Forbes magazine ranked Tampa the fifth best US city for enjoying the outdoors. Much credit goes to the beaches, not to mention weather that’s sunny more often than not. Abundant green spaces and year-round opportunities for fishing, surfing, and golfing along the waterfront offer a laid-back, family-friendly vibe during the day—though things can pick up considerably at night.
- Lettuce Lake Park: Wooden boardwalks alongside centuries-old cypress trees and 240 acres of natural splendor. An observation tower overlooks a beautifully unspoiled stretch of the Hillsborough River. Keep an eye out for alligators and herons on a free guided nature tour, or rent a canoe and go it alone.
- Clearwater Beach: Located on a barrier island 30 minutes from Tampa (but worth the drive), this award-winning beach is known for its white sugary sands, which stretch for miles along the Gulf.
- Big Cat Rescue: The country’s largest sanctuary for exotic cats. Take a tour to see leopards, lions, tigers, and more.
- Busch Gardens Tampa: Ride roller coasters and get up close and personal with more than 2,000 animals at this famous theme park and zoo. One of the newer thrill rides, the Cheetah Hunt, reaches speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
- Channelside: This entertainment complex near the Port of Tampa boasts an IMAX movie theater, a bowling alley, and kid-friendly chain restaurants, as well as upscale diversions for grownups.
- Florida Aquarium houses 20,000 marine animals, including penguins, sharks, and dolphins. Kids can explore interactive exhibits and enjoy live shows.
Culture and Nightlife
- Soho District: Tampa’s nightlife and dining hub, filled with high-end clubs, shops, dessert cafes, and historic architecture
- Ybor City: When this historic neighborhood was home to cigar manufacturers, thousands of Spanish, Cuban, and Italian immigrants lived here. Today, you’ll find an array of restaurants, bars, and galleries, as well as a museum chronicling Ybor City’s past. Be sure to try a Cuban sandwich while you’re in the neighborhood.
- Tampa Theatre: A beautifully preserved movie palace built in 1926. The Wurlitzer organ is still played before screenings.
Where to Stay
- Emerald Greens Condo Resort: Located near Busch Gardens, this upscale hotel sits on the grounds of Carrollwood Country Club, giving guests easy access to the 27-hole championship golf course.
- Palmer House Bed and Breakfast: Award-winning B&B offering hearty cuisine, comfortable rooms, and lots of hospitality
- Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina: This downtown hotel is set on the waterfront, near streetcar stops and restaurants.