See also: Where to Stay in Tampa
Tampa is situated at the Gulf coast and is often considered an underdog among the cities around it such as Orlando but in recent years, it has cemented its place as a major business center of America as well as a cultural landmark consisting of historic neighborhoods and the country’s longest continuous sidewalk.
If you want to have a fun and intuitive vacation with your loved ones, Tampa is the perfect place. Here are 30 best things you can do while you’re in Tampa:
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Busch Gardens is a amusement park in an African themed adventure land which consists of eight roller coasters, two magnificent water rides and the biggest zoo in North America that has 12,000 animals.
You can choose from a variety of rides including the Serengeti train express, Jungala, Cobra’s curse and sesame street safari of fun. A visitor can also experience zip lining, live shows and exciting games.
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The Clearwater marine aquarium is a non-profit facility which is doing the noble work of rehabilitating and releasing marine life.
The facility may not be very large but they provide educational and interactive programs about sea life including otters, stingrays, sea turtles, pelicans and sharks.
You can also have a special meet and greet with two Dolphins- Hope and winter that are the stars of the popular dolphin tales movies.
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The Bayshore Boulevard runs from the MacDill air force base all the way to the Hillsborough bay and is America’s longest continuous side walk.
Along the way, you will encounter numerous people jogging, walking, biking, rollerblading and exercising which is sure to bring out your inner health nut.
This is no ordinary boulevard as you will witness some of the most beautiful skyline views of downtown Tampa.
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The De Soto national memorial park preserves the memories of those native people who were imprisoned, tortured and killed by Hernando De Soto and his army in the year 1539.
There is a nature trail which is guided by park rangers as well as the camp Uzita where volunteers tell hair raising historical tales related to the De Soto expedition.
A visitor can also cool off at the De Soto point beach and go swimming or boating.
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The Morean arts center was started as an art club in the year 1917 but today, it has an impressive collection of artworks by many international and national artists including Jasper Johns, Peter Max, Jun Kaneko and Babs Reingold.
The arts center holds multiple art classes where you can hone your skills. The most famous artworks housed here include the ruby red icicle chandelier and the tumbleweeds.
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Tarpon springs is the result of a booming sponge industry which helped set up an effervescent Greek community.
This area contains numerous Greek restaurants, bakeries and shops which a visitor can choose from as well as experience the calmness of the Sunset beach, pray at St. Nicholas Greek orthodox cathedral, take a walk at the Fred Howard Park and spend some time at the legendary sponge docks.
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The museum of art was founded in the year 1979 and since then, it has cemented its place as the landmark for antiques, modern and contemporary artworks. It also holds educational programs for young and upcoming artists.
The most important exhibitions housed here include Robert Rauschenberg’s photographs, the work of the self-taught artist Purvis Young and Jean-Michael Basquiat’s famous works including Yellow door.
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The Tampa riverwalk requires a commitment of an entire day to see and enjoy the many restaurants, shops and recreational centers which it passes through.
In the morning, you can take a walk alongside the river and afterwards, visit the Tampa Bay history center and a visitor can rent a human powered water bike from the Tampa Bay water bike company.
As the fatigue sets in, you can eat at the iconic Ulele restaurant which was opened in the year 1903. If you happen to be travelling with children, don’t miss the fun at Glazer children’s museum.
The Tampa theatre is a legendary building as it was opened in the year 1926 and was the first commercial building in the city to have air conditioning.
This is a theatre-style movie place which showcases classic and independent feature films as well as documentaries on a daily basis.
If you’re lucky, you can also catch a music concert here and some of the previous performers in the theatre have been Miranda Cosgrove, Blondie, Ray Charles, Colbie Caillat, John Legend, Iggy Pop and the police.
Hemingway’s is a restaurant serving classic Cuban dishes and is housed inside Armature work’s heights public market.
The place is open daily and is known for its mix of Cuban comfort food with authentic flavors which include the famous chicharones, the palomilla steak sandwich as well as the legendary Hemingway’s Cuban sandwich that contains pork, salami, cheese and homemade pickles.
Urban Kai is a stand-up paddleboard shop which not only sells these boards but also provides multiple classes for fitness.
If you’re bored of exercising in traditional gyms then, this may be a great option to change things up.
