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Cool Things To Do in Tampa – Ultimate City Guide

Situated on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Tampa is one of the top tourist destinations in Florida. Due to its pleasant weather, beaches, natural areas, and world-renowned attractions, this city is a must-visit spot for any traveler.

Although Tampa gets more than 100 million yearly visitors, it is not a city as large as Jacksonville or as popular as Miami. Still, its numerous activity options make it a beautiful destination for visitors of all ages. 

There are many things to do in Tampa, so you’ll undoubtedly find something to do if you’re looking for a fun or relaxing trip. 

If you’re thinking about taking a trip to this metropolis, but aren’t sure what to visit, here’s a list of 27 things to do in Tampa. 

Downtown Tampa

Downtown Tampa Pin
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If you’re looking to discover new places and experiences, Downtown Tampa is the perfect spot.

Those who prefer to tour the city on wheels can take a ride on an old-fashioned streetcar. There’s also the option to explore downtown Tampa on a pirate-themed water taxi. The water taxi has over 15 stops, including the Riverwalk and Sparkman Wharf.

Some things you can do downtown are, enjoy a cocktail and the astonishing views of Tampa at one of the rooftop bars. In addition, you can walk around the streets, check out some stores, grab lunch or dinner, and appreciate the city’s unique architecture. 

There are many things to see in downtown Tampa, from museums, theaters, and colorful streets to restaurants, bars, and unique stores.

Get Up Close to Wildlife at the Florida Aquarium

Sometimes indoor activities are what you need to escape the heat of Tampa. For adults and children, the Florida Aquarium is one of the top attractions in Tampa, Florida.

The aquarium houses around 8,000 animals within its 200,000 square feet. It allows visitors to appreciate all kinds of ecosystems, from freshwater springs to the famous Florida Keys.

If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you’ll love the Florida Aquarium and all there is to see here. The colorful coral, majestic sharks, and bright fish will charm you. 

River otters, alligators, sea turtles, and stingrays call the aquarium home. If you want to take a closer look at some penguins, it’s also possible to get a backstage pass.

There are also other entertainment activities for kids, such as a 4D theater and an outdoor water playground where the kids and you can refresh.

Tour the Tampa Museum of Art

Located on the edge of the Hillsborough River in the downtown area, the Tampa Museum of Art, founded in 1979, offers innovative exhibitions focused on modern, contemporary, and ancient art. 

Thanks to the outstanding range of temporary and permanent exhibits, the museum immerses you in the creative and cultural ambiance of the building. 

A highlight of this museum is that it not only showcases artworks but it’s also a recreational and educational center for artists, students, professionals, and academics. It also hosts other fun activities, such as yoga classes and summer camps on the weekends.

The Tampa Museum of Art is one of the best places to visit if you’re in the area. 

Have a Fun Day at Busch Gardens

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Looking for fun things to do in Tampa? Busch Gardens is a world-renowned amusement park and one of Tampa’s most fun places to visit. 

Busch Gardens Tampa (operated by SeaWorld) is a 335-acre African-centered animal theme park. The estimated annual attendance exceeds 4 million.

It often ranks as the second most popular park in the region among other SeaWorld parks. Sounds impressive, right? 

There’s a great selection of activities for all ages, including live shows, roller coasters, restaurants, and games. Busch Gardens sets the standard for family fun. 

The fact that it’s cheaper than Disney World and it also has themed areas makes it a fantastic destination. Busch Garden is a perfect destination for all adrenaline and animal lovers. 

Attend an Event at Straz Center for the Performing Arts

The Straz Center for the Performing arts, formerly known as the Tampa Bay Performing Center, is located on the shores of the Hillsborough River and was initially an abandoned gravel lot.

Today the Straz Center is the biggest performing arts center in the Southeast. In addition, it’s the only one with an on-site performing arts conservatory, the Patel Conservatory, where there are different workshops, classes, and educational programs.

Here you’ll find various musical and artistic events in its five theaters filled with concerts, seasonal events, and performances hosted all year round.

