City Guide / Tampa

10 Fun Things to Do in Tampa

By Bri Hand | Sep 23, 2021
Tampa residents ride roller coaster at Busch Gardens.

Tampa, Florida, is an electric bayside town where the only thing you won’t find is a dull moment. The city has been a magnet for American tourists since the Victorian era, but it’s the residents’ knack for turning anything into an occasion for festivity (particularly of the quirky variety) that makes this city such an inviting place to live.

However, you like to have a good time—whether that’s wolfing down Cuban sandwiches, promenading through museums, or scouring the city for the most bizarre attractions possible—you will always find something up your alley when you’re living in Tampa.

Here are 10 fun things to do in Tampa to keep you on your toes in the unique cultural bricolage that is this Floridian city, including:

  1. Treating yourself at Busch Gardens
  2. Checking the festival lineup
  3. Poking around Ybor City
  4. Going brewery hopping
  5. Getting lost in the Sunken Gardens
  6. Rediscovering nature
  7. Taking a trip to Cuba
  8. Promenading through a museum
  9. Finding your next loofah
  10. Visiting the animals

1. Treat yourself at Busch Gardens

You can’t mention Tampa attractions without mentioning this famed theme park. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a cornucopia of treats for all ages, with more than 15 rides and roller coasters, safaris, live shows, and plenty of diversions for kids and adults.

The theme park also offers military discounts, as well as free Wi-Fi for visitors (and teenagers who may or may not need to take a break from all the family fun).

2. Check the festival lineup

The party never stops in Tampa! The city is home to innumerable festivals being held year-round, and there are no limits on reasons to celebrate. To name just a handful of annual festivals that make Tampa their home, there’s:

  • The Gasparilla Music Festival
  • Tampa Bay Balloon Festival
  • Tampa’s Riverwalk Food and Arts Festival
  • Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival
  • Dunedin Celtic Festival

To see what fairs are happening on any given day, week, or month, check the listings on Visit Tampa Bay or South Florida’s My Area Network.

3. Poke around Ybor City

Ybor City is a neighborhood in downtown Tampa with deep Cuban, Spanish, and Italian roots. “Cigar City,” as it’s known, used to be a center of cigar manufacturing back in the day, but the area has since diversified its offerings and become a popular place to eat, drink, shop—and hunt for ghosts.

That’s right: If you’ve got a penchant for the supernatural, Ghost Tour Ybor City holds nationally recognized, lore-leaden walkabouts of the neighborhood.

If you’re less inclined to be haunted, there’s still plenty to do. Visit the Ybor Museum to learn about the history of the immigrants who made the neighborhood, or take a leisurely trolley ride on the TECO Line Streetcar.

4. Go brewery hopping

Like any other city, living in Tampa has pros and cons, but if you’re a fan of beer, you’ve come to the right place. The Tampa Bay area holds the most local craft breweries in the state, with 96 to choose from in the Metro area.

Here are just a few of the top-ranking breweries in the city:

5. Get lost in the Sunken Gardens

The retro-looking sign flagging down visitors on 4th Street North in St. Petersburg testifies to the Sunken Gardens’ century-long legacy as a staple attraction of the Tampa Bay area.

As legend has it, St. Petersburg resident George Turner, Sr.—a plumber by trade and horticulturist by heart—started sewing these six acres as a personal gardening project in 1911. The undertaking quickly turned it into a profitable side-hustle for neighbors willing to give up their shiniest nickel to be dazzled by his labyrinthine landscape designs. 

Today, the botanical garden boasts over 50,000 species of tropical flora, waterfalls, and a resident gaggle of flamingos. Visitors can wander the grounds at their leisure, or enjoy a docent-led garden tour.

If you happen to have nieces or nephews with you, make a day of it! The Great Explorations Children’s Museum is just next door, ideal to recharge little ones with hands-on play and entertainment after a long, meandering garden stroll.

