Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in The Villages, FL

  • Published 2024/02/02

Hunt for free things to do in The Villages, and you’ll certainly appreciate why it’s been dubbed “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.”

A census-designated place (CDP), The Villages spreads over an area of about 32 square miles.

Its acreage was carved from slices from three central Florida counties—Sumter, Marion, and Lake County.

The Villages’ development began sometime in the 1960s, gaining momentum as Florida’s real estate sector hit new peaks in subsequent years.

A namesake master-planned retirement community is the nucleus of The Villages.

This CDP comprises 17 community development districts (CDDs) developed mainly for residents 55 years of age and older.

The life and leisure facilities incorporated in these districts have been magnets not only for new residents but for visitors as well.

Discover what these attractions are on the following list of free things to do in The Villages, Florida.

Enjoy the Waterfront at Lake Sumter Landing

tv Lake Sumter Landing 1

Noah Densmore /

The laidback lifestyle in The Villages can be experienced for free in its community centers like Lake Sumter Landing.

This community hub is accessible via Lake Shore Drive and, as its name suggests, is located on the shore of the man-made Lake Sumter.

The lake is but one of the 450 lakes and ponds created along with the development of The Villages.

One of the main attractions at Lake Sumter Landing is its extensive boardwalk, where visitors can take a stroll and enjoy amazing views during sunset.

The lake, over the years, has attracted birdlife, so it’s not unusual for you to see seagulls on the boardwalk railings at Lake Sumter Landing.

Join the Fun at the Lake Sumter Landing Market Square

The Lake Sumter Landing Market Square is one of the spacious town plazas of The Villages.

Located next to the Lake Sumter Landing boardwalk, this square hosts morning and evening recreational activities open to the public.

You can join fitness and wellness sessions in the morning, such as yoga with an expert instructor.

You can come back in the evening to the square for live music performances.

Holidays are also festive at the Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, where The Villages holds a 4th of July parade, Christmas Tree Lighting, and Mardi Gras.

Relax at the Sunset Park

The Villages features a variety of public parks where you can find a quiet spot to relax, such as Sunset Park.

This park is on the Morse Boulevard Causeway traversing Lake Sumter from north to south.

At Sunset Park, you can enjoy solitude while taking in a commanding view of Lake Sumter.

This park’s vantage point is not only a great place to watch the amazing sunsets that Florida is known for but also to observe alligators swimming in the lake.

Sunset Park is accessible either by golf cart or on foot, with the ride or walks most convenient coming from Sumter Lake Landing in the south.

Have a Picnic at Live Oaks Park

Located on Mission Hills Run, Live Oaks Park is a green oasis off the northern shores of Sumter Lake.

This park features picnic tables and benches overlooking a pond and is only a quarter mile north of Sunset Park.

The woody Live Oaks Park also boasts a multi-modal pathway providing access exclusively to bikes, golf carts, and pedestrians.

This path is linked to a boardwalk and an elevated observation platform where you can enjoy a refreshing view of the park’s wetlands and grass fields.

An added thrill can be experienced on this path as it passes a tunnel under the Morse Boulevard approach to the park.

Dance the Night Away at Spanish Springs Market Square

A building at Spanish Springs Market Square

Tetraeder, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on the Main Street of The Villages, the Spanish Springs Market Square offers free live entertainment nightly.

These activities typically feature bands dishing out dance music, thus making street dancing obligatory for the audience.

This town square has been developed to highlight the influence of the early Spanish settlers in Florida.

You can appreciate this heritage from the design of the fountains and shops in the Spanish Springs Market Square.

The architectural style of the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center here also bears this imprint.

The Market Square’s setting provides a perfect venue for festivals like the annual Cinco de Mayo, open and free to the public.

Meet Creatives at the Lake Sumter Art & Craft Festival

Pick up a new hobby or draw some inspiration at the annual Lake Sumter Art & Craft Festival.

All outdoor activities in this festival on the Main Street of The Villages are always free of admission fees.

Traditionally held in January, the festival draws many artists displaying talents not only in paintings but also in creating handmade leather goods and jewelry, glassworks, and life-sized sculptures.

From these creatives, you can learn tips on unique crafts such as pyrography—the art of wood-burning to create artful images.

During the Lake Sumter Art & Craft Festival, you can also roam the picturesque sites of Main Street while enjoying live music.

Check Out Vintage Car Shows at Village Squares

The three town squares of The Villages host weekly car shows featuring classic vintage autos.

At the Brownwood Paddock Square on West Torch Lake Drive, you can catch Friday Night Car Shows.

Avid car aficionados, such as the local chapter of the Automobile Club of America, join these events held late afternoons to early evenings.

Similar car exhibits are hosted regularly at the village squares of Spanish Springs and Lake Sumter.

Nightly musical entertainment numbers spice up all these events for car enthusiasts.

Go Boating at Lake Miona Park

Lily pads at Lake Miona Park


Lake Miona Park, a facility of Sumter County, boasts a centerpiece lake of about 418 acres, ideal for boating.

This park is south of Rainey Trail on the southern terminus of Sumter County Road at the western flank of The Villages.

The park has a spacious parking lot, enabling visitors to haul boats in and launch their watercraft on its ramp.

The park provides canoes free of charge, and you can avail of these boats through the Sumter County Library in the park.

