50 Free Things to Do in Tampa with Kids
If you’re looking for the best free things to do in Tampa with kids, you’re in the right place. I’ll share plenty of family-friendly things to do in the city of Tampa that are either free or very inexpensive. This list of 50 free things to do in Tampa with kids also includes a few not-quite-free but very inexpensive options.
There are so many free things to do in Tampa with kids! It’s such a family-friendly city and surprisingly budget-friendly too. If you’re flying in, several of the budget airlines fly here, making it a surprisingly economical trip.
On those days when you are tired of theme parks, roller coasters, and other pricey adventures, take advantage of all these free things to do in Tampa with kids. Not that we don’t love theme parks and other fun things, but that’s a blog post for another day!
Rent a car for your Tampa adventures
If you decide to rent a car during your Florida vacation, I recommend renting a car from Discount USA Car Rental. I’ve rented cars through Discount USA Rental at the Tampa and St. Petersburg airports, and it’s been hassle-free every time.
Free Things to Do in Tampa with Kids
Here are the best free things to do in Tampa with kids (and cheap things to do in Tampa with kids) in no particular order. If you don’t mind a little drive, you can also check out 50 free things to do in Orlando.
Ride the TECO Line Streetcar
Streetcars are making a comeback in the 21st century. You can ride a streetcar that has been around for a while when you are visiting Tampa. It doesn’t cost anything to ride the TECO Line Streetcar.
There are eleven stops. Your family can easily jump on and off all day long. The streetcar is an excellent transportation option when you want to explore Ybor City too. Simply ride the streetcar to the city, walk around, and hop back on for the ride back.
Wander Along the Tampa Riverwalk
The Tampa Riverwalk is just over 2 ½ miles long. The walkway runs along the Hillsborough River. Your family can walk from Sparkman Wharf all the way down to Armature Works.
I recommend spending a little time at Sparkman Wharf. It is free to wander around and play games on the lawn. Amalie Arena, where the Tampa Bay Lightning play, is not too far from the wharf.
During your family adventures on the Tampa Riverwalk, you can stop to listen to live music or watch live entertainment. Riverfest is held in May every year on the Tampa Riverwalk. Fireworks are set off on the 4th of July. And the holidays bring lighted boat parades.
Basically, explore this area during the day and at night if possible. The ambiance changes from hour to hour.
Visit the Glazer Children’s Museum
When you are looking for free things to do in Tampa with kids, you may think the Glazer Children’s Museum won’t be on the list. Well, on the first Tuesday of every month, you can visit for free!
It is best to register in advance for this. The museum becomes crowded quickly!
Check Out the Murals in Tampa or St. Pete
There are so many beautiful murals in both downtown Tampa and St. Pete. I prefer the murals in St. Pete, but your family may be interested in seeing them all.
The self-guided tours of the murals are simple. There are mural maps available in St. Pete. Tampa offers a list of the murals and their locations. Grab the map or list, and then check the murals off as you find them.
Take a Tour of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company
If you do take the streetcar over to Ybor City, make sure to tour the J.C. Newman Cigar Company. A self-guided tour of the three floors is free. The kids might not be too impressed. However, it is interesting to see how cigars are made.
Venture Into the Hammock Park Butterfly Garden
The Hammock Park Butterfly Garden is an attraction most visitors know nothing about! But this is one of the best free things to do in Tampa with kids if your kids love butterflies or nature.
Thirty-five different butterfly species are flitting around the 11 garden beds. When the kids tire of standing still, you can head out to the nearby playground. Your family can also hike on one of the nature trails.
Pretend It’s Christmas at Robert’s Christmas Wonderland
One of the most incredible free things to do in Tampa with kids is visiting Robert’s Christmas Wonderland. This Christmas-y store is open all year round.
When your family walks into the store, you will be greeted by 200 Christmas trees and thousands of lights. This is a magical place for young kids and older kids.
While you can wander through the store for free, you may purchase a few things before leaving. If you’re visiting during the actual holiday season, you might want to head down the road to Orlando and check out things to do in Orlando for Christmas for even more seasonal events.
