its natural and environmental challenges. Exhibits also detail the operations of Big Bend Power Station, which provides environmentally-friendly energy for the Tampa region. Center staff and volunteers are hosted on site to answer visitor questions and offer additional information. Outside, the center is home to award-winning butterfly gardens, a habitat loop trail, and a wildlife observation tower.
6990 Dickman Rd, Apollo Beach, FL 33572, Phone: 813-228-4289
8.The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
© The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts is one of Tampa's biggest annual cultural events, hosted each year during the first weekend in March. The event showcases some of the nation's most accomplished and exciting emerging and mid-career artists, awarding nearly $75,000 USD in annual prizes, including the $15,000 Best of Show Award. Artists present works in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, glass, jewelry, ceramics, and mixed media. Works by young artists are also showcased, along with a full weekend of live performances and a children's activity area. Local Tampa food trucks and beverage vendors are hosted on site throughout the event, including beer and wine vendors.
9.Gasparilla Pirate Fest
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Gasparilla Pirate Fest is the third-largest annual parade in the United States, hosted each January in Tampa Bay. The parade is named in honor of infamous 18th and 19th century pirate Jose Gaspar, who operated throughout coastal Florida. A full weekend of pirate-themed entertainment is offered each year, including a Gasparilla Invasion reenactment with more than 750 swashbucklers and a four-mile-long Parade of Pirates, which attracts more than 300,000 annual spectators. Free seating is offered for the parade, though visitors can also upgrade to reserved seating for an additional fee and better views. After the parade, the celebration continues at the Gasparilla Pirate Fest Street Festival, which offers live musical performances and food trucks.
10.Courtney Campbell Trail
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Courtney Campbell Trail is a beautiful 9.5-mile wide-paved walking, cycling, and inline skating trail connecting Tampa and Clearwater, offering spectacular panoramic views of Upper Tampa Bay. The trail spans the length of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, embarking at Tampa's Veterans Expressway and running to Clearwater's Bayshore Boulevard. 5.5 miles of the trail are located within Tampa and Hillsborough County, spanning a 45-foot bridge and connecting to a variety of recreational trails within the city. In Clearwater, the trail provides access to the Pinellas Trail, the Duke Energy Trail, and the Ream Wilson East-West Trail.
294 Bayshore Blvd, Clearwater, FL 33759
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Ybor City is one of Tampa's most historic and eclectic neighborhoods, originally founded in the late 19th century by Vicente Martinez-Ybor. The former cigar factory district and Hispanic immigrant hub was nearly abandoned during the mid-20th century but was revived as a vibrant arts district in the 1980s. Today, the National Historic Landmark district's main commercial thoroughfare has been named as one of America's 10 Great Streets by the American Planning Association and is home to hip boutiques, cultural museums, and Latin American-influenced restaurants. LGBT-friendly nightclubs and bars also line its GaYBOR district. Visitors can explore the district via the TECO Line Streetcar System and attend a number of free annual public special events, including the Sant'Yago Knight Parade and Guavaween.
12.The Florida Cane Distillery
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The Florida Cane Distillery is a unique microdistillery located within Ybor City, originally opened to the public by Pat O'Brien and Lee Nelson. The unique distillery produces 100% Florida-distilled gins, vodkas, moonshines, and whiskies crafted exclusively with locally-sourced ingredients, manufactured in interesting flavors such as Orlando Orange, Weeki Wachee Watermelon, and Plant City Strawberry. Visitors can explore the distillery as part of free guided tours offered Thursdays through Sundays at the factory. Due to Florida law, the distillery cannot sell its products for consumption on site, so all tours include free tastings of the company's products, which are available for takeout purchase after tours. All tours last approximately 30 minutes and are offered multiple times a day, available with advance reservations on the company's website.
1820 N 15th St, Tampa, FL 33605, Phone: 813-302-9696
13.The Upper Tampa Bay Trail
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The Upper Tampa Bay Trail is a public walking and cycling trail located within northwestern Hillsborough County, stretching from the western shores of Channel A to Tampa's Veterans Expressway at the Suncoast Trail. Trailhead access is provided at both north and south entrances, along with public parking lots, restrooms, drinking fountains, and vending machines. Trail access points are also offered at Ehrlich Road, Peterson Park, and Lutz Lake Fern Road. Amenities offered along the way at several sites include children's playgrounds and picnic shelters with barbecue grills. The trail serves as a prime site in the Tampa region for bird watching and wildlife watching.
