They say “nothing in this world is free,” and that may be true, but if you can scrounge up enough gas money to get to the First Coast, you’ll find no-cost attractions for every type of traveler—from the history buff to the wine aficionado.
History on the House
Once proudly guarding St. Augustine during the colonial wars, Fort Matanzas still stands, “a timeless vigil.” History buffs rejoice! The national monument is open, free of charge, to those who want to learn about the area’s history or wander through a maritime forest. Stop by the Fort Matanzas Visitors Center to grab a complimentary boarding pass (and trail guide), then hop aboard the ferry to the fort. From the moment travelers set sail, they’re given ample opportunity to expand their knowledge and relax in nature—never spending a cent.
Culture, Sans Cash
Art lovers can leave their wallet behind during a visit to the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach. The center brands itself as “a place to create, understand and experience the arts,” playing host to eight exhibitions by local, regional and national artists each year. Travelers can enjoy works ranging from paintings to quilts to photography. The center also features a sculpture garden, where visitors can wander through stunning pieces, relishing in the fact they’re saving money while appreciating art.
No Money Needed for Music
Founded in 1890, Friday Musicale is the oldest musical organization in the state of Florida. The Jacksonville-based nonprofit invites the public, no matter their income, to step inside for free concerts, held throughout the year. Musicophiles will be thrilled with the range of genres—from world music to contemporary ensembles; jazz to cello; Renaissance shows to chamber orchestras—there’s something for every ear. Complimentary parking is also available on-site.
Raise your spirits with a free tour of the St. Augustine Distillery. Located in a restored ice plant from 1917, the distillery is known for its handcrafted, small-batch liquors. Drop in on the half-hour for a tour and a gratis tasting. Liquor lovers will hear about the history of ice and distilling in The Sunshine State and “watch as [they] mix, mash, cook and distill small-batch vodka, rum, gin and whiskey.”
“Blending elegant, old world charm with modern, upscale amenities,” the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse in Ponte Vedra Beach beckons to members and tourists alike. Despite the fact the Mediterranean-style structure is a luxurious space, travelers can enjoy it sans charge on a guided tour. Visitors can choose from an indoor or outdoor tour. Once they’ve made their selection, a storyteller will take them through the history of the clubhouse, showing off PGA Tour memorabilia. Tours typically last between 20 and 30 minutes; however, they can be molded to fit guests’ time-frame.
Literature for Less
Spend an afternoon at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum perusing the world’s largest collection of original historical manuscripts. Exhibits are themed and rotate every four months, so literary lovers can come time and time again, discovering something new on each visit. The Karpeles building is a Greek Revival structure, boasting stained glass windows and an art gallery, in addition to writings “from all periods in world history.” The cherry on top? This Jacksonville museum does not charge an admission fee.
Wine Without Charge
Swirl, sniff and sip (complimentary) wine from the San Sebastian Winery, located just a few blocks from downtown St. Augustine. Travelers are encouraged to stop by for a free 45-minute tour and tasting, offered every 20 to 25 minutes. Wine connoisseurs will savor the audio-visual presentation shown in its theater, the guided walking tour of the 18,000 square foot production facility and, of course, the sampling of its premium wines.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the Sally Corporation offers travelers the chance to see how award-winning robotic characters are made. Although reservations are required, tours are free and provide a behind-the-scenes look at creating dark rides for theme parks around the world. The Jacksonville factory encourages visitors to don a pair of safety glasses and spend some time learning about animatronics. Tours are not conducted June through August.
No Fee for Nature
“One of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast,” Timucuan National Park is free to visit, boasting salt marshes, coastal dunes and hardwood hammocks as far as the eye can see. Home to the Kingsley Plantation, Fort Caroline, American Beach, Cedar Point and the 600-acre Theodore Roosevelt Area, the national park is a treasure trove of cultural history and natural wonders. Timucuan has an activity sure to please everyone in your party, from historians and hikers to picnickers and birdwatchers to kayakers (bring your own) and dog-lovers (pets are allowed to explore outdoor areas on a six-foot leash).
No Bucks for Beer
Jacksonville Budweiser Brewery’s self-guided tour will have First Coast visitors ready to crack open a cold one after receiving an in-depth look at the history of Anheuser-Busch. Tour-goers young and old will learn about the ingredients and technology used while observing the seven steps of the brewing process. Beer enthusiasts are welcome to drop by any time during business hours for this complimentary experience…now there’s a reason to shout “Dilly Dilly!”