Let’s face it, traveling is expensive! If you are a family like ours, we are looking to give ourselves and our childrenfun experienceswithout breaking the budget.
So, as a native Floridian myself, I started gathering a list of activities that cost $10 or less. Whether you are from Florida and looking for a short day trip, or you are here for the sunshine, or to visit your grandparents, I hope you will find this site helpful. Experience much of what Florida has to offer without emptying your bank account.
Enjoy! Check out the menu to the left for our favorite activities with maps of locations. View and follow our blog below for more detailed posts and photos on select spots! And please bear with us as we add new locations each week!
During this time of uncertainty and social distance, my family decided to finally make it out of our hometown and take a budget friendly Crystal River trip! We are huge water people, and we had heard this was a great area to be in the water in the summer. Here are some of our favorite stops from our 3 day trip!
One of our first stops was a small beach called Bird Beach. When we first arrived, we were the only ones there! While the water was a little mucky (and probably more suitable to fishing than swimming), it was a peaceful place to wade around and look for tadpoles. Parking was free as well! My kids were out on their tubes in the water in no time.
Day 2 – Rainbow Springs
Our next stop to get up early and take a drive over to take a swim at Rainbow Springs State Park! If you have some extra funds in your budget to go tubing at Rainbow Springs State Park, I highly Recommend it! If not, skip ahead to the next section on Rainbow Springs itself. Since we had not gone anywhere in months, we splurged on the tubing ($20 a person +$2 a person for the state park entrance). It has a separate entrance located at 10830 SW 180th Avenue Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432. You pay at the entrance and then park your car. A shuttle takes you up to the start of the tube run, and you float back to your vehicle. You can bring your own tube or use one of theirs.
What we enjoyed most about the run, was swimming in the water along the way. The current was fast enough that it kept you moving, but slow enough that you could easily get out of your tube and swim around. The route takes a little less than 2 hours and passes you by some of the neighborhoods in the area.
Rainbow Springs State Park
After the lazy river, since we had already paid our admission fee to Rainbow Springs State Park, we went up to the other entrance to the park. At this entrance, they have a swimming hole and a bunch of trails. This is up by the head of the springs. You park (free), and then you can walk up to the park with trails and a swimming hole. We had already paid our $2 entrance fee, so we just showed them the receipt.
The springs is always a cool 72 degrees year round. It is a VERY cold place to swim! We lasted a little while before we had enough of the freezing water. There are also trails, restrooms, and a concession stand at the park. You can rent kayaks here as well to kayak the springs.
Fort Island Gulf Beach
After coming back from the springs and waiting out Florida’s typical summer afternoon thunderstorms, we headed out to watch the sunset at Fort Island Gulf Beach. This area has a small beach with a roped off area for swimming in the warm Gulf waters. It also has a fishing pier. We were not lucky enough to see one of the beautiful west coast sunsets (it was cloudy). However, we did enjoy sitting on the pretty white sand on the beach while the kids swam. I did notice that this area is frequently checked for bacteria levels, so use your discretion before swimming in the area. Make sure to check the posted signs.
Day 3 – Hunter Springs
The next day was our final day in the area. We chose to spend it at Hunter Springs Park, which is free, aside from the parking. The parking is only $1 an hour. Although the park was crowded, it was easy to find a spot on the deeper side of the swimming hole to get in and be by ourselves. The water was SO clear and blue!! The girls brought their inner tubes, snorkels, and boogie boards. They were able to see a few tiny fish and a crab. I wouldn’t say this is a great place for snorkeling, but it was a fun place to swim!! (if you want to snorkel, you need to take a boat or a kayak out into the Three Sisters Springs area).
At Huter spring, you can rent a kayak at a couple of local places nearby, but they are pretty pricey. Since we had splurged on the tubing, we skipped the kayaking part. We would have loved to bring our own kayaks from home to launch. Maybe next time! There are so many beautiful things to do on the water in Crystal River. We can’t wait to make another trip!
On one of our adventures this week, we took the kids to the FIT Botanical Gardens. This is another great free place to spend a few hours, and it’s right on the campus of the Florida Institute of Technology!
Parking is located off of S. Babock Street. There are a few spots designated to the garden, so get their early to secure yourself a parking space. After parking, you walk down a large covered bridge to reach the garden. If you are visiting in the summer (as we were), make sure to bring your bug spray! It’s definitely humid and buggy in the gardens.
You can stop at one of the picnic tables here to have some lunch, and then start walking about the trails. There are several paved trails in the area with walks along a tiny stream. You’ll see a map posted near the entrance. You can view it on the bottom of this page as well.
