Channelside is a residential and entertainment district located just east of Tampa’s downtown filled with family-friendly things to do. Attractions, dining, shopping and entertainment options are all within walking distance of each other. Add in a large, convenient parking garage just across the road and you've got all the makings for a perfect family fun day.
Start your day with a visit to the American Victory Museum and Ship. Slightly hidden by the Florida Aquarium, the ship is docked in the channel just adjacent. Truly one of Tampa’s hidden gems, this museum is located in one of only four World War II ships in the country that are still functioning. Have fun exploring all the nooks and crannies including the flying bridge, radio room and Captain’s Quarters, while learning about the history of the vessel and the brave men who served on her. Tuesday through Saturday, the museum opens at 10 am. Sunday and Monday, they open at noon.
Explore one of the only fully-functioning WWII ships in America aboard the American Victory Ship — Photo courtesy of American Victory Museum and Ship
After your World War II adventure, head next door to the Florida Aquarium. If you have the time and inclination, purchase a combo ticket for admission and the Wild Dolphin Cruise. The Wild Dolphin Cruise offers 90-minute eco tours of Tampa Bay and the opportunity to view some of the more than 500 bottlenose dolphins that live here. Cruises depart at 2 pm daily. If possible, buy your tickets online ahead of time as this will save you some money, especially with the admission/cruise combo ticket.
Since you’re probably hungry for lunch, check out one of the Aquarium’s family-friendly dining options, Café Ray or the Caribbean Cantina before going through the exhibits. Although not open during the week in the fall and winter, the Caribbean Cantina is the better option as outdoor seating allows adults to relax over lunch while the kids play in the Aquarium’s Explore A Shore area. Explore A Shore is a 2-acre water adventure zone featuring water slides and jets, a pirate ship and giant sea creatures, and even live entertainment.
After lunch, spend a couple of hours perusing the Aquarium’s exhibits that feature over 20,000 aquatic animals and plants. Painstakingly recreated habitats showcase the water ecosystems of Florida and around the world. There are also a couple of touch tanks where you can get up close and personal with some wet friends such as a Bamboo Shark or a starfish.
Glimpse the mysterious underwater world at the Florida Aquarium — Photo courtesy of Florida Aquarium
If the kids (or adults) still have some energy left, head over to Splitsville in nearby Channelside Plaza and catch an early dinner. Splitsville is an upscale version of the classic bowling alley. The kids can grab the shoes while you grab some menus. Their full menu features American classics with a couple of twists thrown in like their decent list of sushi selections. You’re guaranteed to find something to satisfy all members of your family. Although a good family spot early in the evening, Splitsville turns over 21 after 10 pm.