Theme Parks

Tampa Bay is packed with entertainment, cultural, and leisure attractions for families. Winner of 4.5 stars from TripAdvisor in 2014, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo features 1,000 animals on nearly 60 acres of natural habitats, water play areas, wild rides, educational shows, and interactive opportunities to get closer to wildlife. Lowry Park Zoo is one of the most popular zoos in the southeastern U.S.

Busch Gardens® Tampa is the ultimate family adventure with up-close animal encounters, live entertainment, and world-class rides. Visit Pantopia Theater to see Busch Gardens’ newest live stage show Opening Night Critters. Featuring rescued domestic and exotic animals, including dogs, cats, birds, a horse and a kangaroo, this theatrical tale follows a couple of stage hands as they haphazardly find themselves in the spotlight as the human stars in an all-animal production. Busch Gardens® Tampa puts a spin on family thrills in 2016 with Cobra's Curse! This one-of-a-kind spin coaster takes riders on a whirlwind adventure of exciting explorations. Don’t miss Busch Gardens’ mega-attraction, Cheetah Hunt®, which invites guests to join nature’s most agile predator as it races across the Serengeti on Florida’s first triple-launch roller coaster.

LEGOLAND® Florida, Central Florida’s newest theme park, is a 150-acre, full two-day interactive family theme park specifically designed for families with children ages 2 to 12. This is the largest LEGOLAND® Park in the world, and it features more than 50 rides, shows, and attractions, restaurants, shopping, a breathtaking botanical garden, and LEGOLAND® Water Park.

Arts and Culture

Arts and culture are prominent in Tampa’s ever-changing downtown. The Tampa Museum of Art is a cultural landmark situated along the Tampa Riverwalk in the city’s downtown. The museum opened its award-winning home in 2010 and is the region’s largest museum devoted to art of our time. The museum’s 14,000-square-foot LED installation on its façade has become an iconic image for Tampa.

The newly renovated Riverwalk stretches 2.2 miles as a continuous pedestrian walkway extending from the Channelside area to Tampa Heights along the east side of the Hillsborough River. It incorporates art and interpretive elements, retail and restaurants, parks and open space, and other urban amenities. The Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the centerpiece of the Riverwalk, is a very popular destination with its sloping great lawn that features two fountains, a children’s playground, public boat docks, a dog park, seat terraces, and a pavilion.

The Tampa Bay History Center, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, serves residents of the local area as well as Hillsborough County’s nearly 3 million annual tourists. Visitors take an illuminating walk through 12,000 years of Florida history with powerful stories told through interactive maps and exhibits. Tampa’s story is richly dotted with native inhabitants, Spanish conquistadors, pioneers, presidents, sports legends, and railroad tycoons – all who played a role in its colorful ethnic heritage and adventurous spirit.

The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts is located downtown along the east bank of the Hillsborough River. As the second largest performing arts complex in the Southeastern United States, the venue provides a wide variety of world-class concerts, performances, and events. The 2015-2016 season line-up features Patti LaBelle, Itzhak Perlman, Garrison Keillor, the Florida Opera Festival, and the Broadway series.

The Glazer Children’s Museum is also located on the Riverwalk in Tampa and features 17 themed areas, including health, technology, engineering exhibits, and 170 accessible and bilingual “interactivities” for families. At the Glazer Children’s Museum, children are given the rare space to imagine, pretend, and grow while mastering math, science, and reading skills. Whether they’re climbing through the water cycle, performing a play, or flying over Tampa Bay – know that this is no ordinary educational experience.

The Museum of Science and Industry, MOSI, is always a family favorite. As the largest science center in the Southeast, it contains more than 450 hands-on exhibits on space and astronomy, technology, robotics, gaming, and more. Visit MOSI’s planetarium that does double duty as Florida’s only IMAX Dome theater, and ride in the Meridian Shuttle, an autonomous vehicle that is 100% driverless and electric, while it attempts to pass the standard Florida driver license test. Enjoy MOSI's new Drone Zone where you can fly, drive, and dive commercial drones in the air, on land, and underwater. Then, step into Idea Zone, MOSI's inventor's studio, where you will be able to code a variety of motion interfacing robots to explore simulated off-world terrains and to navigate mazes.