Once you get on the paved trail, it walks you along a small stream where you can look for fish. There are a couple of opportunities to venture off the paved path to a wooded trail in the back, but it’s fairly overgrown. We enjoyed just staying on the path and taking in the scenery.
The path takes about 30 min to an hour to walk around. There are some pavilions along the trail that you can stop to take a rest. Also, there you will find a large courtyard area near the front of the gardens. The courtyard is laid with pavers and has a shaded pavilion and a pond as well.
While we were stopped in the courtyard, the kids spotted more fish and a couple of yellow belly slider turtles as well. The turtle were very friendly!
When you make your way back towards the picnic tables by the entrance, you will notice a large building called the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts. The center was closed while we were visiting on a Sunday, but this is another free attraction that is right next to the garden. It offers different exhibits throughout the year.
So, we spent about an hour at the FIT botanical gardens. It was summer and we were hot! You could stay much longer in a nicer season. Also, here is a map of the gardens to guide you while walking around:
If you’re looking for more to do tin the area, don’t miss our page on the Melbourne area to find some other budget friendly activities!
This past Friday, we took our first trip to a local farm here on the East Coast. We love visiting new places! The farm was running a May special for $5 a person to visit their petting zoo, so we jumped on this opportunity!
The day started out with a couple pony rides ($5 a kid… but we splurged). At the front office, there is a store inside where you purchase your tickets, gifts, and food for the animals. We purchased a ticket for a hayride and petting zoo tour. Their May special was $5 a person.
Outside the office, there is a neat playground made of tires for the kids to use! They also have a restaurant with a full menu of food. There were plenty of chickens and an iguana for the kids to look at while we waited for the hayride that would take us back to the petting zoo area. Bonus… my kids each got to hold one of these cute baby chicks!!
We boarded the hayride pulled by a tractor, and a guide took us back to the petting zoo section of the farms. We also had bought some feed for the animals ($5-10), so that the kids could get the full experience.
The hayride took us back for a tour of the petting zoo. There were so many unique animals! We fed a camel…
We saw a kangaroo, a fox, baby zebra, minx, groundhogs, porcupines, and of course all the farm animals!
Here is my younger daughter holding a baby goat!! We also had the pleasure of being greeted by this huge Emu bird, who ate right out of our food bag!
They had goats, ducks, donkeys, and a peacock as well.
After the tour, which took about an hour, the hayride took us back to the main office area where we bought drinks and relaxed and pet some horses.
It was a great day at the farm! Here is the information about the place if you want to check it out!
We took a little trip up to Titusville last week, to explore the enchanted forest and to stop back by the Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge. If you haven’t been to Titusville, it’s most well known for it’s rocket launches from the Kennedy Space Center. However, there are several undeveloped areas of Florida lands and beautiful wildlife.
We have taken several trips to this area to enjoy it’s beauty, and I want to highlight two of our favorite places in the area.
The first stop we made is at the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary. The sanctuary is located right off of 405, between downtown Titusville and Port St. John. There is no entrance fee to the sanctuary.
Outside, you will find the entrance and a map of the network of trails. Inside is a nature center where kids can explore (most of it is currently shut down to COVID19). They also have an indoor and outdoor classroom for when they host classes for the community and for homeschoolers.
Just behind the main building, they have the butterfly garden. We didn’t see too many during our visit in the early summer, but I would imagine there would be many had we come earlier in the spring.
Here are some views of the trails. There is one big hill in the back (so weird- hills in Florida!) and there are some trails which are more shaded than others. The Mesic trail is very shaded (see photo below).
We walked the Coquina trail, the Mesic trail, and Tortoise trail. The Coquina trail is pictured below, it is much more sunny!
Along the trails, there were several views of canals and waterways. On the coquina trail, there were stops where you could overlook the water.
We spent a couple hours at the enchanted forest, and then we headed for a drive down black point drive at the Merritt island National Wildlife Refuge. There are other activities to do at the refuge (such as hiking and fishing), but we wanted to check out the wildlife drive after our long hike. To get to the entrance, you are going to want to head here.
Black point drive normally costs $10 to drive. It was free when we arrived, which was a nice surprise!
Black Point Drive offers a 14 mile dirt road you can drive down and look for wildlife. (Note: their website says its 7 miles, but it is much farther!) There are two points in which you can get out of the car was well. Mile 4 has a short path with two pavilion overlooks.
Mile 9 has another overlook where you can get out and walk, plus it has a bathroom. Here is another view from the trail.
Our drive took about an hour and half, with stops. We saw two small gators, tons of birds, soft shells turtles, and a few snakes! One of the gators:
After finishing up our drive, we headed home. But there are more things to do in the refuge and in the Titusville area! To view a map to these two locations, and for more locations in Titusville, visit our page here!