Participate in Museum Day
Museum Day is held on one day in September every year. I wouldn’t mention it, but it is an excellent option for visiting many of the museums in Tampa for free. The Henry B. Plant Museum and the Imagine Museum have both participated in this in the past.
Visit the Tampa Firefighters Museum
Visiting the Tampa Firefighters Museum is one of the best free things to do in Tampa with kids if you have little ones who love fire trucks! This educational museum is located inside a renovated firehouse. Young kids will enjoy seeing the real fireman poles and other authentic parts of the building, as well as the exhibits.
Take a Day Trip to Tarpon Springs
There are plenty of historic buildings to see as you wander around Tarpon Springs. In addition, you can learn about the city’s sponge history at the Historic Sponge Docks.
Take the time to pop into the Sponge Factory to check out all the sea sponges.
Attend One of Many Free Events in Tampa
There are quite a few free events held year-round in Tampa. The MacDill Air Force Base hosts the Tampa Bay Air Fest every few years.
Gasparilla is a day-long celebration for all those local pirates in TaFmpa. There is even the Gasparilla Parade that you won’t want to miss.
The Fourth Friday of each month offers its own celebrations in Tampa. Live music is played along the Tampa Riverwalk. You can enjoy a cocktail while the kids enjoy their food. Oh, and admission to the Henry B. Plant Museum is free on these Fridays as well.
Have Fun at the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park
This park has everything young kids will love! They can play on the playground. Get wet in the splash pad. There are plenty of picnic areas for eating lunch or snacks. Although, you might have difficulty getting the kids to join you when they are in the middle of playing.
Check Out the Manatees
At Apollo Beach, you will find the TECO Manatee Viewing Center. If your family vacation in Tampa lands between November 1st and April 15th, this is one of the best free things to do in Tampa with kids! For our family, it’s definitely one of our favorite things to do.
I recommend walking around the boardwalk to see the manatees in the water. Also, make sure to check out the 12 best places to see manatees in Florida because you can often find manatees at some of these places any time of year.
Underneath the boardwalk, you will find the Rays Touch Tank. The sting rays that spend time at the Tampa Bay Rays Stadium head over to the Manatee Viewing Center during the off-season. This educational tank is part of the viewing center’s partnership with the Florida Aquarium.
Hang Out at St. Pete Pier
Before you head over to hang out at St. Pete Pier, I must add a disclaimer. It is free to hang out on the pier. But, just a heads up, you’ll likely have to pay for parking.
Riding bikes and scooters are popular things to do on this pier.
When you tire of the pier, you can head down to St. Pete Beach. This is one of the best places to enjoy the white sand beaches in the area. Relax on the sand. Go for a swim. Build a sandcastle. Your options are unlimited while on a family vacation.
There are plenty of places to eat nearby too. So you won’t need to panic when someone gets hungry.
Take a Mini Train Ride Around Largo Central Park
It isn’t always free to take a mini train ride around Largo Central Park. However, it is free on the first weekend of every month.
Themed rides are available around the holidays too.
Listen to Live Music at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
On the first Thursday of every month, you can listen to free live music at Curtis Hixon Park. Local musicians rotate on the schedule. All your family needs to do is bring a blanket or chairs and sit to listen.
Sundays bring yoga in the park later in the day. The classes are free, but you can always make a donation.
Wander Around the Nature Preserves
There are a few nature preserves in the Tampa area. They are all excellent free options for things to do in Tampa with kids. My favorite nature preserves are the Edward Medard Conservation Park and the Weedon Island Preserve.
Step Back in Time at the Heritage Museum
The Heritage Village is a living history museum. On-site are 30 of the oldest buildings in Pinellas County. During your visit, your family can check out a log cabin, school house, general store, and an outhouse.
Wander Around the Florida Botanical Gardens
Different tropical plants are scattered throughout the Florida Botanical Gardens. There are quite a few gardens to explore. The popular ones are the Butterfly Garden, Cactus and Succulent Garden, and Jazz Garden.
This tropical paradise lights up during the holiday season. So keep that in mind, especially if you love Christmas!
Bike or Walk on a Tampa Bay Trail
Okay, you already know you can walk or ride along the Tampa Riverwalk. However, there are many other trails to consider tackling during your family vacation in Tampa.
