What is now a bustling city and top tourist destination for Florida was once a small territory in 1845. The development of Tampa began when Henry B. Plant’s 1884 railroad extension to the Hillsborough River provided access to new areas. He then built lavish hotels along his rail line to attract visitors to the Tampa area. Located about 85 miles ( km) southwest of Orlando and 281 miles ( km) northwest of Miami, there are many things to do in Tampa.
Over the years, Tampa has gained a ton of nicknames, including Florida’s Suncoast, Cigar City, Lightning Capital of the World, and The Big Guava. These nicknames all play into Tampa’s weather, natural resources and early businesses started in the area. In recent years, Tampa has become a hotspot for fun for all ages. The city is home to major sporting stadiums, museums, bustling bars and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a marine experience, cruise the bay at sunset or try popular local food spots, keep reading along for the top 20 things to do in Tampa, Florida.
- Tampa, Florida
- Planning a trip to Tampa?
- 20 Things To Do in Tampa
- 1- Explore Downtown Tampa
- 2- Enjoy One Of Florida’s Most Popular Beaches
- 3- Eat Your Way Through The City On A Food Tour
- 4- Get Inspired By The Innovation At MOSI
- 5- See The City From The Water On A Boat Tour
- 6- Ride Thrilling Roller Coasters At Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
- 7- Take The Kids To Glazer Children’s Museum
- 8- Watch A Documentary At The Tampa Theatre
- 9- Try Your Luck At The Seminole Hard Rock
- 10- Party Like A Pirate At Gasparilla Music Festival
- 11- Escape The Big City At Weedon Island Preserve
- 12- Experience 10,000 Years Of History
- 13- Play On An Inflatable Jungle Gym At Epperson Lagoon
- 14- Try Local Vodka At Florida Cane Distillery
- 15- Treat Yourself At International Plaza and Bay Street
- 16- Make A Feline Friend At Big Cat Rescue
- 17- Kickflip Your Heart Out At A Landmark Skate Park – SPoT
- 18- Smell The Roses
- 19- See Aquatic Animals At The Florida Aquarium
- 20- Watch a Baseball Game At Tropicana Field
Planning a trip to Tampa?
Here are some suggested tours and hotels. Book early to make sure you don’t miss out.
- Tampa Bay Zip Line Adventure – feel the adrenalin rush!
- Tampa Bay CityPASS – save money and get access to lots of attractions.
- 1.5-hour Dolphin Sightseeing Cruise – for nature lovers.
- Tampa Celebrity Homes Boat Tour – cruise the canals and dream.
- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Admission Ticket – skip the line and prebook your tickets.
- Luxury Private Boat Charter – splurge on a speedboat.
Transfers and Hotels
- Private Arrival Transfer – from Tampa Airport
- Check the latest prices of hotels in Tampa
20 Things To Do in Tampa
1- Explore Downtown Tampa
Downtown Tampa is a hub for exciting activities and experiences.
Sip on cocktails while gazing at the Tampa skyline in a rooftop bar, indulge in spectacular food at local bistros or catch a movie at the theatre.
Some of the unique things to do downtown are the Tampa Riverwalk and the preserved WWII cargo ship at the docks.
To get your bearings, there are several tours you can join, including guided tours in a golf cart, by Segway or eBike along the waterfront. For something different, try a spooky ghost tour.
Downtown Tampa is also known for having world-class lodgings and luxury suites, so your accommodation can be within walking distance of all the action.
Downtown Tampa is at 600 E Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33602. If you’re planning on seeing several attractions, it’s worth getting the Tampa Bay CityPASS.
2- Enjoy One Of Florida’s Most Popular Beaches
Located just a 40-minute drive west of Downtown Tampa, Clearwater Beach is known for its long stretches of soft white sand and clear waters.
This beautiful beach is an experience you won’t want to miss and often lands on lists of the best beaches in Florida.
Rent a cabana and lay on the beach or explore the waters with activities such as sightseeing cruises, snorkelling, surfing or boogie boarding.
Clearwater Beach is at Gulf of Mexico Dr, Longboat Key, FL 34228.
3- Eat Your Way Through The City On A Food Tour
Even if you don’t consider yourself a “foodie,” you’ll still enjoy the unique tastes of Tampa.
The city has a well-developed food culture, with the MICHELIN Guide awarding the Bib Gourmand award to several Tampa restaurants.
Fresh seafood, Cuban sandwiches and bread, deviled crab, and grouper sandwiches are some of the tasty delights in Tampa.
Joining a food tour is a great way to tap into Tampa’s rich flavours and culinary experiences that speak to your soul.
Tours are usually in small groups, dining at the most popular eateries while discovering cultural delights and learning a bit about the city’s history. Find out more here.
