search

Tampa's must-see attractions inspire and entertain the whole family



Tampa offers visitors many ways to discover more about its unique natural and cultural history. Through visiting the city's world-class museums, zoos, and art galleries, you can learn more about the area in ways that are inspiring, informative, and entertaining. To help you plan your sightseeing itinerary while in Tampa, 10 Best has pulled together a list of the top 10 options. Make sure to check their websites for discounted tickets!

The best place to visit to get a big-picture perspective of Tampa's cultural history is at the Tampa Bay History Center. From man's first arrival around 12,000 years ago to the present, Tampa has provided a beautiful backdrop for the human drama of survival and progress. Conveniently located downtown along the waterfront, this is a state-of-the-art museum that delivers a fun and educational experience for all ages. 

The beauty of the natural world is also evident in the Tampa Bay area. You will find many species of both plants and animals that can be found nowhere else in the country due to the sub-tropical climate and warm waters of Tampa Bay. To learn more, plan a visit to the Lowry Park Zoo. This award-winning zoo is very popular with families and features a Florida Boardwalk where you can meet many of the animals that make Florida home. 


Advertisement



A highlight of the Tampa art scene, this beloved gallery is one of only a few museums in the US dedicated solely to photography. The museum is located downtown in the architecturally significant Cube, a soaring six-story atrium building. Promoting photographic art as central to our culture, the museum hosts exhibits of both historic and contemporary photography. Visitors to FMoPA are moved, mystified and inspired by the works of nationally and internationally known photographers, brilliantly displayed to emphasize the photographs' relevance to today's culture. The museum also offers gallery talks, "Photography at 5" happy hours, inventive family activities and a myriad of photography classes for all ages.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Great for photography buffs, Tampa's FMoPA is one of the only museums in the US dedicated to photography.

Skye's expert tip: Plan ahead if you need parking as it can be limited and expensive in that area. Street parking north of Kennedy Boulevard is FREE on weekends and after 6:00 pm on weeknights.

Read more about Florida Museum of Photographic Arts →


Museum of Science & Industry
Photo courtesy of Tampa Museum of Science and Industry


MOSI is Tampa's popular science and industry museum packed with fun activities and interactive learning experiences. The facility houses a collection of permanent exhibits that cover all disciplines of science including biology, anatomy, physics, and meteorology. There is also a large space to host major touring exhibits. Outside is a ropes course and zip line adventure along with a playground and nature trail that highlights Florida flora and fauna. The entrance fee covers the permanent exhibits, but you can add entrance into the touring exhibit, a stargazing show in the Saunders Planetarium, or access to the ropes course for additional charges.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Tampa's MOSI is a must-see science and technology museum that hosts major traveling exhibits in addition to Florida-related displays.

Skye's expert tip: If you'll be in town for a while during the summer, MOSI is known for its great science camps for kids available in one week increments.

Read more about Museum of Science & Industry →


Glazer Children's Museum


Kids have so much fun here that the adults end up accidentally having some as well. If you've never been to a children's museum, it's not like an adult museum. It's loud, rambunctious, and exciting for all kids. There are many hands-on exhibits designed for exploration, such as a kid-sized grocery store, airplane, and cruise ship. In other words, it's the best game of pretend they will ever experience. The best strategy is to let them guide you around the facility. You won't believe what your child will show interest in while they're here! Fun for the whole family, but kids under 11 or so will enjoy it the most.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: A great way to spend the day is at Tampa's Glazer Children's Museum dedicated to the kid in all of us.

Skye's expert tip: During summer break, the museum offers extended hours to 8 pm daily.

Read more about Glazer Children's Museum →


Advertisement


Conveniently located close to downtown and adjacent to the Florida Aquarium, the American Victory Ship is one of Tampa's hidden gems. One of only four WWII ships that are fully-functioning, the Ship is a memorial to the dedicated men and women of the American Merchant Fleet. Almost all areas of the Ship are open to investigation, including the bridge, weaponry, galley and mess halls, crew cabins and Captain's quarters, radio and gyro rooms, and much more. Visitors are given the unique opportunity to experience the living and working conditions of the sailors. Interpretive exhibits fill in the blanks through the display of artifacts, photos, uniforms and medals.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Tampa's American Victory Museum and Ship is one of only four WWII ships still functioning and offers a unique opportunity to experience life on board.

Skye's expert tip: Once a year they take the ship out for a spin and offer the general public an opportunity to go along for the ride. Check their website for details.

Read more about American Victory Museum and Ship →




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 Sono 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 Sightseeing because: The Tampa Museum of Art showcases the city's art collection and hosts traveling exhibits in a facility that is a work of art in itself.

Skye's expert tip: Best viewed 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.

Read more about Tampa Museum of Art →


Ybor City Museum State Park
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


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 an incredible economic impact on the area. Housed in the renovated historic Ferlita Bakery, the museum boasts both temporary and permanent exhibits that illustrate how the immigrant cigar workers and their families lived and worked, creating a unique social life and community institutions. Outside you can explore the peaceful 19th-century-style garden and tour a "casita," representative of a typical cigar worker's home.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Ybor City State Museum explores the development of Tampa's successful cigar industry and prosperous immigrant communities in the late 1800s.

Skye's expert tip: Get an overview of Ybor City's history before grabbing a walking tour map and heading out on your own to explore the neighborhood.

Read more about Ybor City Museum State Park →


Henry B. Plant Museum
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


Built in 1891 by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant, this history museum is located in what was originally the Tampa Bay Hotel, an extravagant resort that drew such guests as Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. Now home to the University of Tampa, Plant's accomplishment is made all the more amazing when you realize that when it was built, the hotel was surrounded only by swampland. Now exquisitely restored, the hotel's striking minarets architecture, lavish furnishings and vibrant gardens provide a rare glimpse into the early years of Florida tourism. Sure, it makes returning to a modern-day hotel room a bit sad, but this Moorish beauty is a definite must-see.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Plant Museum is located in Tampa's most iconic historic building and illustrates the glamorous past of the once opulent hotel.

Skye's expert tip: Make sure to stop by their amazing museum store that features a great selection of Victorian-inspired gifts and items created by local artists.

Read more about Henry B. Plant Museum →




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 regionally 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 Sightseeing because: Tampa's favorite animal attraction is the award-winning Lowry Park Zoo which features many animals native to Florida.

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

Read more about ZooTampa at Lowry Park →


Florida Aquarium


One of the best aquariums in the southeast, this 250,000 square foot attraction explores aquatic environments around the world featuring more than 20,000 plants and animals in both fresh and saltwater environments. Exhibits document the movement of water from wetlands to ocean and include a million-gallon coral reef display that houses 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.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Florida Aquarium in Tampa allows visitors an exciting exploration into the area's unique fresh and saltwater fish and animals.

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

Read more about Florida Aquarium →


Tampa Bay History Center
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


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 Native American artifacts, learn about the Spanish conquistadors, browse a 1920s-era cigar store, and view over 1,000 Tampa cigar industry-related objects. The new treasure seekers gallery is dedicated to the exploration of pirate ships and sunken treasure and features a full-size replica of a 1500s galleon and actual artifacts retrieved from shipwrecks. There is also a wonderful museum gift store where you can find unique Tampa souvenirs.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: For a comprehensive glimpse into Tampa's cultural history, the state-of-the-art Tampa Bay History Center is the best choice.

Skye's expert tip: 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.

Read more about Tampa Bay History Center →


Map

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

×