One of those trails is Bayshore Blvd. This trail is 4 ½ miles long. It is considered the world’s longest continuous sidewalk.
Other trails include Pinellas Trail, Upper Tampa Bay Trail, and Suncoast Trail.
Spend the day at Water Works Park
This park has plenty of open spaces, a jungle gym, and picnic shelters. Add in the water play area, and your kids will never want to leave!
Visit a Park
There are quite a few parks in Tampa. Each one is a wonderful thing to do with kids in Tampa for free. I recommend checking out Hillsborough River State Park or Fort De Soto Park.
These parks contain local wildlife, nature trails, and relaxing picnic areas.
Go Swimming on a White Sand Beach
Above, I mentioned St. Pete Beach. I also mentioned there were plenty of white sand beaches to enjoy in Tampa with kids.
One of my favorite beaches is Indian Rocks Beach. However, Clearwater Beach is also the perfect place with warm water and a vast white sand beach. Check out 30 Things to do in Clearwater with Kids for more things to do in Clearwater. Although it’s not free, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a must-see!
A little note: You will likely need to pay for parking when you visit any of these beaches in Tampa.
Oh, and if you are looking for seashells, go over to Ben T. Davis Beach. It is not a beach for swimming, but the shells are amazing! For more shelling fun, you can also check out the 20 Best Shelling Beaches in Florida.
Watch the Trains at the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum
At this museum, you can check out the restored train cars. Across the street, there is a platform your family can stand on to watch working trains go by.
Visit the Tampa Police Museum
On the ground floor of the police department, you will find the Tampa Police Museum. Inside the museum are different artifacts and records. You will also find information honoring those officers who have been killed in the line of duty.
Visit the Birds at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary
There are many birds living at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary right now. It’s a small sanctuary, but you will see many birds: macaws, gulls, owls, pelicans, bluejays, and more!
This rehab is for injured birds (you can even peek inside the hospital), but many birds call the sanctuary home if they can’t be released back into the wild. You’ll see birds with one leg or injured wings that call the sanctuary their permanent home. You’ll also see plenty of wild birds that show up just to hang out!
If you like animals like we do, this is a must! It’s one of the free things to do in Tampa with kids (well, just outside of Tampa), but they run off donations, so make sure to donate or purchase something from the gift shop. Most of the birds all had little “birdhouses” that you could put money in (not their actual house, of course), which is also fun for kids.
The daily pelican hand-feeding sessions are fun to watch. One of the unexpected highlights of this sanctuary is the observation tower. Climb to the top to check out the views. We wrote an entire blog post about our experience at Seaside Seabird Sanctuary so make sure to check it out.
Visit the Sulphur Springs Museum
The community that helped shape Tampa into what it is like today was Sulphur Springs. The history of Sulphur Springs is shared inside this museum.
Enjoy the Outdoors at Ballast Point Park
Warm days should be spent at Ballast Point Park. The kids can cool down in the splash pad. Adults can relax in the shade. There is a boat ramp if you want to take a boat out on Hillsborough Bay.
Enjoy the Outdoors at Cypress Point Park
Cypress Point Park is not too far from downtown Tampa. There are sandy volleyball courts, a disc golf course, and a playground. There is a beach area, but it is not meant for swimming.
Visit Cuba at Jose Marti Park
Jose Marti Park is relatively small. But while this park is in Tampa, the country of Cuba actually owns it! So, you can honestly say you visited Cuba while on vacation in Tampa with the kids.
Cheap Things to Do in Tampa with Kids
Now that I’ve shared many of the free things to do in Tampa with kids, it is time to focus on a few cheap options.
Tampa Museum of Art
One of the cheap things to do in Tampa with kids is to visit the Tampa Museum of Art on Thursdays. Between 4 and 8 pm, the museum offers pay-what-you-can admission. This is an excellent way to allow your children to learn about art without spending a small fortune.
Take a Day Trip to a National Park
There aren’t any national parks inside Tampa. However, you can drive to a national park in less than 3 hours.