Explore the Tampa Riverwalk

Tampa Riverwalk at night Pin
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Tampa’s Riverwalk is a 2.6-mile trail next to the Hillsborough River that connects the city’s waterfront with Tampa’s downtown.

This tidy and delightful pedestrian park is an ideal attraction for taking a stroll, bike, rollerblade, or skateboarding and enjoying public art. In addition, you can take a look at nearby shops, parks, restaurants, and even other points of interest like the Florida Aquarium and the Glazer Children’s museum throughout the tour.

Visitors can access the Riverwalk from various points along the river. The best time to be here is in the afternoon, witness a beautiful Tampa sunset, and appreciate the city’s electric lights at night.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company

The Tampa Bay Brewing Company is a local favorite among beer lovers in the Tampa area. The brewery has become known for its wide selection of award-winning beers. In addition to its many tap offerings, the brewery also offers a variety of cans and bottles to go.

So it’s the perfect place to pick up a six-pack for your next beach day or BBQ. Whether you’re a devout beer drinker or just looking to try something new, The Tampa Bay Brewing Company will have something that you’ll love. So next time you’re in the mood for a cold one, check out this Tampa institution. 

Go Fishing 

Whether you’ve done it before or not, fishing in the Tampa Bay area is one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities to do in this city. Because it’s surrounded by water, there are many places to catch some fish. 

One of the best fishing spots in Tampa is the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier, the world’s longest fishing pier and one with great views. You can expect to catch species like tarpon, snook, Black Sea, cobia, and many more here, and if you’re lucky, you might even see a shark swimming around.

A great thing about the Skyway Fishing Pier is that it’s open 365 days a year, 24/7. If you want to fish here, check the entry fees and other details on the Florida State Park website.

With an excellent current flow and a strategic location, Bean Point, located at the southern mouth of Tampa, is a great spot to fish snook or tarpon.

Go fishing during your visit to Tampa and make unforgettable memories.

Visit the Hindu Temple of Florida

This Hindu Temple and cultural center is located 10 miles north of the Tampa International Airport and was established in 1983 as a non-profit organization by a group of Hindus residing in Tampa.

This Indian-style architectural piece is a unique attraction frequented by thousands of visitors every year for tourist, worship, and observation purposes. The distinctive features of the temple are both contemporary and classic. 

Unlike other tourist spots in Tampa, the Hindu Temple of Florida is run only by volunteers and religious devotees. If you don’t mind that the Temple isn’t as structured as other attractions in town, you’ll enjoy visiting this spot where admission is free. 

See the Tampa Bay History Center

Founded by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners in 1989, the History Center opened its 60,000-square-foot building in 2009 on Tampa’s Riverwalk. 

Tampa Bay History Center has 3 floors of temporary and permanent exhibition galleries covering 12,000 years of Florida’s history. The museum’s goal is to preserve, present and explore the history of Tampa and Florida and its early inhabitants.

The Tampa Bay History Center is the best place to learn about the region’s past and enjoy interactive activities, theaters, and presentations.  

The Historical Center also houses the Witt Research Center, a museum store, a map gallery and event venue, and the Columbia Cafe. 

Tampa Bay History Center is a place that every art and museum lover should visit.

Go Shopping at International Plaza Bay Street

International Plaza and Bay Street is a great place to visit if you like shopping since it’s the top mall and dining destination on the west coast of Florida.

Here you’ll find 200 specialty stores, such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., and Mont Blanc, and 16 fine restaurants to spend the day filling your shopping bags with shoes, clothes, accessories, and snacks. 

The mall’s proximity to Tampa International Airport makes it an ideal location for travelers landing or departing in search of something to do in the area.

Another highlight of this mall is that you won’t have to worry if it’s sunny or rainy or the weather isn’t the best because it’s an enclosed mall, so you can come anytime.

International Plaza Bay Street is the mall to go to for essentials and luxury items.

Enjoy the Landscape and Nature at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach Florida at night Pin
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No matter which part of Florida you are in, you will always find a beach nearby. 

