25 cheap and free things to do in Florida

Free things to do in Florida

From the ocean to the Everglades, the Sunshine State is home to heaps of amazing attractions that will hardly cost you a dime. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or the hundredth, you’ll love these cheap and free things to do in Florida.

Cool off in one of Florida’s 700 natural springs, do the Sanibel Stoop in the Sea Shell Capital, or hang 10 on a wave around the state’s 1,350 miles of coastline – and that’s just the start!

Read on for our round-up of affordable things to do in Florida including options in the main vacation spots as well as off the beaten track. Check out the whole guide or jump straight to the area you’re interested in using the menu below:

Cheap and free things to do in Florida, area-by-area

Northwest Florida

Party at a seafood festival

Head to the northwest city of Destin in October and you’ll be in time for the world-famous Destin Seafood Festival. Attracting thousands of visitors from across the state, it features a packed schedule of events including live music, seafood markets, free seafood tasting and demonstrations from top chefs. The festival is free to attend but you’ll want to take a little spending money to use at the various food and crafts stalls.

Escape the hustle and bustle

Northwest Florida is home to some of Florida’s most beautiful state parks including those at Point Washington, Henderson Beach and Fort Pickens. You can escape the hustle and bustle while retaining close proximity to local conveniences at any of these beautiful spots along the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. At Henderson Beach State Park the shoreline looks like its been covered with tons of pure white sugar. Spend lazy days relaxing on the beach or exploring the park’s winding nature trails.

Park hours are 8am until sundown, 365 days a year and entrance is $6 per vehicle.

There are so many free things to do in Florida

Hang out at a famous boardwalk

Hop over to Okaloosa Island, just off the mainland from Fort Walton Beach, and you can spend sunny days and laid-back nights at its famous boardwalk. A popular destination for couples, friends and families alike, The Boardwalk is packed with fun places to play, shop and dine. It also hosts amazing fireworks shows on Wednesday nights from late May through early August. Fresh off the beach? No worries! Sandy toes and salty swim suits are welcome.

Stay right on the beach

Fancy staying right on the beach? Book a beachfront condo or villa and aside from the stunning sunsets you’ll be able to make the most of pristine sands, clear warm waters and natural attractions all around. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of vacation rental companies offering great-value accommodation in this corner of Florida. You can rent a 6-person condo in Destin from around $150 per night – that’s just $25 per person!

North Central Florida

Get up close to butterflies

Located at the University of Florida in Gainsville, the Florida Museum of Natural History offers an array of fascinating exhibits. It’s home to more than 50 million artefacts and specimens including fossils, historic relics and the award-winning Butterfly Rainforest. In a huge outdoor enclosure attached to the museum, the rainforest houses more than 50 species of butterflies and moths from around the world. There are live butterfly releases every weekday at 2pm and on weekends at 2pm and 3pm.

Entrance is $14 for adults, $7 for kids and free for under 3s.

Make a splash at a natural spring

Located along the Santa Fe River, Gilchrist Blue Springs is a state park with six beautiful natural springs, the largest of which produces around 44 million gallons of water per day. Swimming, tubing and snorkeling are all popular at the park, as are camping, hiking and picnicking. Whilst there, you’re likely to see a diverse array of wildlife including turtles, fish, birds and manatee.

Pavilions and group use areas are available, and a concession stand offers food, beverages and equipment rentals. Park fees are $4-6 per vehicle.

Florida has endless free and cheap things to do

Explore Florida’s capital city

Discover the capital city of Tallahassee where a deck atop the 22-storey New Capitol tower offers sweeping views over the hilly city. Home to several universities, Tallahassee also has a 10-block historic district, along with museums, parks, art galleries and a natural-habitat zoo. For free things to do head to places like Lake Ella, an essential spot for both locals and passersby to see for themselves. Also worth a visit is Cascades Park with its sloped hills, amphitheater and self-guided walking tour.

Watch a duck race

Head to the town of Branford around July 4th and you can check out the town’s free festivities including live music, a colorful parade and a duck race along the Suwannee River. There’s also kayak racing, and a special fireworks show in the evening – all for free! Explore the rest of Branford and you’ll find quirky antiques stores, a cool cave-diving playground and plenty of fishing spots (watch out for the giant, jumping sturgeon!).

Northeast Florida

Explore Florida’s favorite island

Just off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is easy to reach but hard to forget. Home to more than 13 miles of gorgeous beaches, abundant wildlife and pristine waters, this barrier island has long been a favourite with locals and visitors alike. Stroll, swim or just soak up the sights at the uncrowded Atlantic beaches, kayak through the scenic marshes, or ride a bike trail through one of the preserved areas that surround the island.

The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival takes place at Fernandina Beach each May and features arts and crafts, antiques, live music, seafood stalls, shrimp sampling, a parade, fireworks, pirates and other family fun. Entrance is free!

