Best Things to Do in Tampa

Top Choices for Fun and Adventure in Tampa

Visitors to Tampa will find a treasure trove of fascinating attractions and adventurous activities. Given Tampa's warm, sunny weather, many of the top things to do involve being outdoors. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is the city's top family attraction featuring fascinating creatures, extreme rollercoasters and world-class entertainment. This is a theme park that rivals the best Orlando has to offer, all at a better price.

Tampa also features several inspiring, educational and entertaining museums. One of the more recent additions is the innovative Tampa Bay History Center conveniently located on the scenic Riverwalk. Take a fascinating tour through the area's rich history and culture brought to life through interactive exhibits and stunning displays.

From world-class museums to fun family adventures, there is something for everyone to enjoy. To find the best options for your family, check out this list of Tampa's 10 best attractions and activities.


Bayshore Boulevard
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

Yes, a sidewalk is one of Tampa's best attractions. However, this is a special sidewalk. Running 4.5 miles from Gandy Boulevard to downtown Tampa, the sidewalk that runs along Bayshore Boulevard is the longest continuous sidewalk in the US. It is also south Tampa's unofficial gym, where at all hours of the day you can find people walking, jogging, biking, and rollerblading down the nearly flat pavement. With water and skyline views on one side and some of Tampa's most expensive real estate on the other, the scenery can't be beaten. It's also the location of the city's most anticipated annual celebration, the Gasparilla Pirate Parade and Festival in late January.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Walking, jogging or biking down the famous sidewalk of Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard affords beautiful water and skyline views.

Skye's expert tip: There's not much shade, so make sure to have hats, sunscreen and water handy on hot days.

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The Tampa Museum of Art is a boldly designed riverfront museum housing six temporary exhibits and an extensive permanent collection of Greek and Roman antiquities and 20th-century sculpture. After browsing the galleries, visitors can wander through the serene riverfront sculpture garden before indulging in cool, creamy gelato at the Riverwalk Cafe. Check out their beautiful museum shop where you can find unique gifts and souvenirs of your visit. The museum is very much a part of the community and offers an extensive program of events from art classes to Buddhist meditation. Every Friday from 4 pm - 10 pm, the Tampa Museum of Art hosts Art on the House featuring pay-as-you-will admission.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Tampa Museum of Art showcases the city's unique and comprehensive art collection in a facility that itself is a work of art.

Skye's expert tip: Check it out at night when the facade lights up with Villareal's Sky, a 14,000-square-foot LED installation that has become an iconic image for Tampa.

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Ybor City Museum State Park
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Built to preserve and celebrate Ybor City's colorful history, this museum is a highlight of any visit to Tampa's national historic district. Once known as the "Cigar Capital of the World," cigars were a big business and had a transformative impact on the entire region. Housed in the renovated historic Ferlita Bakery, the museum features both temporary and permanent exhibits that illustrate how the immigrant cigar workers and their families lived and worked, creating a new society with unique community institutions. Outside you can explore the peaceful 19th-century-style garden and see the "casitas" that are typical of the houses built for cigar workers and their families.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Tampa's Ybor City Museum celebrates the rich and colorful history of this National Historic Landmark District.

Skye's expert tip: A good spot to get an overview of Ybor City and its rich history before exploring the neighborhood.

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Hillsborough River State Park
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To experience Florida nature without having to drive very far out of town, Hillsborough River State Park is your best bet. Located upriver from downtown Tampa in northeastern Hillsborough County, this is one of Florida's oldest and most popular state parks. The list of things to do here is extensive, starting with both full-facility and primitive camping. Canoes and kayaks can be rented to go down the river. There are also numerous picnic areas, a public pool, bike rentals and numerous hiking trails. If you're lucky, you will be able to spot some native Florida wildlife from Great Blue Herons to alligators.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Kayaking, hiking, swimming, and camping are just a few ways to enjoy Florida naturally at Tampa's Hillsborough River State Park.

Skye's expert tip: If you're interested in staying overnight, the park is now hosting several campsites that offer visitors a "glamping" experience featuring luxuriously appointed safari tents.

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Florida Aquarium

One of the best aquariums in the southeast, this 250,000 square foot attraction explores aquatic environments around the world. Exhibits feature more than 20,000 plants and animals in both fresh and saltwater environments. The centerpiece of the aquarium is a million-gallon coral reef display housing over 200 species of fish. Other areas of the aquarium showcase river otters, alligators, deep sea fish. Kids will love the "touch" experiences where they can get up close with stingrays, horseshoe crabs, urchins, and starfish. Also popular are the twice-daily Penguin Meet & Greets featuring African black-footed penguins. A gift shop and restaurant are on the premises. Check their website for admission prices as they offer Plan-Ahead Pricing.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Florida Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the southeast featuring unique exhibits and activities for the whole family.

