How can you find the best places to visit in Tampa, Florida and top things to do in town? From the historical to the cultural, from superb eats to thrilling family adventure, the answers are simpler than you think. A Florida hub with activities and locations designed to engage and entertain all ages, there’s no shortage of amazing spots to hit in town. Merely a hop, skip and a jump from the serene Clearwater beaches, this Gulf Coast gem more than holds its own with a rich heritage heavily influenced by Spanish and Cuban culture. Whether you’re visiting with family or flying solo, here are some of the must-see best places to visit in the Tampa, Florida area, and some of the best things to do while you’re enjoying a little sun and sand.
If there’s one thing that Florida is known for, its marine life. Located in downtown Tampa, the Florida Aquarium is an awe-inspiring facility housing around 7,000 animals and plants. Polar bears, penguins, sharks, stingrays, alligators — they’re all here in magnificent display. Once you’re done exploring all the exhibits, cast off on the Wild Dolphin Cruise that departs from the aquarium hourly.
Ask any Tampa local and they’ll tell you, the happening place on a Friday night is Ybor City. With fantastic restaurants and a bustling nightlife scene, you’ll find no shortage of reasons to stay out late. But it’s equally exciting during the day, and one of the best things to do and places to visit in Tampa, FL if you’re looking to take things at a more leisurely pace. Take a ride on the trolley through what was once known as the Cigar City. Stop off at the Cigar Museum and Visitor Center to learn about the area’s historical significance.
Pack up the family and head to Dinosaur World in Plant City. This education-packed facility has plenty of animatronic displays of life-like dinosaurs (more than 150), that will make you feel like you just stepped through a portal back in time. Kids will especially enjoy the fossil dig where they can sift through sand and dirt to discover actual dino fossils.
Home to an eclectic display of contemporary and modern art as well as European antiquities, the Tampa Museum of Art has been a mainstay in downtown Tampa for close to 40 years. While the artwork itself is awe-inspiring enough to enjoy, you’re going to want to make sure you check out one of their many informative events or workshops held continually throughout the year.
The SS American Victory is a wartime ship that served in WWII, The Korean War and The Vietnam War. Since retired, the ship houses the Mariner Museum open to the public for a small fee. Once on board you’ll find fascinating exhibits and artifacts detailing maritime history. One exhibit includes a submarine propeller from a sunken German U-boat during WWII that’s a must-see.
The Riverwalk is a charming pathway spanning nearly three miles along the Hillsborough River. While you’re free to trek the path in any way you like, we recommend starting at the south end. With the sun shimmering off the water on one side and endless restaurants, museums and shops on the other, the Tampa Riverwalk is the perfect place for a mood-lifting stroll.
There’s a reason why Busch Gardens is a renowned amusement park the world over. Sprawling over 335 acres, this African-themed park is home to over 12,000 animals. Before you leave for the day, make sure to check out the Cheetah Run for a view of the world’s fastest animal tearing through open plains. Thrill-seekers will want to ride the ShieKra but heed our warning: It’s not for the faint of heart.
Big Cat Rescue was established in an effort to curb wildcat hunting and ownership. Now home to 14 different species residing on 67 acres of land, it has become a popular place to visit to learn about some of nature’s most beautiful creatures. You’ll have the opportunity to see lions, tigers, snow leopards, cougars and bobcats.
The Straz Center is one of the biggest concert halls in Florida. Located off the Tampa Riverwalk, the hopping venue is a must-stop location for performers from all over the world. More than 4,000 performances are hosted by The Straz each season — including opera, comedy tours and traveling Broadway shows.
We’ve made mention of the Hillsborough River on this list as a beautiful flow of water lining the Tampa Riverwalk. But the river itself is only part of a beautiful sprawling State Park. A choice spot for picnics and morning hikes, the greenery is absolutely breathtaking. And the river is ideal for kayaking, row boating and fishing. Rent a canoe or kayak from Canoe Escape.
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Associate Editor Nick Gambino is originally from New York City. With a strong background in the entertainment and tech fields, he writes engaging reviews and think pieces for numerous websites and online publications. A life-long movie fiend, he hosts popular movie-centric show Get 2 the Podcast -
check it out at www.get2thepodcast.com