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:
Visit Busch Gardens
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.
Dive Deep at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
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.
Witness Stunning Views at Bayshore Boulevard
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.
Explore Nature at De Soto National Memorial
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.
Admire Creativity at Morean Arts Center
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.
Visit a Greek Neighborhood at Tarpon Springs
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.
Visit the Tampa Museum of Art
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.
Enjoy a Day of Fun at the Riverwalk
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.
Watch a Movie at Tampa Theatre
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.
Have a Hearty Meal at Hemingway’s
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.
Trail the Waters at Urban Kai
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.
Smoke Up at the Cigar City Brewing
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.
Learn a Skill at Armature Works
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.
Take a Walk at the Little Manatee River Park
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. A visitor 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.
Feel Your Adrenaline Rush at Amalie Arena
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.
Honor History at the J.C Newman Cigar Factory
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.
You’re Never Too Old to Shuffle
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 but 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.
Visit the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
The Florida museum of photographic arts is situated in downtown Tampa area and houses a collection of permanent works which 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.
Eat a Cuban Sandwich at Columbia Restaurant
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.
Cool Off at the Hillsborough River State Park
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.
Forget Your Fears at the Big Cat Rescue
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.
Bring a Bottle of Wine to Painting With a Twist
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.
Feel Fancy at the Oystercatchers
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.
Too Much to See at the Ybor City
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.
Visit the Grand Henry B. Plant Museum
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.
Enjoy Live Music at Skipper’s Smokehouse
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.
Learning is Easy at the Museum of Science and Industry
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.
Strawberries Galore at the Parkesdale Market
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!
Shop Till You Drop at Hyde Park Village
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.
Feel Unique at Brocante Vintage Market
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.