9. Find free live entertainment

Beach crowds at Clearwater's Pier 60 Sunsets at the Pier Festival.

Beach crowds at Clearwater’s Pier 60 Sunsets at the Pier Festival.

Many Gulf coast beaches, downtown districts, and parks offer free events and activities throughout the year. Check individual towns websites, Chamber of Commerce sites, bulletin boards, and park websites to stay informed about upcoming events.

One great free year-round festival, Clearwater’s Sunsets at Pier 60, includes a great nightly lineup of music, entertainment acts, and monthly movies on the beach. After enjoying a day walking around Clearwater’s sugar smooth sand, be sure to stay for this lively festival. Visiting the beach in the morning or afternoon and staying until the festival will ensure that you find a parking spot for this very popular nightly event.

10. Take a scenic drive

The scenic 7 mile drive around Myakka River State Park in Sarasota.

The scenic 7 mile drive around Myakka River State Park in Sarasota.

Unfortunately, most driving around the Tampa Bay area is quite unappealing – lots of traffic, stores, run down buildings, and malls. However, the driving gets less congested and more appealing as you move beyond this area. Most driving around the Sarasota area is old-fashioned, less clustered, and more tropical feeling. The Windows to the Gulf Coast Water Scenic Highway is one of the most popular and scenic drives on the West side of Florida. The drives features lots of beautiful Old Florida architecture and plenty of tropical views.

Here’s a few other scenic drives to incorporate into your visit

The loop around Myakka River State Park – Myakka is one of Florida’s best parks. Beautiful views of the Myakka Lake, sabal palms and moss trees, and a gorgeous marsh can be enjoyed from the park’s scenic 7 mile loop (biking is also a fun way to enjoy the natural Florida scenery). This is a great park; you real feel as if you are taking a step back into time and experiencing Florida as it should be today.

Beautiful moss trees lining the drive around gorgeous Myakka River State Park.

Beautiful moss trees lining the drive around gorgeous Myakka River State Park.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge – Tampa Bay’s gorgeous bridge frequently rates amongst the top in the world. Travel Channel rated it number 3 on it’s Top 10 Bridges in the World List. The 5+  mile bridge connects St. Petersburg with Terra Ceia. Driving over this architectural wonder truly is a great experience; the views of the water on both side is simply amazing.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge as seen from Robinson Nature Preserve in Bradenton.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge as seen from Robinson Nature Preserve in Bradenton.

At 431 feet tall, it is also one of the tallest bridges in the world. As you drive up to the top, you almost feel as if you are heading up into the clouds. Due to its’ beauty, it is often used in car commercials. Consider a sunset visit as the views are extraordinary at this time.

A few great places to see the bridge from afar: Robinson Nature Preserve in Bradenton, East Beach at Fort De Soto Park, and Bayfront Park in Anna Maria Island.  Toll to cross is $1.25 per car.

Have you visited any of the Gulf Coast attractions listed above? What are some of your favorite free things to do on Florida’s Gulf Coast?