Beautiful, sunny Tampa is located on Tampa Bay, which makes up part of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Long known for its spacious beaches, Busch Gardens theme park, and rich cultural offerings, Tampa is a city people come to visit when they want to experience exciting attractions, fine dining, and lively nightlife. In fact, there’s no way to discover all the things to do in Tampa in just one trip!
Family Friendly Activities
Tampa offers a wide range of fun activities for families to do together. It doesn’t matter the age of the children in the group, either, because most attractions have something to offer each age group. Your toddler will be just as entertained as your teenager this vacation.
Although Tampa offers plenty of excitement for adults, it’s also a place where kids let loose, explore, and create memories with their families. If you’re visiting the city for more than a few days, make sure to take your kids to Busch Gardens where they’ll see live animals up close and be able to ride rollercoasters, watch shows, and eat all sorts of theme park specialties.
Lowry Park Zoo
Or take your kids to the Lowry Park Zoo to get their animal fix. In addition to housing birds, fish, and amphibians, Lowry Park Zoo has mammals and amphibians galore. It’s home to the Florida Panther, the New Queensland Koala, and the Indian Gharial. Known as one of the most popular animal attractions in the southeastern United States, it sees 800,000 visitors annually and even offers a ‘zoo school’ where it teaches children from toddler age on all about wild animals and wildlife.
The Florida Aquarium
Located in downtown Tampa, offers shows, exhibits, and underwater adventures. Children ages six and older can Swim with the Fishes. Certified SCUBA divers age 15 years and older can feel the exhilaration of getting to know the aquarium’s massive sharks in Dive with the Sharks. Each experience takes its guests out of their natural environments and makes them part of the exhibit.
Splash around Adventure Island
An exciting waterpark filled with slides, pools, and kid-friendly attractions such as Paradise Lagoon, Splash Attack, and Fabian’s Fun Port. There are also restaurants to dine at and a souvenir shop where you can pick up t-shirts, keychains, and other fun park-related merchandise for your kids. There are also Island Night celebrations that take place during part of the summer where island dancers perform, a live DJ plays the hottest music, and guests take part in games on the beach.
Museum of Science and Industry
Before calling it a day, make sure to visit the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). In addition to accessing over 450 hands-on exhibits, the price of admission includes access to The Florida Hospital IMAX DOME Theatre, the Saunders Planetarium, and MOSI’s Backwoods and Bio Works Butterfly Garden. There are also live science demonstrations throughout the day, an exhibit about 3D printing and the future, and driverless vehicles, drones, and robots. Pique the interest of your pint-sized inventors by exposing them to the amazing world of science and industry.
Tampa nightlife offers a rich variety of cultural events, arts and entertainment, and opportunities to engage your senses. From delicious eats to entertaining sounds, the places listed here come alive when the sun goes down. After a long day of sightseeing, nothing’s better than an ice cold drink and a band to listen to, a movie to watch, a team to cheer on, and something filling to eat.
The Tampa Theatre
The Tampa Theatre, in all its majesty, provides independent and classic films, headlining comedians, festivals, backstage tours, and more. If you’re feeling nostalgic and visiting Tampa in the summer, watch one of your favorite films from years past in the theatre, which opened its doors in 1926. As much a piece of artwork as it’s a historic structure, the Tampa Theatre is one of the top destinations for an exhilarating glimpse of the city at night.
Smokin’ hot since the 1980s. Its world class live music scene draws a crowd of locals and tourists from around the globe. In addition to the drinks it serves, there’s a full-service menu with options for meat-eaters and vegans. The old Florida charm of this restaurant is what keeps people coming back again and again. If you want a place to hang out and listen to music, you’ll find much of the entertainment is free.
