Nestled in the Gulf Coast of Florida, the white sandy beaches and cerulean blue water attracts vacationers to Tampa all year round. Tampa is not only beautiful, but also has countless incredible things to see and do.
You also have a selection of them parks, professional sports team events, aquariums, zoos, restaurants, and incredible nightlife making this city the perfect vacation destination.
There are the common attractions in Atlanta, as well as less-known gems to discover. To help you plan your vacation to Tampa, here are some of the most popular activities.
16 Best Things to Do in Tampa in 2023
While most visitors spend time enjoying the powdery soft beaches along Tampa’s Gulf Coast, a visit to Tampa would not be complete without planning to spend time at the places Tampa is best known for.
Some of these places are iconic, others are slightly off the beaten track. Home to the world’s longest sidewalk, Tampa is one of the most beautiful places for taking a stroll. Its palm tree-lined path has a breathtaking view of the bay and historic mansions.
It’s truly a walker, joggers, and biker’s dream city because of the traffic-free path along the bay. What else is good to do in Tampa? Read on to see what’s waiting for you to discover in the amazing city of Tampa.
1. Busch Gardens Tampa
A trip to Tampa means access to the world-renowned Busch Gardens, home of the Iron Gwazi, the tallest and fastest rollercoaster in the world.
The amusement park section has old-fashioned games and rides as well as state-of-the-art new ways to get your thrills. In addition to the rides, Bush Gardens has a vast wildlife park.
After you spend time with the tigers, you can grab a bite to eat, watch a movie in the movie theaters, visit the gift shop, or be entertained at one of their concert stages. Bush has something for everyone.
2. Adventure Island
Since we’re talking theme parks, we can’t leave out a visit to Adventure Island. The main attractions are the waterslides, pools and lazy river. Of course, there is eating and shopping.
If you are looking to take your water park to the next level, Adventure Island has that covered too. Virtual reality snorkeling is the newest and safest way to experience the ocean. Explore the boundaries of the sea with this innovative attraction.
Another new addition is their brand-new adult Tiki bar. If crowds bother you, you can take your drinks to a private cabana where you can relax on comfy lounge chairs in the shade. Adventure Island is not just for kids!
3. Florida Aquarium
This is not your typical aquarium. The Florida Aquarium is an impressive 250,000 square feet and holds 20,000 species of animals. This aquarium is not just about fish tanks.
You will see and learn about aquatic life and the creatures that live around the ocean. Take your trip up a notch by watching a 4D film in their amazing theatre. There is a staggering amount of interactive and educational opportunities at the Florida Aquarium.
If you want the best up-close and personal adventure, go on a dolphin-watching catamaran. Watching dolphins play in nature is one of the best aquatic marine life experiences.
4. Tampa Bay Downs
How much fun is it to go to the races? I bet you, you will love it! If you haven’t experienced a horse race in person, let Tampa Bay Downs be your initiation to a thrilling experience. The track is a short drive outside the city, but definitely worth the ride.
Even if you’re new to racing, Tampa Bay Downs will guide you through the betting process. You only need a couple of bucks to get started. Cheer on your favorite horse from the stands or watch from the indoor lounges with big screen T.V.s.
5. Weedon Island Preserve
An ideal vacation in Tampa will include a visit to the western shore, the home of Weedon Island Preserve. If you are craving some downtime outside the bustle of the city, you will enjoy the peacefulness and serenity of the Weedon Preserve.
You can even bring a pole and do some fishing off their pier. You can go canoeing or kayaking through the seagrass flats and mangroves.
Take a hike on the gorgeous trails that wind around the saltwater ponds and forests. Find the observation deck to see spectacular views of Tamps. There are lots of boardwalks and picnic sites at this park.
6. Empower Adventures Tampa Bay
Yet another great outdoor adventure in Tampa is the Empower Adventures. If you are an action and adventure kind of person, this is the place for you. Soar through the sky hundreds of feet in the air and over bayous on the zip line.
If you love a physical challenge, try out their suspended rope bridges and obstacle course. This is not a place for the faint of heart.
This thrill-seeker outing will put a checkmark on your list of exhilarating activities when you are in Tampa. You do need a reservation though, so makes yours before you head out to Empower Adventures.
7. Tampa Museum of Science and Industry
Looking for something fun to do on a rainy afternoon? If you have kids you will want to take them to the Museum of Science and Industry. If you are a fun-loving adult, you will also enjoy this premier museum.
This is a “please touch” museum and has lots of games, activities, exhibits, tours, and interactive stations. Special exhibits change so look up which one is being showcased. Be sure to visit Mission Moonbase which simulates the environment and atmosphere of the moon.
This community-minded institute is great to support as it has been widely recognized for its contributions to the citizens of Tampa.
8. Dinosaur World
Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Dinosaur World is the destination for dino lovers. There are so many activities and fun things to do and see here that a list is definitely in order:
- Walk beside hundreds of realistic dinosaurs
- Set your kids free in the interactive exhibits
- Dinosaur themed playgrounds
- Shaded boardwalks for taking strolls under massive ancient oak trees
- Humungous gift shop
- You can bring your own food or purchase food there
- Dog friendly
Take the kids on a 15-minute fossil dig where they can excavate shark teeth, Mosasaur teeth, and gastropods. Participate in a Dino Gem Excavation.
