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 Riverwalk and gawk over scenic spaces and contemporary architecture.
Make a midnight dash to Ybor City for hand-rolled cigars or fresh brews at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. Experience the vibrant nightlife at Riverwalk or swing by Busch Gardens for a roller-coaster adrenaline fix.
Between the zoo, the golf courses, the bustling theme parks, and the children’s museums, there’s plenty of world-class entertainment to last for weeks. For visitors, Tampa Bay’s true ace card is its utterly diverse offerings. Those looking to fill their itinerary will find plenty of fun at Florida’s west coast, no matter what type of traveler they are.
But what if you only have time for a select few destinations?
I rounded up a list of the best Tampa Bay attractions so you can eschew dull and dreary destinations in favor of the best Tampa Bay experiences.
Table of Contents
- 1. Hit the beach
- Clearwater Beach
- Caladesi Island State Park
- Honeymoon Island State Park
- 2. Visit zoos and aquariums
- The Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- Dinosaur World
- The Florida Aquarium
- Busch Gardens
- 3. Get your art fix
- Dali Museum
- Tampa Theatre
- Tampa Museum of Art
- 4. Indulge in retail therapy
- International Plaza & Bay Street
- Hyde Park Village
- Downtown Dunedin
- 5. Learn something new
- Museum of Science and Industry
- Glazer Children’s Museum
- 6. Get your adrenaline fix
- Busch Gardens
- Adventure Island
- 7. Paint the town red
- Seminole Heights
- Tampa Heights
1. Hit the beach
The 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.
Voted the #1 beach by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice for two 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.
There’s an array of kid-friendly water sports and cruises here, but it’s also a playground for adults in many ways.
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.
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 located along the Gulf Coast, and its remote location gives it a touch of exclusivity.
Accessible only by boat, visitors can take a stroll along the island’s gorgeous beaches or take a picturesque kayak trip through the bayside mangrove forest.
Off-water, activities abound. Take a relaxing walk along a nature trail to the historic Scharrer Homestead while beholding blue skies and blissful waves, or spy on herons, egrets, and wading birds deeper into the island’s interior.
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Honeymoon Island State Park
More than four 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, there’s plenty to see.
A three-mile trail through a thick pine forest allows various birdlife sightings and the occasional tortoise and armadillo.
2. Visit zoos and aquariums
Whether you’ve got an entire day or a few hours, Tampa Bay’s zoos and aquariums promise loads of fun for the whole family.
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 in 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.
Apart from 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 right here.
Dinosaur World is the only attraction in Florida dedicated to the prehistoric, with 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.
Search for hidden treasures like 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.
The Florida Aquarium
Florida Aquarium’s massive collection of marine life makes it one of the best Tampa Bay attractions for visitors looking for an educational experience.
Located in downtown Tampa, the Florida Aquarium features over 14,000 marine animals. It should take you at least three whole 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 the Splash Pad area, a 2-acre outdoor space with dump buckets, geysers, and spray zones.
Conveniently sign up for general admission through CityPass right here.
As one of North America’s largest zoos, Busch Gardens is the place to be for all animal lovers. Here, you’ll see 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 at the Animal Training Tour or observe how Animal Care Specialists take care of the zoo’s fauna in the Keeper for a Day Tour.
Make your trip easier with an all-in-one access to Busch Gardens with CityPass!
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3. Get your art fix
From theater to music, dance, 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.
This three-story museum houses one of the most extensive collections of Salvador Dali’s art in the world and outside of Spain. The architecture, which is an art in itself, is ranked by Flavorwire as one of the ‘20 Most Beautiful Museums in the World’.
Located in a picturesque bayside side along St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront, 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 devotion.
Visitors can participate in yoga classes, take a tour of the architecture, and see exhibits from other world-renowned artists like Miro and Picasso.
The Tampa Theatre is an integral part of Tampa Bay’s arts and culture community, and with good reason. Its ties with locals are strong and historic (it was the local community that 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. Come Sunday, however, and you’ll revel in the nostalgia of popular favorites like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Casablanca.
Tampa Museum of Art
For classical, modern, and contemporary pieces, visit the Tampa Museum of Art. This award-winning museum features one of the biggest Roman and Greek antique collections in the southeastern United States.
Art lovers will find a treasure trove of things to do here that go beyond just browsing galleries. Take a contemplative walk through the serene riverfront sculpture garden, or have an ice-cream break at the Riverwalk Cafe. The museum shop is a splendid location to find unique souvenirs and gifts from your visit.
4. Indulge in retail therapy
No matter 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.
International Plaza & Bay Street
International Plaza and Bay Street is one of the best Tampa Bay attractions for those looking to score designer wear, but even if you’re just window shopping, there is plenty to see here. Situated right next to an airport, this fancy shopping center introduced shops not previously seen here before, including Gucci and Nordstrom’s.
International Plaza features three upscale department stores with over 200 high-end specialty shops. Once you’re spent from all the 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.
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.
Here, over 270,000 square feet features a diverse combination of restaurants and retail shops with stand-out locals, including Pottery Barn, CineBistro, Anthropologie, Suitsupply, Buddy Brew Coffee, and Kendra Scott, among others.
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, 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 is still plenty to see. The Clay and Paper Gallery of Art features an assortment of pottery and jewelry, while vintage shops like Amanda Austin and My Favorite Things offer a myriad of linens, clothes, silverware, and home decor.
5. Learn something new
Tampa Bay visitors will never be disappointed with the sheer number of world-class museums in the area. 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.
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!
Glazer Children’s Museum
Kids and kids at heart will find The Glazer Children’s Museum to be the ultimate playground. Here, both parents and kids can learn through playing, with over 170 ‘interactivites’ in various themed areas.
While you’ll find a plethora of hands-on exhibits specifically designed for kids under 11, such as a kid-sized airplane, grocery store, and cruise ship, the museum offers so much more for kids and families. Sign up for formal curriculum-based classes, informal workshops, camps, and specialized programs. Special educational events are also held throughout the year!
6. 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 waterslides. Here’s a rundown of the best amusement parks to visit!
If you’re a fan of heart-racing roller coasters, there’s no better place to be in Tampa Bay than in 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 Garden’s newest addition in 2019, is Florida’s tallest launch coaster, while Iron Gwazi is the world’s steepest and fastest hybrid roller coaster. While there’s plenty here for daredevils, there are tons of options for the preschool set, including kiddie rides, attractions, a massive zoo facility.
As Tampa’s Largest and most popular water park, Adventure Island has all sorts of water-related fun for thrillseekers 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 also offers many more relaxed rides. Drift lazily amidst waterfalls in the Rambling Bayou or take a dip in the miniature wave pool.
7. Paint the town red
Restaurant hop, rock out to a band, or boogie on the dancefloor – no matter how you want to spend the night, Tampa Bay’s vibrant nightlife has it all. Here are some of the best Tampa Bay attractions for a night you’ll never forget.
The Tampa Riverwalk located along Hillsborough River is 2.6 miles of fun and festivity. At night, this waterside walkway lights up 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 views of the water. Hop by Armature Works for innovative eateries, or the American Social bar for the finest craft beers.
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 of a full liquor bar and nine beers on tap – a great place to spend the night amidst 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!
Local artists and businesses dominate the bar scene in Tampa Heights – it’s one of the best Tampa Bay 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 at Hidden Springs Ale Works, or swing by New World Brewery for local independent music and delicious barbecue buffets.
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