Offers the hottest acts, sporting events, and big name speakers in the world. If you want to make your trip to Tampa exciting, check out the upcoming event schedule to see who’s playing when. Amalie Arena is where the Tampa Bay Lightning takes on other teams, too. If you want to see local athletes at their best, buy tickets for a game.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Features live entertainment in its many lounges and clubs. It’s a place where you can rock out and sack out, too. There’s a hotel located in the casino, so you can sleep where you listen and play. With hundreds of slot machines and dozens of table games to choose from, you could walk away from the experience richer than you came into it.
Yeoman’s Cask and Lion
An English restaurant and pub that comes alive at night. Not only is the building unique in appearance, but so is its menu. You’ll find everything a true Brit would love including fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie. Wash it down with a pint or two while listening to live music. If you’re musically inclined, jump on stage for open mic night and show the crowd what you’ve got.
Tantalizing eats are part of the whole Tampa experience. Tampa’s many restaurants draw a crowd year round. Make sure to try at least one when visiting the city.
Edison: Food + Drink Lab
An innovative gastropub that thrives because of its chef’s desire to experiment in the kitchen. As the name suggests, it’s a laboratory where ingredients are combined and flavors tested all in the name of innovation. A truly unique experience for all, Edison: Food + Drink Lab serves ham-topped rosemary donuts, fried green tomato salad, and seafood galore among other appetizers, salads, and entrees. If your taste buds are up for an adventure, this is one place you don’t want to miss.
Ulele serves native-inspired food and drinks for lunch and dinner. Each menu has different selections, but some of the stand-outs include chili made from alligator, wild boar, venison, duck, and ground chuck, as well as Tocobaga harvested oysters from the Gulf Coast. A long list of desserts, including handmade ice cream, round out the meal. The 2,100 square foot brewery produces 465 gallons of lager per brew with no artificial preservatives. The restaurant is located on the Riverwalk, making it a convenient place to stop in to before continuing your tour of downtown Tampa.
Anise Global Astrobar
A beautifully-decorated restaurant specializing in Asian Fusion cuisine. With its bento boxes, cheese plates, and gluten-free options, it’s a fine example of how wonderfully diverse Asian food can be. Drinks have clever names like Gin Sing and Top of the Mornin’, and Happy Hour specials include white and red wines. Special events such as a ladies’ night and vinyl-spinning DJ top the restaurant’s list of weekly activities. If you want to eat and be entertained, this is where you’ll want to go.
Satisfy your craving for good, old fashioned, southern barbecue. Its menu features ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and smoked chicken, along with burnt ends also known as “bbq candy.” Sides include macaroni and cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw. The restaurant also serves take-out and breakfast. If you’re the type of person who wants a hearty meal in the morning, you can get it at Holy Hog.
A popular gastropub that serves comfort food “with a flair.” The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a special weekend menu. Drink specials and craft beer invite vacationers to sit back, relax, and stay a while. Among the most unique offerings on the restaurant menu is the stuffed meatloaf, which made an appearance on the Travel Channel. Other offerings include salads, sandwiches, and burgers, as well as vegetarian options for the non-meat eaters in your party.
Attractions: Places to See
No trip to Tampa is complete without a visit to Ybor City. Designated as a National Historic Landmark District (one of only two neighborhoods in the entire state of Florida to be given such an honor), the historic district’s rich cultural background, fine dining restaurants, and popular nightclubs attract visitors from all around the world. Made famous by the Spanish, Cuban, Italian, German, and Jewish immigrants who worked in the cigar factories that served as the main source of commerce for the city, Ybor City is also known as Tampa’s “Latin Quarter.”
Put on a pair of comfortable shoes and take a stroll along Tampa’s Riverwalk. Eventually, you’ll run into the Historical Monument Trail, which includes bronze and marble busts of noteworthy people and events that took place in the city. The monuments serve many purposes, as they educate the public about historic events that shaped the city, commemorate the people who shaped life and culture in Florida, and inspire people to dare for greatness. Details about each person’s life and contribution to the city can be found under their bust.
