11 fun family things to do during your stay in Tampa, Florida
Whether you are headed to the Tampa area for the day or a longer stay, there are many ways to fill your hours. Tampa, Florida is known for its incredible fishing, cool nightlife and buccaneers: the Tampa Bay Bucs, that is, and also their own historic privateer, Gasparilla, who they celebrate during the annual Gasparilla Festival. But there is so much more to explore. Tampa is also a family friendly destination for kids of all ages. So read on and explore: There is something for everyone.
1. Busch Gardens theme park: Roller coaster thrills, wild animals in natural-like habitats and more roller coasters (seriously, this is Florida’s go-to place for roller coaster thrills!) Until Aug 16th (2015), the Busch Gardens theme park is open til midnight on Friday and Saturdays- more time to ride. Check out the nocturnal cave for critters in the night (we love caves), the elephant habitats and the more scary Sheikra.
2. MOSI: Museum of Science and Industry– who knew science could be so fun? Hands-on, kid friendly in-door science museum. See what it’s like in a hurricane, check out the new Drone Zone. Giant IMAX theater on-site and outdoor zip lining and obstacle course challenge.
3. Florida Aquarium: With pet-a sting ray, penguins, shark tanks, and an entire mangrove swamp habitat- all in-doors! Great way to spend a too hot day or escape the afternoon storms. But if the weather is nice, let the kids play in the newly renovated splash pad, complete with pirate galleon.
4. Lowry Park Zoo: this is a great place for young kids- manatee underwater viewing, tigers, meerkats and more. Feed a giraffe, pet a stingray. Try the Expedition Africa guided tour for a behind the scenes look at their animals. Cool animal filled Jungle Carousel. Big splash area for kids- bring a change of clothes for them!
5. Adventure Island: The wetter side of Busch Gardens. With slides and wet rides like the Colossal Curl and the Caribbean Corkscrew, this outdoor water park has it all. Take a lazy tube float down the 1/2 mile Rambling Bayou.
6. Channelside Bay Plaza: a short walk or trolley ride from the Florida Aquarium. Ice cream parlors, shops & boutiques, giant IMAX theater to catch your fave flix- imagine Jurassic World on that! Check out their bowling alley, Splitsville, for family fun and not-your-average-bowling alley fare.
7. Trolley rides: though we used the Tampa trolleys to travel from A to B, my dad would ride on them for hours. Take the Trolley from Channelside to Ybor City for lunch. Fares run from $2.50 one way, with $1.25 discount fares for over 65 and 17 and younger. Family day passes available.
8. Columbia Restaurant: food with history. Just checking out the interior decaor of this building in the historic Ybor district is worth it. Like dining in a Spanish castle! They have a Columbia House in St. Augustine too ( among other locations), but this original is our favorite. Columbia Restaurant is located at 2117 East 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605. Spanish cuisine.
9. The Beach: Not just an Alex Garland novel (but that WAS a good story)- catch the Clearwater memorial causeway over to Clearwater Beaches for some white sand fun. Great for Shell hunting too. Bring sun-screen.
10. And while you are there, Try lunch at Frenchy’s on the beach (Rockaway Grill). My friend, Tampa-gal, Brigitte, introduced me to the shrimp at the original Frenchy’s and then the live music at their spot right on the beach. Thanks, Brig!
11. Hillsborough River State Park: just 9 miles north of Tampa on US 301, this is the place for some wild Florida explorations. Check out the suspension bridge and rocky rapids. $6 a car load with bike, canoe and kayak rentals available in the park. Hillsborough River State Park is at 15402 US 301N, Thonotosassa, FL 33592
If you are planning more than one outing in the Tampa area, check out the Tampa Bay City Pass for savings. Official website here:
Other stories on this Florida Coast that may interest you:
Roller Coaster Thrills at Busch Gardens
Family Fun at the Florida Aquarium
Hunting for Manatees in Crystal River
and adventures in the Florida Panhandle:
Exploring Apalachicola with Kids
Snorkeling the Gulf Coast: Panama City Beach
The Coolest Gulf Coast Restaurant Ever