6. Rediscover nature

In the lush land of Florida, there’s no shortage of opportunities to answer the call of the wild. For those looking to enjoy nature in a less curated setting, here are the top three ways to experience the Tampa environment:

  • Lettuce Lake Park: If you’re in the mood for a low-key hike, Lettuce Lake Regional Park is a local favorite that’s great for lazy afternoons spent canoeing, birdwatching, fishing, and a picnic area for firing up the grill.
  • Caspersen Beach: Caspersen Beach is the state’s only black-sands beach open to the public and is a mecca for beachcombers on the hunt for shark teeth and seashells. If you’re looking for a bite to eat after a long day on the prowl for shark teeth, stop in Saratoga for Yoder’s Restaurant & Amish Village on your way back to Tampa proper. 
  • Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve: Sitting on old Tampa Bay between Tampa and Clearwater beach is Mobbly Bayou, another spot to launch your canoes, your kayaks, or your freewheeling body from one of Zip Tampa Bay’s zip-lining courses for a bird’s eye view of the 396-acre Preserve.

Those are just a fraction of opportunities to get outdoors in Tampa, so check your local map to see what green and blue spaces are near you!

7. Take a trip to Cuba

Yet another exceptional thing to do in Tampa: Make a break for the border without leaving the neighborhood.

Parque Amigos de Martí in Ybor City is a tiny plot of land located on the U.S. mainland, but filled with soil from each of Cuba’s provinces and is technically under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Cuba.

The mini park was given to Cuba in 1956, pre-revolution, and despite the political differences that ensued, the grounds remain under the management of Cuban-American Tampa residents. Parque Amigos is only open on weekdays, but it’s quaint enough to take in the views through the iron gate if you can only make it on a weekend.

8. Promenade through a museum

Tampa is home to a wealth of museums, from centers of classic and contemporary art like the Tampa Museum of Art, which holds free open houses every Thursday evening, to slightly stranger institutions like the Showmen’s Museum, dedicated to the history of American carnivals.

A few other must-sees include:

  • The Henry B. Plant Museum: Visit for a keyhole view into the life and death of the Tampa Bay Hotel and Floridian tourism in the Gilded Age.
  • The Dalí: This museum is dedicated to the eponymous Salvador Dalí, the Spanish master of surrealism. Its new exhibit, Dalí Lives, attempts to resurrect the eccentric artist using artificial intelligence tech to dream up a version of Dalí if he were alive today.
  • The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art: A Tampa Florida museum that calls itself “26,000 feet of Calm,” this St. Petersburg oasis is as beautiful on the outside as its interior holdings. The permanent collection includes 20th- and 21st-century art, sculpture, and artifacts with an emphasis on creations made by native artists from the American Southwest.

Another site worth mentioning is the Hindu Temple of Florida, which, while not a museum, is a religious center and architectural work of art open to visitors.

9. Find your next loofah

Florida is known as a naturally resplendent state with a lively soul. 

Case in point: The Spongeorama Sponge Factory, a kitschy gift shop and museum in Tarpon Springs touting the world’s largest collection of natural sponges (so the sign says). 

Yes, you can shop online for all of your sponge-related needs, but what would be the point of that? Step right up and feast your eyes on aisles upon aisles of sea sponge glory that this dockside gem has to behold.

10. Visit the animals

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo isn’t the only place to find animals. The city is full of sanctuary projects built to give all sorts of species a happy home without a constant barrage of ogling visitors.

Here are two if you’ve got a soft spot in your heart for animal welfare:

  • Suncoast Primate Sanctuary is a nonprofit that cares for primates, as well as reptiles and exotic birds, all of whom have retired from their roles in research laboratories—and as animal film stars. If you want to meet the Ethel Merman of the orangutan world, spend an afternoon at Suncoast.
  • Another fixture for animal lovers in the Tampa area (and well known from Netflix’s “Tiger King!) is Big Cat Rescue, which gives a home to large felines who were mistreated or abandoned by their former owners. The center’s staff offers an educational guided tour to promote conservation efforts in the Tampa area and around the globe. 

Both sanctuaries offer Tampa animal lovers the opportunity to make a difference through donations or volunteer work, so if you’re interested, talk to one of their warm and knowledgeable staff members.

Put yourself on the map with Landing

If you’re planning your move to Tampa, Florida, and want to jump straight into the endless activities the city has to offer, the best way to ensure a smooth move is to land your next apartment with Landing.

Landing offers furnished apartments with flexible lease options all across the country so that you can find your next home on your terms, no matter what your plans are—including fully furnished apartments in Tampa. Browse our network of available apartments or reach out to one of our team members to see how we can help you set up shop in your new place. 

Whatever city is calling your name—Tampa or beyond—start your search with Landing.

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.