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Tampa is a vibrant city with a diverse range of activities for every kind of visitor. There are many exciting things to do in Tampa including visiting thrilling amusement parks, inspiring museums, and enjoying one of the top aquariums in the state. Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Tampa is in close proximity to some of the best beaches of the area that feature white soft sand and clear blue water. The city is also known as a renowned foodie destination serving up delicious seafood, Cuban food, and decadent treats. Tampa is one of the best cities to visit in Florida, so don’t miss any of these places worth exploring.
One of the best things to do in Tampa, is definitely a visit to Busch Gardens. This African-themed amusement park is the perfect thing to do for the whole family. There are thrilling rides, exciting animal experiences, and entertaining shows.
Visitors love the animal Safari with more than 200 species of animals. From lions, giraffes, rhinos, elephants, gorillas, to sloths, penguins and flamingos, the park has a large variety of animals to see.
For thrill-seekers, the Iron Gwazi plunges riders from over a 200 foot peak to a fast drop down while the new Serengeti Flyer promises the world’s tallest and fastest ride of its kind.
During Christmastime, the Busch Gardens Christmas Village is one of the best places to visit to enjoy all the holiday festivities. With millions of lights, festive shows, and holiday-inspired food, it is one of the best Florida Christmas towns to visit.
If you plan on going to Busch Gardens while in Tampa and visiting some of the other popular things to do in the area, make sure to save money by getting the Tampa Bay Pass.
Next to Busch Gardens is Adventure Island, a water park with water slides and pools for a fun-filled day. It is the perfect place to cool off under the heat of the Florida sun.
The park has quite a few water slides to choose from including the thrilling Vanish Point where you free-fall down the slide. In between the slides, take in a bit of relaxation on the lazy river.
There are plenty of dining options to get an ice-cold drink and a meal while you are at the park, as well as a shop where you can purchase any water accessories you might need.
Keep in mind when you visit since the park closes for the winter months, reopening once again around the month of March.
The Florida Aquarium
If you love visiting aquariums, then this one should definitely be at the top of the list. The Florida Aquarium is the largest aquarium in Florida with many exhibits and thousands of animals.
The marine life you will get to see when you visit include fish, tortoises, sharks, stingrays, and many other types of exotic species.
The aquarium is made up of different habitats representing different parts of the world. You can experience the Wetlands of Florida that highlights Florida’s ecosystem, the Journey to Madagascar, or the Waves of Wonder where the jellyfish, anemones, and octopus are mesmerizing to watch.
The aquarium’s Moon Bay is a fun touch habitat where you will find the translucent moon jelly as they light up with the changing lights.
If you want to experience the ocean in a more intimate way, the SeaTREK offers the opportunity to step into their Heart of the Sea habitat. Underwater, you will explore the coral caves surrounded by fish, turtle, rays, and even bonnethead sharks.
Downtown Tampa is a hotspot of shopping, dining, and gazing at the galleries in the beautiful downtown area.
The downtown area is home to many of the best things to do in Tampa, so if you want to visit many of these places, they are conveniently located close to each other.
Whether you choose to visit the museums, leisurely stroll the Tampa Riverwalk, or go on a water adventure exploring the downtown waterways on a boat, there are many of exciting things to do.
One of the more unique experiences is the WWII cargo ship that sits on the water. Learn about the history and discover how a ship like that works.
In the downtown area, Sparksman Wharf is the place to go for outdoor dining and events. The unique space features shipping container restaurants and a big stage for live music.
But don’t be fooled by the shipping containers, this place is a chic hotspot with some of the best food in the city.
There are many cuisines and delicious foods to choose from whether you go for the tacos, seafood, chicken burgers, or pizza, the food is sure to impress. With plenty of things to choose from, even with the simplest dishes, the chefs elevate the flavors to perfection.
For a fun activity, head over to Splitsville for some good old-fashioned bowling.
This historic neighborhood in Tampa is teeming with trendy restaurants, cafes, and shops. The history of this area goes all the way back to the 1800’s and is heavily influenced by Spanish, Italian, and Cuban communities.
Stroll down 7th Avenue, the main street of the district, and admire the wrought-iron balconies that adorn the historic buildings lining the street.