Named by Trip Advisor as the nation’s #1 beach in 2018, Clearwater beach is a stunning shore with soft sand and crystal clear waters. This is one of Florida’s most popular beaches, and there’s no doubt why.

There are many things to see and do here. There are many cafes, diners, stores, and street entertainment for those who prefer something peaceful.

There’s surfing, swimming, and paddleboarding for those who like action. Here you’ll find everything that a typical beach would offer. 

Clearwater Beach is the perfect spot to watch the sunset, get a drink, and enjoy the city’s true essence. Even though it’s a bit north of Tampa, the trip is totally worth it. 

Try Delicious Meals at Armature Works

Armature Works, formerly a warehouse and maintenance facility in 1910, is now the hot spot in Tampa for foodies.

Heights Public Market is a 222,000-square-foot mixed-use space that is every food lover’s fantasy and a very original concept in Tampa. This market offers different food options from Asian, Cuban, Italian, and barbeque to sweets, coffee, and cocktails.  

Its wide variety of options will make you want to try everything. In addition to the restaurants, you’ll find a rooftop bar, retail stores, and a workshop area. Outdoor activities are also hosted here, so you might catch a concert or movie night during your visit if you’re lucky. 

Visit the Tampa Theatre

For an unforgettable movie theater experience, you must visit the Tampa Theatre. But, even if you don’t stay for a film, this beautiful building is worth seeing.

The Tampa Theater, built in 1926, was considered one of the most elaborate theaters. Inside this facility, you will find gargoyles, a 1,400-pipe Wurlitzer organ, and a unique ceiling full of light bulbs that resemble a starry sky.

Suppose you want to explore this theater in more depth. In that case, there’s a 90-minute tour available every Tuesday and Saturday. You’ll get to learn how this palace’s art, stories, and architecture earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and Tampa City Landmark Status. 

The Tampa Theatre is a place that will leave you speechless. 

Check Out the Manatee Viewing Center

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Looking for some serious family fun in Tampa? If you like animals or, more specifically, marine animals, you must add this sanctuary to your Tampa bucket list. 

Visit this marine reserve, where you’ll be able to appreciate cute manatees swimming in the waters of the Tampa Electric Water plant. Before being the Manatee Viewing Center, this used to be just a discharge zone of the Big Bend Power Station. But, when manatees started showing up to seek refuge and heat, this turned into a space where water was clean and safe for wildlife.

Even though the manatees are the center of attention, don’t forget to visit the butterfly garden, the gift shop, and the viewing tower. 

Your whole family will enjoy the Manatees, so add the Manatee Center to your list of family vacation activities.

Florida Botanical Gardens

The Florida Botanical Gardens in Tampa are a must-see for any nature lover. With over 100 acres of gardens, the Florida Botanical Gardens offer something for everyone. With an Herb Garden, Tropical Fruit Garden, Cactus and Succulent Garden, and other attractions, the botanical gardens have a lot of eye candy. 

The Florida Botanical Gardens also offer a variety of educational programs, making them a great place to learn about native plants and wildlife. And best of all, admission to the Florida Botanical Gardens is free.

So whether you’re looking for a tranquil place to stroll or an educational experience for the whole family, be sure to add the Florida Botanical Gardens to your list of places to visit.

Admire the Wildlife at ZooTampa at Lowry Park

The ZooTampa at Lowry Park is a 63-acre non-profit zoo focused on preserving, protecting, and rehabilitating animals. 

Voted as the #1 Family Friendly Zoo in the US, this 56-acre center is the home to thousands of animals from all around the world, including species such as Florida panthers, koalas, African elephants, penguins, tigers, and orangutans, among others.

If you didn’t get to see the manatees in the marine reserve, don’t worry because the zoo has a manatee hospital and care center, so you’re sure to see one here.

Tourists can enjoy interactive experiences with the animals by feeding them or taking a photo with them. This is a highly recommended destination for families where everyone will have a great time.

Kayaking 

Watersports are a common activity in Tampa. So, if you want to enjoy the authentic and complete Tampa experience, you need to go kayaking.

