Are you new to the area or just need a refresher on the best things to do in Tampa? We know, it’s overwhelming, but we’ve got you covered!
Tampa, Florida is the 48th most populous city in the United States, becoming a bustling destination for families and tourists alike looking to turn a regular vacation into a memorable adventure.
The city is made up of many small neighboring towns annexed to accommodate the growing community, making it the perfect starting point for an unforgettable day trip.
Although named the “lightning capital of the world,” Tampa boasts a cool climate that is perfect for a multitude of activities for everyone. Animal lovers can check out the local zoos that are one of the perfect things to do in Tampa with kids.
Families and thrill-seekers can get adventure at theme parks or soak up some sun in some of the prettiest beaches in Tampa! There are even things to do in Tampa for adults, like checking out one of the many breweries that glitter the Gulf-coast skyline.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Tampa, discover some of the best activities the bay area has to offer!
17 Fun Things To Do In Tampa
If you’re looking for free things to do in Tampa, the Tampa Riverwalk is a great place to start! Running along the Hillsborough River, this is a beautiful 2.6-mile pedestrian walkway starting downtown near the Channelside District before going up to Waterworks Park in Tampa Heights! Along the way, you’ll find public art, history, parks, hotels, among the Tampa, Florida attractions.
Following beautification and extension efforts completed in 2016, the city has said its purpose is to “enhance the image of Tampa as a beautiful and unique destination” while highlighting the waterfront of the Hillsborough River. A series of bronze busts and statues, commissioned in 2012, line the walkway.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Tampa, the Tampa Riverwalk is a beautiful place to start!
Henry B. Plant Museum
Architecture and history buffs rejoice at this next Tampa, Florida attraction, the Henry B. Plant Museum. The building, formerly known as the Tampa Bay Hotel, is located downtown on the campus of the University of Tampa.
Originally opened in 1891 by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant, the Tampa Bay Hotel was one of the most affluent hotels in the entire state of Florida. Today, it is one of the best museums in Florida.
Boasting 511 rooms with amenities ranging from a bowling alley, racetrack, casino, golf course, and indoor heated swimming pool, the Tampa Bay Hotel also had the first elevator ever installed in Florida. Still operational today, the elevator is one of the oldest ever to still function in the United States.
After the hotel closed because of the economic turmoil of the Great Depression in 1930, it was utilized once more as classrooms for the local junior college, only to be granted National Landmark status, then restored and partially reopened as a museum to the public.
The museum’s exhibits are centered around tourism from the Gilded Age in Tampa, the lifestyle of the affluent and famous guests, and the hotel’s use by the United States as a base for the Spanish-American War.
Today, visitors can visit Tuesday through Sunday, with the exception of major holidays. During Christmastime, guests may attend the annual Victorian Christmas Stroll, hosted by the hotel.
The Tampa Theatre is certainly one of the most unique movie theaters you will ever visit, making its visitation one of the most fun things to do in Tampa! Now a city landmark, the opulent interior by John Everson adds an old-world ambiance lost to the new architecture found in new theaters.
Today, it runs as Tampa’s only non-profit movie palace, after citizens rushed to save the historic theater when faced with closure. Daily film showings range from international films, documentaries, and foreign flicks.
The theatre, equipped with a sizable stage, has also become a performance venue for special events and touring musical artists like Ray Charles, John Legend, and The Police.
There’s always something special happening or playing there, so make sure not to miss out on one of the best things to do in Tampa.
The Hindu Temple of Florida
One of the most beautiful things to do in downtown Tampa is to pay a visit to the Hindu Temple of Florida. In 1983, a group who had emigrated to the Tampa Bay area felt they had no real place to practice Sanatana dharma came together to renovate a small plot of land that contained a modest house.
The result of years of fundraising, dedication, and perseverance is what is now the Hindu Temple of Florida, which now serves as a house of meditation and prayer.
With beautiful architecture, located directly in front of the Indian Cultural Center, the temple hosts a bevy of activities beyond religious services, including classes on public speaking, yoga, ancient Indian scripture, and SAT preparation.
Those looking to visit one of the most glitteringly beautiful Tampa, Florida attractions can visit every single day of the week, whether it be to take a class or just learn more about Indian culture.
Curtis Hixon Park
If you’re looking for things to do in Tampa this weekend, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a trip to Curtis Hixon Park. The park lies at the waterfront along the Hillsborough River in the heart of downtown, right next to many other popular Tampa, Florida attractions like the Tampa Museum of Art and the STRAZ Center.
There is usually always something going on at Curtis Hixon Park, whether it be a food truck rally, a live concert, inflatable playgrounds for children and adults.
Even if you’re not there for an event, there is a small dog park, a jungle gym for kids, and a cannot-miss view of the University of Tampa which lends itself to a picnic lunch or slow stroll on the edge of the water.
If you even make a visit during the winter holidays, you can take a brisk skate on the ice rink set up on the center of the grounds.