Whether you choose to grab a bite to eat at one of the places on the main street, or stop by Centro Ybor, the place if packed with delicious picks.
Built on the site of a 1900’s bakery, the Ybor City Museum and Park is a must visit. The entrance fee is $4 after which you will be able to meander the small museum and learn more about how this district first came about.
Tampa is full of incredible places to eat and this one is no different. Right on the edge of the Hillsborough River, Armature Works is a large warehouse with several vendors serving up delicious food. It is a social setting where people can get together while enjoying great food.
The location used to be a storage and maintenance facility for street cars. Today, you can enjoy the industrial style building while browsing the cafes and shops located within.
While the building itself opens at 7:30am during the week days, most food places don’t open until 11am. For breakfast during those hours, there are two places that are open which are Graze and Buddy Brew Coffee.
The Riverwalk winds through downtown Tampa giving the area beautiful views, and a place for plenty of activities. You can run, walk, bike, stroll with your dog, sit on the benches, or just relax at the parks near the Riverwalk.
Stretching for almost three miles, the Tampa Riverwalk is in close proximity to some of the best things to do in Tampa. From museums, to parks and dining options, the Riverwalk is the perfect place to spend the weekend. Check out the interactive map of downtown Tampa that will help you to plan your trip better and see where all the best attractions are.
If you want even more waterfront access, the South Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard offers plenty of space for walking and biking. It is actually one of the longest continuous sidewalks in the United States.
While being around water in the Tampa area, especially in the winter months, be sure to keep an eye out for manatees. Manatees seek the warmer waters which makes it a good place to see manatees in Florida.
The Tampa Theater dates back all the way to 1926 when it was first built. The classic façade with the Tampa sign and the lights is reminiscent of the early 1900’s. Situated in downtown Tampa, it is one of the historical landmarks in the city.
Inside, the intricate stage is stunning, transporting you to a different world. The rows of seats surround the stage so you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. In a recent renovation, the theater was restored to resembling its original 1926 look.
Even though throughout the years, the theater went through periods of time with dwindling audiences, the community came together and kept it going strong. Today, there are over 700 events each year showcasing films, concerts and events. To see the upcoming events, the
St. Pete Beach
It is about a forty minute drive from Tampa, but if you want to visit the beach while in Tampa, St. Pete Beach is one of the best to visit. It has a clear water beach with a beautiful turquoise color and soft white sand.
While there, visit the St. Petersburg Pier where you can bike, dine, shop, or just take a stroll around the area. With over 26 acres of parks, eateries and attractions, its one of the most popular waterfront attractions.
With miles of luxurious beaches stretching this coast, visiting the beach needs to be on your list of the best things to do in Tampa. If you’re traveling with your family, St. Pete beach is also one of the best for a family beach vacation.
Tampa Food Tours
Tampa is known for incredible food, so the best way to experience it is to take a food tour. The Tampa Bay Food Tours offers a food tour in downtown Tampa which features four to five restaurants.
You’ll get a fine culinary experience getting a taste of some of the best dishes and drinks the eateries in downtown Tampa have to offer. The duration of the tour lasts about three hours and costs start at about $94. The company also offers food tours in Dunedin and downtown St. Pete.
Another great food tour option in Tampa is the Ybor City Food Tour. Ybor City is a unique part of Tampa so taking a food tour here will help you dive into the historical and cultural significance of the area. There are a few tour options to choose from but the original food tour will take you to 4-5 different tastings including a stop at the oldest The Columbian Restaurant in the state.
Henry Plant Museum
Rich in history, the Henry B. Plant Museum, alongside The University of Tampa, is located in the building that once was the Tampa Bay Hotel. First opening its doors in 1891, today the building is recognized as a National Historic Monument.
The museum takes a deeper look into Florida’s early tourist industry, the opulence of the Tampa Bay Hotel, and the elite lifestyle of the hotel’s guests. The hotel was built by Henry B. Plant with 511 rooms which you can see today in the museum featuring original furnishings and artifacts.
Dine With a View On a Rooftop
There are a few rooftop restaurants in Tampa that not only have incredible food but beautiful views of Tampa Bay as well. There’s no better way to enjoy a meal than to bask in the views of the bustling city and to even watch a sunset.
