The 15 Best Free Things to Do in Florida

Miami Holocaust Memorial
Marc Hoberman / Getty Images

Budget-conscious travelers, rejoice! While it may seem like everything in Florida is centered around pricey theme parks and sleek South Beach restaurants, there are still plenty of fun things to check out in the Sunshine State that won't cost you a dime, whether you want to sightsee, lounge on a beach, or get a history lesson in the place where it happened. Take a boat ride, check out a secluded state park, or choose from one of the other 15 activities on our list, all among our favorite free things to do in the most interesting state in the Southeast.

01 of 15

Learn About Florida's History in St. Augustine

St. Augustine's Old Town Historic District

Westend61 / Getty Images

Address
Historic District, St. Augustine, FL 32084, USA

History buffs will love St. Augustine, which was founded by Spanish colonists in 1565 and remains the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States. Start by strolling along Old Town's historic and pedestrian-only St. George Street, taking in sites like the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse. Then, head down toward the water to see the original city gates and take photos of Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (you'll need to pay to enter, but your admission is valid for up to seven days).

Nearby, check out beautiful architecture designed by Henry Flagler at Memorial Presbyterian Church. Visit Fort Mose Historic State Park, the site of the first free African American settlement in the U.S. (there's a small fee to enter the museum) or head about 25 minutes south of the city to check out Fort Matanzas National Monument, an 18th-century Spanish fort you can visit by way of a free ferry ride.

For a real treat, squeeze in a complimentary tour and tasting at San Sebastian Winery, the St. Augustine Distillery, or City Gate Spirits.

02 of 15

Try Out Florida's Famous "Gravity Hill" in Lake Wales

A ghost holding a sign explaining the legend of Spook Hill at the foot of the hill

Visit Central Florida

Address
Lake Wales, FL 33853, USA

It may sound silly, but Spook Hill is definitely a major draw in Lake Wales. The site is about an hour's drive from Orlando and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019. According to local folklore, the hill is haunted by the ghost of a giant alligator (only in Florida!) and the Indigenous warrior who defeated him in battle but perished in the process (he's buried on the north side of the hill). You'll notice a strange effect taking place at the bottom of the hill, one that caused early pioneers' horses to struggle despite traveling downhill and one that continues today—simply stop your car on the white line, put it in neutral, and see what happens.

It turns out the effect may actually be caused by the spot being a "gravity hill," or at least there's a magnetic reason behind the phenomenon that makes it feel like your car is rolling up the hill of its own volition. Don't believe us? Go and try it out yourself the next time you're in Central Florida.

03 of 15

Check Out Classic Cars in Kissimmee and Venice

Ideal Classic Cars Museum and Showroom Venice Florida

Ideal Classic Cars

Address
2224 S Tamiami Trail, Venice, FL 34293, USA
Phone +1 941-966-1900

Every Friday evening, more than 300 vintage rides parade down the streets of Kissimmee. Ranging from classic hot-rods to antiques, the Old Town parade is one of the city's most popular attractions. Afterward, there's a hoppin' concert of tunes from the '50s and '60s.

Meanwhile, on the southwest coast about an hour south of Tampa, the Ideal Classic Cars Museum and Showroom in Venice showcases a number of muscle cars, hot rods, and classic collectible cars that were popular during the 1930s up through the 1970s, letting you get up close to some of the coolest automobiles on earth.

04 of 15

Enjoy a Sunset Celebration by the Beach

Key West Sunset Celebration
anouchka / Getty Images
Address
400 Wall St, Naval Air Station Key West, FL 33040, USA
Phone +1 305-809-3700

Florida's sunsets are spectacular, and people in two Florida communities—Key West and Clearwater Beach—think that is reason enough to celebrate! Night after night, locals and tourists gather in each beachside locale a few hours before sunset.

The atmosphere is festive, with live music, artisans hawking their wares, talented artists sketching portraits, and performers delighting the crowds. As twilight approaches, everyone seems to pause to enjoy Mother Nature's show-stopping spectacle. Then, as if on cue, the party continues. You can find Sunset Celebrations at Mallory Square in Key West or at Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach (in the Tampa Bay area).

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05 of 15

Visit Siesta Key, One of America's Best Beaches

Siesta Key Beach

Pola Demonte / Getty Images

Address
Siesta Beach, Florida 34242, USA

Right off the coast of Sarasota lies one of the best beaches in the country, Siesta Key Beach. This particular eight-mile stretch has been ranked high for having the "finest, whitest sand in the world," on multiple "best beach" lists by Dr. Beach and The Travel Channel, among others.

Known for its size and the sheer amount of stunning quartz sand that lines the shore, Siesta Key Beach is one of Florida's greatest wonders. Whether you plan to stay overnight or just a few hours, you'll find plenty of conveniences, including concession stands, showers, restrooms, changing areas, picnic tables, a children's playground, and free parking.

06 of 15

Do a Complimentary Wine Tasting and Vineyard Tour

Lakeridge Winery florida

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards

Address
19239 US-27, Clermont, FL 34715, USA
Phone +1 352-394-8627

Complimentary tours and wine tastings are offered seven days a week at Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards in Clermont, about a 30-minute drive from Orlando.

Tours are held every half hour and last about 30 minutes (including the tasting). You'll begin with a 15-minute video presentation showing the growth of Florida's grapes all the way to the winemaking process. The tour then covers the production area and offers spectacular views of the vineyards where the grapes are grown and harvested. Tastings are held at a large counter with a selection of award-winning wines offered. During the summer months, the vineyard also hosts a free summer music series with live bands, making it a great time to visit.