Visit its oldest city

No visit to the northeast would be complete without a trip to its oldest city, St. Augustine. Founded in 1565, it boasts a plethora of historically significant buildings such as Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. Today the city celebrates it s storied past with museums, trolley tours and special events. Visit the city’s old gate, check out the oldest wooden school house or head to the St Augustine Lighthouse which offers spectacular aerial views from its towering observation deck. Another don’t-miss is St. Augustine Distillery where you can take free tours around the plant and enjoy free tastings of vodka, rum, gin and whiskey.

Cheap things to do in Florida

Eat over-the-top donuts

Head south from St. Augustine and you’ll reach Ormond Beach where there’s a great little donut shop with all the flavours you’d expect plus some totally over-the-top creations. Try the Key Lime, Pumpkin or Fruity Pebbles donuts, or the S’mores with graham cracker cereal, chocolate and mini marshmallows. This makes a great outing if you’re looking for cheap things to do. Donuts are $1.17 each or $6.49 for a box of 6.

Hang 10 on a wave

The Atlantic beach of Jacksonville boasts some of the best surfing in Florida, making it the perfect place to hang 10 on a wave (hang all ten toes over over the nose of your board). Take a lesson on a long board, head out on your own, or watch the locals mastering their moves. The winter months bring the biggest surf, and summers are ideal for beginners to test out their skills. Check the many surf-related events including training days, surf festivals and competitions which attract amateur and pro surfers from around the world. Best of all, you can spectate for free!

Central Florida

Enjoy some free Disney fun

Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) offers shops, restaurants and entertainment venues for all the family. The beauty of this fun district is that you get close to Disney World without needing a theme park ticket. It may take some willpower not to spend any money while you’re there, but it can be done! Enjoy scenic walks around West Side, The Landing, Marketplace and Town Center. You can enjoy a spot of window shopping, and make the most of the many photo opportunities around Disney Springs.

If you want to stay nearby, you’ll find a huge range of great-value condos and villas near Disney. At communities like Encore Resort at Reunion you’ll benefit from free transportation to and from the theme parks.

Sail through a swamp

Move away from Orlando’s neon lights to discover authentic Kissimmee – think swamp buggies, airboat tours and alligators. Lake Kissimmee is one of Florida’s largest lakes and is teeming with alligators, some of which are huge. Pay an entrance fee for the surrounding state park and head out among the nature trails. You might even spot some huge alligators catching some rays. An airboat ride is another option for enjoying the sights. Kissimmee Swamp Tours operates from Lake Kissimmee and will take you on an exciting tour through the untouched headwaters of the Florida Everglades.

Tours are discounted for Florida residents and are free for under 3s.

Free things to do in Florida for kids

Soak up some culture

Art galleries and museums abound at Winter Park which rolls out its best artsy offerings along Park Avenue. You can shop, lunch and stroll around Central Park where the Autumn Art Festival takes place annually and offers free admission. Free movie nights are also held at the park on the second Thursday of each month.

See a famous car cruise

Old Town at Kissimmee offers free entertainment every night of the week. Make the most of nightly shows on the main stage and weekly car cruise-ins. Old Town also has great shopping, and family friendly rides like the new 86-foot-high ferris wheel imported all the way from Italy. For old-fashioned arcade games or a few games on some brand-new ones, head to Old Town’s family fun center which has 50+ video and skill games. What’s more, it’s completely free to get in!

Central East Florida

Hit the east coast beaches

Florida’s east coast is home to some of the best beaches in state. Top contenders here are Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach to name just a few. Surf is the word in these beachy locales – Cocoa Beach’s Ron Jon Surf Shop stays open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Also big on the agenda are Daytona Beach classics like the fun-packed boardwalk and the NASCAR headquarters which hosts speed-inspired events like the Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400. Further down the coast are wildlife reserves where you’ll see bald eagles, manatees and alligators.

Florida has cheap and free things to do for all the family

Watch a rocket launch

At the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island you can tour launch areas, meet astronauts, touch giant rockets and simulate take-off as part of the Shuttle Launch Experience. If you’d prefer to skip the entrance fee, you can see a live rocket launch for free from a number of locations nearby. There are multiple viewing venues (all accessible by car) along the Indian River just west of Cape Canaveral. Playalinda Beach, also known as Rocket Launch Beach, is a prime destination to enjoy a free launch experience. The beach is beautiful, the water is clear and the town around it is lovely, too.

You can research rocket launch dates here.

Central West Florida

Celebrate the sunset

Florida’s sunsets are spectacular, and you can celebrate them night after night at Clearwater Beach. You’ll find special sunset celebrations at Pier 60, Clearwater Municipal Marina and Mandalay Avenue. The atmosphere is fantastic – expect to find live bands playing, local artisans peddling their wares, and all kinds of performers delighting the crowds. As sunset approaches, the party stops to give you time to soak up the views. Then, when the sun goes down, the party continues!

