Tampa Bay comprises four cities: Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Brandon. Here is a detailed Tampa Bay Itinerary to help you travel through all four cities in the best way possible.
When we talk about visiting Tampa Bay, we are actually talking about four cities: Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Brandon. They share a fusion of history, Floridian culture, and outdoor recreational opportunities that provide enough reason to visit Tampa Bay.
Even if water activities are not your thing, Tampa Bay has many other exciting experiences. You will find everything from exotic bars and shopping arcades to peaceful walking paths and art museums.
This post will guide you on what to see, where to eat, and things to do in Tampa Bay during the weekend. Keep reading to discover your perfect Tampa Bay weekend plan.
What We Cover
- Packing List for Tampa Bay
- Tampa Bay Itinerary: Weekend Day 1
- Visit the Theme Park
- Visit the Florida Museum
- Eat at Pizzeria Gregario
- Ybor City Tour
- Drink Tampa’s Craft Beer
- Eat at the Historic Columbia Restaurant
- Additional Trips
- See Manatees in The Manatee Viewing Center
- Head to the Beach
- Weekends are for Shopping
- Tampa Bay Itinerary: Weekend Day 2
- Admire Tampa’s Museum of Art
- Visit ZooTampa
- Walk Down Tampa Riverwalk
- Enjoy at the Glazer Children’s Museum
- Grab a Bite at Armature Works
- Visit the Hillsborough River State Park
- Additional Trips
- Spend Your Day With Dolphins
- Visit the Glass Exhibition
Packing List for Tampa Bay
A tip to enjoy a trip to Tampa Bay is to plan. Tampa Bay offers a great place to explore and enjoy. And it is truly a trip not to miss. However, don’t bring too much because it might cause a nuisance. But you also must ensure that you carry the travel essentials.
Here’s what you should bring to Tampa:
- Tank tops (for men, for women)
- Lightweight clothes
- Shorts (for men, for women)
- Sundress (for women)
- Comfortable footwear
- Waterproof shoes
- Swimwear (for men, for women)
- Digital camera
- Light jacket
- Sweatshirt (useful in winter)
- Beach bag
- Portable water bottle
- Peak Gear Sling Compact bag
Tampa Bay Itinerary: Weekend Day 1
Here’s my suggested Tampa Bay itinerary for the weekend, day one. The good thing is you can save money on most of the listed activities by using CityPASS.
Visit the Theme Park
Busch Gardens is a family theme park, a zoo, and a botanical garden. All rolled up into one. Busch Gardens lies at a fifteen-minute distance from Tampa’s city center. They are a perfect place for families seeking heart-pounding excitement in a family-oriented environment.
The adventure park is packed with roller coasters and world-class thrilling rides. It’s also home to Tampa’s largest zoo, with over 12,000 animals of hundreds of different species.
Visit the Florida Museum
Located in downtown Tampa, the Florida Museum is over 200,000 sq. ft of air-conditioned space. The aquarium is home to over 14000 animals, including sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, and river otters. Walk along the Wetlands Trail to explore the mangrove forest and the aviary, with birds flying around freely.
Eat at Pizzeria Gregario
Pizzeria Gregario is listed as one of the top 50 Tampa Bay restaurants by Tampa Bay Times and the only one in the top 10 of the list. It serves Italian-style pies cooked over an open flame.
If you are a pizza lover, you can’t miss this place. The flavor and texture of the crust by Pizzeria Gregario remain unbeatable in Tampa Bay. The place is also family-friendly and a must-visit for anyone in the area.
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Ybor City Tour
Your next tour will be to Ybor City, a place drenched in Tampa Bay’s history. Once known as the Cigar Capital of the World, Ybor City was home to 200 cigar factories and 12000 cigar makers.
The streets are now left with treasures of history showcased in a number of museums throughout the area. While you are there, don’t forget to ride on the electric streetcar down the streets of Tampa.
