Planning on spending some time in Tampa?
Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Tampa is an incredible city, offering up everything from extraordinary natural beauty to history and culture.
If you want to ensure that you are making the most of the very best that Tampa has to offer, here are the top eight things to put on your to-do list.
SPEND THE DAY MUSEUM-HOPPING
Tampa is home to so many fascinating museums, with their subjects ranging from art and photography to science and history.
No matter what you may be interested in, you are sure to be able to find a museum in Tampa that appeals to you.
Here are just a few of the museums worth checking out in the city:
Tampa Museum of Art – featuring regularly rotating exhibits to keep things current, along with a world-renowned permanent collection, this iconic museum appeals to a wide audience, even those who do not know much about art
Tampa Bay History Center – this is the place to go to learn more about the city’s complex past. From interactive exhibits to artefact collections, this museum is a popular one with both tourists as well as locals
SS American Victory – this floating museum is located on a warship that is permanently docked at Tampa Bay. It features nine decks that give you an up-close view into what life on the ship used to be like
Museum of Science and Industry – the largest science museum in the south-east USA, this interactive museum boasts more than 450 exhibits and activities, along with tours and daily talks
Henry B. Plant Museum – situated in an extravagant Victorian mansion, this museum documents how the city has risen and grown over the years. The museum’s gardens are just as impressive as its interior, with everything from meandering walking trails to ornately-carved fountains
Glazer Children’s Museum – if you are visiting Tampa with kids, the Glazer Children’s Museum is a must. This museum holds more than 150 exhibits that children can explore, with most of these being hands-on
GET YOUR ADRENALINE GOING AT BUSCH GARDENS
Most people have heard of Busch Gardens before, with this theme park being one of the most popular in the entire country.
There are 335 acres to play around in here, with different themes, all relating to African animals, running through the park.
Love theme park rides?
There are nine roller coasters here, each one guaranteed to get your blood pumping. There are also two large water rides, along with several other types of rides too.
Of course, an African animal theme needs to be accompanied by animals, and the animal attractions here are quite a big part of the park.
The Bird Gardens are home to 500 tropical birds, while Walkout Way is where you can go to hand-feed kangaroos, including any babies that they may have at the time. For a walk-through African safari, complete with hippos, crocodiles, giraffes and lions, head to the Edge of Africa section.
There is definitely plenty to see and do at Busch Gardens, and you will likely need to dedicate an entire day to exploring it all.
TAKE A STROLL ALONG THE TAMPA RIVERWALK
The Tampa Riverwalk is a 2.5 mile-long pedestrian path that snakes alongside the Hillsborough River. It links downtown Tampa up with the many parks, museums and entertainment venues in the city, as well as, of course, the waterfront.
This is an amazing place to take a leisurely stroll. In addition to the scenery all around you, there are so many attractions that you can stop off and see, including:
Tampa Museum of Art – mentioned earlier
Straz Center for Performing Arts – one of the largest performing arts venues in south-east USA
Curtis Hixon Park – a beautiful public park that lies at the center of many of the city’s most popular attractions
Numerous restaurants and cafes – give Columbia Cafe a try for Cuban-Spanish dishes, or Bavaro’s Pizza for wood-fired Italian classics
The path itself is also dotted with exhibits that will teach you more about the city’s past. There are also public art exhibits located along the path, making this walk such an interesting one.
GIVE WATER-BIKING A TRY
Have you ever been water-biking?
It’s similar to riding a bicycle, except that you are on water, on a vessel that floats just like a kayak.
Water-biking is a great way to explore the city, allowing you to see it from a completely new perspective.
Even better, you can choose your own route, whether you want to follow the Hillsborough River or check out Davis Islands.
Wondering if you need to be a certain age to use a water-bike?
No, riders can be any age, and there are even tandem versions available for those who want to pair up. Experience does not matter either – even those who have never tried this before will find it easy to do.
MAKE THE MOST OF THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Tampa is famous for its natural beauty, and there are so many areas around the city that are perfect for taking this all in.
The Hillsborough River State Park was one of the first state parks in Florida, and lies beside the Hillsborough River. It feels like a wild tropical paradise, wit h wetlands, bayous, climbing vines and tropical birds.
There are seven miles of hiking trails to take you through all of this, along with some beautiful picnic areas where you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy your peaceful surroundings. If you want to cool off in the summer heat, take a dip in the freshwater swimming pool – it’s guaranteed to refresh you!
Lettuce Lake State Park is also a must-visit, with this 240 acre park offering up a range of activities. There is plenty of wildlife here to keep an eye out for, along with exhibits to explain exactly what is around you.
