Are you looking for the best Tampa Bay attractions? Though gritty in some areas, there’s plenty to love about Tampa Bay. Gorgeous Gulf Coast beaches, top-notch theme parks, and the hot, balmy weather make this Florida region one of the best locations for travelers looking for a diverse range of activities and attractions.
Take a stroll along the revitalized Tampa Riverwalk and view the scenic spaces and contemporary architecture, such as the Tampa Skyline. The Riverwalk also features vibrant nightlife. You can also take a midnight dash to Ybor City for hand-rolled cigars or fresh brews at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company.
Swing by Busch Gardens for a roller coaster adrenaline fix. Between the Lowry Park Zoo, the golf courses, the bustling theme parks, and the children’s museums, there’s plenty of world-class entertainment to last for weeks.
Tampa Bay’s true ace card is its utterly diverse offerings for visitors. Those looking to fill their itinerary will find plenty of fun on Florida’s west coast, regardless of what type of traveler they are.
Here are some of the great attractions you can experience in central Florida:
Save on Tourist Attractions With the Tampa Bay CityPASS
With nine coupons for nine attractions, there’s no better deal than the Tampa Bay CityPASS. Tampa Bay CityPASS tickets allow visitors to save on admission at some of the area’s top tourist attractions, including the Florida Aquarium, the Florida Museum, Lowry Park Zoo, and the Tampa Museum of Art.
But what if you only have time for a few select destinations? We’ve rounded up a list of top tourist attractions in Tampa, so you can make your own itinerary and eschew dull and dreary destinations in favor of the best Tampa Bay experiences.
Hit the Beach
Your Tampa Bay experience would never be complete without an escape to any of Florida’s top-notch West Coast beaches. Blessed with pristine coastlines, white sand, and 361 days of sunshine, Tampa Bay is a hotspot for Florida’s water lovers.
Whether you’re looking to bask in the sun or ride the waves, any of the destinations below will tickle your sun-kissed fancy.
1. Clearwater Beach
Voted the #1 beach by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice for 2 years in a row, Clearwater Beach is one of the best beaches in the world. Sugar white sands and sparkling waters make this family-friendly beach a treat for water lovers.
It offers an array of kid-friendly water sports, but it’s also a playground for adults in many ways. You can dine and dance at Shephard’s Beach Resort, gawk over stunning beach views at Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar, or relax and enjoy the sunset at Pier 60.
2. Caladesi Island State Park
This pristine gem is one of the best Tampa Bay attractions and with good reason. Caladesi is one of the few untouched islands along the Gulf Coast, and its remote location gives it a touch of exclusivity.
The island park is only accessible by boat, and visitors can stroll along the island’s gorgeous beaches or take a picturesque kayak trip through the bayside mangrove forest.
Off-water, activities abound! Visitors can take a relaxing walk along a nature trail to the historic Scharrer Homestead while beholding blue skies and blissful waves or take a bird-watching tour to spy on herons, egrets, and wading birds.
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3. Honeymoon Island State Park
More than 4 miles of spectacular coastlines make Honeymoon Island one of Florida’s favorite state parks. Travelers with pets will be happy to know that Honeymoon Island has a fur-baby-friendly dog beach located just a half-mile hike off the main road. For nature lovers, this beach offers plenty to see.
A 3-mile trail through a thick pine forest allows various birdlife sightings, and you might also see the occasional tortoise or armadillo.
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Visit zoos and Aquariums
Whether you’ve got an entire day or just a few hours to kill, Tampa Bay’s zoos and aquariums promise loads of fun for the whole family.
4. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Looking for the best Tampa Bay aquarium? This marine aquarium in Clearwater houses an array of marine life, but the real star here is Winter the Dolphin — the actual Atlantic bottlenose dolphin from the popular Dolphin Tale movies.
As of 2021, Winter now lives with two of her dolphin friends, Hope and PJ — two rescue dolphins. She continually receives physical therapy and is very proud of her prosthetic tail.
Besides Winter, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is home to a host of rescued animals, including sea turtles, otters, pelicans, sharks, stingrays, and other marine animals.
Skip the lines and get general admission via CityPASS.
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5. Dinosaur World
Dinosaur World is the only attraction in Tampa dedicated entirely to the prehistoric world. It offers over 200 dinosaur displays spread across 12 acres. Unlike other dinosaur parks, this family-friendly attraction displays life-sized dinosaur replicas in an interactive environment.
