Things to do in Tampa, FL
Tampa, located on Tampa Bay in the center of the West Florida coast, is known for its beaches, its cigars, and its rich Cuban-American heritage. It is also a destination for Cuban cuisine, golf, skateboarding, heavy metal music, theme parks, and animal conservation. In our expert guide, we'll walk you through some of the city's hippest destinations and highlight cool things to do in Tampa that cater to adults and couples as well as fun experiences appropriate for kids and families.
Fun Things to Do in Tampa: Top Attractions
Some of the top things to do in Tampa revolve around the city's beautiful beaches and harbors. Of course, tourists and native Floridians alike love Florida for its picturesque sandy beaches and take the opportunity to enjoy swimming, fishing, boat excursions, picnics, volleyball, and other fun activities all across the state. But the greater Tampa region has some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. Some of our top recommendations in the area include Ben T. Davis Beach near downtown Tampa, the shores of Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin, and Clearwater Beach in Clearwater.
Perhaps Tampa's most famous attraction is Busch Gardens. The theme park's Tampa location features roller coasters, thrill rides, the Adventure Island water park, a variety of shows, and an extensive zoo with more than 300 animal species. The park also features weekly special events, summer camps and school programs, shopping, and restaurants. Visiting Busch Gardens is one of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, and many families plan a whole trip around the park. Even longtime Tampa natives ought to pay the park a visit at least once!
Another highlight of Tampa is Ybor City, a historic neighborhood just northeast of downtown. Ybor, which was incorporated into Tampa in 1887, was established by immigrants to the area, primarily those from Cuba, Spain, and Italy. It was nicknamed "Cigar City," referring to its many Cuban cigar factories. Today, it is still the center of Cuban history and culture in the Tampa Bay area. In modern times, Ybor is associated with a thriving nightlife district, Cuban and Spanish restaurants, and cigar bars. Historic landmarks and museums chronicling the area's ethnic heritage and cigar-manufacturing history pepper the neighborhood.
What's on Tap Downtown This Weekend?
If you're looking for things to do in Tampa this weekend, downtown offers a variety of options. While the Bay region has many driveable destinations, there are plenty of things to do in downtown Tampa that are easily walkable and won't require a lengthy time commitment. Many in Tampa like to take advantage of the city's guided tours; walking, boat, balloon, and helicopter tours are all very popular. If you're interested in a walking tour, we recommend booking with Ybor City Historic Walking Tours, Tampa Bay Food Tours, or the Tampa Mafia Tour. If you prefer some unstructured walking time on your own, the Riverwalk is always a good choice. For something a little more adventurous, try a boat tour with Tampa Bay Fun Boat or Olde World Sailing Line. You can even go fishing on a tour with Tampa Flats and Bay Fishing Charters or Gone Fishing Charters. Or you can fly high above the city with a hot air balloon tour from Soaring Sports or a helicopter tour with Old City Helicopters.
Shopping is another popular activity downtown. Some of the most highly rated shopping areas in Tampa include Big Top Flea Market, Channelside Bay Plaza, Hyde Park Village, University Mall, International Plaza and Bay Street, and the Tampa Premium Outlets. You'll also find a variety of specialty shops around the city that offer unique products and services. Some of our favorites are Tabanero Cigars, the Columbia Restaurant Gift Shop, Old Tampa Book Company, Joe & Son's Olive Oils, Tampa Sweethearts Cigar Company, and Cleanse Apothecary.
Sports fans will find great opportunities, too. Going to football and baseball games are two of our favorite things to do near Tampa Airport. Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers (or "Bucs" for short), is located directly to the east of the airport. George Steinbrenner Field, the spring training base of the New York Yankees, is right next door. And downtown dwellers also have access to Amalie Arena, located in the Channelside District. Here, you can watch the Tampa Bay Lightning take the ice as well as attend arena football matches, college basketball games, concerts, and other special events throughout the year. For those who prefer participating in sports, golfing is one of our favorite things to do in Tampa, Florida. While there are many highly rated golf courses all around the Bay region, there are lots of great options right near the airport and downtown center, including Rocky Point Golf Course, Babe Zaharias Golf Course, and Terrace Hill Golf Club.
Tampa for Adults: Nightlife and Romantic Date Idea
In recent years, Tampa has developed a thriving nightlife. Some of the most fun things to do in Tampa for couples revolve around the city's hippest neighborhoods. Some of our favorite neighborhoods for couples looking for things to do in Tampa at night include Ybor, Channelside, Soho, and Hyde Park. Each of these neighborhoods has its own distinctive flavor, but all of them are known for their restaurants, bars, shopping, nightclubs, and performing arts venues. Some of the top performing arts venues in Tampa include the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the Tampa Theatre, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, Gorilla Theatre, and Orpheum. Musical theater, improvisational comedy, hip-hop, and heavy metal are particularly important aspects of the Tampa area performing arts scene. Many couples in Tampa find one of these to their taste on date night.
