Located on Tampa Bay and home to a number of breathtaking beaches, Tampa is a vibrant Florida city with stunning natural attractions, diverse wildlife, and a ton of amazing things to do. This family-friendly vacation destination offers you plenty of chances to explore the great outdoors, from kayaking through mangroves to getting up close with alligators. Plus, with high temperatures throughout most of the year, there are very few days where you can’t get outside!
But if you want a break from the beautiful weather, you can head to many of the indoor attractions as well. Tampa is a haven for art and culture, so you’ll explore art throughout the centuries at museums, see shows in iconic theaters, and even step inside an incredible Buddhist temple. From world-class theme parks to the bustling Tampa Riverwalk, there really is something for everyone in Tampa.
With so many things to see and do in Tampa, how do you know what to plan for your next vacation? Well, we’ve compiled our list of the best things to do in Tampa to help you plan your perfect trip. Add these unique activities to your Tampa bucket list, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring “The Big Guava!”
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15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Tampa
1. Come Face to Face with Your Favorite Sea Creatures at the Florida Aquarium
Located in the Channel District, right by the downtown area, the Florida Aquarium is one of the best Tampa attractions if you’re an animal lover. This six-acre aquarium is home to animals from all over, and with several habitats to explore, you’re bound to see your favorite.
Check out the turtles of the Wetlands of Florida, journey through a tropical coral reef in Journey to Madagascar, or touch sea stars in the No Bone Zone. In addition to nine different habitats, you can also explore a number of unique exhibits. Check out the rotating art and science exhibits inside the CIBC Aquatic Lounge, take your little ones to make a splash in the Splash Pad outdoor water play zone, or become fully immersed in the 4-D movies of the 4Ducks Theater.
Looking for even more ways to get up close with the animals? The Florida Aquarium offers a few premium experiences to add to your day. Set sail on the Bay Spirit II to look for dolphins on the Wild Dolphin Cruise, or take an underwater walking tour in the Heart of the Sea habitat with SeaTREK.
2. Celebrate Spring Training with the Innings Festival
March brings about the start of spring training for Major League Baseball, and there’s no better place to be to see it than in Florida. Over in Tampa, the season kicks into high gear with the Innings Festival, a celebration of all things baseball, music, and food.
This weekend-long event, which is one of the most unique things to do in Tampa, takes place at the Raymond James Stadium, where a lineup of some of the best musical acts around grace the stage each day. But in addition to seeing your favorite musical performers, you’ll also see special appearances by some of the biggest names in baseball, both past and present.
You can also try your hand at some spring training yourself as you celebrate the return of the Grapefruit League Spring Training. Step into the batting cage, check out some incredible baseball memorabilia, and so much more.
And through it all, you can get your food and drink on. Try specialty cocktails in the Aviation American Gin Hangar Lounge, sip on a Tequila Sunrise from Mamitas Tequila Bar, or chow down on food from some of Florida’s best vendors. It’s a weekend of fun for everyone, from the baseball lover to the concertgoer to the foodie.
3. Have a Roaring Good Time at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Orlando may be the “Theme Park Capital of the World,” but Tampa has a few of its own amusement parks you’ll love. Located in the Terrace Park neighborhood of Tampa, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a 335-acre theme park designed to bring you into the wild, making it one of the best things to do in Tampa for the whole family.
With African and Asian architecture throughout, this animal-themed park will have you roaring just as much as screaming. Take a ride on one of several massive coasters, like the triple-launch Cheetah Hunt, go on a relaxing train ride through the Serengeti, or splash down on a wet and wild water ride.
Then, check out a family-friendly show featuring everything from your favorite Sesame Street pals to rescue animals to incredible dancers. Or take one of the many tour options or animal interactions to get up close to the animals and learn what it takes to care for these amazing creatures.
Busch Gardens is also known for having cuisine available that goes beyond what you might traditionally think of as “theme park food.” And while you can enjoy these treats throughout the year, the best time to eat around Busch Gardens is at the Food & Wine Festival, which arrives every spring, where you’ll find specially curated dishes, cocktails, and more.
4. Splash Around at Adventure Island Tampa Bay
As Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s sister water park, Adventure Island is filled with just as many fun things to do, earning it a spot on your Tampa bucket list. Going here is a great way to spend a hot summer’s day, and there are plenty of those to be had in Tampa!
Drop down an epic free fall at Vanish Point, race your friends down the four-lane Riptide, or scream with your friends while you ride down together on the corkscrew-filled Colossal Curl. There are 10 waterslides to try, each with its own unique ways to get your heart pumping.
But that’s not all you’ll find at Adventure Island. You’ll also discover many more opportunities for play and relaxation. Ride the waves in a 17,000-square-foot wave pool, cruise down a lazy river, go cliff-diving, or take your little ones to explore their own kid-friendly, water-filled attractions.