Guests can search for hidden treasures, such as arrowheads and raw gemstones, in the Dino Gem Mine, dig for fossils, or watch the entertaining Exploration Cave Show, where expert paleontologists offer insights about artifacts and prehistoric creatures.
6. The Florida Aquarium
Florida Aquarium’s massive collection of marine life makes it one of the best Tampa Bay attractions for visitors seeking an educational experience.
Located in downtown Tampa, the Florida Aquarium houses over 14,000 marine animals. It should take you at least 3 hours to make your way through the labyrinth of sea turtles, stingrays, and moray eels.
Among the aquarium’s best attractions are the touch tanks, where you can pet a jellyfish (if you aren’t squeamish), and visit the Splash Pad area, a 2-acre outdoor space with dump buckets, geysers, and spray zones.
Plan accordingly because the Florida Aquarium is 200,000 square feet of aquatic species and things to do. You can conveniently sign up for general admission through CityPASS if you want full access to the Florida Aquarium before arriving.
7. Tampa Zoo at Lowry Park
The Tampa Zoo at Lowry Park contains 2,000 animals in their natural habitat. Visitors can get close to the zoo’s inhabitants by accessing “backstage” opportunities with penguins and tortoises. Popular residents of the zoo include Africa Elephants, Africa Penguins, Florida Penguins, and Bornean Orangutans.
This attraction also features rides, such as the Safari Ride in the African habitat, Mini Railroad, and a rollercoaster. The Zoo often hosts special events and programs during the year and is just as popular with residents as it is with tourists.
8. Busch Gardens Tempa
As one of North America’s largest zoos, Busch Gardens Tampa is the place to be for all animal lovers. Here, over 200 species thrive in state-of-the-art naturalistic exhibits designed to replicate the African environment.
Get up close and personal with cheetahs, learn about primates, watch meerkats dig underground burrows, or hand-feed kangaroos & macropods — there are so many things to do here and so little time!
Busch Gardens offers a variety of tours with tailor-made experiences. Learn more about training exotic and endangered species on the Animal Training Tour, or go on the Keeper for a Day tour to observe how Animal Care Specialists take care of the zoo’s fauna.
Make your trip easier with all-in-one access to Busch Gardens with CityPASS.
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9. Big Cat Rescue
Speaking of getting up close and personal with animals, have you ever heard of Big Cat Rescue?
Big Cat Rescue is an animal sanctuary that seeks to rehabilitate wounded or native wild cats to combat the private trade and ownership of exotic cats.
The organization was started in 1992 and offers guided tours through its campus, including photographic and housekeeping tours, among others. Visitors can take day tours, where they can feed the animals, or they can go on a night tour. The sanctuary is located in Citrus Park, Florida, and is home to more than 100 wild cats representing 11 species.
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Get Your Art fix
From theater, music, and dance to film, poetry, and literature, Tampa Bay is a creative hub where artists can always find inspiration.
Here, international influence mingles with local culture and history, creating an eclectic collection of art from local artists and international sensations. Ready to get your art fix? Here are some of the best Tampa Bay attractions for art.
10. Dali Museum
This three-story museum in nearby St. Petersburg houses one of the most extensive collections of Salvador Dali’s art outside Spain. The building’s architecture, an art in itself, is ranked by Flavorwire as one of the 20 Most Beautiful Museums in the World.
Located on a picturesque bayside along the downtown waterfront of St. Petersburg, the Dali Museum pays homage to the late surrealist artist with 96 drawings, oil paintings, sculptures, photographs, and masterpieces, but there’s more to this museum than Dali’s devotion.
Visitors can participate in yoga classes, tour the architecture, and see exhibits from other world-renowned artists, such as Miro and Picasso.
While we know this isn’t exactly located in Tampa, St. Petersburg is just a short drive away and definitely deserving of a day trip.
11. Tampa Museum of Art
Located in downtown Tampa, the Tampa Museum of Art focuses on modern and contemporary art, and it hosts one of the largest collections of Roman and Greek antiquities in the southeastern United States.
Visitors can spend a lovely day browsing the various collections or enjoying a great meal at the Riverwalk Cafe. The museum is also home to some great day camps, and it hosts various events throughout the year, including curator talks, music performances, and art exhibitions.