Bok Tower Gardens
Bok Tower Gardens is a sight to be seen. The historic attraction has had over 23 million visitors since 1929. It’s home to the Singing Tower carillon and a beautiful 1930s Mediterranean-style mansion. Known as one of the greatest works of Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., a famed landscape architect, the garden contains acres of greenery: palms, ferns, pines, and oaks. During peak bloom season in the spring, you’ll see brightly colored azaleas, magnolias, and camellias. You’ll want to have your camera ready to capture the sights at the Bok Tower Gardens.
The Big Cat Rescue
The Big Cat Rescue puts you face to face to some of most majestic animals in the world. Home to over 80 lions, tigers, cougars, bobcats, and other species who were abused, orphaned, abandoned, and eventually saved, the sanctuary’s exotic cats live their lives free from harm in a beautiful setting. Fortunately for you, Big Cat Rescue leads day tours, group tours, feeding tours, and photo tours. Decide what’s right for you and your travel companions and make sure to book everything in advance. This hot attraction’s schedule fills up fast!
Henry B. Plant Museum
The Henry B. Plant Museum is exceptional in size and grandeur. The National Historic Landmark has 511 rooms, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, horse stables, a casino with a 2,000 seat auditorium, a bowling alley, a heated swimming pool, and more in its 21 buildings. The museum hosts tours, exhibits, and special events throughout the year. A place of historic value in Tampa, it’s something worth taking a day of your trip to visit and getting to know what went through the mind of Henry Bradley Plant as he built the enormous structure.
Things to Do: Activities to Do
Tampa isn’t short of exciting things to do. It’s up to you to determine what type of experience you want to have. Depending on how much free time you have to explore the city, you could do one or all of the activities suggested here.
TECO Line Streetcar System
Take the TECO Line Streetcar System to wherever you need to go. You’ll be in great company when you do, because visitors love the historic streetcars that run to Downtown, Channelside, and Ybor City. Since 1892, the trolleys have been a part of Tampa’s transportation history, delivering immigrant workers to their jobs in the cigar factories and other industries throughout the city.
See the downtown area by Segway and have plenty to talk about once you’re home. There are a number of different companies that conduct tours of Tampa, including Magic Carpet Glide, Electric Glide Tours, and Nation Tours. Each contains different packaging and pricing for groups, and most include a tour of downtown, one of the most beautiful areas of the city.
Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
Be amazed by the photography on display at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. Home to a permanent collection of breathtaking photos, the museum showcases national and international artists by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting their works of art. There are historic photos and new photos. The small gallery sparks the imagination, so prepare to have your mind blown by the photographic skills of artists such as Danny Lyon, Frida Kahlo, and Vivian Maier. (Each has had exhibitions in the museum in the past.)
Can You Escape
If you’re traveling with a group, you’ll love Can You Escape?, an interactive game held in a real-life escape room. Once you’re locked in a room, your team works together to solve puzzles, decipher clues, and find hidden objects to free you. The game last 60 minutes and you wouldn’t believe how quickly time flies when you’re engaged in the moment. The rooms offered are Office, London, and Medieval, giving you a choice of scenery and unique experiences along the way. Each escape session accommodates two to eight players, so invite the rest of your family or group to join in on the fun and see who frees themselves the fastest.
Go canoeing down the Hillsborough River. Take note of all the Florida wildlife you see during your trip down by the 16,000-acre wildlife preserve. Take two hours or the whole day to enjoy your excursion. You’ll paddle your way through a part of Florida you never even dreamed you’d visit. If you don’t want to do it alone, hire a guide. You’ll get more out of the experience that way and you’re likely to see an alligator or two in their own natural environment.
It doesn’t matter if business or pleasure brought you to Florida or if you’re traveling alone or with your family — Tampa has plenty of things to do, see, and experience. Best of all, it’s close to Siesta Key, where a beachfront rental puts you in close proximity of the ocean. Imagine waking up and seeing Florida’s Gulf Coast out your door. When you visit Siesta Key, you’ll have the time of your life.