Urban Kai is also known for providing private paddleboard lessons and adventure tours across the mighty Hillsborough River.
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The cigar city brewing is the oldest brewery in Tampa and is most notable for its annual Tampa beer week which has stalls of 140 breweries from across the city.
At cigar city brewing, you can go for a tasting tour and enjoy from among the 100 unique flavors they produce at their brewery as well as purchase beer bottles for the rest of your trip.
Tampa is famous for its breweries and as a tourist you have a moral obligation to visit the best one.
Armature works is a multi-purpose industrial complex based in the culturally vibrant heights neighborhood and includes 14 bars and restaurants, exhibitions, co-shared working spaces and shops.
The building used to be the storage facility for Tampa’s electric company but has evolved into an epicenter of culture, art and recreation for the community.
The heights public market situated within the armature works building has a ‘show+tell’ workshop which hosts cooking classes, pop-up dinners, wine tasting sessions and other special events.
The stunning park is one of Tampa’s most pristine areas and is situated alongside the little Manatee River.
The park is home to extremely rare plants and wildlife such as the oxbow wetlands, sand pine and oak scrub.
There are numerous hiking trails inside the park which provide an open space for exercise and quiet peacefulness such as the nature trail and the Oxbow nature trail.
Visitors can also choose to go canoeing, horseback riding or biking as well as take rest under the shade of the trees while enjoying a picnic with your loved ones.
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If you’re a hardcore sports enthusiast and especially a fan of ice hockey, basketball and arena football then, the Amalie arena is going to be on the top of your list.
The majestic stadium has played host for the Stanley cup finals and is home to the national hockey league.
This place also hosts its fair share of concerts including the who, Phil Collins, twenty one pilot, post Malone and the chainsmokers.
The J.C Newman cigar factory was established in the year 1895 and is a premium family-owned cigar making company in the United States.
It is also the oldest cigar factory in the country and is situated in the Ybor neighborhood of Tampa.
The brands of the cigar factory include the diamond crown, maximus and brick house. The factory has a small museum showcasing the history of the J.C Newman family as well as a cigar shop attached to it.
The shuffle is the only indoor shuffleboard arena in the country and if you’re a millennial like me then, you too must be clueless as to what shuffleboard is.
Well, a traditional game of shuffleboard is played on a table with a disc which has to be thrown in the hopes of landing in a high-scoring area.
Two determined single mothers took this historic idea and magnified it onto the floor of a hall where visitors can hold a glass of wine in one hand while throwing a large disc onto a triangular indoor shuffleboard.
Don’t worry, the alcohol will ease you into it.
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The Florida museum of photographic arts is situated in downtown Tampa area and houses a collection of permanent works.
These works include the strobe light invented by Harold Edgerton, the celebrity portraits taken by Len Prince, the transformative work by Dorothea Lange and the photographs of male nude models by Dianora Niccolini.
You will also be transported back to the hypnotic ‘hippie’ era of the 1960’s and 1970’s by the works of Bud Lee and the photos of the iconic Woodstock festival by Burk Uzzle.
The museum also has temporary photographic exhibitions and the most recent ones include lost and found in America and day by day: 1968.
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The Columbia restaurant is the oldest family-owned eatery in the state of Florida and has been satiating taste buds since 115 years.
The interior of the restaurant has an old world charm to it and serves the most authentic Spanish food in the entire city.
The legendary place is also known for its fiery red flamenco dance performances as well as a lively ambience.
Some of the best dishes that you should try here are Mahi Mahi, the Cuban bread, Ropa Vieja and a chilled glass of Sangria.
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The Hillsborough river state park is one of the best places in the city to relax and cool off by enjoying a number of water activities such as canoeing and kayaking as well as taking a dive in their swimming pool.
This state park is also known for its interactive history lessons where you can learn about the courageous Indians who had to fight for their land against the greedy invaders.
If you’re looking to get a bit of exercise then, you must take a hike around the seven mile long nature trail while surveying the innumerous plants and flowers.
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The big cat rescue facility at Tampa is a not-for-profit organization which is home to 80 wild cats including tigers, leopards, bobcats and lions.
These regal animals have been generously rescued from unruly circus acts, ignorant owners and unsympathetic hunters.
This facility not only cares for these splendid big cats but also provides them with a safe environment and a natural habitat which mimics their own.