If you’re looking to save some money on your visit, consider stopping by on a Thursday evening! On Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., the museum offers “Art on the House” pricing, where the admission price becomes pay-as-you-will. Donate whatever you can, and then enjoy an evening with some great art!
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Indulge in Retail Therapy
Regardless of your style or price range, there’s plenty to choose from among Tampa Bay’s diverse shopping options. Here, outlets run the gamut from elite designer shops and national names to small boutiques and bargain outlets. If you’re looking for your next fashion find, the locations below are among the best.
12. International Plaza & Bay Street
International Plaza and Bay Street is one of the best Tampa Bay attractions for those looking to score designer wear, and it offers plenty to see, even if you’re just window shopping. Situated right next to an airport, this fancy shopping center introduced shops not previously seen here before, including Gucci and Nordstrom.
International Plaza features three upscale department stores with over 200 high-end specialty shops. Once you’re finished shopping, get some grub at any of the 30 bars or eateries located within the mall or on Bay Street, an al fresco village of small boutiques and fine restaurants.
13. Hyde Park Village
This outdoor shopping district in the Hyde Park neighborhood is one of Tampa Bay’s most upscale shopping destinations. If you’re looking for an urban experience, Hyde Park Village is the place to be.
You’ll find a ton of incredible retail shops and restaurants throughout this 270,000-square-foot shopping district! Some popular places to visit include Pottery Barn, CineBistro, Anthropologie, Suitsupply, Buddy Brew Coffee, Kendra Scott, and many more.
14. Downtown Dunedin
Named one of the top five small walking communities by RunThePlanet.com, Downtown Dunedin is a true loiterer’s haven. This waterfront community comprises lively pubs, art galleries, fine restaurants, and unique antique shops.
Check out the Downtown Dunedin Market, which is open on Fridays and Saturdays, November through May, for the best in food, fresh produce, clothing, doggie treats, plants, pottery, flowers, and more.
On other days of the week, there’s still plenty to see. The Clay and Paper Gallery of Art features an assortment of pottery and jewelry, while vintage shops, such as Amanda Austin and My Favorite Things, offer a myriad of linens, clothes, silverware, and home decor.
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Learn Something New
Tampa Bay visitors will never be disappointed with the sheer number of world-class museums in the area, such as the Tampa Bay History Center and the Glazer Children’s Museum.
Whether you’re exploring Tampa or St. Petersburg, you’ll find fun and engaging activities to explore the region’s diverse culture and history. Here are some of the best Tampa Bay attractions to visit if you’re raring for an educational experience.
15. Museum of Science and Industry
Located in Tampa, the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is a scientific playground composed of over 450 hands-on activities spanning 400,000 square feet, making it the largest science center in the southeastern United States.
With plenty of children’s activities, MOSI is one of the best Tampa Bay attractions for the whole family. Playful and interactive exhibits abound — The Amazing You is a 13,000-square-foot exhibition dedicated to health and wellness.
For high-octane fun, try The Sky Trail Ropes Course, an adrenaline-pumping show featuring 36 elements on a 36-foot-high multilevel structure. Get general admission to permanent exhibits, including the Dinovations Lab, Connectus, and Idea Zone, via CityPASS!
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16. Tampa Bay History Center
Tampa Bay History Center is a popular history museum that strives to preserve Florida’s history through research and education. Located on the waterfront of Tampa’s Channelside District, the museum contains three floors of permanent and temporary exhibits spanning 12,000 years of Florida history.
The Historical Center also houses the Witt Research Center, an extensive map museum and hall, a museum store, and the Columbia Café, where patrons can enjoy light meals and beverages.
This is one of the best Tampa Bay attractions for people who enjoy learning about history, particularly Floridian history.
The Tampa Bay History Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
17. Glazer Children’s Museum
Kids and kids at heart will find The Glazer Children’s Museum to be the ultimate playground. Here, parents and children can learn through playing, with over 170 interactive activities in various themed areas.
While you’ll find a plethora of hands-on exhibits specifically designed for children under 11, such as a kid-sized airplane, grocery store, and cruise ship, the museum offers so much more for kids and families.
At Glazer Children’s Museum, you can sign up for formal curriculum-based classes, informal workshops, camps, and specialized programs. Special educational events are also held throughout the year!