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Drink Tampa’s Craft Beer
Over a century ago, Florida Brewing Company opened in downtown Ybor City, making it the center of craft beer. The craft beer industry faced difficulties as time passed, and the brewery had to shut down.
A century later, craft beer experienced a rebirth with the opening of the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. Today, the area has seven breweries that offer everything from Coppertail Brewing Company’s Night Swim (perfect for dark beer lovers) to Angry Chair Brewing’s Three Little Bird (fruited Berliner Wessie).
Tampa Bay Brewing Company remains the most successful brewery in the city, offering eight regulars and dozens of seasonals. Under the brewing master David Doble, the menu includes flavorful and hoppy IPAs, APAs, expressive sours, and fruity Florida-Weisse.
The company currently has two tap houses in Ybor City and Westchase.
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Eat at the Historic Columbia Restaurant
The historic Columbia Restaurant in Tampa is the oldest in Florida. It is also one of the largest Spanish restaurants in the world, with award-winning Spanish cuisine. The restaurant offers all the classics and an impressive wine menu of over 850 wines. With that many options, you can only guess the inventory size.
The seating area spreads over 17 dining rooms that accommodate 1700 customers at a time. Columbia Restaurant also entertains its guests with Spanish Flamenco dance performances every night, from Monday to Saturday.
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Want to explore more? We have an alternative itinerary plan for your weekend.
See Manatees in The Manatee Viewing Center
There are many aquarium options in Tampa, but they can be expensive, especially when visiting with family. You can admire these majestic marine mammals at Manatees Viewing Center without paying a penny.
The Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach uses seawater and pumps the remaining warm water into the Bay. The water gets cold in winter, and the local Manatees gather around the power plant to swim in the warm water.
It is now a protected area run by the Manatee Viewing Center. The entrance is free, but you can only visit when the Manatees are around the area.
The center is also home to other wildlife, with butterfly gardens and stingray touch tanks. You can take the trekking route through the estuary to view more animals.
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Head to the Beach
Cross the Tampa Bay bridge, Howard Frankland Bridge, which connects old Tampa Bay from Tampa City to St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg and Clearwater barrier islands boast more than 30 miles of white sand beaches along the sapphire waters of the Gulf of Mexico. These beaches are some of the finest in the state due to their cleanliness and sand quality.
Only on these islands will you find the untouched beaches of Florida. They almost feel deserted, so you can have complete privacy and live your day fully. Head to the beachfront community of St. Pete Beach for food. The Don CeSar is an elegant beachfront hotel with several restaurants.
Have your meal at the Sea Porch Restaurant, overlooking the Gulf waters. Or, drive up to Pass-aGrille Beach and check out the restaurants along Corey Avenue, a couple of blocks from the beach.
Weekends are for Shopping
Shopping is one of the best things to do in Tampa Bay because it is full of luxurious shopping malls where you can get lost. The International Plaza and Bay Street are upscale shopping and dining locations near the Tampa International Airport.
Thirty minutes from St. Petersburg is Madeira Beach, with John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk attractions. You will find over 100 shops offering unique crafts and antiques here, so you are bound to shop here before heading home.
The city also offers excellent seafood restaurants and water sports activities. Westfield Countryside Shopping Mall is a unique location in Clearwater. The uniqueness springs from the ice-skating rink at the mall’s center, surrounded by large retail shops.
Tampa Bay Itinerary: Weekend Day 2
Here’s our suggested Tampa Bay itinerary for weekend day two.
Admire Tampa’s Museum of Art
Established in 1979, Tampa’s Museum of Art has evolved from a small local arts organization to Tampa’s art museum. It has been a center of attraction for art and culture lovers due to its innovative exhibitions and art classes.
The 66,000-square-foot building designed by the famous architect Stanley Saitowitz is beautiful. The walls of the museum display works by Picasso, Renoir, Cassatt, Lichtenstein, and hundreds of others.
When night falls, the building lights up with 14,000 LED lights called the “Sky: Tampa,” designed by the artist Leo Villareal. The lights change colors from blue, pink, violet, and red all evening.
