Tampa is a great getaway city with lush Florida scenery set on the inlet of the crystal waters that paint the Gulf of Mexico. If the sights of nature and wildlife preserves are not enough to satisfy the eyes, explore the many urban neighborhoods throughout the city with fantastic eats, clubs, cinemas and stunning sandy beaches about the Bay. Experience the culture within the many art galleries or sit back for some some entertainment with live performance arts at the theater. Tampa also offers a world of adventure for those who seek it. From Busch Gardens Tampa Bay to award-winning museums, zoos & aquariums, Tampa is an incredible vacation destination for the young and the young at heart. Snorkeling and marine-watching are two more activities you can add to the list of Tampa favorites.
Just a short trip outside the city will put you in the midst of the fishes and marine plants that call Florida home. Tampa offers guests a chance to see the shores from the bottom to the top with underwater activities along with fishing and boat rides. Set sail on a unique experience, and view the city from out over the Bay. Tampa proves to provide a great mix of city and scenery between the bustling streets and picturesque beaches. Those visiting nearby St. Petersberg (St. Pete) will want to be sure to check out this podcast episode I did, with everything you need to know about visiting St. Pete. Tampa’s conveniently located just 30 minutes from St. Petersburg (24 miles), a 1½ hour drive from Orlando (84 miles), and a 4½ hour drive from Miami (280 miles).
Top 11 Attractions
1. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay opened in March 1959. Themed areas of the park are Morocco, Bird Gardens, Land of the Dragons, Stanleyville, Congo, Jungala, Timbuktu, Nairobi, Crown Colony, Egypt and Sesame Street Safari of Fun. Attractions include Carousel Caravan in Timbuktu. Cheetah Chase is a five-story family coaster (“wild mouse style”), located in Timbuktu. Congo River Rapids is a 12-person raft ride through the Congo. Gwazi is the Southeast’s largest and fastest double Wooden Roller coaster with more than 7,00 feet of track, in Morocco. Jungle Flyers is a very neat multilevel zip-line with three different flight patterns located in Jungala. Kumba is one of the parks premier roller coasters with 100-foot plummets and 390 degree loops all at 60 mph, located in Congo. Montu is one of the worlds longest inverted coasters, in the Egypt themed area. Phoenix is not your average pirate ship- it flips UPSIDE down, in Timbuktu. Rhino Rally takes you on an African safari through animal habitats and wild adventures, located in Nairobi.
Here is our story: We went on a very cold day in October, in fact it was the next to last week they were open for the season and it was CHILLY. Even the lady who took our money to park was like “are you sure you want to go?!” We went on a cooler, off season day to avoid crowds and because we were only going to be here a few more days. We had hardly any waits. This is an older waterpark but they have many wonderful rides. Great waterpark, but hopefully it will be a little warmer next time.
3. Florida Aquarium – This huge 250,000-square-foot aquarium is home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals from all over the world. It opened in March 1995 and has quickly become one of the cities favorite attractions.
4. Treasure Island Beach, nearby city of Treasure Island – Locals and tourists alike love to flock to this beautiful beach. The area also has a nice variety of shops and restaurants.
5. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo – It is located 10 minutes north of downtown Tampa. See more than 2,000 animals including African Penguins, Chimpanzees, Mandrills, Orangutans, Lemurs, Komodo Dragons, Clouded Leapards, White Tigers, Florida Panthers, Red Wolfs, Manatees, Florida Black Bear, River Otters, Stingrays, Meerkats, Giraffes, Zebras, Elephants, Cheetahs, Koalas and Wallabys. Situated on more than 56 acres, this wonderful, child friendly zoo has great rides and attractions unlike many other zoos. Gator Falls opened in June 2008 as a kid friendly log flume ride with a single 30-foot drop. Hop on and go for a journey over the zoo and over 2 of only 38 known white alligators in the world. The rides are great and make this zoo truly one of the best in the country, as we pointed out in our podcast episode on “America’s Best Zoos.” Consider bringing a change of clothes if you plan on riding the Gator Falls Flume Ride because you will get VERY wet. Also note that some rides are $2 and others are $4 each and ride armbands are available for purchase at the Zoos main gate for $20, which we found to be very expensive especially after we paid $20.95 for adults and $15.95 for kids! So think about how many different rides you would want to ride and how many times you would want to ride them before getting a ride armband. But overall we were very impressed with this zoo and would love to go back.
