Things to do in Tampa, FL

Get Your Bearings in Tampa

By Skye Rodgers
Tampa Expert

See & Do
Stay
Eat
Party
Shop

Things to See

Due to its wonderfully warm and sunny weather, many of Tampa’s attractions involve playing outside. Canoeing, paddle-boarding and dolphin cruises are just a few water activities available. On land, visit Busch Gardens or our nationally-recognized zoo. Stroll down the Tampa Riverwalk or check out one of our world-class golf courses. Explore Tampa’s wild side at the many parks and wilderness areas. When you get tired of the outdoors, or are sent inside due to the heat or sudden summer downpour, come inside and visit our world-class aquarium or one of the many local museums and galleries.

Avoid:

The heat of the mid-day sun (especially in summer). Sunstroke can quickly ruin your visit.

Take It or Leave It:

Tampa is very casual, so shorts and flip-flops are usually the order of the day.

Where to Stay

The best accommodations in Tampa are found downtown, on Rocky Point Island or in the Westshore/Airport district. Downtown hotels are close to Tampa’s top cultural attractions, offer convenience for business travelers and have easy access to the entertainment districts of Ybor City and Channelside. Hotels nestled on Tampa’s scenic Rocky Point Island offer direct access to Tampa Bay and watersports, beachy food and entertainment options, and are still a quick drive to downtown and the airport. Westshore/Airport hotels are located next to some of the best shopping and dining in town while still being close to downtown and the airport as well.

Hot Tips:

Get the best deals during low season - June to September and December (before Christmas).

What to Eat

Tampa’s most flavorful areas for dining include Ybor City, Westshore/Airport and the So-Ho/Hyde Park district. All types of food can be found in Ybor City, but it’s best known for authentic Cuban and Spanish restaurants. In the Westshore/Airport area, restaurants offer some of Tampa's more contemporary, high-end dining options. And with so many eclectic eateries lining South Howard Avenue (aka So-Ho), it’s also known as “Restaurant Row” with something to tempt all palates.

Caution:

Make sure to ask your server if the seafood is fresh and local before ordering.

Be Sure to Sample:

Fresh-and-buttery Cuban bread with a Café con Leche, fresh and local seafood, gator for the more adventurous.

Places to Party

Once the sun goes down in Tampa, the party scene heats up. In Ybor City, clubs and bars of all kinds provide a variety of after-dark fun. International Plaza, So-Ho and Hyde Park host trendy and upscale offerings mixed with a few less fashionable pubs and bars. If you’re craving more of a beach vibe, there are several spots on Rocky Point with fantastic water views, open-air dining and tiki bars. More cultured activities are available downtown at Tampa’s performing arts center. Depending on the season, you can catch a Lightning NHL hockey game or a Buccaneers' NFL football game.

Caution:

Daytime Ybor City is great for family fun, but after 10pm it can become pretty R-rated and not suitable for all ages.

Where to Shop

From upscale malls like International Plaza (very convenient to the airport), to quaint shopping districts such as Hyde Park Village, there are a lot of fun ways to spend money in Tampa. Many are located in the So-Ho/Hyde Park, Westshore/Airport and the Ybor City areas. Looking for deals? Visit the local flea market. There are several very good and very large options in the Tampa Bay area. And if that’s not enough, only an hour away by car is some of the best outlet mall shopping in the country, located in nearby Orlando and Ellenton.

Best Local Souvenir:

Fresh Florida oranges when in season; a box of cigars from Ybor City, a photo of you riding SheiKra (one of Busch Gardens' thrilling roller coasters).

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Tampa Neighborhoods

Things to do in Tampa


Tampa is known for...

Five of Tampa's most unique features and characteristics.

1. The Cigars:

Tampa's extensive Latin culture springs from the cigar factories that were located in Ybor City and West Tampa at the end of the 1800's to the early  20th century. When Vicente Martinez Ybor moved his cigar factory from Key West to Tampa, it increased the population of the sleepy town by many thousands in just a few years. At its height, Tampa was considered the "Cigar Capital of the World". Most of the cigar factories are long gone, but a couple still exist. There are still quite a few small cigar shops in Ybor City where you can watch a tabaquero hand-roll a custom cigar.

2. The Sports:

It might have taken a little while (or decades), but all three of our major sports teams have experienced success in recent years. The National Football League Buccaneers play in Raymond James Stadium. The National Hockey League Lightning play in the Tampa Bay Times Forum in downtown Tampa. Finally, the Rays baseball team plays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. If you aren't quite a professional sportsperson, there are still plenty of opportunities to get active in Tampa. In a place with 300 days of sunshine per year, golf is very popular, including courses visited every year by the PGA and Champions Tours. Of course, any water sport you can possibly be interested in can be found either in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, or the freshwater lakes and rivers.

3. The Weather:

Tampa’s weather, being a subtropical climate, is sunny for roughly 300 days out of the year. Spring, fall, and most of winter will feature some of the best weather in the country, comparatively speaking, with highs in the 60’s and 70’s most days. It’s the summer, however, for which Tampa is famous. The heat and humidity, along with being surrounded by water, give rise to strong thunderstorms most afternoons. In fact, the Tampa Bay area is known as the lightning capital of North America, with the average resident being within half a mile of a lightning strike 10 to 15 times per year. If a storm is rolling in, seek shelter. There is a reason we named our hockey and arena football teams the Lightning and Storm, respectively.

4. The Water:

Life revolves around water here in Tampa Bay because the water literally revolves around us. There are the beaches, which are consistently ranked as some of the best in the nation. There is the fishing, both in the Gulf and in the various lakes and rivers around the area. And then there are the opportunities to jump on one of the fantastic cruise ships that leave from the Port of Tampa, the second-busiest port in Florida. Trips of various lengths depart every week for Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts beyond.

5. The Events:

For most people, the year in Tampa starts with Gasparilla, our riff on Mardi Gras with a pirate twist. There are many events that surround Gasparilla, including the original parade, a parade for children, and a night parade. Halloween is celebrated with Guavaween in Ybor City. National entertainment acts routinely visit both the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Amphitheater. Tampa has also hosted the Super Bowl twice in the past 15 years and will host the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2012. National, historic events are realizing that Tampa provides a great setting for their gatherings.