Paul has lived in north central Florida for over ten years and traveled around the state extensively, visiting Tampa on numerous occasions.
Located on the west coast of Florida beside the Gulf of Mexico on Tampa Bay, Tampa is a popular city to visit and live in. A major hub for business, the city is also known for its museums, restaurants and nightlife, as well as its historical connections with Cuba and the cigar industry.
Top 10 Best Things to Do in Tampa
Here are 10 of the best things to do in Tampa.
- Ride the SheiKra at Busch Gardens
- See the Sharks, Alligators, Lemurs, Penguins at the Florida Aquarium
- Experience Some History, Food and Culture in Ybor City
- Sample a Beer at the Yuengling Brewing Company
- See a Manatee at the Tampa Electric Viewing Center
- Explore Tampa History at the Henry B. Plant Museum
- See the Giraffe, Rhino, and Stingrays at Lowry Park Zoo
- Kayak or Canoe at Lettuce Lake Park
- Stroll the Tampa Riverwalk
- Watch a Show or Game at the Amalie Arena
I explore each of the things to do in more detail below.
1. Ride the SheiKra at Busch Gardens
Tampa's Busch Gardens is a huge Africa-themed animal theme park. There are many awesome roller coaster and water rides, but the most famous is the SheiKra, the first North American Dive Coaster, which held the record for the longest, tallest and fastest in the world when it was built. The splashdown and an Immelmann loop features are something that everybody needs to experience.
The Busch also has numerous other attractions, including a spacious zoo, with over 2,700 animals, including meerkats, hyenas, lemurs, cheetahs, peacocks, elephants, chimpanzees, zebras, tigers, and lions.
2. See the Sharks, Alligators, Lemurs, Penguins at the Florida Aquarium
Home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals from the Sunshine State and internationally, the Florida Aquarium is an awesome place to visit, whatever your age or background. There are so many fun and fascinating animals there, including sharks, alligators, lemurs, penguins, and much more.
The Florida Aquarium is located in downtown Tampa, convenient to find and access. It's a not-for-profit organization with enlightening, engaging, and inspiring exhibits and demonstrations to educate and entertain. There's a particular focus on the importance of preserving Florida's natural resources.
3. Experience Some History, Food and Culture in Ybor City
Often described as the Heart of Tampa, the historic district of Ybor City was at one time the cigar capital of the world. Immigrants came from countries such as Spain, Cuba, and Italy and rolled millions of cigars each year. Nowadays, this charming district is as famous for its restaurants and boutiques, as well as the free range chickens, which roam around.
Those interested in this fascinating historic district can sign up for the Ybor City Guided Walking Tour or visit the Ybor City Museum State Park, which is housed in the former Ferlita Bakery (originally La Joven Francesca) building, once famous for supplying Cuban bread to the local Latin community.
4. Sample a Beer at the Yuengling Brewing Company
The oldest operating brewing company in the United States, D. G. Yuengling & Son has a brewing history second to none. Tours of the Tampa brewery are great fun and free. You can find out how Yuengling is brewed and bottled, discover how "America's Oldest Brewery" uses modern technology, and sample some cool, fine beer in the brewery's biergarten.
At the time of writing, Yuengling are in the process of creating a revitalized Tampa Camp state-of-the-art micro-brewery, restaurant and entertainment complex, due to open in early 2022.
5. See a Manatee at the Tampa Electric Viewing Center
Manatees are amazing and this is a great free attraction in the colder months that all the family can enjoy. Observation of this endangered species of marine mammals is experienced from the purpose-built boardwalks and observation decks.
When the bay waters get colder, the manatees congregate in large numbers near the TECO power plant to take advantage of the clean, warm water in the station's discharge canal. TECO has turned that into an wonderful place for visitors and locals. There is also a museum and snack bar for education and refreshments.
6. Explore Tampa History at the Henry B. Plant Museum
This is a beautiful old hotel that has been transformed into a museum. It focuses on tourism during the Gilded Age, the elite lifestyle of the hotel's super-rich guests, and the building's use during the Spanish-American War.
Located on the University of Tampa’s campus, Plant Hall was formerly known as the Tampa Bay Hotel, which opened in 1891. The hotel was built by the railroad magnate, Henry B. Plant near the terminus of his rail line.
The museum is a great place to learn about the history of Tampa and is open to the public every day except Monday and major holidays.
7. See the Giraffe, Rhino, and Stingrays at Lowry Park Zoo
An attractive, mid-sized, non-profit zoo, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is about more than just looking at animals. Visitors will discover lots of interactive exhibits and chances to get closer to wildlife, including opportunities to feed a giraffe, handle a lorikeet, touch a stingray, and much more.
As well as all that you would expect at a traditional zoo, there is also a Manatee and Aquatic Center that concentrates on providing care for injured, ill and orphaned wild manatees. The zoo also has play areas, wild rides, educational shows and places to buy food and eat.
8. Kayak or Canoe at Lettuce Lake Park
One of Hillsborough County's most visited parks, this 240-acre site that offers something for everyone, and has been a popular attraction since it opened in 1982. Lettuce Lake Park offers wooded picnic and playground areas, a cycling path/jogging trail, as well as being an excellent haven for nature study.
Free guided nature tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 8:30 AM with participants meeting inside the visitor center. Canoes and kayaks can be rented on site at the park's entry station.
9. Stroll the Tampa Riverwalk
The Tampa Riverwalk is a pedestrian trail beside the Hillsborough River that runs alongside many of downtown Tampa's main attractions. It's a relaxing and fun way to enjoy the city and a great way to get to the Tampa Arts District.
Attractions that you can access via the Riverwalk include: MacDill Park, Curtis Hixon Park, Glazer Children's Museum, Tampa Museum of Art, Rivergate Tower, and the nearby Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. Farther along, you'll find the Tampa Convention Center, as well as many other attractions, parks, public spaces, and hotels.
10. Watch a Show or Game at the Amalie Arena
There is always something happening at the Amalie Arena, whether you are interested in ice hockey, basketball, arena football games, or music concerts. So it is worth checking their schedule if you are visiting the area.
Formerly known as the Ice Palace, the building's naming rights were sold to the St. Petersburg Times in 2002 (which subsequently became the Tampa Bay Times). Since September 2014, when the naming rights were transferred to Amalie Oil, the stadium has been known as the Amalie Arena.
3 Fun Annual Events in Tampa
I've highlighted a few of my favorite yearly Tampa events below.
The city's annual celebration of "Gasparilla", which features the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a mock pirate invasion held for over a hundred years, consisting of an "invasion" flotilla and parade, draws over a 400,000 visitors. The event is sometimes called Tampa's "Mardi Gras" and brings millions of dollars to the city's economy.
International Cuban Sandwich Festival
The first Cuban Sandwich Festival happened in 2012 and since then it has grown to be a fabulous food event. Competitors from around the world compete to make the best Cuban sandwich. A World’s Largest Cuban Sandwich is also made to feed the homeless. It's a great place to eat and hangout. There's usually some great Cuban music too, and what's more, it's a free event.
This Latin-themed version of Halloween typically attracts upwards of 20,000 people during the daytime, which is catered towards families children, and around 80,000 in the nighttime version for the over 21's. There's a stunning variety of costumes and floats. It takes place on the last Saturday of October in the Ybor City neighborhood.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Paul Goodman
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 11, 2021:
Tampa sounds like a great place to visit. You’ve described some attractions that I’d love to see.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 11, 2021:
It sounds like one could stay busy for quite some time in Tampa. Thanks for telling us about these sites and things to do.