Five secret — and free — places to park in downtown Delray Beach

Delray Beach wants to eliminate free parking and add meters to its 3,000-plus city-owned spots downtown. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

DELRAY BEACH — Downtown parking can be a pain. And pretty soon it’ll be a strain on your wallet too.

The city is considering adding parking meters to 3,000-plus free parking spots in downtown Delray Beach. When they do, the smart meters will hike up the price of prime parking, such as those coveted side-street spots along Atlantic Avenue.

City officials are expected to talk more about the parking meters at a meeting July 6.

As we prepare to say goodbye to free parking when we hit The Ave, take advantage of these free parking gems around Delray Beach while you can.

» READ: Delray board rejects historic district redevelopment: ‘It’s too much’

Here are some great places to park in downtown Delray Beach:

The library

The Delray Beach Public Library parking lot, shared with the South County Courthouse, on Southwest Second Avenue south of Atlantic Avenue may seem like a trek from East Atlantic, but a it’s only a few blocks from the action and usually empty after the library closes.

And, if you’re not feeling up for a walk, a trolley swings by the courthouse every 15 minutes and stops east.

Parking garages

Hit the parking garages before 4 p.m. to avoid fees throughout the week. There’s a $5 flat fee if you park after 4 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. But if you get a spot in the garage early enough, you don’t have to pay.

There’s the Old School Square parking garage on Northeast First Avenue at Northeast First Street, just a block from Atlantic Avenue. And there’s the Robert Federpiel Garage on Southeast First Avenue just south of Atlantic.

Railroad lot

There are 191 free parking spaces — 2-hour and 8-hour parking — at the lot tucked behind the Silverball Museum on Northeast Third Avenue adjacent to the railroad tracks. They tend to fill up during peak hours, but are worth checking for their proximity to the shops, restaurants and bars downtown.

Cason Cottage lot

There are just 10 parking spots at the Cason Cottage House Museum on Northeast First Street just west of Northeast First Avenue, but they’re somewhat hidden and sometimes vacant. The museum is typically open only during the day November through April, so you may have luck with this lot.

And if you happen to land a spot, it’s just a block from Atlantic Avenue.

Tri-Rail station

If you want to avoid the parking chaos, opt for this easy option: The Tri-Rail station at Congress Avenue just south of Atlantic Avenue. Yes, it’s a bit far from the bustling portion of downtown, but there’s always an empty parking spot and a trolley that rolls by every 15 minutes between 6 and 11 p.m., and 8 a.m. to noon on weekends.

You also get to avoid Atlantic Avenue traffic when you’re on your way out of the downtown.

Plus, these spots aren’t city-owned. So when paid parking does roll into downtown, this is one hidden gem you still won’t have to pay for.