Florida is a massively popular place for visitors, and there’s a whole lot of things to do in Tampa for tourists to enjoy on a vacation. Before we get down to business, let’s have a look at the city itself. Tampa is a city on the west coast of Florida, sitting in Tampa Bay near the Gulf Coast of the United States. Tampa is the largest port in the state and the largest city in the Tampa Bay region. Before Florida was purchased by the USA from Spain in 1821, the region had been under Spanish control. When the US took it over, they built Fork Brooke, which is where downtown Tampa now lies. The fort was then used by Confederate troops during the Civil War, to ward off Yankees from the Northern states. These days, Tampa isn’t so much being threatened by its own people so much as it is by extreme weather and climate change. Tampa and surrounding areas are considered one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to be hit by a major storm. And on that happy note, let’s take you on a quick journey and explore all the great things to do in Tampa on vacation.
This theme park is 335 acres of pure fun and excitement. It has long been one of the best things to do in Tampa with kids. The park has an African theme and includes specific themed areas, such as Morocco, Nairobi, and Congo. There are nine rollercoasters and two water rides at the park, including two brand new rides for 2019. Also, within the boundaries of Busch Gardens is the Adventure Island park, which consists of 30 acres of rides, numerous swimming pools, and a range of restaurants. A day at Busch Gardens is definitely one of the best things to do in Tampa for anyone who visits. As well as the day to day running of the park, Busch Gardens has a huge program of evening activities and special events throughout the year.
Tickets required, available online or from the entrance, $84.99-$109.99
ZooTampa at Lowry Park
Tampa Zoo is another attraction on the list of the best things to do in Tampa, and it has a great reputation throughout the state. The park is split into various themed sections, which concentrate on a range of animals from across the world. The areas include Florida Wildlife, which introduces visitors to the wildlife native to the state. It might sound crazy, but there are 760 species of animal that are found nowhere else on earth but Florida. Who knew? On the list is the endangered Florida Panther, which is way cuter than you’d expect. Other areas of the zoo are the Asian Gardens (lots of big cats), Primate World (monkeys, apes, etc.), and Safari Africa (elephants, rhinos and other good stuff).
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $24.95-$33.95
Tampa Museum of Art
This beautiful museum sits on the banks of the Hillsborough River, just a short distance from the Riverwalk. The new museum building was only opened in 2010, and it has already received an architectural award for its innovative design. It’s a great thing to do in Tampa for all the family. If you go on a day visit, also try and stop by in the evening when the exterior of the building is lit up in a range of pretty colors, because it looks fantastic. The museum’s permanent collections are made up of contemporary and modern pieces and vary from paintings, photography, decorative arts and sculpture, and new media. There are thousands of items in the collection, and the museum is a popular attraction.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance,
Museum of Science and Industry
Now, this is a building that’s bound to spark up a few conversations! We love it, but we are aware that not everyone shares our joy. Although MOSI is a well-established museum, it has recently moved into a brand spanking new venue, which is very futuristic. Regardless of the new building, the Museum of Science and Industry is still one of the best things to do in Tampa with your kids. There’s a huge range of interactive exhibits for them to get their little hands-on and it’s a great place to learn while having fun. The highlights include the outdoor play park, the Planetarium, and the Dinovations Lab.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $7.95-$12.95
Sunshine Skyway Bridge
We adore the Skyway Bridge and think it’s one of the best things to do in Tampa at night when it’s all lit up. It’s a beautiful sight in daylight, too, but it’s more magical in the evening when the sun goes down. The bridge is more than 6,600 meters long and connects St Pete’s to Terra Ceia. It’s become a bit of a Tampa icon and seems to rise up out of the water of the bay. If you have a car, the views from driving the bridge are pretty special, too. It’s so famous in the area, that it’s worth taking time out to check it out.
Off-beat things to do in Tampa
We love finding unique things to do in Tampa, and one of our favorite oddities is the Bite or Smite Alligator. According to local legend, a bunny was once eaten by a two-headed alligator, which earned the name Bite or Smite on account of its double heads. The legend has persisted over the years and led to Southern Brewery commissioning a six-foot-high, Antoni Gaudi-style replica of the alligator in its grounds. The good news is that, once you’ve visited the mutant reptile, you can then go inside the brewery and try their Bite or Smite Beer. Score.
FAQs About Tampa
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Tampa. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this northern Californian city has to offer.
What do locals do in Tampa?
Locals do pretty much what everyone else does; enjoy the weather and make the most of all the great things to do in Tampa. Locals who enjoy the great outdoors have their choice of local parks and green spaces to choose from, while those who like being on or in the water like canoeing or kayaking. Others simply like to chill out on their days off on the beach. If the heat gets to them, they have plenty of indoor spaces, museums, and galleries to escape to.
What is there to do on the Riverwalk in Tampa?
There are so many things to do in Tampa’s Riverwalk, but we suggest taking a bike ride along with it, or taking a boat and cruising the warm waters of the bay. The Riverwalk is 2.6 miles long and is filled with fun bars, restaurants, and cafes to chill out in. The pathway connects parks, museums, and neighborhoods. Over the past few years, the city of Tampa commissioned numerous bronze busts to be built on a Historic Trail that runs along the Riverwalk. These are of local business people, philanthropists, and politicians who have had a positive impact on the development of Tampa. One of the best things to do in Tampa sits along the Riverwalk and is the amazing Florida Aquarium.
What is Tampa known for?
Tampa is known for its amazing beaches and world-class theme parks. It’s also well known for its extremes of weather. Summer is blazingly hot, but during hurricane season, things can get a *touch* rainy and windy. Hold on to your hat.
Is Tampa safe?
Of the 54 cities in Florida, Tampa recently ranked at 19 in the safest stakes. Although that doesn’t really tell you much unless you know how dangerous the others are. We know that, like all major cities, Tampa has its share of crime. However, taking a sensible approach to your visit is always key to keeping safe. Keep your valuables hidden, don’t venture into unknown places alone after dark, and generally just keep your wits about you.
Does Tampa have a beach?
Yep! The area has tons of white, sandy beaches. Clearwater Beach is one of the most famous (and most popular with visitors), while St Petersburg is also a target for tourists coming to the area. However, although most visitors don’t realize, because they’re so close, neither beach is actually within the city limits. DeSoto Beach is, however, and this is pretty popular with locals and a great thing to do in Tampa.
Tampa is an atmospheric city, famed for its glorious weather and its position in the Bay of Tampa, near the beautiful Gulf Coast of the United States. Its cultural diversity makes it a draw for visitors who appreciate Cuban and Spanish food and the history of the people who have left their mark on the area. Tampa is a largely transient city – much like other areas of Florida – where people move to escape the temperatures in the Mid West or Northern states. This often means that people in Tampa aren’t originally from the city. However, this merely increases the diversity of Tampa as a whole, and it’s known for being a tolerant and welcoming place to spend time. The city is served by Tampa International Airport and has a great mix of accommodation to suit a range of budgets. Although it has a higher than average cost of living, there’s a great range of free things to do in Tamps to suit travelers on a budget.