Here, a visitor can have a unique and grandiose experience of going on a night safari and a guided photo tour or become a part of their exciting volunteer program and help take care of these furry creatures.
Have you always had a dream of becoming an artist but had to put it aside for more stable career choices?
Well, if this is the case for you then, you must visit ‘painting with a twist’ where they give private lessons to individuals or groups in painting and sketching while, you sip your favorite wine or beer.
This may sound too good to be true but this art class lets people bring a bottle of wine or beer along with them in order to add that extra bit of fun.
They provide you with all the necessary art equipments such as canvas, easel, paints, brushes and you even get to keep the art you create and take it with you.
The oystercatchers restaurant is situated inside the suave Hyatt hotel at Tampa where a visitor can enjoy the authentic seafood flavors of the city while witnessing the most gorgeous views of the Florida coast.
The architecture of the restaurant is to be marveled at for its modernistic and contemporary style as well as the unmatched beauty of the al fresco deck.
Some of the best dishes for you to try here include mahi mahi cuts, Lobster mac and cheese, shrimp and scallop fritters, lime mussels and their famous hollandaise-doused oysters.
Here, you can experience American seafood flavors while spending a lovely evening with your loved ones.
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The Ybor city isn’t actually a city in the literal sense but it might as well have been considering the numerous activities and events a visitor can experience here.
The historic neighborhood is situated in downtown Tampa and if you’re a history buff, you can visit the Tampa baseball museum and learn about a famous Spanish immigrant at Ybor city museum.
You can have a jolly time surveying the art gallery at Hoffman Porges gallery and get inked at the Ybor city tattoo company.
Later, you can hear serene tunes at the Orpheum or Ritz Ybor where they have live musical performances in the evenings.
Bathed in tropical tranquillity is an amazing aquatic park located very close to Busch Gardens and that is Adventure Island.
Presenting a wide range of high speed water rides and attractions, this park consists of 30 acres of water. You can float on the giant wave pool or get wet by the cascading waterfalls.
This place is all about lazing around. This park offers a wide variety of extremely amusing high-speed rides like corkscrew and twisted slides. So get ready for some thrilling twists and turns!
You just have to experience Adventure Island’s new Colossal Curl. This thrilling ride is going to make you feel crazily light.
Also, don’t forget to explore this park’s new family thrill slide. If you go there during early morning you don’t have to wait in long queues for your turn to experience the rides.
As the sun’s heat increases you may rest or relax in the private cabanas or you can enjoy sunbathing while digging your feet into the sand.
You can also dine at some really well-themed restaurants and shop from the trendy stores, all situated inside the premises of the park.
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No matter how much you love shopping and dining, you can never not have fun watching the intriguing aquatic world and Florida Aquarium is a great place to observe Florida’s wildlife.
Dedicated to the task of protecting wildlife and promoting education and awareness regarding terrestrial ecosystems, it is a leading conservation centre with a space as large as 200,000 sq. ft accommodating about 14000 animals from different types of vegetation.
This non-profit organization supports research and rescue works for the restoration of Florida’s corals, sharks and sea turtles.
It features marine creatures like eels, sharks, leafy sea dragons, alligators, river otters, stingrays and moon jellies as well as unique Madagascar animals like hissing cockroaches and ring tailed lemurs. It also has on display a coral reef habitat of about 500,000-gallon.
Waves of Wonder is another attractive gallery of this aquarium that presents a story of a conservation and there is the much delightful Penguin Meet & Greet. 4-D theatres and splash pads for children are the park’s additional features.
And guess what? All these facilities are guaranteed only by the general admission. However, if you want to explore some special facilities like Dive with the Sharks, Penguin Backstage Pass, Swim with the Fishes, Behind the Scenes Tour, Wild Dolphin Cruise, and many more, you’ll have to pay extra. It’s definitely worth a visit.
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Voted by Parents Magazine as the USA’s number one family friendly zoo, ZooTampa is a conservation centre that preserves endangered animals of Florida and from all over the world.
Being a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the zoo homes about 1300 animals and offers the visitors an intimate encounter with wildlife.
Be ready for a close-up view of an Indian rhinoceros and feel the stingrays slipping through your hands, feed a giraffe, spot manatees or pat a giant tortoise.
