Why the Tampa Bay Area Should be your Next Florida Family Vacation Destination
When visiting Florida, most people think of Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Naples, and Miami first. Orlando is known for its theme parks and the others are known for their beautiful beaches. However, when planning a family vacation there is one place in Florida that has something for everyone and that’s Tampa. There is literally something for everybody whether it is the beach, theme parks, waterparks, shopping, museums — the list goes on.
The Tampa Bay Area is my favorite part of Florida by far and here is why.
The Beaches: Tampa is near some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida like Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Indian Rocks, Honeymoon Island … the list goes on! You can pick the type of beach experience you want and there is a beach nearby to fit those standards.
Pirates: Yes, I said Pirates! Tampa has a deep-rooted tradition of celebrating the city’s mythic pirate invasion at the Gasparilla Pirate Fest. The great thing about Gasparilla is there is an entire separate weekend parade and celebration just for children and families. The next one will be on January 19, 2019. The adult celebration is on January 26, and if you can get away from the kids and have an “adults only” get away, the family-friendly weekend is the perfect opportunity! After all, what kid (or adult) doesn’t enjoy beautiful bay views, nice weather and dressing up like a pirate for the day?
More info: Gasparilla 2018
Glazer Children’s Museum: This recently renovated children’s museum is a must see. It sits downtown on the beautiful Hillsborough River next to the Tampa Museum of Art. This interactive children’s museum is one of the most well-done museums of its kind. There is literally something for all ages. My four-year-old daughter could play in the same spot that her baby sister could. While you’re down there, check out the Art Museum, the beautiful Tampa University of Tampa campus, and the River Walk that features parks and restaurants along the river.
More info: Glazer Museum
The Florida Aquarium: Located in the beautiful Channel District, the Florida Aquarium is worth a stop when visiting Tampa. The venue is beautiful, fun and engaging for all ages. They even have an outdoor restaurant with a view of the channel and an outdoor water splash pad for kids. So if you go, plan to stay all day and enjoy the indoor exhibits and shows, then relax and watch your kids play as you enjoy a cold beverage with a view.
Pro Tip: Since they have a splash pad and water play area make sure to bring swimsuits or a change of clothes for your kiddos.
More info: Florida Aquarium
Sparkman Wharf: Formerly know as Channelside is located on the Ybor and Garrison channels is Channelside (or Channel District), a vibrant and fun place to spend the afternoon. You can watch huge cruise ships set sail and enjoy some great food and shopping. They even have a bowling alley and IMAX theater if you are looking for more fun activities for the family. You can ride a water bike or rent a regular bike, take a Segway city tour or one of the many local boat rides, and more. Just steps away from the Florida Aquarium and Tampa Bay History Center, Sparkman Wharf has it all.
More info: Sparkman Wharf
Busch Gardens: You don’t need to fight the crowds in Orlando to experience a Florida theme park. Tampa is home to Busch Gardens and Adventure Island (Waterpark) and on my recent visit, I learned they have fun for all ages! The great thing about Busch Gardens is they not only have the thrilling roller coasters, but they have interactive and educational animal exhibits. At one point in our visit, there was a tiger pacing over our heads, seriously! The other great part is in the Florida heat you need time to cool off and unlike Disney, Busch Gardens provides several opportunities to cool off in fun splash pads designed for adults and children.
Read more: I Was So Wrong About Bush Gardens!
More info: Busch Gardens Tampa
ZooTampa at Lowry Park: The zoo in Tampa is one of the best I have ever visited! We love it so much we got an annual pass and we live in Atlanta, Ga. ZooTampa at Lowry Park has something for everybody. They even have a new water log ride to help cool you and your family off on a hot day, and several splash areas for the kiddos. Read more about our experience at Zoo Tampa here: Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park
More info: Zoo Tampa
The Dali Museum: If you are in the Tampa Bay Area, taking a drive over to St. Petersburg is a must. Whether you stay there a night or two or drive over or the day you need to check out the Dali Museum. It is a fun experience and who doesn’t love looking at the wonderful artwork of Salvador Dali? While you are there don’t forget to take a selfie and family photo with the big Dali mustache!
More info: The Dali
Ybor City: This historic neighborhood in Tampa, founded in 1880 by Cuban immigrant Jose Marti, once was home to many cigar manufacturers. Now Ybor is home to shops, restaurants, and other local business but is worth the visit. Make sure you plan your time there at a mealtime so you can enjoy the wonderful food available. Whether it is brunch at Hamburger Mary’s or dinner at The Columbian you will love all the charm and history Ybor has to offer. But you can still get a traditional hand-rolled cigar at Tabanero Cigar Factory on 7th Avenue.
More info: Ybor City
Ballast Point Park: This hidden gem sits where Bayshore Boulevard becomes Interbay Boulevard in South Tampa. It borders Hillsborough Bay and you can enjoy the water views on the fishing pier and nature walk during your visit. They have a great playground and splash pad. The entryway is lined with old oak trees and across from the entrance to the park is Perennial Farm Stables, on the Tampa Yacht Club & Country Club property and open to the public.
More info: Ballast Point
Great Shopping: Tampa is home to The International Plaza, Hyde Park and the New Prime Outlets, Wiregrass, Westshore Plaza and more. So, if you are looking to kill some time shopping on your trip they have what you are looking for whether that’s upscale, indoors, outdoor or boutique. Not only is the shopping great but there are also tons of amazing restaurants for the foodie in your family to enjoy.
Less Crowded: Overall the Tampa Bay Area is far less crowded than other tourist spots in Florida, making it more relaxing and enjoyable for everyone in the family.
There is so much entertainment diversity for all ages in Tampa and literally, this list could go on and on. So, if you are looking for a new Florida spot or just something different than your typical family beach vacation make sure to add Tampa to your 2018-2019 family travel plans.