4- Get Inspired By The Innovation At MOSI
The Tampa Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is one of the city’s top attractions for hands-on learning, with more than 100 interactive activities.
Sleep on a bed of nails, explore optical illusions, climb on a ropes course, explore a Moonbase lunar colony or gaze at the stars in the Saunders Planetarium.
General admission starts at $14 for adults. In addition to day passes, the museum also offers special events and camps for children to participate in during school breaks. Skip the line and reserve your tickets here.
The Museum Of Science And Industry is at 4801 E Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL 33617.
5- See The City From The Water On A Boat Tour
With Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico within seconds from the city, what better way to view this beautiful city than from the water?
There is no shortage of boat tours in the Tampa area, so we’ve narrowed down a few of the most popular companies below offering a variety of ways to set sail.
Whether you’re looking for a fishing charter, a romantic sunset cruise, a tiki bar on water or a wildlife viewing tour, Tampa has got you covered.
For the best experience, book these cruises in advance, as they tend to fill up because of their popularity. Here are some options:
- 90-minute Tiki Boat Cruise – BYO food and drinks.
- 1.5-hour Dolphin Sightseeing Cruise – for nature lovers.
- Tampa History Cruise – discover the secrets of the past.
- Tampa Celebrity Homes Boat Tour – celeb spotting on the canals.
- Luxury Private Boat Charter – be a celebrity and charter your own private boat.
6- Ride Thrilling Roller Coasters At Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
This attraction is part zoo, part amusement park, but all fun.
There are zip lines, rollercoasters, bumper cars, bird gardens and safari tours.
There are endless hours of fun available at Busch Gardens, and it can easily keep you busy for an entire weekend.
Along with its permanent attractions, the amusement park also offers rotating seasonal events such as Mardi Gras, Food and Wine Festival Concerts, and Sesame Street Kids’ Weekend.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is at 10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612. Skip the line and reserve your tickets here.
7- Take The Kids To Glazer Children’s Museum
Glazer Children’s Museum is a fun, interactive place where children can take a hands-on approach to learn new information.
Some exhibits are Art Smart, Twinkle Stars Theater, and the Engineers Workshop.
The museum offers special events and camps, so check the website for the most up-to-date happenings.
Glazer Children’s Museum is at 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, FL 33602.
8- Watch A Documentary At The Tampa Theatre
This historic landmark in the heart of Downtown Tampa is a movie palace built in 1926 and is now managed by the Tampa Theatre Foundation.
The auditorium hosts more than 700 events yearly, including first-run and classic films, concerts, special events, corporate events, tours, and educational programs.
If you can’t make it for an event, we recommend going on the Balcony to Backstage tour on select Tuesdays and Sundays.
The tour shows you the interworkings of a show and various art and architecture found around the theatre.
The Tampa Theatre is at 711 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602.
9- Try Your Luck At The Seminole Hard Rock
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is like a playground for adults. On top of your typical hotel amenities, such as delicious restaurants, fun bars and a spa, the Hard Rock offers the fun of gambling.
Even if you don’t have a room at the hotel, visitors can try their luck at some of the most popular casino games, such as slot machines, poker, blackjack, and roulette.
The hotel also has lounges that offer rotating entertainment, such as live music and comedy shows.
You can find an event calendar on their website that fits your preference.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is at 5223 Orient Rd, Tampa, FL 33610.
10- Party Like A Pirate At Gasparilla Music Festival
Gasparilla Music Festival is a recurring music festival held in Tampa, Florida.
If you visit in February, you should consider getting tickets to this one-of-a-kind festival.
Gasparilla Music Festival takes place in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens Park and features a wide variety of genres and cuisine from local vendors.
The festival aims to support the Gasparilla Music Foundation, which educates, supports and promotes local musicians and music students in the Tampa Bay area.
Gasparilla Music Festival is at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park at 600 N Ashley Dr, Tampa, FL 33602.
11- Escape The Big City At Weedon Island Preserve
While Tampa can be a fun city bustling with people, events, and activities to participate in, sometimes you want to slow down the pace and connect with nature.
Weedon Island Preserve is the perfect place to do just that.
This 3,190 acre (1290 ha) natural area is home to numerous species of native plants and animals.
The preserve offers an educational centre, boardwalks, guided tours and annual events/programs for visitors to learn and tour the beautiful grounds.
Weedon Island Preserve is at 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702.
12- Experience 10,000 Years Of History
Florida has a rich history that starts with Native groups and Spanish settlers.
The Tampa Bay History Center offers visitors three floors of exhibits that take a closer look at the area’s history.
