Top Recommended Layover Activities:
From the beaches to Busch Gardens, fresh gulf seafood to world-famous steaks you'll find something for everyone to enjoy in Tampa Bay.
1, Florida Aquarium
701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602 · 813-273-4000
Set along the waterfront, this amazing attraction (housed in a structure modeled after a giant scallop shell) explores Florida's native sea life in a number of venues. More than 4,300 plants and animals are represented, highlighting both fresh and saltwater environments. Exhibits document the movement of water from wetlands to ocean and include a million-gallon coral reef display that houses fish of all kinds. Twice each day, divers feed sharks living in the aquarium, and other exhibits showcase sea life from around the world. A gift shop and restaurant are on the premises, and the IMAX theater next door presents a film documenting ocean life.
2. Museum of Science and Industry
4801 E Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL 33617 · 813-987-6100
If you're a science nut, or even if you just like to know why things happen the way they do, this museum is a great diversion. With more than 450 hands-on exhibits, visitors become part of the action and can experience hurricane-force winds, zero-gravity and the effects of simulated flight. Displays on anatomy and ecology provide insight into the natural world, while the butterfly garden, nature trail and planetarium offer total immersion programs that further explore the physical environment. An IMAX theater awes guests with spectacle and is just one more reason that MOSI is the Southeast's largest science center and a perennial favorite of tourists and residents alike.
3. Tampa Bay History Center
225 S Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602 · 813-274-8130
This is the type of museum that communities treasure and visitors find eminently fascinating. Exhibits proudly celebrate local heritage and highlight artifacts collected and excavated from the area. Among the items displayed are relics from the American Indians who originally inhabited the area and objects that reflect the city's ties to both the ocean and the military. A library of historical books and papers can also be found on the premises.
4. Tampa Museum of Art
600 N Ashley St, Tampa, FL 33602 · 813-274-8130
This striking, riverside museum boasts an amazing collection of classical Greek and Roman artwork - one of the country's best. It also prides itself on 20th-century American acquisitions including photographs, works on paper and sculpture. Aside from these permanent collections, the museum displays rotating and traveling exhibits throughout the year. There's even a gallery that highlights Florida's most well-received artists. Regular public workshops make art accessible to children and adults, and a gift shop offers distinctive merchandise. Outside, a park and sculpture garden take advantage of the waterside location.
5, Ybor City Walking Tour
1901 N 13th St, Ybor City, FL 33605 · 813-247-6323
Sponsored by the Ybor City State Museum Society and the Chamber of Commerce, these walking tours wind through one of Tampa's most historic (and vibrant) districts. Led by a local resident, the tours last about 1.5 hours and begin at the museum. They go through the gardens there and then move out into Ybor City itself. Guides share the history of the area and also provide details about particular buildings and current developments. Participants should wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
Top Weekend Getaways And Day Trip Excursions:
1. Busch Gardens
3000 E Busch Blvd, Tampa, FL 33612 · 813-987-5082
Prepare to be overwhelmed! This theme park, based on Africa's past, is divided into ten sections that showcase exotic animals, roller coasters, and live entertainment. While you're there, head for "Edge of Africa" and come face-to-face with hyenas, lions and crocodiles; visit "The Congo" and check out water rides and white tigers; take the kids to "Land of the Dragons" and let them explore the three-story tree house and other fairy-tale attractions. Whatever your fancy, it will be met at Florida's largest west-coast park, which also contains one of the nation's best zoos.
2. Gasparilla Pirate Festival
Bayshore Blvd and Downtown, Tampa, FL · 813-273-6495
Perhaps Tampa's most-anticipated festival, this exuberant event is the city's answer to Mardi Gras. Held in late January or early February, it features a fleet of invading boats, manned by marauding "pirates" who infiltrate the city and initiate a carnival atmosphere. The event commemorates the state's pirate heritage with elaborate costumes, street parades and entertainment. There's also a brunch, games, rides and activities for spectators of all ages.
