Are you looking for Tampa vacation ideas? Look no further! You’ll soon discover why Tampa, Florida is one of the most famous vacation spots in the US.
Tampa, Florida’s location on the west coast of Central Florida (some people mistake Tampa Florida to be part of South Florida) has made it well-known for its beaches and sunsets, much like the rest of the state.
In addition, Tampa Florida is also known for its amusement parks, botanical gardens, and events that take place year-round — so many vacation ideas for everyone to enjoy!
Tampa Florida is the economic and cultural center of Western Florida, It is also its most populous city. In many ways, it is analogous to what Miami is to South Florida, but much more relaxed and with better beaches.
Table of Contents
The Best Tampa Vacation Ideas
Downtown Tampa Florida
In Tampa’s city center alone, you can find tourist attractions such as the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Bay History Center, and the Tampa Museum of Art.
The city center is also a great place to enjoy a various restaurants and bars and unique shops.
Tampa Bay History Center
The Tampa Bay History Center recounts the history of the Tampa Bay area from prehistoric times to the present day.
In addition, there is also a great view of the Tampa Riverwalk from the Tampa Bay History Center windows!
The Tampa Bay History Center has a lot of exciting information about the history of both Tampa and St. Petersburg. The Tampa Bay History Center opens at 9 am every day except Sunday, when it opens at 10 am.
The Tampa Riverwalk is a path that stretches for over five miles through the heart of Tampa. It provides beautiful views of both the sea life along the waterfront.
There are numerous remote spots in The Tampa Riverwalk where you and your loved one can have some quality time.
The Tampa Riverwalk is one of the finest Tampa FL spots for picturesque vistas. It runs along and will give you amazing views of the Hillsborough River.
Port Tampa Bay
An excellent place to stop by for a day or night during your visit is Port Tampa Bay.
Port Tampa Bay offers great views of the bay and a relaxing atmosphere, making it one of the best ideas for those who want to enjoy a beautiful afternoon.
Glazer Children's Museum
Another great attraction in the downtown area of Tampa FL is the Glazer Children’s Museum.
Glazer Children’s Museum is perfect for those who have kids or love spending time with children.
There are so many fun activities for children and something to entertain everyone at The Glazer Children’s Museum!
Museum Of Science And Industry (MOSI )
The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is another Florida vacation idea that you can find downtown.
Tampa has many excellent museums, but the MOSI is a top attraction for Tampa visitors because they host various special events, including summer camps and day trips.
The largest science center in the southeastern United States, MOSI features 400,000 square feet of interactive activities.
It includes a butterfly garden, planetarium, and an IMAX Dome Theatre — the only one in Florida.
Tampa Museum of Art
The Tampa Museum of Art is a wonderful spot to visit if you want to learn more about the art and history of Florida. This museum has works by many famous artists and a lovely collection of antique items.
The Tampa Museum of Art is located in Tampa’s downtown at 120 Gasparilla Plaza on the banks of the Hillsborough River, and it is open seven days a week.
The USF Contemporary Art Museum (CAM)
Another great museum in the center of Tampa is the USF Contemporary Art Museum (CAM).
The CAM exhibits work by many local and national artists. It has over 8,000 visitors each month.
The USF Contemporary Art Museum is located on the University of South Florida’s campus, which also houses botanical gardens. The botanical gardens offer a quiet place to relax among nature — all excellent opportunities for the whole family to enjoy while you’re visiting beautiful Tampa!
Henry B. Plant Museum
The Henry B. Plant Museum is part of the Tampa Bay Hotel, a 500+ room luxury resort hotel owned by railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant. He also built the city’s first long-distance railroad system, connecting Tampa to the rest of the Southeast.
The Henry B. Plant Museum was converted into a museum in 1933. It is a luxurious Victorian mansion with Moorish features that has been exquisitely restored. The resort’s history is one of the most exciting parts of the museum.
The Henry B. Plant Museum features exhibits about Florida history, including a special section for kids.
Another perfect idea is the Tampa Theatre. This theatre, listed in the national register of historic places was built in 1926. It is located at 711 N Franklin St Tampa, FL.
