Fun Free Things to do in Tampa, Florida (With or Without Kids)
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Even though Tampa is the third-largest city in Florida, it may not be the first city you think about visiting when planning a trip to Florida. You may think of Orlando, Miami or even Jacksonville, but Tampa has a lot to offer.
In fact, there are many fun free things to do in Tampa. There are over 175 parks, 80 playgrounds, over 300 miles of trails, and beaches for miles in Tampa so let’s get started on some of the free activities in Tampa Bay so that you can have fun and avoid the costly tourist traps.
Free Museums in Tampa
Sulphur Springs Museum
The Sulphur Springs Museum is dedicated to sharing the history of the area and preserving the neighboring areas. When you are learning about the history of Florida’s Coney Island, be sure to take the kids to the TECO play area. This is a fun room for kids that has displays and hands-on activities that focus on the oceanic environment, such as shells, shark teeth, corals and fun facts about nature.
There is always free admission, but donations are appreciated. It is open on Wednesday – Saturday from 11:00 am.- 4:00 pm.
Glazer Children’s Museum
The Glazer Children’s Museum is a favorite for most families in Tampa. There is a lot of interactive learning experiences that will keep the kids having fun for hours! They are located in the heart of downtown Tampa, so once you are down at the museum be sure to see some of the other free activities in Tampa.
Admission is only free on the first Tuesday of the month from noon to 6:00 pm.
Tampa Museum of Art
This modern building in Tampa is filled with many beautiful sculptures and art pieces. The Tampa Museum of Art has two Pay-As-You-Will opportunities. You get to decide what you will pay for admission, even if that amount is nothing.
Tampa Museum of Art Pay-As-You-Will admissions:
- Art on the House: Every Thursday evening from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
- Fourth Friday: Every fourth Friday from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Tampa Police Museum
This free museum in Tampa celebrates the history of the police department. You will find police uniforms, famous criminals mug shots and fingerprint cards, and much more.
There is always free admission to the Tampa Police Museum. It is open from Monday to Friday from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.
Tampa Firefighters Museum
When you are done learning about the history of the police department, be sure to stop by the first Firefighter Department building in Tampa. This free museum includes interactive fire safety and emergency awareness classroom.
There is always free admission to the Tampa Firefighters Museum. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.
Henry B. Plant Museum
This National Historic Landmark was once the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel. You will find the actual furnishings enjoyed by the first guests to visit the Victorian styled railroad resort.
The Henry B. Plant Museum offers two free admission opportunities. You can visit the first Friday of every month (except in December) from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm. as well as the fourth Friday of every month from 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
Free Activities in Tampa
Manatee Viewing Center
The Manatee Viewing Center is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary that provides protection from the cold for these gentle animals. Visiting the Manatee Viewing Center is one of our favorite things to do when the weather cools down some here in Tampa. Where else can you go and see dozens of manatees and wildlife in their natural habitat? Be sure to step inside of their museum to learn more about the manatees and the Florida landscape. And don’t miss the stingray touch tank!
Admission and parking are always free at the Manatee Viewing Center. It is open daily from Nov. 1st through April 15th from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. They are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Easter.
Hillsborough County Library System
You can find free events at the Hillsborough County Library Branch locations regularly. In fact, I have given a few presentations at several locations myself!
You will find free events for children of all ages and adults and in a ton of different categories. You can learn to use your slow cooker or draw cartoons or even set up your email. There are about 30 locations throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Self-Guided Free Walking Tours in Tampa
If you enjoy history and maybe a few ghost stories, then you will explore Tampa’s first public burial ground. It was deeded in the mid-19th century and was described as the final resting place for “White and Slave, Rich and Poor”.
There are various monuments inside as well as the final resting place for many people of historical prominence. You can find the full walking tour as well as all the haunting spots along the way here.
Tampa Riverwalk Art Walking Tour
This beautiful walk around the Hillsborough River is just over 2.5 miles. Not only is there local art along the way by there are plenty of unique dining options, museums, and there is almost always a fun festival going on. You can download the free PDF for the Riverwalk Art Walking Tour here.
My family and I have done with walk countless times, from the Straz Center to Performing Arts to Armature Works, I swear we see something new each time. My favorite is the Woven Waves under Laurel Street Bridge.
Before you jump on the streetcar, be sure to walk around town a little. Known for it’s Cuban flair, there is much to see in Ybor City. It is the only community on the west coast of Florida to be named a National Historic Landmark District. You’ll find a 12,000-square-foot mural, several art galleries, and a lot of nightlife venues.
While you are in Ybor City you can jump on one of the TECO Streetcars. It is completely free and travels about 2.7 miles. It looks like an old-fashioned streetcar and will take you on a free tour through Tampa. You can catch one about every 15 minutes at designated areas.
On the route, you will see lots of great monuments, memorials, and parks. You can get off at Sparkman Wharf and The Florida Aquarium along the way. Sparkman Wharf is free to walk around and there is always something fun going on, you can usually find free live music there on the weekends, while the food and drinks can be a tad on the expensive side, it doesn’t cost a thing to enjoy the music, colorfully decorated buildings and appreciate the gorgeous water views. You may even see a cruise ship!
Parks in Tampa
While there are plenty of free parks in Tampa, two of our favorites are Curtis Hixon Park and Water Works Park.
Curtis Hixon Park
Curtis Hixon Park is located in downtown Tampa kids and adults love the area. You will find a free splash pad for the kids and plenty of places for you to sit and relax. You are also not far from Glazer Children’s Museum, so if you go on a Tuesday, don’t forget to add that free spot to your agenda!
Water Works Park
Water Works Park is located right by one of my favorite restaurants in Tampa, Ulele. There is also a splash pad here for the kids to play in and shaded areas for the adults to relax.
This park is located right on the Tampa Riverwalk, so if you want to extend your day, be sure to take the Self Guided Art Walking Tour along the Riverwalk before heading home.
Best Beaches in Tampa
You can’t plan a trip to the Sunshine State without visiting one of the many beaches and sticking your toes in the sand. While not far Tampa is some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, you don’t have to drive over any long bridges to enjoy the sand and water.
Ben T Davis Beach
Ben T Davis Beach is located right along the Courtney Campbell expressway and if you are flying into Tampa, it will be the first beach that you see. There is always a volleyball game going on, residents fishing, and you will find unique restaurants along the way.
A family favorite is Whiskey Joe’s, it’s located right on the water, it’s hard to beat those views!
As you can see, there are plenty of free things to do in Tampa. So, if you are planning a Florida road trip or if you live there, be sure to add these fun things to do to your travel itinerary. As a Tampa resident for 20+ years, I can tell you that there is beauty all around us here in the Sunshine State.
If you know of any other free things to do in Tampa, FL, comment below to add them to the list!
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