The Florida Aquarium
One of the most fun things to do in Tampa with kids is to pay a visit to the Florida Aquarium. Located in the Channelside District downtown, the aquarium is an absolute-must of Tampa, Florida attractions.
Visitors can pay a visit and observe many of the aquatic and terrestrial creatures native to Florida and the rest of the world. The aquarium also is a leader in marine conservation as well as education by means of field trips and summer camps.
Classes are offered to children, ranging in topics from conserving marine life to snorkeling in Florida natural springs without disturbing manatees.
Kids can play in an aquatic-themed water park, adults can brave a swim with the sharks, and the whole family can meet the arctic penguins when they waddle out for a meet and greet! On occasion, the aquarium hosts adult sleepovers to spend a night next to the hypnotic glow of the massive tanks.
Tampa Museum of Art
Located on the scenic Hillsborough River waterfront, the Tampa Museum of Art is host to an ever-growing permanent collection of ancient, modern, and contemporary art, and houses one of the biggest Greek and Roman antiquities collections in all of the Southeastern United States.
Most notable and easily recognized by the outdoor 14,000-square-foot LED art installation, for ten years it has quickly become one of the city’s most beloved landmarks. The museum’s curators frequently update a schedule of visiting exhibitions, featuring the best of old and new contemporary artists from all over the nation.
Guests can visit the Riverwalk cafe to sip on coffee or savor the gelato, and find excellent gifts and souvenirs at the Museum Store.
The space is small enough to take in the area’s best collection of national and international art, making it an ideal first stop on your best day trip from Tampa.
Busch Gardens Tampa
Unlike its sister park in Williamsburg, Virginia, Busch Gardens Tampa is one of the most exciting things to do in Tampa with kids, thanks to the area’s year-round sunny weather.
It is the 11th most-visited theme park in all of North America for a reason. With an African theme, the park has 9 distinct areas connected by a steam train, the Serengeti Express.
Children can frolic and meet Elmo and friends in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun, with daily performances from the gang and an interactive play area. Those tall enough (and their adult counterparts) can get their adrenaline rush by riding one of the 10 heart-pounding roller coasters, notably Iron Gwazi, a hybrid coaster that is currently the world’s fastest and steepest.
Busch Gardens is also known for its environmental conservationist efforts, with extensive zoo exhibits housing animals native to each area of the park as well as an animal operating theatre open to the public.
Guests can feed animals like kangaroos and birds, and if you happen to be visiting at the right time, you might just get to have a special encounter with a baby animal.
With something for any and everyone in the family, Busch Gardens Tampa is one of the best things to do in Tampa and offers multiple ticketing packages.
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)
Just next to the University of South Florida, MOSI, or the Museum of Science and Industry, is one of the best things to do in Tampa with kids. An interactive, non-profit science museum, kids (and their adventurous counterparts) can learn about the different areas of science in an engaging way!
Opened in 1982, the museum offers interactive exhibits to guests, like arranging topographical features in a town, then releasing a flush of water to understand how flooding works. MOSI also houses touring science exhibitions, like the famous Bodies: The Exhibition.
MOSI also houses the Saunders Planetarium, the only of its kind in Tampa, that offers not only shows to its guests, but a special view of the projector powering the images. Before you head back to your car, make sure to make a visit to the peaceful butterfly garden.
MOSI is open 7 days a week, from 10 AM-5 PM, with modest ticket prices for adults, children, and seniors.
The Heights at Armature Works, the former home of TECO railway cars, is a 73,000 square-foot building for mixed-use commercial space with restaurants, an open air-market, plenty of communal seating, and a front lawn with an unbeatable view of the Hillsborough River.
With access by trolley, foot, water taxi (and traditional, sometimes difficult-to-find parking), Armature Works is the perfect spot for any kind of experience: a brunch outing, a date night, or if you’re an out of towner, the best way to end a long day of Florida adventure.
Armature Works offers every type of cuisine imaginable: local food trucks, Chinese, quick bites, American, and Asian barbecue. If you’re going with a group and can’t decide on one place, no matter! Guests can always bring back dishes to the seating area to share a diverse communal meal.
Aside from the dining, there are plenty of full-service bars and live music on the front lawn, making Armature Works one of the best things to do in Tampa for adults.
There are many excellent restaurants in Tampa, but we’re mentioning The Columbia in Ybor City because it celebrates over a century of history, culture, and cuisine integral to the area.
The first of five generations that still run The Columbia to this day, originally made the restaurant famous by transforming it from a sleepy, Cuban cafe into an elegant dining room with music playing and dancing. 115 years later, the same family runs the oldest restaurant in Tampa Bay.
Anyone who has stepped inside knows The Columbia experience is something truly special, from the flamenco dancing, to the incredible ambiance, and the hospitality provided by the staff.