The Florida Aquarium is home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals both native to Florida and from around the world. The aquarium gets accolades for its diverse programming. You can swim with fish, hand feed live stingrays, grab a backstage pass to see the penguins, and “Explore A Shore,” which beckons kids as an outdoor water fun zone. The Wild Dolphin Cruise departs daily from The Florida Aquarium to view some of the 500 dolphins that call Tampa Bay home. This 75-minute cruise includes an entertaining tour aboard the 72-foot, powered catamaran the Bay Spirit II.

Built in 1926 as one of America’s most elaborate movie palaces, the Tampa Theatre is a beloved community landmark. Upon entering under the theatre’s “blade sign” marquee, audiences are transported to a lavish, romantic Mediterranean courtyard, complete with old-world statuary, flowers, and gargoyles. As one of the most heavily utilized venues of its kind in the United States, Tampa Theatre’s single auditorium hosts more than 600 events each year, including a full schedule of first-run and classic films, concerts, special events, corporate events, tours, and educational programs. Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The Salvador Dalí Museum, located in St. Petersburg, houses the largest collection of Dalí pieces outside Europe. A new Dalí building, double in size to the existing museum, opened in early 2011 next to the Mahaffey Theater on St. Petersburg’s waterfront. The museum’s exterior is considered a work of art itself, consisting of more than 900 triangular-shaped glass panels with no two identical. Nicknamed the “Glass Enigma,” this geodesic dome-like structure is the only one of its kind in North America. AOL Travel News calls it “one of the top buildings you have to see before you die.”

Events

For more than a century, hundreds of colorfully-costumed pirates have sailed into downtown Tampa every winter during the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion. Once the captain and his Krewe capture the city, they share their plunder and trinkets with tens of thousands of enthusiastic onlookers along the parade route. Held annually the first weekend in March, The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts showcases 300 of the world’s most talented artists who essentially transform a downtown Tampa park into a museum. The festival also includes live entertainment, children’s activities, and food vendors. The Gasparilla Music Festival follows the next weekend and features musical acts from a wide variety of genres on several stages and cuisine from the region’s top restaurants.

The Florida State Fair takes place in Hillsborough County in February, and on its heels is the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, the winter strawberry capital of the world. The Gasparilla Music Festival, Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, and the Gasparilla International Film Festival all take place in March, soon followed by Major League Baseball spring training for the Yankees (Tampa), Blue Jays (Dunedin), Phillies (Clearwater), Tigers (Lakeland), Pirates (Bradenton), and our own Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte).

Spring brings the Mainsail Arts Festival to St. Petersburg. The area also has numerous music and food festivals throughout the year, several film festivals, and holiday boat parades.

Recreation

For those wanting to luxury sail, Tampa has become one of the premier cruise port destinations in the U.S. It is the home port for five lines: Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and German-based AIDA Cruises - all offering a variety of cruise itineraries.

Florida is perhaps best known worldwide for its spectacular beaches, and those in Tampa Bay are no exception. Miles of white-sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico border Greater St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Both Ft. DeSoto and Caladesi Island state parks are recent “Top Beach in America” winners. Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, about an hour’s drive from Tampa, is the 2011 top choice. Part of Caledesi’s allure is its limited accessibility by boat. Ft. De Soto Park is seen as largely unspoiled, offering fishing, nature trails, camping, and boating. It has one of the South’s best dog beach playgrounds for frolicking canines. The ever-popular Clearwater Beach has loads of activities, including pick-up volleyball games, Jet Ski rentals, swimming, sandcastle building, and Pier 60, a family entertainment complex. Clearwater Beach was voted “Best Beach in Florida” for 2013.

For more complete visitor information, go to Visit Tampa Bay.