Having won many awards for commendable contribution in animal preservation and rehabilitation, the zoo has multiple exhibitory sections.
The Asian Gardens is home to Malayan tigers, sloth bears, Indonesian birds, clouded leopards, babirusa and Komodo dragon and more.
The Safari Africa provides an authentic African wildlife experience with native African species like Martial eagles, Aldabra tortoises, Patas monkeys, greater flamingos, saddle-billed storks, African bush elephants, African penguins, southern white rhinoceroses and many more.
Florida Wildlife Centre exhibits North American and Central American animals like red wolves, Orinoco crocodiles, North American black bears, West Indian manatees, seahorses, and various kinds of snakes.
You’ll get to see koalas and yellow-footed rock wallabies also ride a family roller coaster at the zoo’s Wallaroo Station.
This zoo also hosts the most famous family Halloween event of the bay featuring spooky displays for 11 nights in the month of October.
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Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa is a hotel and gaming complex that rocks in entertainment 24/7. Located to the east of Tampa, it houses the sixth largest casino in the world with a space of about 190,000 square foot.
Having sleeping rooms, bars, salons, garages, smoking rooms and an observatory tower, it is a top notch all in one staying facility. It also offers impressive live entertainment like rock and roll memorabilia.
Several screens display rock music and its general features include clothing, musical instruments and song lyrics portrayed on the walls.
It’s especially famous for its international food court/that hosts live entertainment scenes. Widely acclaimed restaurants like Council JuBao Noodle Palace, Oak Steak House, Hard Rock Café, and Fresh Harvest buffet and Rock and Raw sushi bar draws many visitors.
You may also enjoy live performances in the bars around the casino floor. To sum up it’s quite a happening place to stay or pay a casual visit.
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Tampa Bay History Centre is a prime cultural venue in Tampa’s Riverwalk reflecting Florida’s history of 12000 years.
It runs educational programs for both locals and visitors and features hands-on exhibits as well as theatre shows to display the history of Tampa Bay.
Begin with Florida’s First People exhibit which has on its display both real and duplicate artefacts dating from 12000 BC to 1,600 A.D as well as tools and weapons used by Florida’s ancient people.
Besides these you’ll also find artworks by eminent artists like Christopher Still, Theodore Morris and Mike Reagan in this section.
The next section namely the European Exploration Story features a huge map of the Atlantic Ocean and artefacts, weapons, tools and clothes which represent the history of the French and Spanish explorers’ arrival in Florida in the early 16th century.
Another remarkable section is the Charles L. Knight Gallery exhibiting a vast range of collection of Seminole and Miccosukee artefacts, ornaments, clothing and weaponries. You can go on exploring more as this history centre is really huge.
After finishing your explorations, you can dine at Columbia Cafe on the waterfront and shop local craftworks from the museum store.
One of the best things to do in Florida is undoubtedly visiting its Manatee Viewing Center. It is a great place to learn about the habitat of Florida’s Manatee.
This centre remains open from November to mid-April and hosts a number of interactive programmes including swimming sessions and exhibitions that tell a lot about manatees’ life cycle and nature.
Manatees swim in this area all through the year but your chances of spotting them are less in the off season. The whole area is a feast to the eye.
Climb up to the top of the 50-foot viewing tower to get a panoramic view of the area. You may also explore the centre’s mangrove exhibit and butterfly garden.
Florida’s Dinosaur World is an outside attraction that you shouldn’t miss visiting. Containing more than 150 life-size sculptures of dinosaurs made up of polystyrene foam and constructed by Christer Svensson.
Witness the Exploration Cave Show and the Triviasaurus Rex Game Show to know what palaeontologists do and discover a huge stegosaurus skeleton hidden under the sand.
You’ve to guess which dinosaurs are there behind the holes in the Touch-and-Tell section. You’ll also get to see primitive woolly mammoths at Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age.
For kids there is a playground area and the Fossil Dig where they can dig real fossils from under the sand.
This is an ideal place to come with your family. You may consider spending an entire day here picnicking while watching massive replicas of historic dinosaurs.
The internationally acclaimed Florida Fossil Museum, popularly known as the Florida Museum of Natural History, boasts of fossil collections representing 65 million years of Earth’s natural history.