Canaveral National Seashore is a wonderful day trip option. There is a charge to enter this park, but it will be minimal.
Shop at the Tampa Bay Farmers Market
You can easily spend nothing at the Tampa Bay Farmers Market. I put it under the cheap things to do in Tampa with kids because I can never get out of there without purchasing something!
This farmers market has plenty of fresh produce, pantry goods, dairy products, and flowers. You never know what you can find. I love going here to find a few items for a picnic lunch.
Visit the Hyde Park Fresh Market
This market is held on the first Sunday of every month in Hyde Park Village. It is another farmers market that is free to explore. With 80+ vendors, there is a good chance you won’t walk out without purchasing anything!
As a bonus, you can listen to live music as you do your shopping.
Attend a Tampa Tarpons Game
The Tampa Tarpons play at George M. Steinbrenner Field. You can watch the New York Yankees play their preseason games on this field. And when they are finished, you can watch the Tampa Tarpons play between April and September.
Attend a Performance at the Tampa Theatre
Finding something suitable for kids playing at the Tampa Theatre can be difficult. Especially since this theater shows mostly films right now.
However, this performance arts theater is a must-see for the whole family. You can take a peek inside when a film isn’t shown. Or, hopefully, you can find something the kids will want to watch when you are on a family vacation in Tampa.
Visit the Sunken Gardens
The Sunken Gardens aren’t free to enter, but they are part of my cheap things to do in Tampa with kids. You can spend part of an afternoon exploring the 4 ½ acres of tropical plants and flowers. You will also see stunning waterfalls and flamingoes during your visit.
Play Video Games at Replay Amusement Museum
Kids of all ages will love playing the 100+ games at the Replay Amusement Museum. They have wristbands for purchase, allowing you to come and go all day long.
Take a Ride on the Clearwater Ferry
The Clearwater Ferry will take you to downtown Clearwater, Clearwater Beach Marina, and North Beach. No traffic jams on the road and pure bliss while out on the water.
This map is the property of Clearwater Ferry.
Take a Ride on the Jolley Trolley
The Jolley Trolley is one of the best ways to explore Pinellas County. It is also one of the cheap things to do in Tampa with kids. There are two trolley routes. One is the Beach Route, and the other is the Coastal Route.
Take both and see which one is your family’s favorite!
Experience a Drive-In
Drive-Ins are all but gone in many areas of the country. However, in Tampa, you can still find 4 of them. They all show first-run films, along with a few classics.
Pile everyone in the car one night and let them all experience movies under the stars.
Catch a Puppet Show at the Bits-n-Pieces Puppet Theatre
There are a few different puppet performances held each year at this theater. You must plan ahead and purchase your tickets in advance. Past performances have included Three Billy Goats Gruff, Rip Van Winkle, and Princess Thumbelina.
Eat Ice Cream at Tanya & Matt’s Ice Cream
You cannot take a family vacation in the Tampa Bay area and not eat a little ice cream. This is a cheap thing to do in Tampa with kids. Tanya & Matt’s offers 40 different flavors of ice cream. Plus, lots of toppings.
Order a cup, cone, sundae, float, smoothie, or any other option on the menu.
Free things to do in Tampa with kids
I hope you enjoyed reading about the many free things to do in Tampa with kids. And, of course, the cheap things to do in Tampa with the kids too. Do you have any favorite family-friendly Tampa activities that didn’t make the list? If so, please let me know in the comments!
More Florida Travel Tips
On this blog, we don’t just discuss free things to do in Tampa with kids. Don’t forget to check out even more of our best Florida travel ideas for things to do near Tampa:
- The best place to find sharks teeth in Florida
- 16 things to do in Crystal River with kids
- The 10 best places to see sea turtles in Florida
- The best strawberry farms in Florida
- 15 fantastic things to do in Siesta Key
- The 28 best places to eat in Naples
About Florida Travel With Kids
Florida Travel with Kids was started by a family who loves to travel the state of Florida with kids! This site will help you explore the fun state of Florida and all of the kid-friendly activities you’ll find here. If you want even more tips, make sure to join our mailing list. We’ll share any new tips and tricks we learn, along with Florida news and recent blog posts of our adventures.
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