The Upper Tampa Bay Trail will also help you to escape the bustle of city life. There are 596 acres here, with this important ground protecting a wide range of habitats and animals. There are nature trails criss-crossing their way through the park, along with boardwalks to take you around the freshwater ponds, where you will see a variety of aquatic plants and animals.
Are you a plant enthusiast?
If so, you would probably want to pay a visit to the Eureka Springs Park Trail.
Because this 31 acre park is home to the largest publicly-owned fern collection in all of Florida. This lush forest features a variety of plant-life, with winding trails and exhibits to help you explore it all.
EAT YOUR WAY AROUND THE CITY
Many people do not realize that Tampa is actually quite the foodie paradise.
Immigrants that arrived into Tampa over a century ago brought their culinary flavors with them, creating a vibrant cuisine with strong influences from Cuba, Spain, Italy and Germany.
Here are just a few of the must-try dishes you need to sample when in Tampa:
Cuban bread – this is a staple in Tampa, and you will find it served up in many ways all over the city. Pinky’s Diner is particularly popular, since they freshly bake six varieties of the bread
Strawberry milkshakes, muffins, martinis and more – strawberries are cooked into just about everything at Plant City, which is otherwise known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. Over three quarters of the country’s winter strawberry supply comes from here, and you can even pick your own berries when they are in season
Fresh seafood – some of the finest seafood in the country can be found in Tampa, whether you are after mahi mahi, shrimps and scallops, oysters, lobster, or just about anything else you could imagine. If you want it all, Oystercatchers is the place to go, where you will find all of these classic dishes in an elegant fine dining setting. Of course, there are some gorgeous views of the coast to be had from the restaurant too
Peruvian food – Peruvian cuisine is extremely popular in Tampa, and Happy Fish is an authentic restaurant to try this at. From grilled pork chuletas fritas to ceviche, all washed down with Peruvian beers, this is a meal that will definitely satisfy
Craft beer – craft breweries have been popping up all over Tampa in recent years. Cigar City is one of the more popular ones, with a number of craft beers that are often quickly sold out, while Coppertail Brewing has a tasting room with 20 taps, along with a tempting food menu
MEET SOME ANIMALS
Are you an animal lover?
Tampa offers up many opportunities that enable you to get up-close and personal with a wide range of different animals.
The Big Cat Rescue is always a popular one. This sanctuary provides a home for more than 100 big cats, ranging from tigers to mountain lions to cougars. Of course, many of these cats are nocturnal, so night tours and night feeding sessions are available for those who want to see the animals at their most active.
If you are visiting Tampa with children…
The Lowry Park Zoo never disappoints, and it has expanded quite a bit in recent years. There are more than 1000 animals here, ranging from koalas from Australia to orangutans from Borneo. The zoo places a special focus on threatened and endangered animals, protecting and rehabilitating them.
If you would prefer farm animals to exotic animals, HorsePower for Kids Inc. is a family petting zoo with horses, pigs, goats, rabbits and more. Kids can pet the animals and can also try their hand at several different activities, such as horseback riding.
Want to learn more about Tampa’s sea creatures?
The Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center is very educational. Manatees are protected and nurtured here, and, in addition to learning more about the animals, you will also be able to see them swimming around in a beautiful habitat.
The Florida Aquarium would also be a good choice, boasting more than 20,000 aquatic plants from all around the globe.
Many of these exhibits here are interactive, making this another attraction that tends to be especially popular with children. Plus, the outdoor water-based play area, with everything from pirate ships to water cannons, never fails to impress the young ones either!
Prefer seeing animals in their natural habitat?
There are several boat tours offered at Port Tampa Bay, where you will be taken out into the water to catch a glimpse of the beautiful wild dolphins that live here. There are so many different pods that live in these waters, meaning that you are pretty much guaranteed to see these majestic creatures each time you go out on a boat tour. Of course, the exotic sea birds that you will pass along the way are an added bonus too!
ENJOY A WORKOUT WITH A VIEW AT BAYSHORE BOULEVARD
Want to see some of the best views of Hillsborough Bay?
Bayshore Boulevard is the place to go.
This road, along with its accompanying 10 foot-wide sidewalk, stretches out for 4.5 miles, with stunning views of the water the whole way along. On the other side of the road are the millionaire homes of south Tampa, making the whole experience feel ultra-glam.
This road is an extremely popular spot among those looking for somewhere scenic to exercise. From skaters and cyclists to joggers and dog walkers, there is always so much activity going on along Bayshore Boulevard.
Here’s an extra tip for you…
The sunrises here are particularly impressive, so try to time your visit for early morning.
Tampa offers up so much excitement and diversity, making this a city that appeals to so many. Whether you are into art and culture, wildlife and nature, or simply want to relax with some good food, this is a city that just about everybody quickly falls in love with.