The best things to do in Tampa under ten bucks

It’s quite easy to plan a budget friendly trip along Florida’s Gulf Coast with the plethora of free preserves and beautiful beaches in the vicinity. On the other hand, it can be a bit more difficult to enjoy a fun day out in Tampa without forking out a lot of cash. Nevertheless, scattered around the city are a handful of recreational activities, cultural attractions, and treats which will not break the bank. Take a look at the best things to do in Tampa for under 10 bucks.

1. Bike the Flatwoods trail

Flatwoods Regional Park in Tampa, Florida

Flatwoods Park is home to an easy tree-lined 7 mile long paved biking loop. If you are looking to get in a nice long workout, this is a scenic place to do so. This natural park is a welcome escape from the surrounding man-made suburbia congestion.

A fun alternative to a day basking in the sun, Flatwoods is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors minus the insane tourist crowds. Here you can enjoy the natural beauty of Florida pine flatwoods as opposed to palms and overcrowded beaches. As the scenery found here is not normally what you picture when you think of Florida, a trip to this park is quite an interesting tourist activity for anyone seeking to enjoy the natural side of Florida.

  • Total Cost: $2 for parking
  • Address: 42540 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa, FL 33647
  • Best time to go: Avoid the hot summer season as there is little shade to be found here.

2. Take a leisurely bike ride down Bayshore Blvd

Biking the Bayshore Blvd path in downtown Tampa, Florida

Debatably, Bayshore Blvd is the world’s longest continuous sidewalk. While some claim this is not technically true, regardless this is a scenic uninterrupted place to take a long jog or bike ride. This road runs for 4.5 miles along beautiful Hillsborough Bay in South Tampa, just minutes from downtown.

While getting in a wonderful workout, you will also get to admire some of Tampa’s most stately homes on one side, while enjoying prime skyline and waterfront views on the other. If you can get yourself out of bed early enough, you may just see a manatee or dolphin! It also never hurts to get out there before the heat reaches its’ full intensity!

  • Cost: Free (find free parking on the side streets/watch signs) or park in the metered lot by the Gasparilla pirate boat.
  • Address: 320 Bayshore Blvd. Tampa, FL 33606
  • Best time to go: Early winter (milder temps plus a lower chance of rain).

3. Walk the boardwalk at Lettuce Lake Park

Alligator sighting at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, Florida

Your best bet for seeing alligators in Tampa is definitely at Lettuce Lake park. This gorgeous preserve is also heavily shaded and never overly crowded – the perfect quiet rustic escape from the city. A half mile boardwalk takes you through a beautiful Florida hardwood swamp forest. Along the way you will likely see a gator or 2. Take your time and look around as they often blend in with the lily pads. The early spring months are prime for gator sightings as this is mating season. Also in winter, the cold-blooded gators frequently rise out of the water to bask in the sun.

At the end of this short stroll, climb up the overlook tower and enjoy prime view of the Hillsborough River. Other amenities at this park include a 1.2 mile paved exercise trail, kayak rentals, and picnicking facilities.

  • Cost: $2 per car
  • Address: 6920 E Fletcher Ave, Tampa, FL 33637
  • Best time to go: Winter, as the weather will much more tolerable, plus you will have the opportunity to see more gators.

4. Take a stroll around Hyde Park Village

Hyde Park Village in Tampa, Florida

This beautiful open air shopping complex is located just minutes from downtown Tampa. The ambiance is very parklike with fountains and beautiful shady trees everywhere.

A few budget friendly ideas for fun (keeping it under 10 bucks) include grabbing a cup of local coffee and a delicious biscuit at Buddy Brew, treating yourself to an Italian pastry or gelato at Sorrento sweets, indulging in a cupcake at Sprinkles (the red velvet is amazing), or getting a healthy boost of antioxidants via a smoothie/juice drink at Clean Juice. Check out the Hyde Park directory.

  • Cost: Free (complimentary parking garage)
  • Address: 1602 W Snow Ave, Tampa, FL 33606
  • Best time to visit: Anytime outside of the prime hot season (April-Oct).

5. Browse the collection at the Tampa Museum of Art

Temple of Poseidon painting at the Tampa Museum of Art

Admire the collection of modern, contemporary, and ancient art at the Tampa Museum of Art. Admission is just 10 bucks, a bargain compared to most major metros. The permanent collection includes classical antiquities, sculptures by C. Paul Jennewein, photography of the 20th century photography, and a modern/contemporary painting exhibit dedicated to both international and local artists. The museum is located on the beautiful Riverwalk, a 2.4 mile trail which connects numerous city attractions. Update: Admission is now $20. However, you can visit for free on Thursday nights as well as the first full weekend of every month if you hold a Bank of America (Museums on Us program) card!

