Tampa, with its beautiful waterways, Spanish-infused Cuban culture, and a mix of modern landmarks and historic architecture, is a wonderful destination for a holiday. Young travelers will love the trendy retail stores and restaurants that now sit in historical buildings that have been brought back to life. What’s more, there are many fun things to do in Florida Tampa for adults and families. In fact, some of the top-notch tourist attractions are a mix of amusement parks, gardens, aquariums and zoos, and even museums. Moreover, historic old areas such as Old Hyde Park and Ybor City make it a favorite with culture vultures. So, Tampa is an ideal destination for vacationing solo travelers, couples, friends, and families.
Tampa might not be Florida’s most famous city (Miami) or its largest city (Jacksonville), but there is an array of exciting and fun things to do in Tampa. Throw in the fact that it is within striking distance of cities such as Orlando, Clearwater, and the likes, which makes Tampa all the more alluring. To that end, here are the top 13 fun things to do in Tampa, Florida, for adults and families.
Table of contents
- Busch Gardens
- Tampa Riverwalk
- Florida Aquarium
- Museum of Science and Industry
- Ybor City
- Wine Tasting
- Glazer Children’s Museum
- Tampa Haunted History Walking Tour
- Tampa Bay History Center
- Speedboat Adventure
- Henry B. Plant Museum
- Private Sunset Cruise
- ZooTampa at Lowry Park
- Cool Facts About Tampa
- Get Some Culture in Tampa
- Grab A Bite in Tampa
No trip to Tampa is complete without exploring one of the US’ most iconic theme parks, the world-famous Busch Gardens. This is one of the most fun things to do in Florida Tampa. Ever since it opened in 1959, the African-themed park has delighted visitors with an endless array of live entertainment shows, animal exhibits, and amusement rides. The 335-acre park has so much to see. For instance, you can indulge in a safari, such as the Serengeti Night Safari, and watch animals and reproductions of African camps and villages and animals. What’s more, the gardens also have many special animal encounters, such as hand-feeding giraffes and kangaroos. You can even get close to some animals such as flamingos and sloths and watch the park staff tend to their patients at the Animal Care Center.
However, one of the most famous things to do at the park is the roller coasters, which make for an extremely thrilling experience. This Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Ticket & Multi-Park Options ticket is a full-day entrance ticket that allows you to explore everything that Busch Gardens offers.
Imagine being able to walk in the middle of the city, next to a river and surrounded by lush greenery? Welcome the well-maintained 2.4-mile-long walkway that is the Tampa Riverwalk. It winds its way along the Hillsborough River, providing fantastic views. The two scenic ends of the Riverwalk are Armature Works and Sparkman Wharf, depending on where you start or finish. What’s more, it connects downtown Tampa with the lovely waterfront, along with many entertainment venues, restaurants, museums, hotels, and public parks.
Top attractions along the Riverwalk include the Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, the WWII American Victory Ship, and the Florida Aquarium. Furthermore, you can also explore the Historical Monument Trail, which features beautiful marble and bronze monuments and busts showcasing those who played a significant role in the region’s history.
One of the best ways to explore the Riverwalk is on this Tampa Hillsborough Riverwalk Smartphone Audio tour. This self-guided tour takes you along the picturesque Riverwalk and its landmarks as you listen to the audio guide on your smartphone. It’s no wonder that adults find this one of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida.
Seeing the Florida Aquarium is one of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, with the entire family. This Downtown Tampa landmark is home to more than 20,000 aquatic animals and plants from all over the world. What’s more, the many exhibits follow the journey of a drop of water from one of the many freshwater springs in Florida to the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. What’s more, the place also has interactive exhibits, including a pristine coral reef in a vast tank, a stingray beach where you can touch a bamboo shark, and a glass-encased simulated wetlands display.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s even a massive outdoor water adventure zone with a climbing pirate ship for kids of all ages, geysers, and water cannons. Meanwhile, some of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, for adults are taking a Wild Dolphin Ecotour across Tampa Bat and diving with the sharks. This Florida Aquarium Skip-the-Line Entrance ticket allows you to explore the aquarium any time throughout the day. The best bit? You get to skip the lines and enter in a jiffy!
Museum of Science and Industry
The community-based institution of the Museum of Science & Industry is dedicated to encouraging and inspiring interest and understanding of technology, industry, and science. What’s more, it’s the Southeastern United States’ largest science center and features more than 450 hands-on and interactive activities and experiences. For instance, there are daily science walks, a Bio-Works butterfly garden, a working planetarium, live science demonstrations, a 3D printing exhibit, and even a robot and a drone zone.
If that wasn’t enough, the museum is also where Florida’s only IMAX dome theater, the Florida Hospital DOME Theater, is located. It features shows, movies, and films at all hours of the day, making this one of the most fun things to do in Tampa, Florida, with the entire family. The Tampa Bay CityPASS is one of the best CityPASS tickets.
One of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, for adults is explore Ybor City. This National Historic Landmark District is the nucleus of the Latino community in Tampa. It’s named for cigar baron Vicente Martinez Ybor, who founded this neighborhood. After workers at this Key West plant threatened to unionize, he came to this region in the mid-1880s. In fact, the Ybor cigar factory was the world’s largest at one point in time, with more than 4,000 people hand-rolling over 900,000 cigars every month! But, the advent of the machine rollers and the Great Depression of 1929 brought an end to the boom, with most factories being demolished or shut down.
Nowadays, the neighborhood has seen a revival of sorts and is famously home to many indie cafes, restaurants, galleries, and shops. In fact, Ybor City’s seventh avenue, a.k.a. “La Septima,” is home to the most historic buildings in the district. Furthermore, many of them feature on the list of the National Register of Historic Places.
Interestingly, Ybor City also happens to be Tampa’s proud gay-flag-flying gayborhood, or ‘GaYbor,’ as it’s known. Check out some of the top gay-friendly hotels in Tampa, FL.
One of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, for adults is the Tampa Farm, Winery, and Brewery Tour and Tasting. This tour takes you to experience the Keel and Curley empire, which includes a brewery, a winery, and a farm. The tour of the winery also includes getting a behind-the-scenes look at how the beer, wines, ciders, and ales are made and even taking in views from a scenic trolley ride. Besides the above, the tour also tells you the history of the farm, their sustainable practices, seeing the animals onsite, and a scenic walk through the blueberry fields. But the best is that you’ll get to taste eight different wines, cider, and agrarian ales. Top it all off with a complimentary glass of cider, beer, or wine!
Glazer Children’s Museum
One of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, with the entire family is the Glazer Children’s Museum. This place focuses on providing kids with a fully interactive experience to explore and learn through play. What’s more, they can even use their imaginations to bring the many child-sized exhibits to life. There are 17 themed areas with more than 170 interactive exhibits ranging from an ‘Engineer’s Workshop’ to ‘Design and Build.’ So, children can learn everything from commerce and saving money at the bank and trying their hand at carpentry to fix a house to sliding down a fire pole to save lives at the fire station.
But that’s not all. Kids can also see exhibits that explore world cultures, oceanography, engineering, and robotics. If that wasn’t enough, the museum also has staff-directed, seasonal-based daily programs for kids of all ages. These include summer camps, field trips, and Toddler’s Tuesdays and Whisk it Wednesdays.
Tampa Haunted History Walking Tour
Who here likes everything haunted? Behold the Tampa Haunted History Walking Tour. Your spooky adventure begins as you meet your awesome guide and journey through some of Tampa’s most haunted streets. Discover why the city is called “the damnedest town this side of hell” as you experience spine-tingling paranormal activities and encounters and listen to stories of eerie. What makes it spookier is that the local residents have experienced every story and tale you hear on the tour! Your guide regales (or spooks, depending on your temperament) you with tales of the ghost of the notorious gangster Charlie Wall and the spirit of the Old Tampa Theater’s projectionist.
Tampa Bay History Center
Culture vultures and history buffs will love exploring the Tampa Bay History Center, one of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida. This popular history museum is dedicated to preserving, presenting, and exploring the history of Tampa Bay’s first native inhabitants and important historical figures. The waterfront museum features three floors of temporary and permanent exhibitions that span 12,000 years of illustrious and rich Florida history. Moreover, it also has an array of family-friendly, interactive displays and activities, state-of-the-art theaters, and cutting-edge presentations.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the Contemporary Art Museum for art lovers and the History and Witt Research Centers for history buffs. The extensive map gallery and the museum store are worth exploring too, and you can fuel up at the Columbia Café. Finally, don’t miss the newest exhibit of Treasure Seekers Gallery, which has historical items and even a re-created pirate ship from the 1600s. You’ll find everything from pottery and navigational instruments to even cannons and holograms of pirates engaged in a sword fight.
Do you want to experience Tampa differently? This Tampa Bay 2-Hour Speedboat Adventure makes for an adventure of a lifetime. On this 2-hour tour, you can become the captain of your speedboat thanks to a knowledgeable guide who helps you navigate your way. The heart-pounding and thrilling ride allows you to take control of your craft out into the serene Tampa Bay waters. Feel the wind envelop your tresses as you open the throttle and speed across the Gulf of Mexico. What’s more, you sail not only past the historic Fort De Soto Park but also the beautiful National Wildlife Refuges. Finally, look out for local birds, gopher tortoises, manatees, and pods of bottlenose dolphins.
Henry B. Plant Museum
Exploring the Henry B. Plant Museum is one of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, for adults. The former Tampa Bay Hotel was a luxurious 500+ room resort built by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant in 1891. Today, the hotel-turned-museum showcases the elite lifestyle of the Gilded Age. Architect J.A. Wood designed the iconic Moorish Revival style structure, which was also a base of operations during the Spanish-American War. Moreover, the many rooms, such as the Garden Room, the Writing and Reading Room, and the Grand Hall, offer a glimpse of the magnate’s lifestyle and also feature fine period furnishings.
Explore the magnificent hotel and the grounds, which feature an indoor heated swimming pool, a bowling alley, a casino, a racetrack, and a golf course. Plus, you could learn all about the history of this structure, which is a National Historic Landmark.
Private Sunset Cruise
There’s no better way to end a day in Tampa than onboard this Tampa Bay Private Sunset Cruise with Champagne or Wine. Hop on board a comfortable ship or catamaran with your beloved by your side and experience the exceptional beauty of the Floridian Gulf Coast. Sip on a glass of wine or champagne as you admire the lit-up Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Watch the sunset on the horizon and soak in views of Tampa and the Bay in the rays of the setting sun. As twilight descends, cozy up to your partner and let the natural beauty around mesmerize you both on this memorable 2-hour journey. Hence, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most romantic things to do in Tampa, Florida, for adults.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park
ZooTampa at Lowry Park is, undoubtedly, one of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida. In fact, it’s widely regarded as one of the country’s best zoos, and it’s easy to see why. For one, this 1930s-established zoo houses everything from alligators, tigers, and elephants to rhinos and even Komodo dragons. What’s more, it’s home to more than 1,300 and rehabilitates, protects, and preserves some of the world’s most unusual creatures. These include, but aren’t limited to, Florida manatees, Queensland Koalas, Florida panthers, and Borneo orangutans. Additionally, there are an array of habitats devoted to Florida, Australia, Africa, and Asia, as is evident.
If that wasn’t enough, visitors could enjoy many educational experiences, such as keeper talks, behind-the-scenes tours, animal encounters, and other special events relating to the living planet. Finally, the Lowry Park Zoo is also home to the premier manatee rehabilitation and rescue center in Florida. This ZooTampa at Lowry Park Entry Ticket allows you to skip the line and get in quickly to explore this place to your heart’s content.
Cool Facts About Tampa
- Tampa is famously home to two of the most famous authors, Stephen King and Jack Kerouac. The beat novelist, poet, and adventurer of the 1960s lived in St. Petersburg, while King still lives in Sarasota. Interestingly, both authors are from New England!
- The Old Tampa Bay Hotel was built by Henry Plant to draw visitors to Tampa. What’s more, it’s a stunning example of Turkish and Moorish architecture and is a National Historic Landmark today. Check out some of the best hotels in Tampa, FL, today.
Get Some Culture in Tampa
- Gasparilla Pirate Festival: The Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been held in Tampa almost every year since 1994 and celebrates famed pirate Jose Gaspar. This super-fun pirate-themed event has everything; music, food, live performances, and massive and vibrant parades. Usually, the invasion parade has not only hundreds of participants wearing pirate garb but even similarly dressed onlookers. It’s no wonder this festival is so popular with travelers of all ages!
Grab A Bite in Tampa
- Spinners Rooftop Grille: This St. Pete Beach is just a short drive from downtown Tampa and is one of the best places in all of Tampa Bay for views. Snag a window seat at this 12th-floor restaurant and enjoy showstopping, 360-degree ocean views through the floor-to-ceiling windows. A must-eat dish is fresh catch ceviche served with crispy plantains, Leche de Tigre, shaved jalapenos, and fresh local lemons.
- The Deviled Pig: Are you a fan of BBQ? This place serves up smoky and sweet BBQ in a range of surprising ways – even as pizza toppings! But, if we were to talk about one dish, it’s the sandwich known as the “Pitmaster Queban.” Basically, it’s a BBQ twist on Tampa’s iconic Cuban sandwich and is topped with Deviled Pig pickles, Swiss cheese, house-made bologna served with mustard sauce, pulled pork, and brisket.