Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy
Myakka River State Park
Ed Smith Stadium.
Ed Smith Stadium
Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy
Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsey

Budget-Friendly Fun: A Guide to Free and Inexpensive Activities in Sarasota County

Hoping to save your money while you spend your time enjoying Sarasota County? Discover the best deals in town with our guide to free and budget-friendly activities for the entire family.

Some of the best things in life are free -- and with a little creative planning, it’s hardly a challenge to make a day of Sarasota without breaking the bank. Read on for the best deals in town, and we’ll help you plan creative outings to make a day of Sarasota on a dime.

Experience the Arts at a Low Cost in Sarasota

The Ringling Museum of Art

High art need not come at a high cost. The Ringling Museum of Art opens its galleries for free to the public once a week, including the permanent collection as well as all special exhibitions. To save on your visit, make sure you schedule your trip to the galleries on a Free Monday -- admission costs are $25 for adults every other day of the week. For students presenting a college ID, daily admission cost is reduced to $5, and is free for local college students with valid ID.

Towles Court Artist Colony

Towles Court
Towles Court

Mondays at the Ringling aren’t the only time and place to soak in some art culture in Sarasota without the cost. Take a stroll through downtown Sarasota’s Towles Court Artist Colony every third Friday of the month for the Third Friday Towles Court Art Walk. During the art walk, art studios, galleries and businesses housed in the artist colony’s old Florida-style bungalows stay open for extended evening hours. The free monthly art walk features live music and refreshments, and a chance to experience the newest works by Sarasota’s resident working artists.

Marietta’s Museum of Whimsy

For a free taste of the lighter side of art, be sure to pay a visit to Marietta’s Museum of Whimsy just outside of downtown Sarasota. It’s hard to miss Marietta’s Museum of Whimsy, as its entrance is heralded by two giant neon flamingos alongside North Tamiami Trail. Not to be missed is the museum’s outdoor sculpture garden, where all ages can enjoy the bright colors and quirky, whimsical garden decor. Have some time to spare and feel up to a challenge? See if you can count the pink flamingos in the gardens and gallery. Following renovations, Marietta’s Museum will reopen its doors to the public in spring, 2016. Admission is free to the public during museum hours, 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

The Children's Garden

Children's Garden
Children's Garden

Have little ones to entertain and seeking creative, out-of-the-ordinary playground? Fire up their imaginations at the The Children's Garden art playground, featuring secret gardens and butterfly gardens, a pirate ship, a garden maze, a life size chess-board, and more. There’s a bit of magic for every age! Take part in story time plays, dress up in costume, and participate in art projects on your visit to the Children's Garden, or spend time on the playground. The Children's Garden is free to visit for ages 0-2 and just $5 for ages 3-12.

Bookstore1Sarasota

Fans of the literary arts are advised to keep an eye on the event calendar at Bookstore1Sarasota. The independent bookshop in downtown Sarasota hosts regular poetry readings, book signings, and author discussions at low cost or free admission. Bookworms may also be interested in joining Bookstore1Sarasota’s book clubs, for the price of the selected book purchase.

Make a Day of Myakka

For a breath of fresh air, head out of the city and east toward Myakka, where miles of majestic wilderness and local agriculture await. Sarasota’s east county provides a quieter space to relax and renew, a refreshing escape into a more rustic environment. And the best part? It doesn’t cost a dime to immerse yourself in nature.

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park
Myakka River State Park

It’s easy to spend an entire day, or several, at Myakka River State Park, one of the oldest and largest state parks in the state of Florida. The 37,000 acre park features wetlands, prairies, pine forests and hammocks surrounding the Myakka State River. That’s over 57 miles of park to explore by bike, on foot, and by canoe and kayak, and a lot of winding river to fish, if you’ve brought along your tackle.  You’ll work up an appetite as you explore the park, so don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch.

Park entrance fees are just $6 per vehicle, up to 8 passengers. The park is open every day of the year from 8am until sunset, with overnight camping available for a small fee.

Dakin Dairy Farm

While you’re in Myakka and looking for a bargain, pay a visit to Dakin Dairy Farm to learn about sustainable family farming. Admission to the Dakin Dairy Farm Market is free, and for under $10, stick around to take part in an old-fashioned country picnic on 10 acres of oak hammock, featuring tire swings, picnic tables, and fun spaces for the whole family.

