Things To Do With Kids in Tampa

Orlando may hog all the glory when it comes to family-friendly destinations in Florida, but less than 100 miles southwest you can find an equally impressive array of things to do with kids in Tampa and the greater bay region. For starters, the city features its own roster of world-class theme parks, from Busch Gardens to Legoland. Plus, there are all the exciting outdoor activities you’d expect to find in a place where it’s perpetually summer.

Best Family-Friendly Attractions in Tampa

High-flying roller-coasters, dizzying water slides, and top-notch wildlife attractions abound in this tourist-friendly town. Here are the marquee names to start with if you’re planning a Tampa vacation or just want to get the most out of summer while the kids are out of school.

  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Across themed areas like Morocco, Congo, and Egypt you’ll find major thrill rides such as the recently added Cobra’s Curse, an unusual roller-coaster with cars that spin independently as you ride. Oh, and the park’s animal attractions make it one of the nation’s largest zoos to boot.
  • Adventure Island Tampa Bay: Directly across from Busch Gardens sits this 30-acre water park promising plenty of thrills of its own. Plunge down the 70-foot drop slide Vanishing Point, which begins with the floor opening up beneath you, then recover with a ride down a lazy river.
  • LEGOLAND Florida Resort: Ride kid-friendly coasters like the Joker Soaker and the Coastersaurus at this Winter Haven, FL, park and resort built with children age 2 to 12 in mind. The elaborate LEGO installations—from Kennedy Space Center to LEGO Star Wars—are a major bonus.
  • The Florida Aquarium: This aquarium is home to more than 7,000 plants and animals, including alligators, sand tiger sharks, and stingrays. There’s even a kids’ play area known as the Splash Pad with water dump buckets and spray zones.
  • Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park: Watch pygmy hippos stretch out in the sun and see how injured Florida manatees get nursed back to health at this sizable zoo that’s occupied Lowry Park since 1957.

Spotlight On: LEGO Star Wars at LEGOLAND Florida Resort

It sounds like something an 8-year-old devised in a dream: a giant exhibit of classic Star Wars scenes rendered solely in LEGO bricks. But the LEGO Star Wars exhibition at Winter Haven’s LEGOLAND Florida Resort is very real, and it’s vastly more impressive than anything an amateur LEGO fan could put together.

More than 1.5-million bricks went into the making of the exhibit, which features scenes from the first seven live-action Star Wars films plus the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Most of the 2,000 models are meticulously depicted at a 1:20 scale, but some beloved characters, like R2-D2 and Darth Vader, get the full life-size treatment. Some sections even have interactive elements such as buttons kids can press to activate animations.

The newest addition to the display is the Force Awakens section, which opened in May 2018 and which portrays the most memorable adventures of Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, BB-8, and others with the help of light and sound effects.


Best Kids Sports in Tampa

With its agreeable climate and bayside location, Tampa is a wonderful place to spend some family time outdoors, whether you’re floating down the waters of Fort de Soto Park or getting the kids involved in the region’s thriving youth sports scene. Here are some ideas for sports and outdoor activities for kids in Tampa to get you started:

  • Paddleboarding and kayaking: Kids 7 and older can hop in a tandem kayak or mount a stand-up paddleboard and hit the waters surrounding downtown Tampa with help from Tampa Bay SUP.
  • Baseball: Young players sharpen their skills and sweeten their swings with lessons and batting-cage sessions at The Hitting Academy.
  • Trampoline park: Join a pickup dodgeball game or try a trick jump off an angled bounce wall at Airheads Trampoline Arena.
  • Archery: Children as young as 7 try their hand at aiming a bow at Adventures Archery, home of coaches certified Level I, II, and III by USA Archery.
  • Pro sporting events: Not only is Tampa home to major teams like the Rays (MLB), Buccaneers (NFL), and Lightning (NHL), it’s also where several MLB teams play their spring training games each March. That includes the Yankees, who host their Grapefruit League home games at George Steinbrenner Field across from the Bucs’ Raymond James Stadium.

Spotlight On: Croc Encounters

Don’t expect the size and scope of, say, Zoo Tampa at the nonprofit animal sanctuary known as Croc Encounters. But what it may lack in breadth, it more than makes up for in the intimacy of the experience. On Saturdays, visitors can take self-guided tours of the alligator and crocodile ponds, then participate in a live turtle feeding, plus take a photo with a 3- to 4-foot alligator. Here’s what customers had to say about the experience:

“My 2- and 5-year-old loved this and still talk about feeding the turtles and holding an alligator. They want to go back. It’s very small but what I expected for the price. Cute place!” - Carol I.

“This place was amazing! We were visiting and it was one of the best experiences of the trip! The staff was the best part, every single one of them are wonderful and told us fun facts. I would recommend this!” - Ashley

“What an awesome day we as a family had here at Croc Encounters. The staff took time to tell us about various reptiles and their stories. Great picture opportunities and a great way to spend some outdoor time. Spend a little extra money so you can feed the turtles.” - Kathryn J.