5. See a Show at the Tampa Theatre
In the heart of downtown, you’ll find a historic landmark, and seeing a show here is one of the coolest things to do in Tampa. The Tampa Theatre allows you to step back in time to the days when the movie palace reigned supreme.
This massive palace dates back nearly 100 years and is a beloved community landmark. Centered around a romantic Mediterranean courtyard filled with old-world statues and an abundance of flowers, the Tampa Theatre is a perfect place for a date night. Take your plush velvet seat as you watch a show under a realistic night sky with twinkling stars.
The Tampa Theatre hosts both movies and live events. When you visit, you may watch the latest Oscar winners, or you might just see your favorite comedian on stage. And if you want an even more in-depth look at this theater, you can also take a Balcony to Backstage Tour, where you’ll learn all about the theater’s secrets and history and see the famous “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ in action.
6. Stroll Along the Tampa Riverwalk
Looking to do some Tampa sightseeing? One of the best places to do this is at the Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.4-mile-long walkable, bikeable, and Segway-able path that runs along the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa. The view from this path makes it a lovely way to spend a morning or afternoon as you enjoy a leisurely stroll and watch the boats go by.
But the Riverwalk is also home to upscale dining, boutique shopping, and many other fun Tampa attractions. Over in the south end, you’ll marvel at the 550-photo collage that is the beautiful Riverwall. Then, stop by the Sail Pavilion for a drink in a 360-degree open-air waterfront bar.
Picnic by the water at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. And once you make it to the north end, be sure to stop by the beloved Ulele, a favorite restaurant named for a legendary Florida indigenous princess located in the historic Tampa Heights Water Works building.
7. Journey Around the World Through Art at the Tampa Museum of Art
Are you an art lover? Then visiting the Tampa Museum of Art is definitely one of the best things to do in Tampa. Located right off the Riverwalk, this 100-year-old museum focuses on ancient, modern, and contemporary art and houses one of the most extensive collections of Greek and Roman antiquities in the southeast US.
The museum itself is a work of art all on its own, with a 14,000-square-foot LED installation of Leo Villareal’s Sky on the southern facade and a 23-foot-tall cast iron sculpture of Jaume Plensa’s Laura with Bun in the north.
The exhibitions in this museum are always changing, so you never quite know what you’ll see when you visit here. Take a journey through photographs of another time, marvel at antiquities from the ancient world, or learn how different textures can create art you’ve never seen before.
The museum also hosts many events throughout the year that show just how many different meanings art can have. From fashion from another time and place to live performances that move you, there’s always new art to celebrate here.
Adults and children alike can also get more hands-on at the Tampa Museum of Art. Take a studio class, enroll your child in Summer Art Camp, or listen to a lecture from an incredible artist.
8. See Your Child’s Imagination Soar at the Glazer Children’s Museum
The Glazer Children’s Museum needs to be on your Tampa bucket list if you’re traveling with little ones. Located right by the Tampa Museum of Art, visiting here is a great way to expand your art-filled day in Tampa.
There’s nothing quite like seeing your child’s imagination come to life, and the Glazer Children’s Museum will do exactly that. This interactive museum asks kids to explore and connect with the world in a brand-new way.
There are over 15 hands-on exhibits in this museum, all working together to create a mini world where kids can thrive. See where food comes from at the Farm, become a star at Twinkle Stars Theater, travel around the world at the Global Cafe, and much more. Whatever your child wants to be, they can become it at the Glazer Children’s Museum.
The museum also hosts monthly events. The first Tuesday of every month is Free Tuesday, with free admission between 9:30 am and 5 pm. Sunshine Sunday is held on the last Sunday of each month. It’s a special event where the lights and sounds are turned down, and the space is filled with sensory-adapted toys for children who need a more sensory-friendly experience. These events are all part of the museum’s inclusion goals of providing every child with what they need to thrive.
9. Take in the View from Lettuce Lake Conservation Park
Just outside of Tampa, you’ll find a well-maintained park that’s perfect for a day of exploring and doing a bit of Tampa sightseeing. The Lettuce Lake Conservation Park is a 240-acre park in Hillsborough County that gives you a tranquil place to get outside and get active. It also offers one of the best sights in the Tampa area!
Rent a kayak to journey down the Hillsborough River, go for a jog around the park’s 1.25-mile paved exercise path, or go on a bird-watching walk or native plant tour. But no matter what you do, you should head to the 3,500-foot boardwalk through the swamp, where you’re bound to see some wildlife, including alligators.
While you’re on the boardwalk, you can also head to the three-story observation tower, which provides you with sweeping views you won’t want to miss. Take in the incredible view as you enjoy a peaceful day at this one-of-a-kind park.
10. See the Gentle Giants of the Manatee Viewing Center
Just nearby Tampa in Apollo Beach, you’ll find the Tampa Electric Co.’s Big Bend power plant. What’s so special about a power plant? Well, it’s home to one of the best Tampa attractions from November to April.
