There are lots of free and inexpensive attractions in the St. Pete/Clearwater area.
The St. Pete/Clearwater area is famous for its award-winning beaches and 361 average days of sunshine, both of which are free! The beach isn't the only thing for family vacationers on a budget, though. There are lots of free and inexpensive attractions in the St. Pete/Clearwater area.
You don't need a car to enjoy these activities either. Unlimited GO Cards for buses and trolleys are available for just a few dollars a day and can get you all over the area, from Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach, to Boyd Hill Nature Park in south St. Petersburg.
Downtown St. Petersburg
In downtown St. Petersburg, head over to the Morean Arts Center. They feature a glass hot shop and rotating exhibits of art ranging from glass plates, mirrors, and vases complete with glass flowers to drawings from gifted local young people, and everything in between. If you get hungry, nearby Central Avenue and the surrounding area offers dozens of bistros and specialty restaurants featuring lunches for less than $10. Some pizza and sandwich shops also have meal specials including drinks for only $6. And like in every major city, you can always stop at a street corner and grab a hot dog or other local fare.
St. Pete Beach / Pass-a-Grille Beach
Another great place to start the day is St. Pete Beach, voted TripAdvisor's No. 1 Beach in the U.S. and No. 5 in the world for 2012, based on millions of traveler reviews. At the southern end of the island, Pass-a-Grille Beach offers quiet stretches of beach and a charming historic district. Stroll through this Old Florida community and do some window shopping in one of the art shops. Or, grab an egg sandwich or fruit bowl at one of the local snack shacks or delis and head over to the nearby Merry Pier for breakfast on the water. You can also fish right off the pier, and bait, rod and reel rentals are available right at the dock.
Savings on Tampa Bay Attractions
If you want to see top attractions around the area but don't want to pay full price, you can save with an advance purchase of CityPASS Tampa Bay. CityPASS gives you a package discount off of regular admission prices to five area attractions, including the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the Chihuly Collection, Busch Gardens, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, and MOSI - the Museum of Science and Industry. Learn more and find out how to purchase your CityPASS Tampa Bay.
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
Consider taking a trip to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. This 245-acre award-winning park is located along the shores of Lake Maggiore, and features more than three miles of trails and boardwalks. It is home to an aviary for permanently injured birds of prey including an eagle, turkey vultures, hawks and owls, as well as numerous kinds of butterflies, alligators and five unique ecosystems. It is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and has an environmental education center with full-size replicas of the inhabitants of Lake Maggiore. It also offers a playground and picnic areas, making this a perfect spot for a family outing. Admission is $3 for adults and only $1.50 for children under 16.
Tarpon Springs' Greek Heritage
Head farther north to Tarpon Springs, and you will discover a unique Greek community. Home to the world-famous Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, a plethora of Greek restaurants, and a museum dedicated to the region's sponging industry, you will feel like you have been transported to Greece itself. Take a leisurely walk around the waterfront or the shopping district and feel free to chat with one of the shop-keepers. They'll gladly explain all the uses and varieties of the sponges they gather, which make great souvenirs that can be had for only a dollar or two and make excellent gifts. Make sure you don't leave without seeing St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. This magnificent cathedral is patterned after St. Sophia in Istanbul and features 23 unique stained glass windows and 60 tons of Greek marble.
Pier 60 Sunset Celebration on Clearwater Beach
Head to Clearwater Beach as the day starts to wind down. It's a great place to watch the sunset and most nights at Pier 60 is home to a sunset celebration, featuring jugglers, musicians and food. It's fun for the whole family on the beach named No. 1 in the U.S. on TripAdvisor's list of Top Beaches for 2016 and by USA Today readers as the "Best Beach Town in Florida" in 2013. Anglers can cast lines 24/7 off the Pier, and if you are looking for a cheap date, it only costs 50 cents to take a walk out to the end of the Pier. Want to take a stroll through paradise? Check out nearby Beach Walk, the palm-lined pedestrian thoroughfare that winds its way southward on Clearwater Beach, passing ice cream parlors and shops. It's a great place for people-watching too.