You can rent a kayak or bring your own and enjoy spectacular views of Tampa Bay and Saint Pete, an experience you’ll never forget.  

The Shell Key Preserve is another beautiful spot for kayaking. Here, you’ll see dolphins, manatees, birds, and starfish while you take a peaceful tour around it. 

If you want to kayak among manatees, head to Tarpon Springs, where guided kayaking tours are offered to paddle next to these local creatures. 

Enjoy a Night Out at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa

If you want to spend a casino night, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Seminole is the place to go. 

Enjoy a fun and thrilling night out at one of the largest casinos in the US. The Hard Rock is always a fun spot, but if you’re not really into gambling, you can always go to one of the hotel’s bars, lounges, or restaurants. 

Comedy shows and live music are just some of the activities available here for visitors to enjoy. Consider staying at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa if this sounds like your jam. 

Take Your Kids to the Glazer Children’s Museum

Bring your children to the Glazer Children’s Museum, a space to learn, explore, and discover. 

Tampa has many attractions for kids, and the Glazer Children’s Museum is definitely one of the best ones. Here children can enjoy various permanent and temporary exhibitions throughout the 17 areas where they’ll enjoy interactive exhibitions.

At the same time, they also learn about art, science, and other subjects. In addition, the exhibits allow children to design, build and learn in a unique way. 

Go for a Walk on the Unique Streets of Ybor City

Although its name says so, Ybor isn’t really a city. Instead, it is a Cuban/Latin neighborhood a few minutes away from Downtown Tampa.  

This is a very diverse, colorful, and vibrant area of the city with a very different scene compared to other parts of Tampa. Ybor City was founded by Vicente Martinez-Ybor.

The neighborhood is full of shops, bars and breweries, boutiques, and old cigar shops, which gave it the name of the “cigar capital of the world.” Also, don’t miss a taste of the flavors of the variety of foods here. You won’t find them anywhere else.

If you’re looking for a Latin vibe and a movie-like scene surrounded by peculiar architecture and mysterious characters, you’ll love Ybor City. 

Acquire New Knowledge at the Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry, also known as MOSI, is a scientific playground with over 100 interactive activities for kids of all ages.

MOSI is the largest center in the Southeastern United States. It is a not-for-profit museum that seeks to awaken children’s interest and understanding of technology, science, and industry through its activities and exhibitions. 

Adults and kids can have fun building robots, attending live demonstrations and science talks, visiting the planetarium, solving math problems, and other activities. 

If you are traveling with your family, this museum guarantees a great experience. 

See Tigers and Lions Face to Face at Big Cat Rescue

As you’ve probably already noticed, Tampa has many wildlife attractions. Still, Big Cat Rescue is probably one of the city’s coolest and most interesting animal-related spots. 

Big Cat Rescue, also known as BCR, is an animal sanctuary in Hillsborough County. BCR focuses on caring for, rescuing, housing, and rehabilitating injured or orphaned native and exotic felines. The refuge also seeks to eradicate the sale of wild and endangered animals.

This shelter was founded in 1992 by Carol Baskin, the activist on the Tiger King Netflix Show. Home to more than 100 felines, Big Cat Rescue offers different tours around the facility. 

If you visit Big Cat Rescue, your contribution will help the cause. 

Go Golfing in Tampa

Golfer putting a ball on a tee in Tampa Pin
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Fore! Tampa’s perfect weather means you can play golf any time of the year. 

Rocky Point Golf Course is an affordable option for visitors looking to play a round or two of golf. It’s right across the street from the airport and some hotels, and this challenging golf course is a great way to spend the morning. 

Another recommended golf course is the TPC of Tampa Bay. This course, which has been the venue for the PGA tour champions event for over 20 years, is one of the city’s favorite courses. This 18-hole course was designed by Bobby Weed along with Chi-Chi Rodriguez as a consulting player. 

Whether you have played golf before or not, this is an activity you’ll enjoy if you are up for it. 

Appreciate Unique Art and Architecture at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts

The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (FMoPA) is located in the thriving heart of Tampa’s Waterfront Art District. It has a unique and outstanding structure in a cube with windows.

