Grand Prix Tampa's sprawling grounds host adrenaline-spiking activities including go-karting, miniature golf, and a ropes course. The big track's tire-bordered speedway invites drivers to rev through tight corners and speed-encouraging straightaways, and the family track welcomes single- or double-seat karts during more tot-friendly races. Racers can catch their breath and calm skittish fuzzy dice on one of two 18-hole mini-golf courses, where dimpled spheres roll through miniature castles and dodge fountain-speckled waterways on their way to the hole. A towering geodesic dome houses a winding ropes course, which challenges climbers to hop across bouncing wooden steps and pegs while supported by a safety harness. The turbo bungee's elastic trampolines launch tethered guests into the ether, where they can catch the wayward baseballs soaring from nine onsite batting cages. Meals at Grand Prix Tampa's Pit Stop Cafe silence hunger pangs with sandwiches, snacks, and kids’ meals, which guests can dine on beneath the Castle Arcade's twinkling panoply of claw machines and air-hockey tables.
For more than 50 years, family-owned Pin Chasers alleys have been adding perks to the bowling basics. Leagues for all skill levels, six-week lesson plans, and the immersive light shows of late-night Cyber bowling entertain families with the fundamentals. It's when the scoring systems—equipped with touchscreen consoles and customizable backgrounds—boot up or the automatic bumpers raise between turns that players might first take notice of their high-tech surroundings. As for service, the inviting staff hand out complimentary bowling shoes and socks, and will assist guests in picking out the right type of ball rather than noisily sandblasting one down to size when it doesn’t fit. The full-service cafes also manage to defy expectations by serving breakfast fare around the clock.
Friendly employees and full bars span each of Pin Chasers' three locations, but other amenities differ. Visitors can aim cues at Veterans' four billiards tables, stretch their thumbs at East Pasco's arcade, or try to count all of Midtown's 50 lanes without first extracting their fingers from their bowling balls.
Before coming to America in 1970, young Armando Gort would wander the countryside of Cuba to watch the horses and dream of the day when he would finally own his own horse ranch. After coming to the states and finding his footing, his dream became a reality in 1994. Today, at HorsePower for Kids, Armando lets children with similar dreams or a simple love for horses join him in his fascination for the majestic animal. He also organizes riding and educational programs specifically for inner-city kids and at-risk children. This all takes place on a farm surrounded by Old Tampa Bay wilderness, where children from all walks of life can ride ponies and horses during trail rides and lessons. Alpacas, hogs, lemurs, and baby deer, also call the ranch home, occasionally making themselves available for petting and or high-hooves.
The Florida Aquarium gives families a glimpse into the mysteries and magic of the undersea world and some of the land that surrounds it. The new Journey to Madagascar exhibit provides a look into the island's unique wildlife and diverse geography as well as the nearby Indian Ocean coral reef. The marine life exhibits spotlight the creatures that live in the bay or deeper underwater, even allowing kids to touch rays and sharks at Stingray Beach or lock eyes with sea turtles. Kids also see the sights of a 60-foot dive at the coral-reef exhibit's walk-through tunnel, whose underwater coral cave and brightly colored fish earned the aquarium a place in Parents magazine's top 10 aquariums for kids. A trip down the Wetlands Trail allows visitors to get face to face with playful otters and more circumspect Burmese pythons, while the Penguin Point opens a window into the lives of the best dressed of the flightless water birds.
The nonprofit Lowry Park Zoo has more than 1,500 animals living on nearly 60 acres of land. One way the Zoo maintains its animal habitats and conservation programs is to hold the annual ZooBoo fundraiser each fall, welcoming families for a slew of Halloween-themed attractions. The event’s spooky theme is evident upon arrival, as the Zoo’s walkways are filled with costumed youngsters. Haunted houses await to elicit giggles, gasps, or shrieks, and parents can easily determine which haunts are appropriate for their brood by consulting the Zoo's skull rating, which designates the scary level of each event, ranging from "all ages" to "scary to the extreme". Admission also includes free unlimited spins on rides such as the Batty Bumper Boats or Scary-Go-Round Carousel. After visiting with some of the Zoo's creepiest residents at the Flying Fox Bat House and Creepy Crawlers Lane, kids and adults can take in the dazzling light displays at the Little Beasties Bungalow or take a break and fill up on seasonal snacks at one of several concessions areas.
There aren't many places where families can get close to exotic animals one minute, hop on a roller coaster the next, and then settle in for a live musical performance. Busch Gardens Tampa combines the wonders of the natural world with opportunities to feel a little like those animals, perhaps by zipping along on the Cheetah Hunt coaster or getting an eagle's-eye view from the Skyride.
Each area of the park offers shopping and dining to match its region's theme. Among them is Pantopia, a fully remodeled wonderland featuring thrilling rides, new global culinary options, and an indoor theater, along with many other attractions and entertainments such as Falcon?s Fury, Busch Gardens? newest thrill machine.