The Tampa Theatre, which still has its original Wurlitzer organ, is one of eight structures in the North Franklin Street Historic District (designated on April 28, 2002). It is home to many great events that promote the local arts scene.
Visit a Tampa Landmark
The Le Meridien is a luxury hotel that formerly served as a federal court. The Le Meridien is ideal for anybody wanting to visit somewhere a little different for a night.
The hotel has a popular rooftop bar. Its downtown location makes it one of the most popular Florida vacation ideas for those wanting to visit one of Florida’s most culturally vibrant cities.
It is located right across the street from the Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa’s Channelside District, and the Glazer Children’s Museum, the Le Meridien is perfect for anyone wanting to visit somewhere unique.
The Columbia Restaurant is the oldest and biggest Spanish restaurant in the country, dating back to 1905 when the Hernandez Gonzmart family established it in Tampa’s historic Ybor City district.
A national historic landmark, The Columbia Restaurant is a great place to visit and taste the food of both Florida and Spain.
Spend the day at Hillsborough River State Park!
The Hillsborough River State Park is known as one of the last wild places in Florida.
It is home to several endangered animal species and has over 26 miles of trails. The park also features launching areas for boats, picnic areas, and two fishing piers.
Inside this park, you’ll find Fort Foster State Historic Site, featuring a replica of Fort Foster from the era of the 2nd Seminole War.
Hillsborough State Park and all of Tampa Bay are on land once inhabited by the Tocobaga Indians.
Hillsborough River State Park is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, with over a mile of wild beauty and wildlife-viewing hiking trails. From here, you can enjoy a freshwater swimming hole and several picnic areas.
The Hillsborough River State Park is located at 801 Old Water St. Spend a day exploring the natural beauty of this park!
Shop till you drop at the International Plaza or Hyde Park Village.
International Plaza and Bay Street
International Plaza and Bay Street is a charming shopping and dining destination near the Tampa International Airport. The plaza, which features over 140 stores, includes many high-end boutiques and exclusive retailers, as well as over ten restaurants to choose from.
The International Plaza and Bay Street is located off I-275, making it one of the most visited Tampa FL, tourist attractions. It is also near the Tampa International Airport. It has a more boutique-style selection of stores and restaurants.
Hyde Park Village
Hyde Park Village is located in Downtown Tampa, approximately two miles from Channelside and International Plaza.
The shopping destination features everything from casual clothing to high-fashion boutiques, as well as over two dozen restaurants to choose from.
Visit Busch Gardens
If you haven’t had enough Tampa vacation ideas, how about a day of thrilling amusement park rides and animal exhibits at Busch Gardens? This incredibly popular theme park is not only fun for all ages, but it’s also beneficial to the animals on display.
Busch Gardens is a 335-acre African-themed family entertainment and adventure park with thrill rides, live shows, animal attractions, and various exotic animals.
You may go on a safari to view the natural habitats of African animals grazing on the grasslands and see replicas of African villages and camps.
Four thousand four hundred feet in length, it is one of many rides at Busch Gardens that provides a life-like experience for guests. It is a popular tourist destination and one that is very exciting.
The best thrill ride in Florida is Busch Gardens’ Cheetah Hunt, which boasts a triple launch roller coaster. It flies riders high above the park and backs down into the heart of the action.
It’s unique because it combines roller coaster elements with a traditional steel coaster and takes it to a whole new level.
Soar over the park’s savannahs on SheiKra, the world’s first floor-less dive coaster where riders plummet over a 100-foot drop into the gorgeous landscape of Busch Gardens.
When you’re not riding the best roller coasters around, you can visit natural habitats and interact with animals from all over the world. The 20-acre Serengeti Plain lets you see the savannah’s animals up close and personal, which makes it one of the best things to do in Tampa. It features bird gardens and over 1,500 animals from all over the world.
Explore the history and culture of Ybor City
Tampa Florida is rich in history, and one of the most popular ways to experience it is by visiting the historic district. Ybor City is a must-see destination for anyone traveling to the Tampa area!
