Best Budget-Friendly Activities in Tampa

May 13, 2020

Tampa is a wonderful tourist destination in the Southeast. From popular outdoor attractions such as Busch Gardens to interactive centers like the Museum of Science and Industry, there’s no shortage of group activities present in the city. However, planning a group trip is often expensive when you consider money spent on tickets, individual transportation (cars or rideshares), and meals at well-known restaurants. 

But, what if we told you that exploring Tampa doesn’t always have to put a dent in your wallet? There are plenty of free or inexpensive activities in the city that are open to the public and offer the same cultural experience that any overpriced destination would. In addition, Falcon Charter Bus makes the stress of group travel easier with flexible charter bus transportation that can pick you up and drop you off anywhere in and around Tampa.

Check out our budget-friendly recommendations below, and when you’re ready to plan your trip, contact us at 813-944-3146 to get started!

Close up of a flower at the Florida Botanical Gardens

Florida Botanical Gardens

Great for: exotic plant enthusiasts, botany amateurs and lovers of tropical fruit

Address: 12520 Ulmerton Rd, Largo, FL 33774

Distance from downtown Tampa: 35 mins

Spend a day immersed in nature at the Florida Botanical Gardens, a 182-acre facility with over 10,000 plants located in 12 gardens, several wildlife trails and an aquatic habitat. It offers viewers a look at some of the most beautiful flora and fauna in Florida. From exotic sections like the Tropical Fruit Garden to playful sections like the Butterfly Garden, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. 

The FBG is open almost all year and admission is free to the public. Just drop in anytime between 8 am and  5 pm on any weekday to host a book club gathering, catch a glimpse of a gopher tortoise nestled in its burrow, or identify the bits and pieces of handcrafted art scattered throughout the gardens on your group tour.

Bus Tip: Visiting the garden any time of year is made easier with a private bus rental. Each bus model has climate-controlled cabins, which means that your group will be comfortably seated even when temperatures in Tampa soar as high as 90°F in the summer or drop as low as 52°F in the winter.

The Tampa Riverwalk at night

Tampa Riverwalk

Great for: early morning striders, mid-afternoon sightseers and nighttime dinner expeditionists

Address: Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, FL 33602

Distance from downtown Tampa: 3 mins

Take in the sights and sounds of the city while strolling along the Tampa Riverwalk with your group. It is a 2.6 mile-long trail that begins at the Channelside District and ends at the Water Works Park at Tampa Heights. It also runs along the Hillsborough River and provides access to the city’s most famous attractions, cultural destinations and eateries. 

The Riverwalk is open daily and is free to the public. Your charter bus driver can drop your group off anywhere along the Riverwalk at any of Tampa’s major tourist attractions. Spend the day at the Tampa Museum of Art learning about Greek and Roman culture, host a picnic at Curtis Hixon Park, or take your students to the Glazer Children’s Museum to interact with the creative exhibits. There are also several delicious waterfront restaurants, such as Columbia Cafe or Four Green Fields, known as ‘America’s only authentic thatched-roof Irish pub’. 

Bus Tip: Falcon Charter Bus is one of Tampa Riverwalk’s preferred transportation partners, which means the bus drivers are familiar with the area and can guide your group if needed. Simply browse through the bus rentals we offer and start planning your trip today!

Ybor City arch

Ybor City

Great for: history buffs, artistic minds and fans of Latin American cuisine

Address: 2015 East 7th Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605

Distance from downtown Tampa: 5 mins

A vibrant and historic neighborhood located in the heart of Tampa, Ybor City is nothing short of astounding. Since 1880, it has been home to Cuban, Italian and Latin American immigrants, and the rich immigrant culture has given rise to some of the most stunning architectural sites, museums and restaurants in the area. Ybor City is deemed a National Historic Landmark, and its iconic 7th Avenue has been named one of America’s 10 Great Streets by the APA, which means it should be a must-see on your charter bus itinerary.

Access to this neighborhood is free whether you’re there to browse around and admire the historical buildings, snap selfies in front of walls filled with colorful graffiti, visit the iconic GaYBOR district or window-shop at some of the unique boutiques. You can even grab a map or brochure from the Ybor City Visitor Center and explore the town on your own schedule with your group. In addition, Ybor City is also home to the J.C Newman Cigar Company, which offers free self-guided tours to visitors during the week.

Bus Tip: Running out of battery after a satisfying day of sightseeing? No worries.  Simply plug your phone into an electric outlet in your 20-passenger minibus rental—your battery will be back to 100% before you know it.

Hiking trail surrounded by trees

Heritage Village

Great for: explorers at heart, admirers of historical communities and those who love impromptu nature walks

Address: 11909 125th Street N., Largo, FL 33774

Distance from downtown Tampa: 33 mins

Standing proudly in Pinellas County is Heritage Village, a living history museum that consists of 33 preserved attractions spread over 21 acres. It’s surrounded by abundant pine and palmetto trees and includes several historic homes, schools and churches, a general store, and a railroad depot. 

Admission is free for student groups Wednesday through Friday, while adult groups are allowed to enter for free on Saturdays as well. It’s important that you make a reservation online beforehand. Self-guided tours usually last around 1.5 to 2 hours, and groups are allowed to bring their own picnic essentials on-site. In addition, teachers are allowed to curate a lesson plan using the resources from Heritage Village, which makes for a great history class. The workers at Heritage Village even host interesting programs, such as sugar cane and smokehouse demonstrations and rotating artistic exhibits. If you need to get away from the loud sounds, consider walking along the Shirley McPherson Native Plant Trail for momentary peace and silence.