9201 West Waters Ave, Tampa, FL 33635, Phone: 813-801-6729
14.Tampa Bay Farmers Market
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Tampa Bay Farmers Market offers the Tampa Bay Area's best fresh, nutritious produce and goods, all locally sourced from regional farmers and food vendors. The market is open to the public seven days a week during the morning and afternoon hours and sells a wide variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables to the public and for restaurant wholesale. Some vendors also offer specialty and pantry goods, flowers, meats, and dairy products. While the market is free to enter, all purchases benefit local farmers and producers. During the holiday months, the market operates a Christmas tree lot and poinsettia market, selling fresh-cut trees and floral-grade poinsettias, along with a variety of holiday decorations and merchandise.
1718 W. Fletcher Ave, Tampa, FL 33612, Phone: 813-876-7888
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15.Yuengling Brewing Co.
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Yuengling Brewing Co. is the United States' oldest currently-operating brewery and is the nation's top independent craft brewery, originally founded in 1829. Today, the brewery produces nearly three million barrels of beer annually at its Pottsville, Pennsylvania and Tampa factories, known for its traditional lager, Black and Tan porter mix, and Lord Chesterfield Ale. Visitors at the Tampa factory can take guided tours for free Wednesdays through Saturdays during the morning and afternoon hours. Each tour lasts approximately one hour and showcases the brewery's operations and production process. After tours, visitors can stop in at the company's biergarten and sample ales or stop in at the factory's official gift shop. Participants of all ages are welcome on tours, with non-alcoholic soda samples available for visitors under the age of 21.
11111 N 30th St, Tampa, FL 33612, Phone: 813-972-8529
16.Ben T. Davis Beach
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Ben T. Davis Beach is a beautiful public beach that is located along the Courtney Campbell Causeway, connecting the cities of Tampa and Clearwater. The beach is known as a major public landmark, serving as the closest beach to Tampa's downtown district. Beautiful white sands offer ample space for lounging, with swimming and wading access permitted for beach visitors. Several picnic shelters at the site are available for day use, with volleyball courts also available. Lifeguards are staffed on site at the beach during the summer months. Near the beach, visitors can access the four-mile Courtney Campbell Trail, which is available for walkers, cyclists, and inline skaters.
7740 W Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa, FL 33607, Phone: 813-274-8615
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Fourth Fridays are Tampa's biggest monthly arts and culture events, opening up many of the city's art galleries, studios, museums, and tourist attractions for free or discounted visitor access. Visitors can pick up free Fourth Friday wristbands at participating venues throughout the event, which serve as admission tickets for locations throughout the evening. Major participating sites include the Portico Cafe, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, the Henry B. Plant Museum, and the Italian Club. Art galleries showcase exhibit openings, while theatrical venues in the region such as the Jobsite Theater and Stageworks offer free live performances throughout the event. A number of local restaurants and bars offer food and drink specials throughout the evening to visitors with event wristbands. All attendees receive free hop-on-hop-off TECO streetcar access or a free hour of Coast Bike rentals.
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18.The J. C. Newman Cigar Company
© The J. C. Newman Cigar Company
The J. C. Newman Cigar Company is America's oldest family-owned premium cigar company, originally founded in 1895 by Julius Caesar Newman. The iconic cigar makers have been anchored within Tampa's Ybor City National Historic Landmark District since 1954, operating out of the El Reloj factory, which produces cigars both by hand and using antique cigar-making technologies. As the city's last remaining classic cigar factory, the El Reloj factory is a regional landmark. Free guided tours of the factory are planned to operate to coincide with the company's 125th anniversary celebration in 2020. In the meantime, visitors can explore the company's public museum as part of free self-guided tours Mondays through Fridays during business hours.
2701 North 16th Street, Tampa, FL 33605, Phone: 813-248-2124
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19.Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library
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Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library is the official public library system of the Tampa region, offering 25 branches throughout the Tampa and Hillsborough County regions. The system was begun as the Old Tampa Free Public Library in 1915, one of only 10 public libraries in the state to receive a prestigious Carnegie grant. Today, the system circulates more than 3.5 million volumes and audiovisual items, along with more than 2.3 million digital items. Significant collections include the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection, which is hosted at the John F. Germany Branch and showcases the state's 19th and 20th century residential and business evolution. At the Port Tampa Library, visitors can access the unique Maritime Reading Room, which houses nautical books, maps, artifacts, and art collections. Other unique services include a Bookmobile, a Spanish-language Cybermobile, and the Hive Makerspace, offered at the John F. Germany Branch.