One such rooftop restaurant is M. Bird which has been rated as one of the best rooftop restaurants in Tampa. The location is unbeatable as it sits perched above Armature Works and has perfect views of the water and the city skyline. For starters, try their House Hummus & Baba Ghanoush or Jerk Chicken Eggrolls. Then indulge on the Spicy Garlic Shrimp or get a taste of their chargrilled steak with parmesan truffle fries.
Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park is a family friendly zoo that both the kids and the parents will love. The lush tropical setting provides a natural habitat for all of the animals they provide a home to. Caring for over 1000 animals, the zoo plays a big role in rescuing and rehabilitating a wide variety of species including endangered and threatened species.
There are six main sections of the zoo of which the biggest is of course, Florida. See the Florida panthers and black bears and learn all about the state’s diverse ecosystem. Tying into the Florida exhibit is the manatee circle which features one of Florida’s favorite mammals. The other exhibits include Asia, Primates, Wallaroo, and Africa.
The Museum of Science & Industry is an especially fun and interactive experience. There are over 100 hands on activities that create a sensory experience and critical thinking opportunities. Whether you’re working on brain puzzles, building robots, or discovering all about dinosaurs in the Dinovations Lab, there’s plenty to explore.
For an additional cost, you can see a show at the Saunder’s Planetarium where you will learn all about the night sky and our solar system. For just a few dollars more, you can also defy gravity at the Sky Trail Ropes Course or experience a Virtual Reality Simulator.
The museum is open from 10am to 5pm daily with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, with general admission being only $14 for adults and $10 for children, it is the perfect place to explore with the whole family.
International Plaza and Bay Street
If you want to do some serious shopping while in Tampa, then head over to the International Plaza and Bay Street. The shopping mall is one of the best on this side of the coast featuring over 200 stores and restaurants.
Check out the Passport to Shopping program where you can find discounts and special offers to some of the retailers. After shopping, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat making sure to stop by Whiskey Cake for for a taste of their famous cake.
Museum of Art
With a prime location in the downtown area, the Tampa Museum of Art has an emphasis on both modern and contemporary art with a sizable collection of antiquities as well. It was founded in 1920 with the hopes to inspire residents and visitors of the Tampa Bay area.
Apart from viewing the art collections, you can also participate in various studio art classes, lectures, and tours. Discover different ways of making art and enjoy the therapeutic art sessions where you can disconnect and create.
Admission for adults is $25 unless you are staying at the historic Le Meridien in downtown Tampa where you will receive complimentary admission to the Tamp Museum of Art. If you happen to be traveling through on a boat, the museum is also accessible by boat with two slips available on a first-come first-serve basis.
Jose Gasparilla Pirate Ship
Docked along the Bayshore Boulevard, the Gasparilla Pirate Ship is part of annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest which happens every January. The parade route is about 4.5 miles long and has nearly one hundred floats participating.
The celebration is named for the pirate Jose Gaspar. Whether real or fictional, he occupied the waters around Florida and is the person who the pirate festival is based on. If you are visiting Tampa during the time of the festival, be sure to see all of the pirate-themed festivities. It is one of the most merry festivals in Florida.
Hyde Park Village
Hyde Park village is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Tampa. Brimming with shops, restaurants and cafes, it is one of the best places to shop ’till you drop, or just relax with a coffee in your hand. The shops surround a small grassy park that is shaded with beautiful trees where you can spend a leisurely afternoon.
Grab a bite to eat, pick up some flowers from the flower truck, and take some pictures with the colorful murals with your friends. It is a popular hangout providing a unique and fun experience.
Do you want to try decadent desserts made by a chef who worked in a three star Michelin restaurant as a lead pastry chef? Well, now you can in Tampa at Sucre Table. The award-winning pastry chef, Brenda Villacorta, brings her pastry creations to the next level.
If you love chocolate, then the Chocolate Praline with a hazelnut filling is a must try along with the Salted Bailey’s Caramel cake that has an absolutely delicious cream. While these are some favorites, anything you try here is some of the best creations in the area.