Get Your Adrenaline Fix
You can’t pay a visit to Florida without going on an adrenaline-laced excursion to any of its theme parks.
Tampa Bay offers plenty of options for daredevils looking to ride rollercoasters or splash down water slides. Here’s a rundown of the best amusement parks to visit!
18. Busch Gardens
Yes! This place is so great, it made it to our list twice! If you’re a fan of heart-racing rollercoasters, there’s no better place to be in Tampa Bay than Busch Gardens. This massively popular amusement park is home to a 200-foot floorless dive coaster, Florida’s first family spin coaster, and a triple-launch coaster. Lately, the amusement park has been racking up several superlatives.
Tigris, Busch Gardens’ newest addition in 2019, is Florida’s tallest launch coaster, while Iron Gwazi is the world’s steepest and fastest hybrid rollercoaster.
While there’s plenty here for daredevils, it also offers many options for the preschool set, including kiddie rides, attractions, and a massive zoo facility.
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19. Adventure Island
As Tampa’s largest and most popular water park, Adventure Island has all sorts of water-related fun for thrill-seekers looking for a unique experience. Often considered the “aquatic cousin of Busch Gardens,” Adventure Island offers 10 high-speed rides across 30 gorgeously landscaped acres.
While this theme park is perfect for daredevils looking for high-octane water-themed experiences, Adventure Park offers many more relaxed rides. Guests can drift lazily amidst waterfalls in the Rambling Bayou or take a dip in the miniature wave pool.
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Unique Things to Do in Tampa
Are you done beach hopping and getting your thrills at some of Tampa’s best attractions? For a change of pace, why not check out some of these unique things to do in Tampa?
20. Visit the Manatee Viewing Center
If you’re a manatee lover, you’ll love Tampa’s Manatee Viewing Center! The Manatee Viewing Center is a part of Tampa Electric at its Big Bend Power Station. Manatees in the area are attracted to the warm running water the factory puts out, meaning there’s an abundance of them in the surrounding waters for visitors to see!
The best part about this attraction is that parking and admission are both free. Visitors can walk along the surrounding boardwalks to see these gentle giants. Once you’re done viewing the animals, you can shop in the gift shop or get lunch at the Southshore Cafe.
21. Drive Over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge
It only takes about 5 minutes to drive over the bridge, and it offers amazing views. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is considered the steepest bridge in Florida, and it connects St. Petersburg to the Terra Ceia community. With such a steep incline, you’ll feel like you’re sky bound!
22. Ghost Hunt in historic Ybor City
Did you know that Ybor City is considered one of the most haunted? Take a ghost tour to see the scary side of Tampa’s history. Visitors can hear harrowing stories about real people and the history and folklore of the area. You’ll also have the opportunity to walk some of the city’s most haunted streets and learn more about the paranormal activity experienced by the locals!
Things to Do in Tampa at Night
Restaurant hop, rock out to a band, or boogie on the dance floor — no matter how you want to spend your night, Tampa Bay’s vibrant nightlife has it all.
Here are some of the best things to do at night in downtown Tampa and the surrounding areas.
23. Tampa Theatre
The Tampa Theatre is an integral part of Tampa Bay’s arts and culture community, with good reason. Its ties with locals are strong and historic (the local community rallied to save this cultural gem from destruction during the 1970s).
Known for its annual Oscar Night and film-themed wine festival, the Tampa Theatre devotes most of its screen time to documentary, independent, and foreign films.
On Sundays, it offers the nostalgia of both classic and popular favorites, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Casablanca.
24. Tampa Riverwalk
The Tampa Riverwalk, located along the Hillsborough River, is 2.6 miles of fun and festivities in downtown Tampa. This waterside walkway lights up at night to receive the evening’s most common guests – midnight revelers looking for a night of debauchery.
Head to The Sail for a delicious cocktail before heading out and taking in unparalleled water views. You can stop by Armature Works for innovative eateries or visit the American Social bar for the finest craft beers. Tampa Riverwalk is one of the liveliest nightlife scenes in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
Want to see the sights of Tampa, Florida, without the crowds you encounter on land? Book a private charter. Seminole Heights is a fun neighborhood in Tampa that’s full of old bungalows, eclectic shops, delicious dining options, and much more.