Other facilities available in the four-acre Lake Miona Park include picnic areas, a barbecue grill, a horseshoe pit, a pet station, and restrooms.

Pick a Fishing Spot at The Villages

Many of the ponds and lakes at The Villages are open to recreational fishing for residents and visitors alike.

The CDDs of The Villages and the State’s Water Management Districts, which oversee and manage these water bodies, encourage a catch-and-release for anglers in The Villages.

One of the best picks for fishing, especially for novice anglers, is at Lake Mira Mar on the northeast of The Villages.

This lake is located at the back of the La Hacienda Regional Recreation Center on Avenida Central.

At this recreation center, you can avail of its Road Loaner Program, providing rod and reel for free upon request.

This “free rental” program is also available at the Lake Miona Regional Recreation Center for fishing at its signature lake.

Enjoy Birding at the Sharon Rose Wiechens Preserve

The Sharon Rose Wiechens Preserve spreads over 624 acres off Moyer Loop on the southeast edge of The Villages.

Birders have recorded close to 150 bird species in this nature preserve, the largest among the 11 preserves in and around The Villages.

Bird sightings in this preserve, which also teems with Florida native plants, include bald eagle, ring-necked duck, and white ibis.

Visitors can conveniently observe the wildlife inhabiting the preserve via a boardwalk stretching across its marsh.

The Sharon Rose Wiechens Preserve also has an observation tower as a vantage point for birdwatchers.

Work Out Outdoors at the Springdale Fitness Trail

Fitness buffs can work out for free at the Springdale Fitness Trail off Belle Meade Circle.

This outdoor facility provides golf car parking and features a half-mile trail with a nine-workout course.

A one-third-mile walking trail is connected to this outdoor fitness course that’s a short distance south of the Springdale swimming pool.

Outdoor workouts in The Villages are also accessible near the Lake Miona Recreation Center pavilion.

The Springdale Fitness Trail also offers a nine-workout course along a 1.5-mile out-and-back trail next to Buena Vista Boulevard and Black Lake.

Spot Wildlife at the Hogeye Preserve

A squirrel at Hogeye Preserve

LMDawson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Hogeye Preserve is an 18-acre nature sanctuary nestling around the Hogeye, a natural Florida water basin.

This pond is linked to Fenney Spring, with its clear waters flowing from The Village of Fenney.

You can enjoy basking in nature in this preserve via the 2.5-mile Hogeye Preserve Pathway.

This pathway is a multi-modal path that is accessible from the Cattail Recreation Area of the Marsh Bend Trail.

Stretching over 2.5 miles, this trail cuts under the canopy of oak hammock trees.

Along this pathway, you’ll pass by marshes where sightings of birds like cranes and white egrets are frequent.

Various sites along the pathway have benches where you can stop and sit to enjoy the preserve’s natural Florida scenery.

Join the Heritage Festival Celebrations

The Heritage Festival is a celebration of the diversity of the cultures in the communities of The Villages.

This annual event is traditionally held for two days in October, each hosted in two separate venues.

The first edition of the parade usually kicks off at Brownwood Paddock Square on West Torch Lake Drive.

During this event, the activities center on the culture and traditions in North and South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia.

On the second day, the Heritage Festival shifts to the Spanish Springs Market Square to highlight the cultures across Europe.

Explore Trails and Pathways at The Villages

The Villages flaunts its character as an active adult community in the miles of trails and pathways cutting across its districts.

One of the longest pathways to explore is the scenic Marsh Bend Trail open for walking, running, and biking.

This pathway extends from the vicinity of the Water Lily Village Recreation Center down south past the Cattail Recreation Center in the Village of Marsh Bend.

The Villages also features well-maintained multi-modal trails open to pedestrians and bikers, and golf carts.

The newest among these runs parallel the corridor of Madison Road from the Water Lily Bridge in the north, stretching southward to the Village of St. Johns and onward to the villages of Hawkins and Cason Hammock.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Visit Lake Weir

A beach at Lake Weir

Peter Titmuss /

Lake Weir is located in southern Marion County and is one of the freshwater lakes in Florida where you can find plenty of free things to do.

This lake is about 13 miles northeast of The Villages and sprawls at about 6,800 acres.

It is Marion County’s largest freshwater system, comprising of main Lake Weir, Sunset Harbor, and Little Lake Weir.

Most of the lake’s fun activities can be enjoyed at the Carney Island Recreation & Conservation Area, which is accessible from Southeast 115th Avenue at the Marion County CDP Ocklawaha.

The public recreational facilities in this area include boat ramps, picnic areas, a playground, horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, and nature trails.

Great heron at Lake Weir

Bryan Pollard /

This conservation area covers over 750 acres and is a wonderful place to explore.

Its landscape comprises shoreline beaches, sandhill islands, causeways, and wetlands serving as wildlife habitats.

Aside from this conservation area, the delights of Lake Weir can be also enjoyed at Hampton Beach on Southeast 134th Street at the Ocklawaha CDP.

This beach is open to the public and provides picnic tables and restrooms.

A bird at Lake Weir

Bryan Pollard /

Final Thoughts

Various free activities in The Villages can be enjoyed with a visit any time of the year.

The districts of this master development for active adult residents offer a wide selection of recreational facilities easily accessible to guests.

In addition, this development promotes its retirement communities via exciting events that add up to more choices of free things to do in The Villages, Florida.

© All rights reserved.