07 of 15

Tour the Town of Murals in Lake Placid

Lake Placid Florida mural

Judy Gallagher / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Address
Lake Placid, FL 33852, USA

In Lake Placid, often referred to as the Town of Murals, you'll find more than 40 of them adorning buildings throughout the downtown area. Small parks and green spaces are punctuated with benches, perfect for enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

Lake Placid is also home to one-of-a-kind sculptured trash containers: A steam locomotive sitting on its tracks, a larger-than-life turpentine bottle, a jail and beautiful butterflies are just a few of the creative containers that stand ready to take on your trash.

 

08 of 15

Visit Florida's Capitol Complex

Florida Old State Capitol
Steven Greaves / Getty Images
Address
Tallahassee, FL, USA

Tallahassee is Florida's capital city, where the state's lawmakers meet to conduct the Sunshine State's official business. Take a closer look at the old and new capitol buildings on a guided or self-guided tour, for free.

Tour hours for the old capitol building are offered daily except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Reservations at least two weeks ahead for guided tours are encouraged.

All guided tours for the new capital require reservations, while visits made during the legislative session, which happens March through April, require you to book at least two months in advance. Tours are held daily, except for New Year's Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

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09 of 15

Splash and Play at Daytona Beach

A look at the Daytona Beach Sun Splash Park

Volusia County

Address
611 S Atlantic Ave, Daytona Beach, FL 32118, USA
Phone +1 386-248-8072

So often county parks are off the beaten path, but that's not the case with Volusia County's Sun Splash Park, located right in the heart of Daytona Beach.

While you do have to pay to drive on the famous beach, the four-acre park includes 95 spaces of its own. Here, you'll find an interactive "zero depth" water play fountain, a shaded playground, volleyball courts, picnic areas, restrooms, outdoor showers, a Coca-Cola-sponsored "cool zone" and two beach access ramps. Sun Splash Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

 

10 of 15

Reflect at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach

The Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach

Joe Raedle / Newsmakers / Getty Images

Address
1933-1945 Meridian Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139-1817, USA
Phone +1 305-538-1663

Dedicated to the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach offers a somber look at one of the darkest eras of human history. Designed by sculptor Kenneth Triester using luminous Jerusalem stone and black granite, the memorial and its gardens offer a place to ponder the lives of those who were lost, those who survived, and how society ever allowed such atrocities to happen in the first place.

Note that self-guided tours are welcome (there's a suggested donation if you wish to take a brochure, while a free guide is available for iOS and Android users), though groups of 10 or more must make a reservation before visiting the site.

11 of 15

Spend the Day at Lake Mirror in Lakeland

Barnett Family Park

Rain0975 / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Address
702 E Orange St, Lakeland, FL 33801-5030, USA
Phone +1 863-834-2280

Lake Mirror, located in the Central Florida city of Lakeland, is beautiful enough, but stroll the promenade around it and you'll find a treasure trove of surprises, including the tiered Hollis Garden and entertaining Barnett Family Park.

A stunning 1.2-acre tiered botanical garden that overlooks the Lake Mirror Promenade, the gardens at Hollis Park displays thousands of flowering plants, ornamental shrubs, and water features. 

Nearby, Barnett Family Park sports a number of elaborate sculptures of native Florida animals as well as beautiful hand-cut glass Byzantine tiles. A playground, interactive "zero depth" water play area, and a large pavilion for picnics and parties make this a great spot for some fun with the whole family. Note that the water play area is closed on Wednesday.

12 of 15

Meet Wildlife Up Close at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Staghorn coral and French grunt.
Stephen Frink / Getty Images
Address
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida, USA

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary spans 2,800 square miles across the Florida Keys, running all the way from Miami to the Dry Tortugas and featuring a vast eco-system that includes coral reefs, kelp forests, and underwater archaeological sites. There's no admission fee for visitors, so pack up your canoe or kayak and start paddling. You never know what sorts of diverse wildlife you might encounter.

 

Continue to 13 of 15 below.
13 of 15

Tour the Famous Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables

Swimming pool at a luxury hotel,Biltmore Hotel,Coral Gables,Florida,USA
Glow Images, Inc / Getty Images
Address
1200 Anastasia Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134, USA
Phone +1 305-445-1926

Head to this Coral Gables landmark every Sunday afternoon for a free tour of the spectacular hotel and grounds. This luxurious Spanish Revival-style hotel has hosted some of Hollywood's most prominent stars, including Ginger Rogers and Judy Garland, as well as European royalty, like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Today, The Biltmore is the only hotel in South Florida recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

14 of 15

Go Scalloping in Cedar Key

Cedar Key, Florida, private residences on estuary
Stephen Saks / Getty Images
Address
Cedar Key, FL 32625, USA

Save some money and catch your own dinner in Cedar Key, located just an hour from Gainesville or about a 2.5-hour drive from Tampa Bay on Florida's Gulf Coast. Recreational scalloping is one of this island's most popular summer activities, as kids and adults alike will dive down to the bottom to grab a few of the giant shells. For a small fee, many area restaurants will even cook your catch for you.

15 of 15

Canoe Your Way Through Coldwater Creek

Trees along a path in Blackwater River State Forest in Florida

Ken Badgley / Getty Images

Address
11650 Munson Hwy, Milton, FL 32570, USA
Phone +1 850-957-5700

Coldwater Creek Recreation Area in northwest Florida (about an hour from Pensacola) is known for being the state's "canoe capital" though kayaking is popular here, too. The stream is shallow and cold even on the hottest of summer days, but has some of the swiftest water in the state, making for an exciting trip. The sand-bottomed river is part of the Blackwater River State Forest, a popular destination for swimming, fishing, and camping. 

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The 15 Best Free Things to Do in Florida