Skye's expert tip: Make sure the kids bring their swimsuits so they can cool off in the rainforest-themed splash pad.

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Henry B. Plant Museum
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Step into the jazz age with a visit to the H.B. Plant Museum that is dedicated to recreating the experience of guests to the historic Tampa Bay Hotel. With its striking architecture, lavish furnishings and vibrant gardens, the former hotel offers a glimpse into the early years of Florida tourism. Built in 1891 by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant, the opulent accommodations offered rare luxuries including electricity, telephones, ensuite baths, and an elevator. This extravagance drew guests such as Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. Today, the museum shares space with the University of Tampa and visitors can step next door to view the hotel's lavish lobby that looks just like it did back in the late 1800s. Plant's accomplishment is made all the more amazing when you realize that when it was built, the hotel was surrounded only by swampland!

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Preserving the glamorous history of the opulent Tampa Bay Hotel, built in a Moorish-Revival style, this museum is where you will find Tampa's iconic minarets.

Skye's expert tip: Take a few minutes to enjoy a stroll through the lovely riverfront gardens known as Plant Park.

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Beloved by locals and visitors alike, ZooTampa at Lowry Park has been voted the #1 Family Friendly Zoo in the country by Parents Magazine and is a five-time winner of the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. The 56-acre nonprofit zoo is home to 1,300 animals and emphasizes regional endangered species and those in similar climates. All of your favorites are here, including African species like giraffes, rhinos, and hippos, Asian animals like lions and tigers, as well as animals native to Florida, such as various species of alligator and crocodile. Once they've made their way around to all of the animals, the kids can play in the Australian-themed children's area that includes rides and other games. Going in the morning is a good idea, especially in the summer. Not only do you avoid the heat, but the animals also tend to be more lively.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: ZooTampa at Lowry Park is consistently ranked as one of the best zoos in the country with a mission to conserve Florida's native wildlife.

Skye's expert tip: Get $3 dollars off one-day admission tickets by purchasing in advance and online via their website.

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Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
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Wild animals and wilder rides await visitors to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. This 335-acre, Africa-inspired theme park boasts several scream-worthy roller coasters, 2,000-plus animals and a host of entertaining live shows. There is something for kids of all ages at this world-class park. While adventure lovers flock to the many adrenaline-inducing thrill rides, animal enthusiasts can enjoy hand-feeding kangaroos at Walkabout Way. While there is a gondola and a train to help negotiate the distances, be prepared to walk in order to explore all areas of the park. Luckily, there are plenty of areas to linger for rest and refueling, with shops, restaurants, and entertainment stages located throughout the park.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a world-class theme park featuring exotic animals, extreme roller coasters and live entertainment.

Skye's expert tip: Admission prices vary - to get the best deals, make sure to buy your tickets in advance and online.

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Tampa Bay History Center
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The Tampa Bay History Center, a 60,000-square-foot waterfront museum, presents 12,000 years of Tampa Bay history through innovative, interactive exhibits that engage visitors of all ages. Visitors can explore a vast array of Seminole artifacts, learn about the Spanish conquistadors, browse a 1920s-era cigar store, and view over 1,000 objects related to Tampa's history as the cigar capital of the world. There is a wonderful museum gift store where you can find unique Tampa souvenirs and if you're hungry, try the onsite Columbia Cafe. Sister to the famous Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, this version serves many of the same Spanish delicacies.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: For an engaging overview of Tampa's rich history, the innovative Tampa Bay History Center is the best choice.

Skye's expert tip: Check out the Treasure Seekers Gallery and get in touch with your inner pirate!

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Tampa Riverwalk
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The Tampa Riverwalk is a scenic exploration of the downtown waterfront and connects many of the city's most popular attractions, parks, and restaurants. The broad paved path follows the banks of the Hillsborough River and Garrison Channel, easily accessible to everyone including the disabled, kids, and furry friends. There are also many ways to navigate the Riverwalk which accommodates walkers, joggers, and bikers. Major landmarks along the path include the Heights Public Market, Straz Performing Arts Center, Tampa Museum of Art, Glazer Children's Museum, the Tampa Bay History Center, and the Tampa Convention Center. Along the way, you will discover numerous interpretive exhibits highlighting Tampa's history and public art exhibits. The path is 2.6 miles long, but there are plenty of spots to stop for a rest and grab a drink or a quick bite along the way.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Tampa Riverwalk is a 2.6-mile scenic walkway along the downtown waterfront that connects many of the city's most popular attractions.

Skye's expert tip: Sip and stroll - alcohol can be consumed during your walk when purchased from vendors along the route.

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Meet Skye Rodgers

Skye is a freelance writer that adopted Tampa as her hometown over a decade ago and never looked back. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no snow climate, and in her spare time...  More About Skye