This museum has two kinds of exhibits, permanent exhibits and rotating exhibits. The former presents the history of the first inhabitants of South Florida and the history of fossils and wildlife of the entire area that Florida occupies.
It’s most attractive exhibit is the Butterfly Rainforest. Except this all other sections of the permanent exhibit are absolutely free.
The latter hosts special exhibitions on chosen topics. Overall this museum accounts for quite an enriching experience.
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Just outside the city of Tampa lies a beautiful park namely Lettuce Lake Park. Covering an area of 240 acres, the park consists of boardwalks surrounded by cypress swamps, wetlands, open grounds, Lettuce Lake, flood plains, oak forests and the Hillsborough River flows amidst these.
It also has a fine observation tower which overlooks the entire park. Its Audubon Resource Center enables visitors to know thoroughly about the wildlife and natural history of Hillsborough River watershed.
You can walk through the nature trails while admiring the wonderful surroundings or chill inside the restrooms or indulge in some delicacies at the park’s barbecue pits.
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Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, located along the Hillsborough River, manifests an urban design with LED lighting.
It consists of a huge sloping lawn with flexible seating arrangement known as Great Lawn which hosts live performances, a dog run, a kiosk and a pavilion and multiple buildings with restrooms, sculptures and park offices.
The park’s two innovatively designed fountains known as the Mist fountain and the Louver fountain are spectacular.
Events like food fests, craft and art displays, music concerts, yoga sessions, seasonal ice skating, and many other similar activities are hosted in this park.
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Weedon Island Preserve is an interesting natural landscape feature of Tampa Bay.
Located along the bay’s western coast and spread across an area of about 3,190-acre, this coastal system is composed of upland and marine ecosystems sheltering innumerable species of native flora, fauna and wild animals.
Originally occupied by Indigenous people for many years this land bears a rich cultural history.
At present, this site is preserved and protected as it is home to mangrove forests, pine woods, and maritime hammock and it is also a popular fishing site and a great bird watching spot.
You can explore this wetland area through kayaking and take part in the various educational programmes that this place hosts such as Archaeology Lectures Series, Archaeology Academy, etc.
Enjoy yourself at Ben T Davis Beach
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Tampa’s Ben T Davis Beach is a close-by beach where you can lounge on smooth white sand and cool off in the tranquil sea water throughout the day and depart only after watching the sunset.
It is checked for safety by the Florida Department of Health as recreational activities such as swimming and volleyball matches are common here. You can also choose to have a picnic here.
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Sparkman Wharf is quite a popular recreation spot. It’s a highly modernised waterfront area harbouring street food stalls, beer gardens and hip restaurants.
Comprising a dinning garden and lawns, it presents amazing waterfront views, live music and an incredible dining scene.
Don’t forget to try craft beer here. You can chill here all day and taste some good dishes at some of the well-known eateries which will not let you forget this place easily.
Just outside Tampa is a massive horse riding facility known as Tampa Bay Downs where spectacular track racing of Thoroughbred horses are held every weekend or on Wednesdays and Fridays from November to May.
Being the oldest of all America’s race tracks, it is equipped with multiple amenities. To be specific, there’s Downs Golf Practice Facility, which enables the patrons to view the racing and practicing swinging simultaneously and the Silks Poker Room which serves as the card room and one of the hottest places in town.
These facilities are open every day. It is also known for hosting the renowned Cotillion Festival Day in collaboration with Lambholm South.
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Located near the airport, Cypress Point Park is an ideal place to spend a lazy afternoon. It’s a serene sandy beach with patches of green grasses and wildflowers where you can sit and gaze at the calm sea water till sunset.
There’s a 44 metre long nature trail which will present quite a remote scenario contrasted to the urbane setting of Tampa. Walkers, joggers and bikers can also take the 9 metre long trail that this beach has.
There are shaded pavilions where you can cool off or picnic. While many people flock here for a lunch break, it is a favourite spot for those who play volleyball and golf.
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If you want to visit a dream-like photogenic place, head to Tampa’s award-winning Ballast Point Park which is located inside Ballast Point neighbourhood.
Historically this land belonged to the indigenous people and thereafter it became a quarry for ships during colonial times. At present it exists as a sustainable park which does much in the field of waste recycling.
