If you’re looking for a versatile family vacation—that won’t break your budget—Pasco County, Florida, is a must-visit destination. Thanks to its beautiful location on the west coast of Florida and its unique history, the area offers plenty of free opportunities to experience historic sites, the arts and the outdoors.
If your kids love to be intrigued, touring the Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa is a great way to spend an afternoon. The museum’s summer exhibits include opportunities to create art, dig for buried treasure and even work with robotics in the “Gadget Garage.” The museum offers free admission the first Tuesday of every month from 2 to 7 p.m. It’s located along the Tampa Riverwalk, which is a vibrant spot to take a walk or bike ride and experience the lively Tampa area.
Your kids might also enjoy the Zephyrhills Depot Museum. This unique museum is located inside a 2,700-sq.-ft. restored railroad depot from 1927—the Atlantic Coast Railroad Depot. You’ll discover a model train display and four wings full of artifacts from the original depot.
Pasco County has plenty more for the history buffs in the family to enjoy. Blue Star Museums are free to visit from Memorial Day through Labor Day for active-duty members of the military and their families. Take advantage of that fantastic deal at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Henry B. Plant Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Tampa Bay History Center and the Tampa Museum of Art. The Pioneer Florida Museum in nearby Dade City is also a Blue Star Museum.
Immerse the whole family in another time period by visiting one of Pasco’s three historic districts for a walking tour. Church Street features 34 historic buildings; Zephyrhills Downtown is home to 126 historic buildings, including the former house of Zephyrhills founder Captain Harold B. Jeffries; and St. Leo Abbey. All three districts are on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and make for memorable visits.
The Arts Scene
Another free activity? Enjoying local art! Downtown Dade City hosts an Antique Faire and Sidewalk Market on the third Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can peruse artisanal items, including garden decorations and jewelry. The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel hosts a fresh market on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is another great way to experience local crafts.
Stop by the West Pasco Art Guild and Gallery in New Port Richey to see more from local artists. This summer, it will feature an exhibit called “Reflections.” It’s open from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
The Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery will also display work by community artists this summer. Along with its featured artwork, the gallery hosts readings by authors, poetry readings and craft classes throughout the year. Take a look at its online calendar before your visit and see what events are happening during your stay.
If you visit before Aug. 9 you can view the Pasco-Hernando State College Summer Art Show that showcases artwork from the school’s talented faculty and staff members. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and the art on display covers a wide variety of mediums, including photography, pencil drawings, clay and textiles.
Take your family members, who love music, to the Rock the Park concert series in Tampa during your stay. The concert is held the first Thursday of the month in Curtis Hixon Park, and the festive performances feature all genres of music.
While you’re in the Tampa Bay area, you can also catch a family movie with free summer deals for kids. Participating theaters include Xscape Theatres Riverview 14, Cobb Theaters in Wesley Chapel, Lakeland and Winter Haven and Premiere Cinemas in Plant City.
One popular way to experience Pasco County is through a brewery tour, and some of these breweries offer free tours year-round. Florida Avenue Brewing Co. in the Seminole Heights neighborhood was founded in 2010 and is a fun local hangout. Yuengling is a popular brand, and samples of the famous beer are available when you tour the brewery.
No visit to Pasco County is complete without plenty of time in the beautiful Florida sunshine. Enjoy your favorite outdoor activities here, including fishing, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, and bird-watching. You can even bring your own picnic to many of these sites to enjoy an afternoon lunch outdoors or a sunset meal on the beach.
If you’re looking for outdoor-guided fitness on your vacation, Energia Wellness Studio in the Shops at Wiregrass offers a free outdoor yoga class at 6:30 p.m. every Monday. For the kids, the East Pasco Family YMCA offers free half-day camps focused on soccer, volleyball, basketball, golf, swimming and more.
To truly embrace the area, visit one of its many parks. Key Vista Nature Park is a peaceful place and a local favorite. Spend the day strolling the shaded trails with your family and even climb an observation tower for a fantastic view of the Gulf of Mexico. The park is a great spot to see bald eagles, and its 101 acres of land feature pristine picnic spots.
Take the family on a hike on the Suncoast Trail. The 42 miles of paved trails actually start in Hillsborough County, track through Pasco County—where the majority of the trail is contained—and finishes in Hernando County. One convenient feature of the Suncoast Trail is that it connects to Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, which has great bird-watching, a trail for horseback riding, playgrounds, horseshoe pits and volleyball courts.
The Withlacoochee River runs right through the 406-acre Withlacoochee River Park, making it an idealplace to spot wildlife on your adventure. On a hiking or biking excursion, you may see red and gray foxes, river otters, gopher tortoises, bald eagles, hawks, alligators and maybe even the elusive Florida panther. The on-site observation tower gives you a birds-eye view of the surrounding park.
At the end of an active adventure, your family will be ready to get in the water. Eagle Point Park has canoe and kayak access to the Gulf of Mexico, along with the option to fish from three different docks. With picnic benches and charcoal grills, it’s also a great spot for a family barbecue. Anclote River Park has a swimming area so you can jump right into the Gulf of Mexico, and it also has boat ramps and fishing areas. Head there to get a close view of marine life, including dolphins, crabs and sea turtles.
It’s easy to have a memorable summer vacation without spending a lot of money when you visit Pasco County.