Grab a bag or bucket and do some sluice mining to discover minerals, gems, or arrowheads. Kids can even grab an excavating tool and help uncover a 27-foot dino skeleton from beneath the sand.
9. International Plaza and Bay Street
Most big cities have their shopping districts. Tampa is no exception. You will find hundreds of shopping opportunities as well as restaurants in this state-of-the-art plaza.
The huge central mall is completely enclosed. Conveniently located next to the airport, Bay Street has everything from trinkets to essentials. When you’ve had your fill of shopping, you can stay and enjoy the nightlife on Bay Street.
International Plaza has a stunning outdoor village with all the best restaurants where you are sure to find your favorite cuisine.
10. Ybor City
Looking to get your Latin on? Ybor City is not considered a city. It is an elegant suburb famous for being the “cigar capital” of the world. Even if you aren’t into cigars, you will love the captivating culture and incredible history of this neighborhood.
This colorful Latin American community offers shops, nightclubs, food trucks, and microbreweries to name a few of its amenities. Consider Ybor City the flip side of Tampa. If you love exotic dishes and salsa dancing, this is an outing you don’t want to miss.
11. Tampa Theater
If you are searching for an iconic historical attraction, mixed with a Tampa cultural experience, you need to visit the non-profit Tampa Theater. Once considered a movie palace, Tampa Theater now is the place to watch foreign and independent films and documentaries.
They also feature live shows from icons like David Spade, Geena Davis, and Joe Jackson. Constructed in 1926, when you take your seat, you will feel like you have stepped back in time.
The comfortable red seats form a giant semi-circle around the stage. There are no bad seats. An authentic Wurlitzer organ makes the perfect vintage backdrop. Even if you don’t want to stay for a show, you can tour the gorgeous theater. Trust us — it’s worth seeing!
12. Downtown Tampa
You would be missing out if you didn’t take some time to experience Downtown Tampa. Besides the bistros, bars, museums, and theaters, there is so much more to see and do in this palm-tree dotted city.
The best part? You can see the city by riding a vintage streetcar with the iconic clanging bell at each stop. Don’t limit yourself. Try one of Tampa’s unique experiences like booking a ticket for cruising through Florida’s waterways.
Take a tour of a WWII cargo ship. Head up to a rooftop bar for an amazing view of the city. Yes, Tampa also has iconic shopping, chic hotels, top-notch dining, and vibrant nightlife. You might even want to spoil yourself with a night in one of their world-class luxury hotels.
13. Tampa Bay Food Tours
Tampa tackles the need for delicious cuisine with its Tampa Bay Food Tours. Spend three hours in gastronomic delights as this tour takes you through six of its classic eateries.
This sampling of culinary creativity spans sophisticated restaurants where you will enjoy fine wines and bougie salads to casual joints that are known for the best crab cakes on the planet.
You might get to experience Tampa lobster pizza followed by a classic dessert shooter. One way or the other, your stomach will love you for this tour.
14. Hindu Temple of Florida
This classic bit of architecture attracts thousands of visitors each year to Tampa. Whether you go to worship or want to be inspired by the architecture, you will be in awe of this place.
The Hindu Temple is not just another place of worship. This temple is an intricate web of fascinating structures. There are no fees to visit, so put it on your list. You will marvel at this structure as it cascades from the sky in a series of pyramid towers.
There is no staff, no scheduled worship services, just time and serenity to wander the paths that lead high up to the rooftop courtyard, and down low to prayer rooms. You have the freedom to explore and you will delight in the visual treasures you discover.
15. Tampa Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Who doesn’t love a night of great food and the chance to win some money? If you love the gambling scene, you might want to add this stop to your vacation list.
The pulsing atmosphere of the casino, complete with the flashing lights and room overflowing with excitement, has all your favorite modes of gambling. What makes this casino special is the Hard Rock vibe. There are many bars, restaurants, and lounges.
You will also find an impressive array of live concerts and shows. The Hard Rock is the ultimate adult playground. Don’t want to drive back to your hotel? Stay the night in a luxury suite with ceiling to floor windows for a spectacular view of the city.
16. Watch a Professional Sporting Event
Sporting events in Tampa are huge. Depending on the time of year you are in Tampa, you can watch professional baseball, football, or ice hockey. If you are a sports fanatic, you can choose to buy tickets for home games or watch the game from a cozy and lively sports pub.
What are the best bars in Tampa to watch a game? Here is a list of great sports bars you might want to consider:
- Ducky’s Sports Lounge
- World of Beer
- Press Box Sports Emporium
- Buffalo Wild Wings in Ybor City
- Millers Ale House
- Winghouse in Tampa Stadium
- Peabody’s Billiards & Games
Things to Consider When Visiting Tampa
Tampa is a destination city. You will find everything from golf courses to water sports, miles of beaches, and every modern amenity found in a major city.