The waterfront park has numerous shelters where visitors party and do picnics, a playground where kids have fun and young adults play volleyball and similar sports and an amusing water play area and a separate one for children, all of which remain open from dawn to dusk.
The park’s pier can be accessed anytime though. Go for a walk on the picturesque boat ramp for getting an amazing background for photos.
You can taste delicious ice-cream and American seafood at the Taste of Boston, an eatery situated close to the pier.
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Busch Garden’s Serengeti Safari is one thing without which your touring of Tampa Bay will be incomplete.
This safari takes the tourists on a 30 minute ride across the Serengeti Plain covering an area of 65 acre where you’ll find all sorts of American and African animals roaming freely.
You’ll enjoy close-up views of many exotic animals like species of zebras, antelopes, ostriches, rhinoceros and many more.
You’ll also get the opportunity to feed giraffes with your own hands. Photography is allowed here so be ready to capture these intimate moments with these animals.
The tickets will cost between $40 and $60 and you can book your tickets in advance.
Shop and dine at International Plaza and Bay Street
Located pretty close to the airport is an amazing shopping and dining destination namely International Plaza and Bay Street.
International Plaza is a shopping mall and Bay Street is an open-air shopping complex where you’ll find all the renowned brand stores ranging from Dillard’s, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton and Gucci to Apple, Crate & Barrel and others.
It consists of about 200 stores and 15 restaurants. You can dine at the Capital Grille, the Cheesecake Factory, or Bar Louie or some other eateries of your choice. You should definitely try some American cuisines and drinks.
This shopping centre is also famous for selling unique Restoration hardware. It’s the go-to place for doing some shopping and gaining a unique eating experience.
The Henry B. Plant museum is remarkable for a number of things but the most notable is its revival architecture which looks straight out of a Wes Anderson movie.
The museum was formerly a wealthy and ambitious hotel which was opened up in 1891. The hotel instantly became a favorite of the elites, who enjoyed its many facilities including gardens, tennis courts, dining halls, golf course, a grand salon, a music room and a hunting ground.
The hotel was turned into a museum in 1974 and showcases some of the most ethereal and fascinating elements of the legendary hotel as well as the early history of this city.
Skipper’s smokehouse is a must-visit spot on any travel list for it showcases some of the best elements of Southern hospitality which include heart dishes and rogue live music.
The iconic space has live concerts of local, national and international artists as well as a full liquor bar.
They also house an award winning restaurant which serves the unique combination of Florida dishes with flavors from Louisiana and the Caribbean.
The smokehouse apparently serves the ‘best sandwich in America’ which is an overzealous claim and needs to be tested in person.
The museum of science and industry is a great place for you to take your kids but it is also for those adults who were backbenchers during science lectures or were inept with the complex formulas and concepts of science and math.
This museum adds fun to the process of learning by showing interactive exhibits such as the idea zone and the Connectus exhibit as well as an exciting game of operation where you get to learn about the functions of the human body as well as explore life off-earth at a model designed by NASA.
The Parkesdale market was set up by a family of Irish immigrants and has evolved into a landmark fresh produce market which sells fresh citrus, vegetables and strawberries that are grown at their farm.
It is situated in Plant city and has an ice cream shop where it sells its world famous strawberry shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream as garnish.
In fact, their love for strawberries is so immense that they host an annual strawberry festival!
The Hyde Park village is an outdoor shopping arena where you can enjoy a day out with your loved ones by visiting one of their many shops including the jewelry store Kendra Scott, Anthropologie and Pottery barn as well as eat at one of the many high quality restaurants such as Oxford exchange, Cine Bistro and buddy brew coffee.
If you’re visiting Tampa any time soon especially during the first weekend of any month then don’t miss out on the Brocante vintage market which is supposed to hold its last sale in the month of December.
This market is situated in a former piano factory and over 50 vendors from the Southeast salvage some of the most unique and quirky items they can find.
The Brocante vintage market is a one-of-a-kind experience and will help add an eccentric peculiarity to your trip.
Pack an extra pair of shoes because this striking city is best explored on foot as well as a family sized bottle of sunscreen to keep you protected considering the vast amount of hours you will be spending in the sun.
Tampa is a family-friendly place with an unexpected surprise at every corner. This city is riddled with museums, gardens and amusement parks and you can tell why it is so hard to dislike this place.
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