6. Ybor City Ghost Tour – The Ybor City Ghost Tour is one of the most popular haunted tours in America that delivers the inside scoop on the legends and ghosts of Ybor city. Listen to the tales as you walk the historic streets as the guide takes you around to some of the most reputed haunts in town. You get to do your own investigating at well-documented paranormal sites with an electromagnetic energy detector. We rank it at #1 on our list of 13 Bone-Chilling Haunted Tours in the US. This tour has received a Certificate of Excellence on Trip Advisor in 2013, and tours start at 6:30 Monday through Wednesday and 8pm all other nights. Reservations are required and admission costs $25 for adults and $10 for children 6-12.
7. Salvador Dali Museum, St. Pete – It opened in 1982 and more recently moved to a brand new, state-of-the-art facility, which is a work of art in and of itself! This museum houses the largest Salvador Dali art collection outside of Europe. Admission is $21 for adults and $7 for children. Come after 5pm on Thursdays and admission is just $10.
8. Museum of Fine Art, St. Pete – It opened in 1965 and has grown to include a $21 million expansion which opened in 2008 to more than double the size of the museum. See masterpieces from world renowned artists like Claude Monet, Renoir, and Cezanne. They also have a very impressive photography collection. Admission is $17 for adults and $10 for children. Come after 5pm on Thursdays and admission is just $5.
9. Sunken Gardens, St. Pete – Discover a beautiful botanical garden right in the heart of the nearby city of St. Pete. See more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers at this 100 year old garden. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children.
10. The Museum of Science and Industry or just MOSI is a fantastic place to learn fun facts in a world of scientific collections. With interactive exhibits, live science presentations and grand IMAX dome theater, this place is sure to entertain! General admission is $21.95 for adults and $17.95 for children.
Bern’s Steak House – Since opening in 1956, Bern’s has grown to have the largest restaurant wine collection in the world – with over 90,000 bottles. The meal is complete with great steak’s and an internationally renowned dessert room.
Mise en Place – Enjoy modern American cuisine in comfortable environment at this award winning restaurant, which is considered by Gayot to be one of the 40 hottest restaurants in America. Sandwiches include the seared tuna club with apple wood-smoked bacon, avocado, Bibb lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, white cheddar and Louis sauce on brioche. Dinner appetizers can also be creative, like the banh mi-inspired L.A. Pizza with pork belly. Entrees are reasonably priced for such a high quality; for example the Pan-Seared salmon runs at $13.25 while Seared Duck Breast is $14.25.
Taco Fusion – They got the ingenious idea to make tacos filled with bison, shark, ostrich, gator, and even lion! Those looking for something exotic shall look no further.
Hard Rock Cafe – This is truly the only place where burgers, blackjack and bands come together. Enjoy classic American fare from their diverse food menu, including offerings from their world-renowned celebrity chef Steve Martorano. Experience an authentic rock atmosphere and live music on their exciting elevated stage. Don’t miss the touch-screen access to Hard Rock memorabilia and the chance to vote on Cafe soundtrack tunes. After the show, hit up the Rock Shop. There you’ll find an eclectic mix of keepsakes, including exclusive Hard Rock Tampa merchandise.
Palmer House Bed & Breakfast is a country place to stay with plenty of southern hospitality. Enjoy many of the activities onsite such as kayaking, golfing, swimming, biking, and horseback-riding on the trails.
The Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn is a boutique hotel located within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and a great night scene. With Persian rugs and cast iron balconies, this hotel will charm!
Hyatt Place Tampa Busch Gardens is a great place to stay onsite if your vacation includes a trip inside Busch Gardens. Enjoy free WiFi and continental breakfast included each morning.
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites New Tampa (I-75) this hotel may be a Holiday Inn, but the service is exceptional, 3 time Touchbearer Award! It has held the top spot on review websites and comes complete with complimentary hot breakfast each morning.
Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay is a great hotel surrounded by a lush 35 acre nature preserve. This picturesque location is just minutes away from Florida Aquarium. The hotel provide spacious rooms, an oyster lounge and bar onsite along with fitness center, nature trail and pool.