The palm trees and flowers make Tampa feel like a tropical island rather than a peninsula. It is a world-class place to visit. Here are a few things to know before you visit.
Best Way to Travel Through Tampa
If you are staying downtown, it will be easy to get around. The Telo Line Streetcars are a fun way to see the city. Walking is also simply delightful.
You most likely will be visiting outside the city. If you need to rent a car, reserve it well in advance. Depending on the season, rentals may be in high demand. Give yourself plenty of time for drives as traffic can be problematic in Tampa during peak hours.
Consider Purchasing a Tampa City Pass
If you plan on hitting the big hot spots in Tampa, you will save money by purchasing the Tampa City Pass. One purchase can save you more than 50% at the top Tampa attractions like Busch Gardens, the zoos and aquariums, and the Museum of Science and Technology, to name a few.
You will spend around $100 for a pass. If you are planning to visit several attractions, you will save in the long run. Visit their website to see how much you can save at each attraction.
Be Prepared for the Weather
Tampa has a humid subtropical climate. While Tampa is not known for reaching above 99 degrees F., it will likely be humid all year round. Tampa has two seasons, hot and wet from May until October and milder and less rainy from November until April.
Best Ways to Get Around Tampa
If you are flying into Tampa, you may choose from two international airports. Once you have arrived, you have several options for how to get around Tampa Bay if you don’t want to rent a car.
Why not try a new mode of travel? Of course, there are the traditional taxis, buses, and airport shuttles. Once you have unpacked, you might try one of these fun choices:
- Private water taxi
- Teco Streetcar
- Electric Scooters
- Water bikes
- Coast Bike Share
- Riverwalk mini powerboat
Consider Pre-Booking for Parking
While there is on-street parking in Tampa, you will usually have to pay at a meter in the business areas and Ybor City. Many of the city lots will give you the first 2 hours free. If you spend more than two hours, the rates will be high.
You can avoid the hassle of looking for a parking lot or meter by pre-booking your parking in the city through Way. Put in the destination where you want to park and the time, and book your parking spot in advance.
You can take the stress out of finding a parking spot, especially if you are going to a popular event where there will be heavy traffic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions asked about the different types of things to do in Tampa, Florida.
What are the sports teams in Tampa if I want to go to a sporting event?
Depending on the season you visit, you have several professional sports teams that call Tampa Bay home. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, former Superbowl champions led by the legendary Tom Brady, are the highlight of the city’s sporting history. They play in the Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa Bay Lightning has a lively NHL presence in Tampa even though it’s traditionally a cold-weather sport. Watching a game in the Ice Palace is a great way to cool off for an evening if you happen to be in Tampa during the hockey season.
If you are a baseball fan, you need to visit the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays play their Major League Baseball in the delightful Tropicana Field. Grab a hot dog and cold beer and relax while watching this iconic American game.
Is there a historical district in Tampa Bay?
Yes. West Tampa is well-known for its historic district. It sits within the western part of the city. The historical district is between Ivy Street and Cypress Street on one side, and Fremont and Habana Avenue on the other. It spans around 273 acres and has 908 registered historic buildings.
Ybor City is also considered historic. It was built in the 19th century when Vincente Martinez Ybor established a legendary cigar industry there. Fort Brooke is also part of Ybor City’s fascinating history.
Where did the name Tampa originate?
The origin of the name Tampa is something of a mystery. Some believe the name Tampa was derived from a “Creek” word meaning “nearby place”. The Creeks were Seminole Native Americans that lived in Florida and Oklahoma.
Is there a history of Pirates in Tampa Bay?
If you want to separate the fact from the fiction about the pirates who roamed the Gulf Coast, check out this article by Smithsonian Magazine. The short answer is that the buccaneer José Gaspar was a famous pirate that pillaged this area.
Pirates were known for threatening Florida’s coast. Two of the most notorious pirates were El Mulato Martin, a Spanish-African man from the country of Cuba.
In the 1600s, the English buccaneer Rober Seales raided St. Augustine. The term buccaneer was coined during the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico from 1650 to 1726,
What are the best beaches in Tampa Bay?
Spending time on the beach is one of the main attractions for visitors to Tampa. There are no bad beaches in Tampa as they are all well-known for their soft, white sand, abundant sunshine, and warm ocean water. The top five, best-known beaches include the following:
- Ben T. Davis Beach
- Apollo Beach Nature Reserve
- Madeira Beach
- Archibald Beach Park
- Sand Key Park
No matter which Tamps beach you go to, you won’t be disappointed.
So, What Are the Best Things to Do in Tampa?
Diverse is a word that best describes Tampa Bay. If you are looking for things to do in Tampa you won’t be disappointed. Tampa is home to legendary theme parks like Busch Gardens, zoos, aquariums, museums, and waterparks.
Your idea of a great vacation may be fine, dining, cultural experiences, and relaxing on gorgeous beaches. Tampa fills that bill as it has the best shopping, restaurants, and some of the finest hotels in the world.
Whether you are seeking thrills on Tampa’s zipline course or relaxing in a stadium watching professional sports, there is no better city to visit than Tampa Bay, Florida.