Spend a few hours at ZooTampa in Lowry Park and experience the world’s most beautiful tropical settings. The zoo has over 1300 animals, including the giant tortoise, Indian rhino, and stingrays.
You can splash in the water at Roaring Springs, get on thrilling rides, and visit the zoo’s animal care, where the staff cares for sick animals. The zoo has won multiple awards for animal preservation and also holds educational shows.
Walk Down Tampa Riverwalk
Walk down the 2.4-mile-long Tampa Riverwalk and experience the gorgeous downtown Tampa. You can also bike or Segway your way down the path. The Riverwalk Exhibit is at the south of the walk, a collage of more than 550 photographs by artist Bruce Marsh.
As you move on, you will land at many other stops, such as the Florida Aquarium, Tampa Bay History Center, Port Tampa Bay, and many other attractions.
When you reach the north end of the walk, stop at one of the restaurants, such as Ulele, for an exquisite meal. The cuisine at Ulele is inspired by American culture.
Enjoy at the Glazer Children’s Museum
Halfway down the Riverwalk lies the Glazer Children’s Museum, an ideal place for families with kids. This kid-friendly museum has over 20 exhibitions for children of all ages.
Children can learn commerce at the Central Bank exhibit or head to the Engineers’ Workshop to learn some engineering. The museum has the Art Smart area for those interested in arts to create and improve their art and craft.
Grab a Bite at Armature Works
Close to the Glazer Children’s Museum is Armature Works, a trendy food market that will give you the real taste of Brooklyn in Florida. It lies in the Tampa Heights neighborhood on the shore of Hillsborough River and might be the most relaxed spot in Tampa.
The Heights Public Market has several restaurant stalls that serve the most delicious food and desserts. It is a food-lover’s dream come true. Even though you can dine outdoors, the real adventure is eating outside by the Hillsborough River.
Visit the Hillsborough River State Park
At a half-hour driving distance from Armature Works, Hillsborough River State Park is a mixture of wetlands and vine-covered bayous, giant oaks, and mangroves, ringing with the sounds of birds and splashes of the occasional river alligators.
Being one of the oldest parks in the region, Hillsborough River State Park attracts thousands of people every year. Visitors canoe through the waterways, walk down the Wetlands Restoration Trail, and cycle the multiple winding tracks in the area.
You can also experience the river in the Pirate Water Taxi, which rides up and down the river, making stops throughout downtown Tampa. It’s a fun way to explore downtown and the beautiful sea creatures, such as white ibis and alligators.
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If you want to go out of the way to discover something new, perhaps this trip is what you need.
Spend Your Day With Dolphins
If you head out into the Gulf of Mexico, you can go on a dolphin sightseeing tour and spend your day with these playful creatures in their habitat. Unlike the aquariums and tanks in Tampa, you can touch and interact with dolphins for free.
Take a boat to the Boca Ciega Bay, home to over 700 identified dolphins. Along with plenty of dolphins, you might also spot other wildlife, such as seabirds, manatees, and sea turtles.
If you get lucky, you can see the dolphins jump out of the water as you glide silently among them.
Visit the Glass Exhibition
Visit Dale Chichulay’s permanent glass exhibition in downtown St. Petersburg. His paintings have hung over the piazza, and his permanent glass collection is displayed in the gallery dedicated to his large-scale works.
The entrance to the Chihuly Collection is marked by a 20 ft long vertical space of cherry-colored “rocks.” They are made of glass, but the texture and size give them a unique appearance. As you move along, you will be awed by the works that never fail to thrill the audience from around the world.
After admiring the collection, walk through the Chihuly Museum. Since you are visiting on the weekend, you can ask the docents around to help if you have questions about the place.
Stop at the Glass Studio & Hot Shop at the Morean Arts Center. Here, you can watch Glassblowers and make your pieces. The shop also displays glasswork by local and regional artists.
You can save on admission in the gallery with the CityPass Tampa Bay.