Dakin Dairy Farm
Dakin Dairy Farm

For the full dairy farm experience, Dakin Farm tours are $15, and free for kids two and under. The Farm Tours take hayrides deep into the farm to explore how milk is travels from cow to bottle, what pasteurization is and how butter is made. Each tour concludes with a pig race, in true country fashion.

Hunt Down a Bargain in the Markets

Sarasota County is known for its shopping -- from high-end St. Armand’s Circle, nicknamed ‘Sarasota’s Rodeo Drive,’ to the sprawling network of stores in the state-of-the-art University Town Center shopping district, it’s not hard to find a place to shop ‘til you drop. But if it’s a true bargain you seek -- look no further than the nifty, thrifty flea markets in and around Sarasota County.

Red Barn Flea Market

Sarasota County’s neighbor to the north, Manatee County, is home to the Red Barn Flea Market, a 145 square-foot traditional flea market and farmer's market that also happens to be housed in a former lumber yard. The Red Barn features 80,000 square feet of indoor, air-conditioned shopping, fresh produce, and prepared foods. Bargain hunting may work up a hearty appetite, so don’t forget to stop by the Red Barn Food Court for Maria’s Tacos -- award-winning authentic Mexican food at unbelievably wallet-friendly prices.

Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market

Farmers Market in Downtown Sarasota
Farmers Market in Downtown Sarasota

When you’re not scouring the old lumber mills for flea market finds, a great way to spend a Saturday morning on a budget is at the Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market. Pick up the fresh produce you’ll need to prepare that picnic you’re planning in Myakka State Park, and cool down with a fresh gourmet popsicle from PopCraft. While you’re at the market, swing by the Southeastern Guide Dogs downtown Sarasota center to pet a puppy -- the best thing you’ll do for free all day.

Cheap Thrills: Entertainment for $15 or Less

Perhaps not all the best things in life are completely free -- but in Sarasota, you can get relatively close, with a little careful planning. Check out some of the best deals on entertainment and low-cost activities in town:

Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf

Spend $13 to tee up for an 18-hole round of mini-golf at Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf, and the second round is just $1.99. Smugglers Cove is fun for the whole family, with adventure-style mini-golf featuring pirate ships waterfalls and live alligators. Two rounds of golf for $15? Not a bad deal -- just look out for the gators!

Sarasota Lanes

If bowling is more up your alley, pay a visit to Sarasota Lanes -- and for the bargains, make sure to visit on a Sunday or a Tuesday, or a Saturday. For the early-bird bowler, during ‘Super Sunday Special’ at Sarasota Lanes, game prices are reduced to $1.75 per game from 10am-1pm. Night Owls get their deal on ‘$2 Tuesdays’, featuring $2 bowling games and $2 beers from 9pm until midnight. Saturday Family Fun Nights turn the black lights on for two games of ‘Cosmic Bowling’ at $10 per person, including cost of shoe rental.

Ed Smith Stadium

Ed Smith Stadium
Ed Smith Stadium

During the spring training season, Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles make Sarasota their home base. Ticket prices to home team Major League baseball games have soared in recent years, but spring training games still give fans of America’s Favorite Pastime the opportunity to catch pre-season games at discounted prices. Tickets to spring training games at the Orioles’ Sarasota home, Ed Smith Stadium, range from as low as $8 for standing-room to approximately $30 for box seats in the Third Base Lounge -- cheaper than you’ll find anywhere in the league, once season starts.

Mixon’s Fruit Farms

In neighboring Manatee County, Mixon’s Fruit Farms provides an authentic taste of Florida at an affordable price. Admission to Mixon’s is just $10 for adults, $5 for kids aged 3-11, and free for kids aged two and under. Take educational rides through the Mixon’s citrus groves and visit the farm’s wildlife rescue center for interactive demonstrations on rescued wildlife. After your tour, visit the Groveside Cafe and Mixon’s Gift Shoppe for Mixon’s famous ‘orange swirl’ soft serve ice cream and to sample and purchase wines from local wineries.

Fill Your Days with Free Fun

There’s one other activity in Sarasota County that’s 100% free and guaranteed to be worth your time… Go explore!

We’ve provided you with some of the best spots to enjoy without breaking the bank, but now it’s your turn to get creative. What will it be? Picnics in the park or on the beach? Exploring art in the galleries or on the playground? Rooting for the Baltimore ‘home’ team at a spring training game, or heckling your family on the mini golf course?

Only you can decide. The best news? You’ll hardly spend a dime!

Siesta Beach
Up Next

Continuously one of the best beaches to visit year after year, there isn't a better place to go than Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida. It won TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice...