What are the five best things to see and do in Tampa?

Susan Barnes

From theme parks to natural parks, world-class museums to a world-famous dolphin, there’s plenty to see and do in Tampa. Here is our list of the five best things to check out in the sun-filled city:

1. Theme parks. If theme parks are your thing, there’s no need to go all the way to Orlando. Instead, check out the African plains, animals and stomach-churning rides at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay; make a splash at Adventure Island waterpark; tower over the plastic-brick miniatures at the newly opened LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven; or having a roaring good time with the 80-foot-tall dinos at Dinosaur World in Plant City, just 20 minutes east downtown Tampa.

2. The beaches. Though there aren’t any beaches directly in Tampa, drive just a half hour west and find miles of sandy white shores. Two of the best are Fort De Soto Park, a great spot for families, and Honeymoon Island State Park, named from a Life magazine contest for newlyweds in 1939.

3. The museums. The Tampa Museum of Art is housed within a work of art itself, designed by San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz. The eye-catching façade features perforated aluminum with LED lights sandwiched between the layers. Across the bay in downtown St. Petersburg, the surrealism begins even before you walk through the door at the The Dalí Museum, which holds the largest collection of the artist’s work outside of Spain. The geodesic glass exterior is made up of 1,062 unique triangular-shaped panels.

4. A cute dolphin. Winter the dolphin splashed on the silver screen in A Dolphin Tale, and into the hearts of all of those who visit her at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You can even take a tour of props and scenes that were used in the 2011 movie starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.

5. Tampa Theatre. Whether you stop in for an independent film, an intimate concert or a behind-the-scenes tour, you’ll be awed by the splendor of the storied 1926 movie palace, the Tampa Theatre. Before your feature, sit back and listen as a volunteer plays the Mighty Wurlitzer.

  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    What’s the best time to visit Tampa?

    With its consistently pleasant temperatures, full slate of festivals and events, and always-perfect beaches, Tampa is a great year-round destination. If you're traveling with your kids and doing so during school breaks, you likely will find larger crowds swarming area theme parks like Busch Gardens and taking over the beaches. But if you can get away during the school year, you'll be rewarded with shorter lines at the parks and less people laying out their towels on the sand.

    Even though Tampa is a nice place to visit no matter the season, it does get hot during the summer  It's Florida, after all —  not to mention sticky-humid. If you wilt in the heat, June, July and August may not be the optimum time to plan your visit to Tampa; try for the fall instead.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Susan Barnes answered the question: Susan Barnes

    Where is the best Tampa shopping?

    If you want to ransack the racks Tampa, you’re in luck — the city offers everything from large shopping malls to small boutique-lined streets. For world-class shopping, hit up the two-story International Plaza and Bay Street. Here you’ll find the big-name department stores, such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus; boutiques by Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Burberry, Betsey Johnson, Tory Burch, bebe and Henri Bendel; and jewelers Tiffany & Co. and Montblanc. At WestShore Plaza, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Gap, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Loft and Chico’s are among the 120 stores available.
    Those shopper who want to get out of the malls should try the tree-lined streets of Tampa’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood. Similar to a European village, Hyde Park mixes national, regional and local retailers in the open-air shopping spot; check out the wares at Anthropologie and Pottery Barn, or browse lacy underthings at The Pink Petticoat or the silk dresses and tote bags at Couture Living Boutique.
    For outlet-mall steals, head south on I-75 for about 45 minutes until you come to Ellenton, just outside Bradenton. You’ll be in shopper heaven among the 130 outlet stores, including Banana Republic, J.Crew, Kate Spade New York and Michael Kors.
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