Fancy staying in town? The vacation homes in this part of Florida start from around $190 per night.

Explore a Cuban district

Head to the west coast city of Tampa and you’ll find Cuban-inspired Ybor City (pronounced EE-bore) with its signature street lamps, wrought-iron balconies and brick-paved streets. Back in 1886, Vicente Martinez Ybor visited the area and decided to set up his Cuban-born cigar empire here. Today, it’s a vibrant Cuban-style district packed with museums, galleries, restaurants and nightlife. No visit to Ybor City would be complete without a stop at the Ybor City Museum or a a stroll around Jose Marti Park, where cuban freedom fighter Jose Marti often stayed. Opposite the park is Ybor Factory Building, the neighborhood’s first ever cigar factory.

Tampa is just one of the places where you'll find free things to do in Florida

See where sponges are made

Around 30 miles northwest of Tampa is Tarpon Springs, or the ‘Sponge Capital of the World’ as it is also known. Greek sponge divers migrated here in the early 1900s to help build its thriving sponge-harvesting industry. Today, you can see the town’s Mediterranean heritage in its narrow streets, whitewashed buildings and rich Greek culture. Visit the waterfront sponge docks where boats depart for sponge diving exhibitions, fishing trips and eco tours. Also take a drive through greek Village where you can see the wood-frame homes of the original sponge divers and sponge packing houses.

Southeast Florida

Soak up Miami’s charms

Florida’s southeast is packed with exciting paces like Miami where beautiful beaches and art deco delights are just some of the many charms. There’s also vibrant nightlife, tropical gardens, a lively arts scene and sizzling cuisine. Take a wander around the Art Deco District and you’ll see more than 800 colorful buildings that date back to the 1930s and 1940s. Miami’s white sandy beaches are perfect for lazing the days away – you’ll likely spot a few famous faces. Plus you’ll find plenty of neighbourhood festival and fiestas that are free to attend.

See endangered animals

Endangered Key deer are found in the lower Florida Keys and nowhere else in the world. You can see them roaming free in their natural habitat at the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge at Big Pine Key. Also in the area is Bahia Honda State Park, known for its palm-lined beaches, gin-clear waters and magnificent sunsets. Kayaks and snorkeling gear can be rented for a nominal fee and boat trips to the reef for snokeling excursions are available. the park is also an amazing place to see a wide variety of wading birds.

Southwest Florida

Have family fun in Cape Coral

With so many fun things to do, Cape Coral definitely caters for kids. Sun Splash water park is home to 14 acres of water slides, pools and other water attractions – it offers special discounts on Mondays and for evening visits. Over at Four Mile Cove Eco Preserve you can kayak through waterways that snake through the mangroves, hike around the nature trails, or enjoy a spot of fishing off the observation deck on the Caloosahatchee River.

You can rent a vacation home in Cape Coral for cheap prices of around $200 for a 6-person villa with a private pool.

Cycle around Sanibel

You can see more on two wheels than on two legs at Sanibel Island, just off Florida’s southwest coast. The island has 25 miles of scenic cycling trails and there are many places where you can rent bikes for cheap prices. Alternatively, enjoy long walks around the many scenic parks, botanical gardens and nature reserves. Visit the beaches on this Gulf Coast barrier island and you’ll see people doing the Sanibel Stoop. That’s the name for the bent-at-the-waist posture used by those who collect seashells on Sanibel Island, which bills itself as one of the best shelling locations in the world.

Cycling is one of the popular free things to do in Florida for families

Spot dolphins at Marco Island

Visit a variety of locations around Marco Island and you might be lucky enough to spot dolphins swimming just offshore. Both dolphins and manatee are regularly spotted at South Beach, plus there are dolphin-spotting points at the northern tip of Marco Island, and at Caxambas Pass Park at the southern tip. Be aware, you can’t just turn up and expect to see dolphins immediately. A good tip is to pack a picnic and stay for a few hours to increase your chances.

Book a stay in Florida

Book your accommodation in Florida with Top Villas and and not only will you get beautiful vacation rentals at great prices, you’ll also benefit from amazing round-the-clock customer service and access to a wide range of travel extras such as car hire, attraction tickets or help with arranging a special experience.

Follow our simple online booking process and you can secure your dream vacation home in Florida instantly without any phone calls or fuss. It’s easy to check availability, get a quote and book instantly online. Alternatively, submit an enquiry and we’ll get straight back to you.

See all of our vacation rentals in Florida.

See also:

The best theme parks in the US (2019 guide)
The best resorts in Orlando
The best time to visit Florida

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