3. Adventure Island Tampa
1001 McKinley Ave, Tampa, FL 33612 · 813-987-5600
With 24 different, thrilling water rides strategically placed throughout this 30-acre park, the fun is seemingly endless! Attractions are suitable for all ages; Fabian's Funport or Splash Attack, for example, are specially designed for younger children, while wild rides like the Caribbean Corkscrew (two enclosed water slides intertwined to the depths) and the Tampa Typhoon (featuring a seven-story drop into a pool of water) keep big brothers and sisters entertained. At Adventure Island, the quest for fun will surely be satiated.
Various locations, Ybor City, FL · 813-621-7121
YBOR CITY. This Hispanic interpretation of Halloween celebrates Tampa's title as the "Big Guava." Taking place late in October in Ybor City, the event begins with a parade (known as the "Mama Guava Stumble") of wildly attired characters, and then shifts to a street party that completely inundates the historic neighborhood. There are also concerts and live entertainment. Early during the day, events for kids and families are planned, but the late-night atmosphere is a little too decadent for young ones. The parade is free; the street party does charge an admission fee.
5. Florida State Fair
US Hwy 301 at I-4, Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa, FL 33619 · 813-621-7821
This two-week annual event highlights Florida's agricultural life and focuses on livestock expositions and arts and crafts displays. However, there are also tons of rides and concerts and a bonanza of food. Known as the Southeast's largest fair, Florida's offering has one of the country's largest midways, and kids and adults alike thrill to the event. In addition to the exciting rides, botanical displays, competitions and judgings of all sorts are on the agenda. Free parking.
6. Outback Bowl
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL · 813-874-2695
This New Year's Day event pits two college teams against each other in post-season play. Televised around the country, the game has become a local football attraction, with a variety of events centered around it. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster, but you'll have to get them early if you plan on attending.
7. Ruskin Seafood and Arts Festival
2401 19th Ave NW, EG Simmons Park, Ruskin, FL 33570 · 813-645-3808
Each November, restaurants and vendors gather along Tampa Bay to serve up some of the area's best seafood. During the alcohol-free two-day event, eager visitors line up to sample crab, shrimp, conch, grouper and other ocean delicacies. There's also an arts and crafts exhibit, musical entertainment and attractions for the children. Parking is free, but there is an admission charge for the event. Food prices are additional.
8. Flatwoods Wilderness Park
16400 Morris Bridge Rd, Thonotosassa, FL 33592 · 813-987-6211
Throughout the year, this park is filled with lush vegetation and a wide variety of nature's inhabitants. At any one time, you're likely to spot delicate wildflowers and blooming shrubs, along with frogs, birds, armadillos and maybe even a wild pig or bobcat. (Remember: They're more frightened of you than you are of them.) When the weather cooperates, outdoor enthusiasts flock to the park to jog, bike and roller blade along the paved trails. The paths at Flatwoods also connect to those at other parks to comprise a 20-mile route through populated and natural areas of the city.
9. Hillsborough River State Park
15402 US Rte 301 N, Thonotosassa, FL 33592 · 813-987-6771
Twelve miles north of the city, this 3000-acre park winds alongside the Hillsborough River and offers a variety of landscapes, including swamps and pine woodlands. Marked trails provide paths for jogging, biking and sightseeing. There are also facilities for camping, boating, fishing and swimming. Open since 1938, this expansive preserve is one of the area's favorites and a great getaway for city residents.
10. Sea Fox Dive Charters
51 Main St, Dunedin Municipal Marina, Dunedin, FL 34698 · 727-469-8979
Explore the clear waters of the Gulf with the help of this expert dive company, which offers a number of offshore and deepwater trips each season. Excursions may include trips to Dunedin Ledge, Cracked Ledge, or the Sheridan Tabletop – just be sure to check the calendar and make reservations. If you’re looking to add a touch of mystery to your dive, try a nighttime trip to Grandfather's or Turtle Head Ledge. Open-water training sessions are available for neophytes who want to secure their diver certification. The “Sea Fox” is also available for private charters.