Tampa's restaurants and bars are also vital to the nightlife of the area. In a city rich in Cuban-American heritage, Cuban food is an important part of the regional cuisine. Columbia Restaurant, La Teresita, West Tampa Sandwich Shop, and Brocato's are very popular choices around town. Spanish cuisine, Mexican food, seafood, and barbecue are other important culinary traditions across the Bay region. Traditional bar experiences like you'll find at the highly recommended tasting room at Coppertail Brewing Co. are available throughout the city, but Tampa's big draw is its cigar bars. We recommend King Corona Cigars or John Rolfe Lounge for couples looking for a relaxing cigar-smoking experience tonight.
Family-Friendly Fun for Kids
While Tampa is a great destination for adult-oriented fun, there are also plenty of things to do in Tampa for kids and teens. Families with young children often like to take advantage of the city's annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest. While the festival is fun for fans of all ages, little kids especially love the pirate ships and parade! Another popular seasonal event with families is the Florida State Fair. In the off-season, the fairgrounds play host to a number of exhibitions and events throughout the year; check out their website for more information on what's happening this month.
Tampa is an important city for skateboarding. Kids and teens love to try out the area's skate parks, including the nationally recognized Skatepark of Tampa (SPoT) and Bro Bowl. Families can also browse SPoT's equipment shop and participate in clinics and camps. Tampa also plays host to the famous Tampa Pro contest each spring; maybe you'll catch a glimpse of a famous skater in action!
Some of our favorite choices for family things to do in Tampa are both educational and fun. Kids will love the Glazer Children's Museum, featuring interactive exhibits on local culture, art, and science. Another attraction popular with families is the SS American Victory, a floating World War II-era maritime museum. Kids also love the area's zoos: Aside from Busch Gardens, Tampa families can also pay ZooTampa, Big Cat Rescue, and the Manatee Viewing Center a visit.
Free Things to Do
Looking for free things to do in Tampa this weekend? Look no further! Tampa has plenty of affordable options for those on a budget. First and foremost, most of the area's beaches and parks are free of charge. Head down to your favorite neighborhood beach and soak up some rays! Or head over to Lettuce Lake Park, Centennial Park, Cypress Point Park, or any of the city's other beautiful green spaces. Go for a jog, bring your bike, or pack a picnic! If you're looking for a long walk, check out the longest stretch of continuous sidewalk in the country on scenic Bayshore Boulevard.
For adults, two of the city's coolest attractions are absolutely free. Take a free tour of the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. to learn how cigars are made in the last operating factory in Tampa. The factory also includes a small museum on the history of cigar-making. If beer is more your speed, check out the Yuengling Brewery, which offers free tours and tastings six days a week!
Indoor Activities for Rainy Days
While Florida's weather is beautiful, sometimes, rain does fall. When you need things to do in Tampa indoors on those dreary, rainy days, we have you covered. The city is home to a variety of museums that are sure to cater to the tastes of everyone in your family. A popular destination is the Florida Aquarium, home to more than 7,000 aquatic plants and animals. The aquarium offers summer camps, up-close-and-personal Animal Encounters, diving experiences that allow visitors to swim with the animals, and offsite cruises and scuba dives. For a more traditional museum experience, we recommend the Museum of Science & Industry, Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa Bay History Center, Ybor City Museum, Henry B. Plant Museum, or Tampa Firefighters Museum.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Ready to go exploring? There are lots of things to do near Tampa that are just a short drive away. The Bay region is home to two other major Florida cities: Clearwater and St. Petersburg, just half an hour away on the west side of the Bay. In Clearwater, you'll find some of West Florida's most beautiful beaches, an impressive aquarium, the Florida Botanical Gardens, and Splash Harbour Water Park. In and around St. Petersburg, watch the Tampa Bay Rays play at Tropicana Field, check out the Salvador Dalí Museum, explore Fort De Soto Park, and traverse the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Tampa is just a 90-minute drive away from the beautiful city of Orlando, Florida, and while Orlando has enough attractions to warrant its own guide, a few of them stand out as particularly worth a day trip from Tampa. Orlando is, of course, known for its many world-famous theme parks. Adults and kids alike will enjoy a visit to Walt Disney World, the biggest draw to the city. Within the Disney complex, you'll find the original Magic Kingdom, Discovery Island, the Typhoon Lagoon water park, EPCOT Center, the Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the winter-themed Blizzard Beach water park. The second-largest theme park complex in Orlando is Universal Studios Florida. In it, you'll find the original park, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Other excellent theme parks to consider on your trip include Legoland Florida, SeaWorld Orlando, Gatorland, and Discovery Cove.