  • Cost: $20 pp ($12 seniors and military, K-12 $5). Free admission Thursdays from 4-8pm.
  • Address: 120 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, FL 33602
  • Best time to visit: Art on the House Thursdays, which features pay-as-you-wish admission. This is a great value for anyone on a budget.

6. Admire the cultural & scenic offerings of Riverwalk

Curtis Hixon Park on the Tampa Riverwalk

Most of Tampa’s major cultural & entertainment offerings are connected via a walkable/bikeable 2.4 mile trail known as Riverwalk. Besides enjoying gorgeous views of the Bay, you will pass by a number of art exhibits, public parks, and historical attractions. Free fun along the way includes Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, The Historic Monument Trail, and the Heroes plaza dedicated to war veterans.

A few budget friendly ideas for affordable fun under 10 bucks include indulging in the black bean soup at Columbia (Tampa’s premier Cuban restaurant), exploring the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts ($10pp), and grabbing a bite at the Heights Public Market.

  • Cost: Free parking north of Kennedy Blvd after 6pm on weekdays and all day on weekends.
  • Address: 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, FL 33602
  • Best time to visit: Holiday Harbour, Taste of the Riverwalk, Free yoga in the park (every Sunday at 6pm).

7. Hike at Hillsborough River State Park

Suspension bridge at Hillsborough River State Park in Tampa, Florida

This large park is located just minutes from downtown Tampa and features 7 miles of wooded hiking trails. Here you can enjoy the unique opportunity to kayak or canoe on Class II river rapids. Bird and alligator watching are popular past times here.

Consider starting your visit along the River Rapids Nature trail, which not only features great views of natural rapids, but also crosses a historic suspension bridge. The swimming pool ($4 pp admission) also makes this park an affordable summer cool down destination.

  • Cost: $6 per vehicle
  • Address: 15402 US-301 N, Thonotosassa, FL 33592
  • Best time to visit: Anytime of the year should be find due to the ample shade coverage.

8. See a movie at the renowned Tampa Theater

Historic Tampa Theater

BBC has placed the Tampa Theater in the company of theaters around the world, from Greece to France, as one of the “10 most beautiful cinemas.” Once you step through the doors and see the gorgeous Mediterranean architecture and domed starry night sky ceiling, you will see why this theater made the list. A Tampa iconic landmark since the 1920’s, the theater continues to please locals and tourists alike with its’ stunning beauty and interesting lineup of events.

During the summer season, the theater screens nostalgic classics like Jaws, Jurassic Park, and The Wizard of Oz. Tickets are just 8 bucks making this a fun & affordable activity. Not to mention relaxing in an air conditioned theater is the perfect alternative to sweating your butt off at the beach. If you happen to be in town in October, their popular “Nightmare on Franklin Street,” featuring 14 nights of Halloween movies, is an awesome event.

  • Cost: $8 pp
  • Address:  711 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602
  • Best time to visit: Summer movies series & Nightmare on Franklin Street Halloween Fest

9. Cool down with a frozen treat

Acai bowl at Raining Berries in Tampa, Florida

Most anytime you visit Tampa, you will likely be craving something cool and sweet, especially after a long day out in the heat. Fortunately, there are more than enough refreshing smoothie cafes, froyo bars, and homemade ice cream shops around. Menchie’s is a wonderful frozen yogurt bar which offers about 10 flavors daily including a vegan option. Twistee Treat is a popular local ice cream chain with numerous locations. They are known for their waffle tacos and cookiewich ice cream sandwiches.

If you are up for trying something a bit different, consider an acai bowl. As a nice dairy-free alternative, these creamy treats feature pureed acai fruit, granola, and assorted toppings like sliced fruit, chocolate, and peanut butter. In Tampa, look into Grain and Berry, Raining Berries, or Juice Factory (all offer wonderfully delicious, refreshing acai bowls!).

  • Cost: Varies (although all options listed are under ten bucks)
  • Best time to visit: Anytime you are craving a cool treat

10. Cycle the Upper Tampa Bay trail

Beautiful natural surroundings on the Upper Tampa Bay bike trail

Featuring 7 miles of paved multi-use trail, the Upper Tampa Bay trail is one of the best places in the city to enjoy a leisurely bike ride. This is one of Tampa’s favorite urban trails due to the ease of access. The overall vibe here is fantastic with locals and visitors alike enjoying basically any type of exercise, whether it be walking, running, biking, or even skating. Bonus – there are cold water stations along the way.

  • Cost: $2 per vehicle
  • Address: 9201 Waters Avenue
  • Best time to visit: Avoid the summer due to a lack of shade