10 Best Things to Do in Tampa
From theme parks to museums to baseball, Tampa, Florida, has something for everyone.
10 Best Things to Do in Tampa
Florida's Miami and Orlando are exciting cities, but the world is still sleeping on Tampa — and we're here to change that.
This Gulf Coast destination combines the two things that draw people to its rivals: beaches and amusement parks. It also has a great dining scene (this is the actual birthplace of the Cuban sandwich), historic districts, a modern downtown and proximity to unique Florida nature.
Convinced? Good! Book your ticket, and then plan to cross each of these 10 best things to do in Tampa off your list.
1. Seek Adrenaline at Busch Gardens and Adventure Island
We'll let you in on a Florida resident secret: Busch Gardens is better than Disney. We'd rather spend our vacation screaming at the top of our lungs as we brave SheiKra's 90-degree drop than spin in little cups through a simulation meant for 5-year-olds at the Beauty and the Beast ride in Magic Kingdom. And with its zoo features and water rides, this park is kid-friendly while also offering fun rollercoasters for adults.
From March to October, you can also get your amusement-park fix at Adventure Island, a popular waterpark with gigantic water slides, a wave pool and lazy rivers. If you're visiting in the summer, it's the perfect way to beat the Florida heat.
2. Stroll Through the Tampa Riverwalk
Following the Hillsborough River, the Tampa Riverwalk is one of the city's top attractions. Walk or bike along this 2.6-mile trail, enjoying the scenery while passing by landmarks like the Tampa Museum of Art.
And if you ever get tired, you can stop at one of the several bars and restaurants along the riverwalk. We enjoy Malio's for its superb views of the water and elevated American fare.
3. Catch a Sports Game
If there is one thing people Tampa residents love, it's sports. The city is home to some great teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) and the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB). There are sporting events throughout the year, so if this is your idea of a good time, check for ones that coincide with your visit.
And if you visit during late winter and early spring, you'll have the chance to see the New York Yankees train and play, as this is their base during spring training. The Philadelphia Phillies come to nearby Clearwater, and the Toronto Blue Jays use Dunedin as their base, so you'll have a great pick of teams to follow.
4. Try a Delicious Cuban Sandwich
Because Miami has the largest population of Cuban immigrants in the U.S., most people wrongfully credit it with inventing the Cuban sandwich. But this delicious sandwich (one of the best in the world) actually comes from Tampa.
Go to La Segunda Central Bakery for the best Cuban sandwich in the city. Located in the historic Ybor City district, this bakery has been bringing the taste of the island to Tampa Bay since 1915.
5. Party the Night Away in Ybor City
Speaking of Ybor City, this historic district just happens to have the best nightlife in the city. Built by immigrants, the neighborhood has the undeniable charm of old houses that are now bars, restaurants and clubs.
Get dressed to the nines, and hit all the levels of Club Prana, or go to the Castle for an alternative vibe that includes a goth night.
6. Do a Day Trip to the St. Pete Dali Museum
The largest Dali collection outside of Europe is only 30 minutes from downtown Tampa. The impressive collection has several of the Spanish artist's masterpieces, including "The Hallucinogenic Toreador" and "The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory."
Besides paintings, the Dali Museum displays objects, drawings and photographs. The space also has rotating exhibits that usually focus on surrealism.
7. Or Visit One of the Best Beaches in Florida
Another nearby attraction that can't be missed is Clearwater Beach, one of the best beaches in Florida. The powder white sand contrasts the light aquamarine hue of the water to create an idyllic summer spot.
You can also visit Honeymoon Island State Park, which has avoided the development of pesky high rises that block the sun thanks to its protected status. You won't find more than basic facilities here, but it's worth it to avoid the noise and the crowds.
8. Have a Movie Night at Tampa Theatre
Old-timey theaters are a rare breed nowadays, but the Tampa Theatre has held its place in the rapidly evolving cultural scene of the city. First opened in 1926, the space exudes the opulence that marked pre-Great Depression cinema halls. It now operates as a nonprofit and shows independent and foreign films.
Come here if you need a break from the Marvel cinematic universe and Adam Sandler movies about adults that behave like children. Your brain will thank you.
9. See Florida Nature at Lettuce Lake Regional Park
Tampa is a bit far from the Everglades, but it still boasts much of what makes Florida nature beautiful. Go to Lettuce Lake Regional Park to escape the city, and immerse yourself in this landscape for a couple of hours.
Trek along the boardwalk while keeping an eye out for alligators, great egrets and other species. Or head up to the observation tower to get an overview of this unique hardwood swamp forest.
10. Get Cultured at Tampa Bay History Center
Right on the Riverwalk, the Tampa Bay History Center is a must-visit spot for anyone interested in history and culture. The museum shows life in the bay over the past 12,000 years. It includes exhibitions about the Tocobaga and Timucua people who inhabited the area before the Spanish arrived in the Americas. There is also a very fun reproduction of a Cuban cigar factory that showcases the importance that Cuban immigrants had on the city's development.
Families traveling with children particularly appreciate this attraction, as the engaging interactive exhibitions keep kids busy for a long, long time.