Ybor City is in the National Historic Landmark District. It is named for its founder, cigar baron Vicente Martinez Ybor. He came to the region in the mid-1880s after workers at his Key West plant threatened to unionize.
At one point, the Ybor City cigar factory was the largest in the world, with over 4,000 people hand-rolling more than 900,000 cigars a month. It was once called “The Cigar Capital of the World.”
Ybor City (ee-bore) was founded by cigar workers from Cuba, Mexico, Spain, and Italy. It is also home to the city’s Latin quarter and one of the largest Cuban-American communities in the United States.
Now, Ybor City is one of Tampa’s most popular destinations because of the unique culture and architecture that has stood the test of time.
Visit Ybor City to learn more about this significant piece of Florida history. This national landmark has transformed into a thriving nightlife district with its distinct character.
(Old Hyde Park is also part of Tampa’s historic center, just like Ybor City. It is also a destination in the city that is home to dozens of galleries and modern boutiques.)
Head to the Beach for Some Sun, Sand, and Surf
Clearwater Beach is less than thirty minutes from Busch Gardens and offers one of the most amazing beach-based Tampa FL destinations in the Tampa Bay area.
The beach itself spans seven miles, providing hours of exploring for guests. There are many different activities available at Clearwater Beach, too.
You can rent jet skis or kayaks to experience Tampa Bay at its finest. There are also volleyball courts available for those interested.
Go on a Tampa Bay Food Tour
Experience some of Tampa’s best restaurants, bars, breweries, and cultural hot spots by participating in one of Tampa Bay Food Tours.
The tours are small (usually no more than 10to 12 people). Tampa Bay Food Tours provides the best possible experience for you, including highlighting top eateries.
You’ll get to taste food from 6 -12 separate establishments, most of which have additional menu items available if you still have room in your stomach after tasting everything.
Enjoy a diverse trip with stops at Spanish, Cuban, German, BBQ, and other restaurants. You’ll have the opportunity to explore historical neighborhoods in Tampa’s downtown as well as enjoy views of the mighty Tampa Bay.
The food is delicious, and you’ll also learn about different areas of Tampa FL, on this tour. The guides at Tampa Bay Food Tours are very knowledgeable about the city and will point out things you otherwise may miss.
Get up close with animal encounters
One of the best vacation destinations in Tampa is the Florida Aquarium. The Florida Aquarium has interactive exhibits, rare marine life exhibits, and educational shows.
One of the largest aquariums in the US, it measures 200,000 square feet and features over 25,000 marine and freshwater animals.
It is on the waterfront in downtown Tampa, accessible by bus and streetcar. It is open from 9:30 am – 5 pm every day.
The Wild Dolphin Cruise
Take a trip on a wild dolphin cruise in the Tampa area. It departs from the Tampa Convention Center.
The cruise is a fun way to explore the natural habitat of dolphins you would not otherwise get to see without a boat. It lets you get up close and personal with dolphins.
The tour also features an aquarium section full of fish and other sea life you might not otherwise see up close. Get up close and personal with some of the sea’s most amazing creatures like dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and some exotic fish.
A Florida dolphin cruise is a great activity for kids and adults alike that allows you to get right next to some of the wildlife that Tampa Florida has to offer.
Manatee Viewing Center
In Apollo Beach, you can visit the Manatee Viewing Center. This place is dedicated to all things manatee.
Here, visitors can watch rescued manatees that are currently being rehabilitated before being released into the wild.
The Manatee Viewing Center is a small, protected refuge located across from the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach and operated by Tampa Electric.
Tampa Electric has created a six-acre Manatee Viewing Center — a freshwater habitat with an underwater viewing area for you to walk. Here you can see the sea cows and learn about how they live and breed.
The manatees migrate to the plant during the summer months in search of heat from the power plant’s warm water. They may be seen in large numbers swimming around the plant’s discharge canal and nearby power generation units.
The Manatee Viewing Center is open to the public at no cost, but it is only accessible when the manatees are present, generally from November through March.
Butterfly gardens, the Florida Native Wildflower Trail, and various birds are also exhibited in a tidal walkway.