While some of the COVID19 restrictions are easing up here, we decided to explore a rail to trail in the area that I hadn’t had a chance to go to yet. This trail runs for 2 miles, is mostly paved, and is a unique trail because in one section it passes right over route 95 – a major Florida highway.
To access the trail, you can park in one of two locations: The Fellsmere Trailhead or the North County Aquatic Center. (Side note- check if the aquatic center is open because this is another fun stop to make while you are in Sebastian!)
Of the two places to park, The Fellsmere trailhead is much closer to the foot bridge that goes over the highway – which is what attracted us to the trail. Note that it does have a large section of gravel before you reach the footbridge. The aquatic center is farther away from the bridge, about 1.5 to 2 miles. However, if you park there, you will have pavement from the parking area to the bridge.
We parked at the Fellsmere Trailhead. In the parking area, there is this large barn (assuming a visitors center and restroom – it was closed due to COVID when we visited). And an adjacent playground for the kids.
From the parking area, it is a bit of a walk to get down to the trail. You walk down a larger gravel service road leading up to the trail. It took us about 5-10 min to get to the end of the service road walking with two children. If we did this trip again, we would probably have brought our mountain bikes, because it would have allowed us to see more in the time that we had.
The service road leads down to the trail, then you make a right. The trail down this way is much more shaded and private. You can see the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) ropes course while you are walking along this route as well – the ropes course is managed by the University and is fairly expensive.
At the end of the gravel, you will reach the highway overpass (pictured at the top of this page). This is where the cement part of the trail starts. It is a very wide trail, room for a couple of people to ride their bikes next to each other. I took this photo from the top of the trail:
We turned around at this point, as we had been walking about 30 min so far. I would have gotten a lot farther with the kids if we had our bikes! We enjoyed the part of the trail that we saw and have plans to go back soon.
Enjoy! If you want to see more activities to do in the Sebastian and Vero Beach area, visit our page here.
When you would like to spend a day outside in Florida nature, take a trip to Vero Beaches’ Environmental Learning Center (the ELC for short)! The center offers a variety of trails and boardwalks along the mangroves of the Indian River Lagoon, kayaking and canoe tours, nature walks, and children’s programs. You can visit their website for a schedule of their upcoming events.
Our first stop was to take a walk along one of the boardwalks. They have two looping boardwalk trails, one that leads out to a platform where you can view the river. This is also where they have their guided canoe and kayak trips. They even have see through canoes!
Along the way, right before you get to the boardwalk, we discovered they have a huge selection of native Florida plants for sale! We can’t wait to get some of these for our yard here… excellent for the local wildlife.
After walking the trail we came back toward the entrance and found this amazing giant humpback whale jawbone! Near the jawbone there is a shaded little area under the buildings with picnic tables and hammocks where the kids can stop to have a packed lunch or play on the hammocks.
We then stopped back by the main office, where your kids can grab a bag for seining in the pond. The bag includes a net, a little jar, and a pair of binoculars. We let the kids take their shoes off and wade in the pond. They could have spent hours here looking for tadpoles!!
Our last adventure of the day was back by the entrance to the ELC. There is a small area off to the right side, where there is an outdoor mud kitchen. This was the best part! The kids made pretend “cakes” and breads’. I love that they have a rain barrel with mesh over it to collect water for the kids to use. It has a little faucet at the bottom for them to take water out. I want one for my kids mud kitchen at home!
Overall we had an excellent day at the ELC. The two places that we did not stop on this trip, was the touch tank area (which is indoors and upstairs). and the butterfly garden. We ran out of time! Next time we will have to stop by.
The ELC is free on the first Saturday or every month (check their Facebook for an update to be sure before going). Regular price is $5 for kids and $7 for adults. If you go, pick a nice day and plan to spend several hours outside.
Environmental Learning Center
Monday – Saturday: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
255 Live Oak Drive
Vero Beach, Fl 32963 Located on the western base of the Wabasso Bridge on the 510 Causeway
Let’s start out by saying I LOVE St. Augustine. So every year, I make a special effort to drive the 2 hours to see the nights of lights and visit some of my favorite St. Aug attractions. There are plenty of ways to spend some money and take a train, trolley, boat, or horse carriage to view the lights (see the list here), but as a family we prefer to just walk around and enjoy what St. Augustine has to offer for free.