Bus Tip: A day spent at Heritage Village often means you need to pack enough food and drink to fuel you throughout the day. A 25-passenger minibus rental has large overhead luggage bins to store your coolers, wicker baskets and snacks for the journey.

Downtown Tampa decorated with lights at night

Fourth Friday 

Great for: college students, rational consumers and gals who just want to have a great time

Address: anywhere in the city

Distance from downtown Tampa: activities are held throughout downtown and Ybor City

If you’re trying to save money and have a great time in Tampa, it doesn’t get any better than Fourth Friday. On the fourth friday of every month, between 5 pm and 8 pm, the region of downtown Tampa provides free or heavily-discounted access to the city’s major art and cultural centers. The selection is often vast and can include free admission to places such as the Tampa Theatre, the Henry B. Plant Museum and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. 

In order to take advantage of this end-of-month extravaganza, all you need to do is collect a wristband from any of the participating venues listed on Fourth Friday Tampa’s schedule. Apart from access to iconic tourist attractions, this wristband also offers fantastic deals at restaurants and bars in the area. Whether your group is looking to immerse themselves in the city or planning on indulging in great dishes, there are activities to keep everyone entertained.

Bus Tip: If you’re planning on attending several events, store your purses, bags, and other personal luggage on your bus rental. Your belongings will be safe from pickpockets, and you won’t need to lug around heavy items on your walk in and around downtown Tampa.

The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida

Ringling Museum of Art

Great for: art aficionados, avid museum print collectors and casual viewers

Address: 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243

Distance from downtown Tampa: 1 hr

Known as the “official state art museum for Florida,” the Ringling Museum of Art consists of 21 galleries with over 10,000 objects ranging from European paintings created by the Old Masters to contemporary sculptures from the 20th century. Apart from the museum, there are several other buildings for viewers to explore, such as the Circus Museum, the Ca’ d’Zan, the Library, and the Conservation Complex.

Interested in art galleries but don’t want to spend a hefty amount on tickets for your group? Then plan a visit to the Ringling every Monday, when the public gets free access to special curated exhibitions. In addition, there’s plenty of space to stroll around the museum grounds, taking in the unique architecture and Sarasota landscapes on your own time.

Bus Tip: The Ringling Museum has a specific “Bus Drop Off” area where your group can exit the bus rental. This is only an unloading zone, so your bus driver will need to drive over to the parking lot and wait there until you’re ready to go home.

A manatee swimming underwater

Manatee Viewing Center

Great for: wildlife supporters, environmental activists and people who find manatees cute

Address: 6990 Dickman Rd, Apollo Beach, FL 33572

Distance from downtown Tampa: 25 mins

Located by Apollo Beach, the Manatee Viewing Center is a federally designated sanctuary for the manatees and their aquatic habitat. It’s usually open from the beginning of November till mid-April, when the cooler season draws the manatees to the warm waters of Tampa Bay.

The center is free for the public during the week, since it aims to increase awareness about the manatees and the difficulties they may face due to changes in their habitat. Your bus driver will park at the center while you walk to the boardwalk that leads to an observation tower. The top of the tower provides a 50-foot vantage point where you can take in the expanse of the estuary and peer at the manatees frolicking in the water below. Other group activities include interactive displays in the center itself, an award-winning butterfly garden and a beautiful nature trail where you can discover Florida’s acclaimed coastal plants. 

Bus Tip: There is no restroom at the boardwalk, tower, or habitat trail. To avoid missing out on meeting the friendly sea critters, use the onboard restroom in your full-sized charter bus rental instead. It’s clean, private and offers you the quick-fix that you need. 

Several glasses of fresh craft beer placed in a row

Yuengling Brewing Co 

Great for: beer snobs, tourists interested in the brewing process, and those who tag along for the free samples  

Address: 11111 N 30th St, Tampa, FL 33612

Distance from downtown Tampa: 15 mins

Get your beer fix at the Yuengling Brewing Co., known as the oldest operating brewery in the U.S. and considered to be one of the country’s top independent breweries. They currently have two factories, with the Tampa location being a popular spot for guided tours and tastings. For those 21 and over, it’s the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy a drink or two. 

This brewery offers free hour-long tours to the public from Wednesday until Saturday. Each tour showcases the process behind creating delicious craft beer, from the challenging fermentation method down to sealing and bottling. At the end of the tour all age-appropriate guests are allowed to make a pit-stop at the Biergarten, where they can taste fresh craft beer, including the signature Traditional Lager, Lord Chesterfield Ale and Black and Tan Porter Blend.

Bus Tip: Too tipsy to drive? No DDs required. Leave it to your bus driver to get you home safe and sound.

Rent a Tampa Charter Bus Rental Today

Spending time with a group of friends, colleagues, or loved ones doesn’t always have to be expensive. Invest in stress-free bus transportation with Falcon Charter Bus for an exciting, affordable day out in Tampa. Venture out and explore other cities in the Southeast by renting a shuttle to Miami, Orlando, a charter bus to Lake Buena Vista, Nashville, and Atlanta to explore more budget-friendly trip options. When you’re ready to start planning your trip, contact us at 813-944-3146 for a free, no-obligation bus quote.