102 E. 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33602, Phone: 813-273-3652
20.Tampa Downtown Partnership Free Guided Walking Tours
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Tampa Downtown Partnership Free Guided Walking Tours offer a chance to explore the city's rich cultural and architectural history as part of guided tours led by expert tour guides. Tours are offered on the first and third Fridays of the month from October through May, departing each day at noon and lasting approximately one hour. All tours are centered around a unique theme, with past themes including urban lifestyles, architectural retrospectives, and themes related to specific civic buildings and events. One tour in December is also offered as part of the annual Holiday Hop of Trees winter holiday event. For a complete schedule of tours and tour times each year, visitors can check out the Tampa Downtown Partnership official website.
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21.The Tampa Police Museum
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The Tampa Police Museum is a free-admission museum that was originally opened to the public in 1998, showcasing Tampa police artifacts dating back as far as the 19th century. The museum is located within the Tampa Police Headquarters and is open to the public daily between 10:00am and 3:00pm. Major exhibits include a restored 1924 Model T police car, a Rogue's Gallery containing mugshots and fingerprints belonging to the city's famous criminals, and a preserved police motorcycle. Visitors can pose for pictures behind a barred door relocated from the city's former jail building. Exhibits also honor police officers killed in the line of duty, including the tombstone of John McCormick, the city's first fallen officer.
411 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602, Phone: 813-276-3200
22.The Glazer Children’s Museum
© The Glazer Children’s Museum
The Glazer Children’s Museum is a 53,000-square-foot children's museum in Tampa's downtown district, located near the city's Riverwalk within the Waterfront Arts District. The museum was originally founded in 1986 and relocated to its current location in 2010, serving more than 250,000 visitors annually. More than 170 unique hands-on exhibits are offered within interactive themed areas, encouraging children to expand their minds and exercise their bodies and promoting a lifelong love of learning. Exhibits focus on science, civics, and the arts, including a Vet Clinic, an Artsmart studio, and the pint-sized Twinkle Stars Theater. Free museum admission is offered on the first Tuesday of each month between 2:00pm and 7:00pm.
110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, FL 33602, Phone: 813-443-3861
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22 Best Free Things to Do in Tampa Year Round
- Florida Botanical Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of vanila91 - Fotolia.com
- The Henry B. Plant Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Felix Mizioznikov - Fotolia.com
- Tampa Riverwalk, Photo: Courtesy of LifeGemz - Fotolia.com
- The Tampa Firefighters Museum, Photo: The Tampa Firefighters Museum
- Heritage Village, Photo: Heritage Village
- Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, Photo: Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center
- The Manatee Viewing Center, Photo: Courtesy of duke2015 - Fotolia.com
- The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Photo: The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
- Gasparilla Pirate Fest, Photo: Courtesy of nd3000 - Fotolia.com
- Courtney Campbell Trail, Photo: Courtesy of herraez - Fotolia.com
- Ybor City, Photo: Courtesy of CJM Grafx - Fotolia.com
- The Florida Cane Distillery, Photo: The Florida Cane Distillery
- The Upper Tampa Bay Trail, Photo: Courtesy of LifeGemz - Fotolia.com
- Tampa Bay Farmers Market, Photo: Courtesy of Kristina - Fotolia.com
- Yuengling Brewing Co., Photo: Courtesy of Ozgur Coskun - Fotolia.com
- Ben T. Davis Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Peter - Fotolia.com
- Fourth Fridays, Photo: Courtesy of VTT Studio - Fotolia.com
- The J. C. Newman Cigar Company, Photo: The J. C. Newman Cigar Company
- Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, Photo: Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library
- Tampa Downtown Partnership Free Guided Walking Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Sharkshock - Fotolia.com
- The Tampa Police Museum, Photo: Courtesy of christian - Fotolia.com
- The Glazer Children’s Museum, Photo: The Glazer Children’s Museum
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of sbgoodwin - Fotolia.com