So First up… parking. There is a huge and expensive garage just a few blocks from St. George street (a popular street for dining and shopping), however it’s a whopping $15 a day to park there! I prefer to park either at the Castillo de San Marcos by the water, which has pay per hour, or one of the smaller lots… I recommend 5 Artillery Ln Parking or one of the two lots off Spanish St. – I have included a map at the bottom. Plan to spend about $5-7 on parking.
If you do park at or near the garage and you have children, the playground is a MUST stop. It is classic castle playground with lots of obstacles, swings, hanging rings and bars. My kids could spend hours here.
Our next stop, while we still have daylight, is usually the Castillo de San Marcos. If you want to explore the fort, you can go inside for $15 per adult and free for kids. Typically we don’t go inside, as the fort closes at 5pm. We have a great time just playing outside in the huge grassy area, walking along the castle walls, and taking in some beautiful views of the harbor.
Our next destination – St. George street – we usually head towards just as it is getting dark. You could easily do St. George street first during the day if that is your preference. It is a favorite for shopping and dining. We start around the intersection of Cuna St. and St. George and head south.
On St. George, there are several side streets that take you to more shopping and browsing, so don’t be afraid to take a little detour if you see something interesting! There are lots of great shops on the side streets, including a great tea store, and even a jerky store!
One the main strip, there are plenty of ice cream and coffee shops, a pizza place, a taco shop (don’t forget $2 tacos on Tuesdays!). My kids enjoy viewing the holiday decorations during the season – there are quite a few. They also enjoy watching the taffy be made at Zeno’s World Famous Taffy. You can watch the machine right from outside the window!
My absolute favorite stop on St. George street is a made-in-house candy and sweet shop called Savannah Sweets. They have a wide selection and I’m happy to spend $10 on treats from the store! We have yet to make it home without having eaten all our sweets.
After walking down St. George heading south, you will hit a huge green space and park lit up with holiday lights (if you visit in Late November to Early January). There is a large gazebo and plenty of historic monuments to view in the park. We usually make this our last stop to let the kids run around before deciding on a place to eat dinner. This is my favorite place to view the lights in the park and along the bridge of lions. Sometimes we also take a walk along the water to view more lights, depending on how cold the weather is that day!
So that’s it! There are of course many MANY other attractions and things to do in St. Augustine, but this is my list of what I do at a low cost budget while still having fun and enjoying time with my family. Hope you enjoy! Let us know if you have any St. Aug favorites!!
During our trip to St. Pete, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve was one of mine (and my children’s) favorites! If you love to just get outside and explore, this place is for you. Bonus, their entrance fee ($3 adults, $1.50 kids) helps take care of the injured birds they house in their aviary.
First stop on our journey was the playground… it was so neat! There is a small ropes course that the kids could do on their own, a saucer swing, spinning wooden saucer, and a treehouse-like play structure.
After playing outside for quite some time in the Florida heat, it was time for an A/C break. We then went inside to discover the nature center. Inside the building we a bunch of neat activities and information about animals.
They had multiple interactive displays for the kids to look at and play in. They also had a small section of live animals, such as snakes, frogs, scorpions, and even a bat! This section took us about 30 min to go through, but I could easily have seen the kids spending more than an hour inside.
Outside, there were multiples paths, trails, and boardwalks. We definitely needed to use our map!
There were many place where you could see baby alligators and there was a bird aviary, where the center keeps injured birds and takes care of them. We even saw a bald eagle!
We didn’t make it to every trail with the kids in tow, but we did manage to make it to the island, off of Lake Maggiore. From there you can see across the lake the buildings in downtown St. Pete!
This was a great 1/2 day trip. If you’d like to visit the center:
During the heat of May, my daughters and I braved a hot trip outdoors with some friends. We took a day trip to Mims, along the east coast off of I-95. There are a couple of attractions in the area, that are ONLY available in the spring (April/May), so we jumped on the opportunity to try something different! We visited the sunflower maze and we went blueberry picking.
The first spot we hit was Sled’s U Pick Sunflower Maze. While I little pricier than I would have liked ($5 a person), the maze was indeed beautiful and great for photography. It would be a great learning opportunity about bees and pollination as well.
The maze takes about 30 min to an hour, and the location is no frills, so bring your own snacks, water, and sunscreen!
The second spot we check out was EverAfter Farms Blueberry picking (only about 5-10 min away).
This place was so cute! It has a tractor ride and a petting farm, as well as TONS of blueberries you can pick yourself!
The best part is they let you eat all the blueberries you can while picking, AND the blueberries themselves are only $5 a pound! A pound is a ton of blueberries, much more than you get in a tiny container at the store.
We really enjoyed this place and plan to come again next year! Please feel free to click the links to find the farms websites, and below are the addresses for the locations 🙂