25. Red Star Rock Bar
A playground for the young and hip, Tampa Bay’s Seminole Heights features a bustling bar scene with great local food, craft brews, and handmade cocktails.
The Red Star Rock Bar boasts a full liquor bar and nine beers on tap, making it a great place to spend the night in the midst of rock memorabilia. For craft beers and delicious bar chow, swing by the Mermaid Tavern, a resto-bar with an outdoor patio and a fire pit for cooler nights!
26. Ybor City
Tampa’s Latino culture is centered in Ybor City, which was named for its founder, Vicente Martinez Ybor. It’s now considered a National Historic Landmark District. The Columbia Restaurant in Lakeland is Florida’s oldest Spanish restaurant and currently the state’s largest.
You may have heard about the Ybor City cigar factory, previously the largest in the world, with over 4,000 employees hand rolling over 900,000 cigars every month. The area witnessed a revival in recent years, and it now hosts several shops, galleries, restaurants, and cafes.
Many of the most historic structures in the district are registered on the National Register of Historic Places, including Columbia Restaurant, which was established in 1905 by Cuban immigrant, Casimiro Hern.
This is a great place to take in a vibrant local culture in the Tampa area.
27. The Castle
The Castle is a multilevel nightclub in the heart of Ybor City. It features special-themed weekend nights, three music areas, and even more spots that are just for hanging out. It’s a welcoming and friendly environment and a cool alternative to classic nightclub options.
28. Seminole Hard Rock Casino
The Tampa Seminole Hard Rock Casino hosts one of the biggest casinos in the country and is an incredible place to visit in Tampa! This is an AAA Four Diamond Resort that has a ton of luxury rooms and suites, a full spa, a full convention space, concert areas, restaurants, a pool and beach club, and much more.
What truly shines here in terms of nightlife is the 245,000-square-foot casino. It has something for everyone, from slot machines and table games to baccarat and poker. The casino is decorated with some iconic Hard Rock memorabilia, making it a fun space to tour, even if you don’t feel like gambling.
Once you’re done with the casino, you can grab a bite to eat at any of the many dining options available here. It offers great fine dining spots, such as Cipresso and The Rez Grill, or you can grab a more casual bite at the classic Hard Rock Cafe or Sugar Factory.
Looking for more things to do? Take in a show at the Hard Rock Event Center or book a session at the Rock Spa & Salon! On the weekends, you can head outside between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to enjoy a dazzling light show on the iconic guitar-shaped exterior of the building.
29. Hidden Springs Ale Works
Local artists and businesses dominate the bar scene in Tampa Heights. Hidden Springs Ale Works is one of the top attractions to visit if you’re looking for local flavor. Here, you’ll find no shortage of live music from local musicians and unique craft brews.
Kick back with a tasty drink while watching a football game, or swing by New World Brewery for local independent music and delicious barbecue buffets.
30. Skipper’s Smokehouse
Skipper’s Smokehouse is considered a legendary local hangout. It features Florida shack-style decor and books’ top musical acts. It’s well-known for its award-winning gator ribs, and it’s a great spot for food, good music, and delicious Florida flavors.
Tampa Bay Food Tours
Tampa Bay Food Tours organizes 3.5-hour walking tours for groups of up to 12 people through Tampa’s best culinary options.
Journey your way through the Tampa Bay city center while learning about historic landmarks and enjoying samplings of high-quality cuisine, wine, and craft beer.
To experience the coastal Gulf region, enjoy an excursion to neighbouring Dunedin and St. Petersburg.
31. Tampa Downtown Food Tour
This 3-hour tour allows you to discover downtown Tampa and the riverfront with a food and wine tour. On your tour, you’ll visit four to five restaurants that showcase wine tastings and wine pairings, including Malio’s Steakhouse in downtown Tampa’s Rivergate Tower, and you can sip and stroll as you eat and drink locally.
You can also take part in a Historic Ybor City Food and Drink Walking Tour. This tour is the perfect intro to the Tampa area and allows you to sample six food and drink tastings.
32. Tampa Channel District Food Tour
On this food tour, you’ll explore Water Street in downtown Tampa. It’s one of Tampa’s newest entertainment districts. The tour features three food and adult beverage pairings, as well as custom-made dessert smores from the Hampton Chocolate Factory.