As innovative as its exterior appearance, its interior spaces are dedicated to preserving and exhibiting historical and contemporary works by nationally and internationally recognized photographic artists. 

The Museum has more than 60 exhibitions, both temporary and permanent.

For those looking to spend a day surrounded by art in Tampa, this is a stop they will love. 

Hillsborough River State Park

In the greater Tampa area, Hillsborough River State Park is a great spot to spend the day north of Tampa Bay. The Hillsborough River flows through the park and is a popular spot for canoeing and kayaking. 

The park also has miles of hiking and biking trails. Visitors can also enjoy picnicking, camping, fishing, and bird watching. With so much to see and do, Hillsborough River State Park is a great place to spend a day or a weekend.

Discover the Tampa Bay Hotel and Henry B. Plant Museum

The Tampa Bay Hotel was built in the late 1800s by Henry B. Plant to draw tourists to the area. It was also headquarters for the US Army during the Spanish-American War.

The City of Tampa bought the hotel in 1905, and the hotel operated until 1932. In its heyday, guests could play golf and tennis and gamble at the casino housed by the hotel.

The hotel was designed by architect J.A Wood inspired by the Moorish Revival Architecture. This historic landmark is as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside. Its architecture and collection of ceramics, art, sculptures and luxurious furniture will take you back in time.

Today, part of the hotel is used by the University of Tampa, and part is a museum. To learn a bit of history and appreciate authentic historical items, visit the Henry B. Plant Museum.

Enjoy Delicious Meals With Tampa Bay Food Tours

As its name implies, Tampa Bay Food Tours is an activity focused on tasting the flavors of Tampa cuisine. 

Take a three and half hour walking tour to try the best food and drinks in the Tampa region at four or five local restaurants such as Carver’s Fish House and Sea Sea Riders. 

If you are a food lover and want to taste Tampa’s most popular and delicious dishes, you must be part of this tour.  

Tampa Bay Downs

For a touch of excitement and adrenaline, visit Tampa Bay Downs. Located outside of the city limits of Tampa, where races are held primarily on Wednesdays, Fridays, and weekends from November to May, it is a place that will entertain any tourist. 

If you have never participated in thoroughbred racing, don’t worry, you can start with small bets and/or watch the races from the stands or the lounge rooms where the races are broadcasted on TV. You can also enjoy food and beverages in the available restaurants. 

Betting on horse races is usually something you see in TV series or movies. However, we recommend trying it firsthand. 

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Situated along the Hillsborough River, the park offers stunning views of the water and the downtown Tampa skyline. 

Visitors can also stroll along the riverwalk; people watch and enjoy the view. The park also hosts music festivals and concerts, and it’s a short walk to the children’s museum. 

If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the outdoors and take in the stunning views of Tampa, then Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is the place for you. With its convenient location and variety of activities, the park is perfect for a day out with family or friends. 

Try Paddle boarding

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Exploring Tampa with your paddle board to discover and immerse yourself in the local landscape is a fun water activity.

The Weedon Island Preserve is one of the best places to paddleboard in Tampa. This 4-mile long paddling trail offers a unique experience and a view of the local wildlife and nature. 

Hillsborough River is another popular paddle boarding spot that attracts many water sports enthusiasts. This river is suitable for beginners thanks to its peaceful and soft ride. Be careful, though. After rainfall, the conditions change, so it is always advisable to monitor the water conditions before entering.

Take in a game

This list of fun things to do in Tampa isn’t complete without sports. If you love professional sports, Tampa is the spot for you. The NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccanneers, MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays, and the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning call Tampa home.

No matter what season, or sport you enjoy, Tampa is a sports lover’s paradise.  

Final Thoughts 

Tampa is a destination with a lot to offer for travelers of all ages. Its wide variety of museums, outdoor activities, wildlife centers, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and many more make it a beautiful tourist destination in the United States.

So if you’re planning on taking a trip here, now that you’ve read this detailed guide about the best things to do in Tampa, you know which places to go to make the most of your trip. 

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.