Discover a different side of Tampa with a list of activities that will set the pace as you explore the city's magnificent waterfront, test your adventure at must-see attractions, and indulge via our insider tips that will appeal to all senses and tastes.
1. Take in Sun and Surf at Tampa Bay’s World Famous Beaches
There’s much to be said about the pristine, tranquil beaches of Tampa Bay. While many will flock to other renowned spots like Archibald Beach Park and Ben T. Davis Park, explore a little further and enjoy the powder white sands and quiet stretches of Clearwater Beach. True nature lovers can do a little camping and exploring at Fort De Soto Park, where you’ll find wetlands, hammocks, and mangroves alongside biking trails and kayak rentals (and did we mention you can bring along Fido? Fort De Soto is home to a dog beach). For more exclusivity head to Caladesi Island State Park, which is only accessible by boat.
2. Meet the Fantastic Felines at Big Cat Rescue
It’s not every day you get the chance to get this close to majestic lions, tigers, cougars, and leopards, or rare cats like caracals, ocelots, and servals, but you’ll find them all and more at this incredible wildlife sanctuary specializing in exotic cats. Visit the facility during any of their day tours, but we suggest either booking a private tour or opting for their exclusive Keeper Tour, where you’ll get to make toys for the cats and watch as they play with your creations, and witness a live training session while learning about the history of the sanctuary.
12802 Easy St., Tampa, FL 33625
3. Discover Creatures Great and Small at the Lowry Park Zoo
This 63-acre zoo is home to a variety of beautiful creatures, from the African penguin to the clouded leopard. There are opportunities available to interact with these animals, like feeding the giant tortoises or towering giraffes, and premium experiences, like the behind-the-scenes tours that offer the chance to pet a white rhino, hand-feed an emu; you can even view an African elephant training session.
1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa, FL 33604
4. Swashbuckle your Way through Gasparilla Season
Every January during the must-see Gasparilla Pirate Fest, the city is invaded by a band of pirates sailing in through Hillsborough Bay on the Jose Gasparilla (the world’s only fully-rigged pirate ship). This unbelievable flotilla is followed by a four mile long parade of pirates and subsequent street festival that you’ll never forget. Even after the yearly reenactment is done, a full season of related, pirate themed events get underway, including the Sant’Yago Knight Parade (February), the Gasparilla Film Festival (March), and the Gasparilla Distance Classic (February).
5. Take a Stroll Down the Tampa Riverwalk
Some of the best sights of the city can be seen from the beautiful Tampa Riverwalk. Locals love coming here to run, bike, and skate from one end of town to the other, passing attractions like the Tampa Convention Center and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Enjoy the cool breeze, relaxing atmosphere, and interesting stops along the way like the Native American cenotaph, the historical monument trail, and the various quotes found along the water. And while there are several places to stop and dine, we recommend opting to dine on the water, literally, aboard one of the Yacht StarShip Dining Cruises.
6. Tap into Tampa’s Best Breweries
A craft beer aficionado is in for a treat when visiting Tampa. Just within the city proper, you’ll find longstanding establishments like Tampa Bay Brewing (which also houses a restaurant), younger spots like Coppertail Brewing (where tours are given daily), and probably their most well-known brewery, Cigar City. Then there’s also Angry Chair Brewing up in the Seminole Heights neighborhood and Hidden Springs Ale Works.
7. Score Tickets to Tampa’s Live Entertainment
Sometimes all you want is a front-row seat at a concert, or a VIP box at the game. Fortunately for you, Tampa offers both every week of the year. Visit George M. Steinbrenner Field in March and April and catch some Spring training games, or stop by later to watch the Minor League season in full. Catch championship-winning Tampa Bay hockey at Amalie Arena, or go on a different night to check out some of the hottest names in music. For independent film, comedy shows, and other live performances, visit the spectacular landmark Tampa Theater. And for unbelievable Broadway, theater, and dance performances, there’s nowhere quite like the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
8. Get Cultured at Tampa Bay’s Many Museums
History buffs will enjoy walking through the Henry B. Plant Museum as well as exploring the interactive exhibits at the Tampa Bay History Center and the American Victory Mariners Memorial and Museum Ship, where visitors can come aboard a fully-functioning 1940s-era steamship. Those of you who work in (or simply enjoy) the STEM fields will appreciate the Museum of Science and Industry, along with its planetarium and IMAX theater. And if your preferred outing involves perusing art ranging from ancient Greece and contemporary American paintings, to modern sculptures and timeless photographs, you’ll have to drop by the Tampa Museum of Art, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, or drive a bit further out to the Salvador Dali Museum out in St. Petersburg.
9. Go Buck Wild at Busch Gardens®
Visit Busch Gardens theme park in style by booking an Elite Adventure Tour, which entitles you to skip the lines, enjoy an up close and personalized Serengeti Safari, plus complimentary breakfast and lunch. You'll want to reserve your Elite Adventure Tour prior to your visit as this is a seasonal offering with limited availability in September and October. Another unique way to enjoy the park: be a "Keeper For The Day", where you’ll get to take part in the feeding and care of various exotic animals. Or attend a Serengeti Night Safari, designed for adults 21 and over, that includes private hors d'oeuvres and drinks, campfire tales of Africa, and up close visits with lions, tigers, hippos and giraffes.
10165 N McKinley Dr., Tampa, FL 33612
10. Hit all the Best Shops at International Plaza and Bay Street
Look no further than International Plaza and Bay Street to shop premium brands. Here you’ll find everything (and every shop) you need, from designer Michael Kors and Coach handbags, to beautifully crafted Montblanc watches and spectacular diamonds from Tiffany’s, plus quality clothing for him and her from Burberry and Gucci. And once you’ve shopped up an appetite, dine at the Capitol Grille or Brio, their premium onsite restaurants.
2223 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa, FL 33607