At the midway point of the Manatee Viewing Center’s habitat loop trail is a 50-foot viewing tower, where you may get an aerial view of the plant’s discharge canal or catch a glimpse of Tampa Bay.
The center is located in Apollo Beach, about 25 miles south of downtown Tampa. It might be chilly by the water, especially during the winter, so dress warmly and carry a jacket with you.
Big Cat Rescue
Keeper Tours are a great way to learn more about big cats. You can meet some of the many animals at Big Cat Rescue during the tour, including lions, leopards, bobcats, cougars, servals, caracals, and more.
Big Cat Rescue is a non-profit sanctuary home to over 100 rescued cats. The cats have been abandoned, abused, illegally kept as pets, or saved from being turned into fur coats.
A team of experienced and dedicated staff care for the needs of all their rescued animals. The care includes sharing the same habitat during the day and sleeping together in a “big pile” at night.
The staff is also dedicated to educating the public about the issues surrounding keeping exotic animals as pets or in zoos. They actively campaign against hunting and trapping of all kinds.
Big Cat Rescue also has a small gift shop selling souvenirs and gifts. This unique attraction is fun for adults and kids alike.
Lowry Park Zoo
Lowry Park Zoo is another one of Tampa’s best attractions. If you love wildlife, this is one of the best Tampa vacation ideas. The zoo, originally a botanical garden dating back to 1914, is home to over 3,000 animals of 500 different species.
Lowry Park Zoo has over 1,300 animals, including chimpanzees, Borneo orangutans, Florida Panthers, Queensland koalas, Malayan tigers, and Western lowland gorillas.
Watch a Tampa Bay team compete in a Sporting Event.
Football — Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an NFL team in the South Division of the NFC. They joined the NFL in 1976 as an expansion team along with the Seattle Seahawks.
The Buccaneers play in Raymond James Stadium, located in Tampa, FL. The stadium opened in 1998 and is the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The stadium has a capacity of nearly 70,000.
Baseball — Rays at Tropicana Field
The Tampa Bay Rays are an MLB team in the East Division of the American League. The team joined MLB as an expansion team along with the Arizona Diamondbacks. They started playing in 1998.
The Rays play in Tropicana Field, located a few miles outside downtown Tampa, FL. The stadium opened in 1990 and is the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. It has a capacity of close to 35,000.
Hockey — Lightning at Amalie Arena
The Tampa Bay Lightning are an NHL team in the South Division of the Eastern Conference. They joined the league in 1992 along with the Ottawa Senators.
This Tampa Florida team plays in Amalie Arena, located in Tampa, Florida. The arena opened in 1996 and is the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It has a capacity of over 19,000.
Bonus Vacation Ideas in February and March
The Florida State Fair
The Florida State Fair takes place in Tampa, Florida. It is held at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater and runs for three weeks through February 21, 2022. There’s still time to catch it!
Several different types of entertainment are available during the fair, including carnival rides, live music on the MidFlorida Credit Union stage, animal exhibits, educational seminars, and more.
Florida’s Strawberry Festival
Florida’s Strawberry Festival takes place at the Florida State Fairgrounds in March. It is an eleven-day event, and it is the largest strawberry festival in Florida. Be sure not to miss this!
The Beach Boys, Lady A, Jake Owen, Boyz II Men, and 20 other acts will headline the Wish Farms Stage in 2022.
The admission price includes access to many stages throughout the fairgrounds and free entertainment.
Multiple exhibits, a carnival midway, and livestock shows are also part of this annual event.
The Best Tampa Vacation Ideas
There are many great Tampa destination ideas. Whether you like to visit zoos and museums, go on day tours to see the dolphins, or night tours to see wild cats, ride roller coasters, or experience vibrant local culture, Tampa FL has something for you.
If you’re looking for a great deal check out the Tampa Bay City Pass! For $129 you can get admission to these 5 attractions: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and MOSI or a Boat Tour to see the dolphins.
Tampa Florida is close to several other major cities, including Orlando – home of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld. LEGOLand and the Discovery Cove; and Sarasota, home of Siesta Key Beach. This makes Tampa a great home-base for exploring these other great destinations. Happy exploring!
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