For much of the spring and summer, manatees hang out in the Gulf of Mexico. But when the water temperatures begin to drop, they make their way to springs and power plant outfalls where the water is significantly warmer. To humans, we just see water around a power plant. To manatees, they see their new home for the winter.
Alongside this water, you’ll find the Manatee Viewing Center, which provides you with a boardwalk to get a closer look at these herbivores, as well as other creatures like rays and spinner sharks.
You’ll also be able to visit the nature center, where animal specialists will tell you all there is to know about manatees, before walking along the nature trail, which takes you through mangroves to get an even better look at the local wildlife.
11. Go Wild at ZooTampa at Lowry Park
If you want to see even more animals, head over to ZooTampa at Lowry Park, one of the best zoos in Florida and one of the best things to do in Tampa.
ZooTampa is more than a zoo. It’s a non-profit dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating animals, including the beautiful manatees, while teaching the public about conservation efforts in fun and interactive ways. It’s a great place for the whole family to learn more about what it means to care for our planet and all the creatures within it.
This zoo takes you around the world with its exhibits. In the Florida area, you’ll see the local wildlife, learn what it takes to care for injured manatees, and even splash down on a family-friendly water ride. Then, swing into the Primate World, where you’ll come face to face with creatures from Madagascar, Cameroon, and many more places across the globe.
Journey to Australia with the Wallaroo area, where you’ll meet wallabies, flying foxes, and more. You’ll also find a chance to get up close to the koalas, go on Australian-themed rides, and check out the barnyard. And in the Africa area, you’ll find the largest collection of animals, as well as backstage encounter opportunities and safaris.
12. Visit the Sunday Market at Wat Mongkolratanaram
There are few Tampa attractions that are more beautiful than the Buddhist temple Wat Mongkolratanaram, or Wat Tampa for short. This lovely ornate building is located on the Palm River and is surrounded by stunning live oak trees. It should absolutely be on your Tampa sightseeing tour, but you should stop by for another reason as well.
For over 30 years, this temple has hosted a Sunday market, where dozens of vendors serve some of the best Thai food you’ve ever had. Visiting the market is one of the most unique things to do in Tampa. Explore the grounds, find the remarkable dragon statues, and chill out at a picnic table as you dive into your meal.
Outside of the delicious food, it’s also a great place to immerse yourself in Buddhist culture. Religious services are also held on Sundays, and visitors are welcome to observe as long as they follow traditional Buddhist etiquette and be respectful. If you visit outside of Sunday, you’re also welcome to meditate at the temple, provided you do not arrive during the times when the monks are meditating.
13. Take a One-of-a-Kind Tour on the Pirate Water Taxi
Ahoy, mateys! Looking for one of the best hop-on, hop-off tours in Tampa? You’ll find it with the Pirate Water Taxi, which offers daily river cruises of Tampa. With its whimsical narration, this tour is one of the most unique things to do in Tampa and a must if you’re visiting Tampa with kids.
Journey through downtown Tampa as you make 17 stops around the Riverwalk, Channel District, downtown, and Davis Island. There’s no better way to see it all than from the water!
This taxi also hosts a number of special events during the week and throughout the year. Although drinks are available on board when you cruise down the River Route, every cruise Monday through Thursday from 4 pm to 7 pm is a Happy Hour Cruise.
Other events include the St. Patrick’s Day Paint the Channel Green Cruise, where the taxi drops environmentally-friendly green dye every hour to spread Irish cheer, and the July 4th Fireworks Cruise, which provides you with a perfect view of the fireworks from the water.
14. Kayak Around Downtown or Through the Mangroves
Looking for another way to do some Tampa sightseeing? Book a tour with Urban Kai, which offers two very different kayaking or paddleboarding tour experiences.
More into being at one with nature? Join the Eco Tour Through the Mangroves. You’ll venture through a gorgeous preserve, where you’ll paddle around mangroves and come up close to everything from birds to manatees. Want a spectacular view of downtown Tampa? Book the Downtown Tampa Tour, where you’ll paddle alongside the Riverwalk and take in the sights and sounds of the city.
If you want to head out on your own, you can also book kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to create your own Tampa adventure.
15. Explore the Sunken Gardens
Located in nearby St. Petersburg, the Sunken Gardens are a four-acre botanical garden that looks otherworldly. It’s right in the heart of the city, providing you with a tropical paradise in the middle of a bustling city.
This 100-year-old living museum gives you meandering paths to go on a relaxing stroll through a collection of more than a thousand plant species. Along the way, you’ll also find flocks of flamingos, waterfalls, and lush gardens.
While visiting the Sunken Gardens is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon all on its own, it also hosts a number of events most days. Experience the most relaxing yoga class you can imagine here, take part in festivals dedicated to different plant species in the garden, or learn about how to care for these unique plants. You can also book garden tours, rent out gardens for special events, or participate in horticultural classes.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Tampa. What’s your favorite thing to do in Tampa?
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