Roam through permanent exhibits such as the Winds of Change theatre, the Charles L. Knight Gallery, or the Witt Research Center to better understand the events that brought Tampa to what it is today.
The History Center is open daily (10 am to 5 pm). Adult admission starts at $16.95.
Tampa Bay History Center is at 801 Water St, Tampa, FL 33602. You may also this history cruise.
13- Play On An Inflatable Jungle Gym At Epperson Lagoon
Florida has no shortage of sunshine and water activities, we know this to be true. But, at Epperson Lagoon, you can take the fun of a water day to the next level.
Grab your swimsuit and get ready for bouncing, sliding, and paddling at this man-made lagoon.
Climb through an inflatable obstacle course, relax on a floating cabana or bounce around in Bumper Boats.
This is surely one of the best waterparks in the Tampa area.
Epperson Lagoon is at 31885 Overpass Rd, Wesley Chapel, FL 33545.
14- Try Local Vodka At Florida Cane Distillery
Florida Cane Distillery is Florida’s first-ever vodka tasting room, founded in 2012.
The distillery is dedicated to using local ingredients to make world-class spirits.
You can tour the facilities, sip handcrafted cocktails, and participate in a hands-on whiskey distilling school that allows students to make their own whiskey to take home.
Florida Cane Distillery is at 1820 N 15th St, Tampa, FL 33605.
15- Treat Yourself At International Plaza and Bay Street
If you have some extra room in your suitcase, or you won big at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, you might want to venture over to the best shopping district in the Tampa Bay area.
International Plaza and Bay Street encompasses hundreds of stores to browse and spend a little cash.
It’s the biggest mall in Tampa, so you’re bound to find what you need and maybe a little of what you didn’t need.
International Plaza and Bay Street is at 2223 N Westshore Blvd, Tampa, FL 33607.
16- Make A Feline Friend At Big Cat Rescue
Big Cat Rescue is a sanctuary for exotic cats that has been around since 1992.
Its mission is to provide the “best home for the cats, end abuse of big cats in captivity, and prevent extinction of big cats in the wild.”
The animal conservation is situated on 67 acres (27 ha) and dedicated to big cats only, from lions to bobcats to tigers.
You can join a guided tour of the habitats and see webcams of their homes, nests and hospital recovery wards.
Big Cat Rescue is at 12802 Easy St, Tampa, FL 33625.
17- Kickflip Your Heart Out At A Landmark Skate Park – SPoT
The Skatepark is one of the USA’s most well-known skate parks.
The park has been featured in Tony Hawk video games and MTV documentaries and has been named the SPoT by locals.
Even if you aren’t a skater, visiting this skate park should be on your list of things to do in Tampa. Beginners and professionals can shred on rails, ramps and jump points.
You can bring your own equipment or rent from the park.
The SPoT has been home to annual events such as Tampa Pro and Tampa Am competitions for over 25 years, attracting more than 200 skaters worldwide.
SkatePark of Tampa is at 4215 E Columbus Dr, Tampa, FL 33605.
18- Smell The Roses
Once you have spent your vacation bouncing, swimming, learning and eating your way through Tampa, you might want to smell the roses for a bit. Or perhaps the orchids, begonias, mallows and bromeliads that the University of South Florida Botanical Gardens.
The Gardens maintain a living collection of more than 3,000 plants and natural habitats, including a butterfly garden.
The University of South Florida Botanical Gardens is open Monday to Saturday (9 am to 4 pm). Admission is just $5.
You can participate in guided tours or yoga in the garden every Friday.
University of South Florida Botanical Gardens is at 12210 USF Pine Drive, Tampa, FL 33612.
19- See Aquatic Animals At The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium has the biggest collection of aquatic animals in Tampa, with more than 20,000.
You can see various fish, coral, turtles, sharks and penguins.
On top of your average exhibits, the aquarium has interactive activities such as a 4D theatre that plays educational films, an outdoor water park for kids, and a catamaran that takes you out on a dolphin tour.
The aquarium is open from Monday to Sunday (9.30 am to 5 pm), tickets are $32.45 for adults. Skip the line and book your tickets here.
The Florida Aquarium is at 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602.
20- Watch a Baseball Game At Tropicana Field
Tropicana Field is a great place to catch a baseball game and is home to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The stadium also features a dome ceiling to keep onlookers cool during a game.
The grounds have plenty of concession stands such as classic hotdogs, cotton candy and popcorn, Cuban sandwiches, crispy fish tacos and crab mac and cheese.
If you get bored during the game, no worries. Tropicana field has an interactive Rays Touch Experience.
Visitors can learn about and touch cownose stingrays that are cared for by the Florida Aquarium staff.
Tropicana Field is at 1 Tropicana Dr., St. Petersburg, FL 33705.
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