Home to a variety of Military installations including U.S. Army Reserves, Marine Corps, Navair, Central Command, MEPS and MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa is a bustling hub of activity for Military Families. It’s not uncommon to find military-related events and meetups, including SpouseLink Ambassador events hosted at MacDill AFB, throughout the city year-round.
Tampa, the third-largest city in Florida, is the heart of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Residents and tourists alike enjoy year-round warm weather and waterfront views in this bayside city known for its world-class dining experiences, family-friendly attractions and Cuban-influenced culture.
Is your family new to the Tampa Bay area? Here are some of its top attractions, our picks for the top 10 things to do near Tampa.
1. Ybor City
Experience Tampa’s Cuban culture in Ybor City. This district surrounding 7th Avenue in downtown Tampa is known for its Cuban and Latin American boutiques, vintage shops and restaurants, as well as the Centro Ybor mall. Several structures have been granted historic landmark status in order to preserve the rich culture of the district, including a 1920s bakery which now houses the Ybor City State Museum where visitors can learn about the history of the area’s Latin American communities.
Immerse yourself in one of the most diverse areas of Tampa. Ybor City not only celebrates Latin American culture, but also embraces LGBTQ+ communities as home of the GaYbor District Coalition.
2. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Featuring a variety of world-renowned amusement park experiences, Busch Gardens Tampa is the perfect weekend destination for a family of thrill-seekers. Popular attractions include roller coasters such as Cobra’s Curse and Falcon’s Fury. The park also offers guided tours through the Serengeti Safari, live music and entertainment and a variety of family-friendly dining options. The kids will love the special character appearances hosted by the park.
You can even become a Pass Member and enjoy benefits like free parking, discounts on dining, free guest tickets, access to exclusive events and more!
3. Tampa Museum of Art
The Tampa Museum of Art is haven for art lovers. Founded in 1979, TMA offers an impressive collection of antiquities and modern and contemporary art. Patrons can explore a range of temporary and permanent exhibits and participate in free lectures and workshops. The Museum also hosts many kid-friendly educational programs for children interested in learning more about art and history.
4. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
Stroll along Tampa’s waterfront at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. This sustainable eight-acre park draws millions of visitors to its Great Lawn each year through a variety of events and performances including the Rock the Park concert series, Tampa’s monthly Fourth Friday celebration, weekly outdoor yoga and dog-friendly events like Bark in the Park.
Take your kids to splash around in the interactive fountains, clear your head with a scenic run by the water or go on a romantic picnic in the park for date night. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is a great place to enjoy the outdoors with family or friends!
5. The Florida Aquarium
Journey into the depths of the ocean at the Florida Aquarium. Home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals from around the world, you won’t want to miss out on the exciting exhibits the Florida Aquarium has to offer. Top attractions include a simulated wetlands display, StingRay Beach, an outdoor waterpark and the Wild Dolphin Eco Tour. More adventurous visitors can even take to the water and dive with sharks.
Discover Florida’s local ecosystems and learn more about the conservation efforts in place to protect them. The Florida Aquarium wraps imagination and education into one fun-filled experience both kids and adults will enjoy.
6. Big Cat Rescue
Learn more about wildlife conservation at Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating wild cats.
Now home to more than 100 wild cats, Big Cat Rescue’s mission is to end the trade and ownership of exotic cats, as well as prevent the extinction of big cats in the wild. Take a guided tour of the facility to visit the different residents of the rescue including tigers, cougars and many other big cat species.
7. Tampa Riverwalk
The Tampa Riverwalk is the perfect way to explore your new city. This pedestrian pathway runs along the river, connecting downtown Tampa with the waterfront. Many of Tampa’s top attractions can be found along the Riverwalk, including the World WAR II American Victory Ship, Channelside Bay Plaza, the Florida Aquarium and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
You can also access the best dining, shopping and entertainment Tampa has to offer along the Riverwalk. It’s a great area to explore if you’re looking for date night ideas or new places to grab happy hour with coworkers.
8. Craft Breweries
Known for its award-winning craft beer scene, you’ll never run out of happy hour venues in Tampa. The city’s long history of beer craftsmanship began over a century ago when a group of cigar factory owners opened the Florida Brewing Company in Ybor City to provide their workers with a place to relax after a long day on the job.
Grab a drink with friends at one of more than 50 local breweries or attend one of the area’s many beer-related festivals, For the non-beer drinkers, there are a variety of cideries, meaderies and craft cocktail bars to explore as well.
9. Gasparilla Pirate Festival
Participate in Tampa’s most notorious annual celebration. Named after the legendary pirate José Gaspar, Gasparilla is a two-month-long event that kicks off with the nation’s third-largest parade. Thousands of visitors and residents gather to watch as a fleet of pirate ships takes over the bay.
Kids will love the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza while adults enjoy a range of music, art and film festivals, concerts, running races and more. This is one party you definitely don’t want to miss!
Tee off at one of the area’s best golf courses. Tampa’s world-class courses are designed for golf enthusiasts of all skill levels to enjoy, whether you’re beginner or a pro. TPC Tampa Bay, built by the PGA Tour in 1991, is one of Florida’s most beautiful and well-known courses, and offers one of the most challenging courses in the area.
For a more luxury experience, check out the award-winning Saddlebrook Resort, known for its golf courses, tennis courts, spa and restaurants.
Between its relaxing beaches and fast-paced metropolitan lifestyle, you really get the best of both worlds in Tampa. Enjoy everything that this sunny, bayside city has to offer!
Meet SpouseLink Ambassador Tara
She’s our current representative at MacDill AFB. Connect with her for more insights about the area.
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