Highlights of the iconic menu include the savory “1905 salad,” the traditional chicken and yellow rice, sangria by the pitcher, and the legendary flan.
To dine at The Columbia is truly to taste the inspiring culture of the region, and of those that founded it. Save us a piece of flan when you go.
Cigar City Brewing Company
With humble origins, having only been founded in 2007, Cigar City is one of Tampa’s very best brewing companies, having won the title of the third best brewer in the entire world in 2010. If you make the trip, you’ll be making a visit to one of the best things in Tampa for adults.
A visit to the original taproom will offer you a full-service kitchen, merchandise, specialty beers, and to-go beer straight from the tap. You can also take a tour of the actual brewery to see where your glass just came from.
Guided tours are 40 minutes long and allow guests to see the equipment used to brew the famous ales and lagers, while getting hands-on with the actual ingredients. Tickets are $8.00, and you’ll leave with swag like a collectible tasting glass.
Those under 21 are permitted to attend, but may not participate in any active tastings. Reservations are highly recommended as space is limited, although walk-ins will be accommodated if possible.
The Ybor City Historic District is an integral piece of Tampa culture, having been declared as a United States Historical Landmark District in 1990. There is something for any kind of person to do in Ybor City, thanks to its rich heritage.
Sight-seers can take a trip to one of the many museums in Ybor City, like the one at the Ferlita Bakery, where you can get a history lesson about the city’s infamous founder (and cigar magnate) Don Vicente Martinez Ybor.
Foodies can experience the decadence of the 115-year-old Colombia Restaurant, and grab a bite of it’s even more famous cuban sandwich. Art-lovers can view the Hoffman Porges Gallery, or simply look through the racks of Ybor’s vintage clothing stores.
Families can enjoy the Ybor City Saturday Market with vendors of food, artwork, plants and live produce. The Saturday Market runs year round, which is perfect if you’re looking for things to do in Tampa this weekend.
If you’re a night-owl, Ybor City has a vibrant nightlife, with bars and nightclubs, and notable music venues that attract big-name acts: Crowbar, The Ritz, or Orpheum.
STRAZ Center for the Performing Arts
The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts opened its doors in 1987 and has remained the Tampa Bay Area’s premiere center for all things theater since, making it one of the most fun things to do in Tampa for art-lovers.
Besides the cavernous Carol Morsani Hall, which houses the biggest and brightest Broadway touring musicals (Hamilton, anyone?), the STRAZ Center also has five adjacent performance spaces of varying sizes to accommodate both professional regional and community theater productions of all forms.
The STRAZ Center is also home to the Patel Conservatory, which offers classes in music, theater, and dance to children and adults alike. Alumni of the Patel Conservatory have gone on to perform with the Rockettes and in even big Broadway shows, like Wicked.
Make a visit to STRAZ a full night out with a pre-performance visit to Maestro’s Restaurant for a fine dining experience before, or even to the SteamHeat for a quick nosh after the show.
Clearwater Beach has repeatedly been named the best beach in the United States for a reason: 2.5 miles of white, soft sand with calm, shallow waters reflective of its namesake. 105 million visitors flock to Clearwater Beach annually, not only for the sun and the surf but for all the recreation it offers.
Cyclists, pedestrians, and rollerbladers can enjoy the breezes along an alluring beachfront promenade and walkway. Families and children can enjoy a sandy playground including a towering rope mountain. Diners can enjoy a bevy of restaurant options, from beach bars like Frenchy’s or fine dining establishments like the Beachcomber.
Every single day at dusk, Pier 60 hosts a festival full of art vendors and street performers, making Clearwater Beach a perfect destination for those looking for things to do in Tampa this weekend.
Hillsborough State River Park
The Hillsborough State River Park is a haven for locals looking to escape city life, making it a must for those looking for a scenic stop on any visit to the Tampa Bay area.
Visitors may enjoy such amenities as camping, fishing, bicycling. Hikers have the option of four trails, each through a dense, hammock forest. Equestrians can also enjoy horseback riding trails! History buffs can tour the Fort Foster State Historic Site.
The true star of the park lies in its namesake: The Hillsborough River, which features Class II rapids, incredibly rare in the state of Florida!
Hillsborough State River Park is open 365 days a year, from 8 AM until sunset, with a $6 parking fee.
Big Cat Rescue
We’ve all seen the Tiger King documentary, but did you know Carole Baskin’s big cat sanctuary lies in the heart of the Tampa Bay Area?
The main goal of Big Cat Rescue is to end the the hunting, ownership, and trade of exotic animals in captivity, with its focus on big cats like leopards, lions, and ocelots. The grounds provide sanctuary for rescued animals that can no longer survive in the wild, due to living in captivity.
During a visit to Big Cat Rescue, a tour guide will lead guests around the facility giving information about the animals and details of the breed. Guests have the opportunity to feed the animals and even take pictures with them!
More information about ticketing and tours can be found here!
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