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Local’s Guide to 42 Fun Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

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Tampa, Florida is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations for travelers looking for sun and fun. And it’s no wonder why – with its beautiful beaches, vibrant cultural scene, and countless outdoor activities, there’s something for everyone in Tampa. Recently, Tampa was even included in Time Magazine’s 2023 list of the world’s greatest places, further cementing its status as a must-visit destination.

If you’re planning a trip to Tampa, you’re in luck – this bustling city has a lot to offer. In this blog post, I’ll explore some of the best things to do in Tampa, as well as recommendations for where to eat and stay, so you can make the most of your time in this amazing city. So, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, read on to discover the best of Tampa!

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downtown Tampa on a sunny, clear day

When is the best time to visit Tampa?

There really isn’t a bad time to visit Tampa, but there are things to keep in mind when planning your trip!

Florida winters are mild, however, you probably won’t be able to have too many beach days if you visit Tampa in the winter. The water usually cools down by October/November and doesn’t warm up again until around late May. Not that you don’t see people in the water still, it’s just not as enjoyable!

Summers can be humid with frequent scattered showers, but they usually don’t last long!

I recommend coming in May, or the fall and winter. The weather is lovely then, and at the beginning of fall, the water is still warm enough to swim.

downtown Tampa skyline at sunset

Fun Things to Do in Tampa

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Waterfront and Beach activities in Tampa

Boat tours

If you want a private charter with a captain included, Staying Afloat Party Boat is one of the best boat tours in Tampa! Prices start at $700 for 4 hours for up to 12 people. Or you can do a 2-hour charter exploring the heart of downtown Tampa for $400 for up to 12 people.

Pirate Water Taxi

The Pirate Water Taxi is a fun hop-on, hop-off shuttle service. With 14 stops and a narrated tour that allows you to explore downtown Tampa and the Riverwalk District all day!

All-day passes are $25 for adults and $15 for kids.

Pirate Water Taxi in Tampa

Dinner Cruise

Yacht StarShip Dinner Cruise is a buffet-style cruise. The menu offers seafood and non-seafood options. The price includes your meal and an open bar that’s Free at Sea.

The open bar includes Bud Light, Michelob ULTRA, Bud Light Seltzer, house wines, and house liquors. They also have a DJ providing an even more enjoyable evening!

Prices vary depending on if you choose to do your cruise in the early evening, happy hour, or at sunset. And you can purchase tickets to do just the cruise without dining as well!

The food and service were phenomenal for our experience, plus I loved the views of downtown from the water!

Kraken Cycleboats

I’m sure you’ve seen pedal pubs, well, Kraken Cycleboats takes things to the next level and takes you out pedaling on the water!

The Kraken holds up to 15 people, and seats are $45 each. The price includes a 2-hour cruise, souvenir cups, coolers, a captain, and a sound system. It is a BYOB experience.

You get a mini tour of downtown Tampa from the bay and even get to make a pitstop at Armature Works!

Check out my Amazon recommendations for your Florida packing list!

Water bike/kayak/SUP

These are some of my favorite activities! No matter how many times you do them, it feels like a new adventure every single time!

Not only that, there are an ENDLESS amount of locations you can explore. If you’re staying in downtown Tampa, the most convenient rental location will most likely be from Urban Kai at Armature Works.

There are so many great kayak spots in the Tampa Bay area, but if you don’t mind taking a little drive, Weeki Wachee is my favorite place that I have found for kayaking!

Book your Weeki Wachee kayak tour here!

Beach Day

Tampa beaches are a little different than ones such as Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach, but they are still beautiful and a great spot to catch some rays!

Ben T. Davis is probably the most popular beach in the Tampa city limits. It stretches along the Courtney Campbell Causeway and provides a white sand beach, picnic shelters, and beach volleyball. It’s also close to Whiskey Joe’s (one of my favorite waterfront dining spots in Tampa) and WTR, two other fun spots! You can even rent kayaks or paddle boards to take out on the water here.

Ben T Davis beach in Tampa volleyball

If you drive, you will have to pay for parking. And if you’re going over the weekend you’ll want to arrive at a decent time to ensure you can snag a spot.

Cypress Point Park and Picnic Island Park are two other popular Tampa beaches. Check out this list for all of your beach day necessities.

Giant chair at Whiskey Joe's in Tampa
Whiskey Joe’s

WTR

I absolutely love WTR— it is such a fun venue! If they aren’t hosting an event during the week you can have a pool day there for free.

They do often have great performers and DJs here, especially on the weekends. The environment here is super fun and there’s always great music. It’s located right on the bay, so you get poolside luxury with a view!

WTR pool party in Tampa

Cruisin Tikis

More suited for 21+, Cruisin Tikis is your own personal floating bar. Cruise around Tampa, St. Pete, or Clearwater on a 1½- to 2-hour cruise.

You bring your own booze and snacks, but the tiki provides you with cups, ice, a blender, and a fun way to explore the area. This was honestly one of my favorite boat tours. We had a total blast! I especially love this idea for Spring Break crews, Tampa bach parties, and birthday celebrations.

Book your Cruisin Tiki tour here!

Totally Tiki Tours

Totally Tiki Tours is an incredible experience that takes the fun of a tiki boat to a whole new level! This tour is larger and offers more space for guests to walk around, making it perfect for bigger crews.

The best part? They provide a shotski, so you can enjoy a round of shots with your friends while cruising along. Another amazing feature is the onboard bathroom, which adds convenience and ensures a comfortable experience for everyone.

They have different options from island tours to sunset cruises, so you can cater your tour to whatever your heart desires. Our sunset cruise with Totally Tiki Tours was unforgettable, and I highly recommend it for a fantastic and fun-filled adventure!

Other outdoor activities in Tampa

Hot Air Balloon

How cool would it be to see Tampa from an aerial view? This experience was truly amazing and surreal.

You have to have this experience at sunrise, and it almost makes it feel even more magical as you rise in the balloon with the sun in a harmonious moment. You feel weightless and at peace.

Read about my full experience here.

Two of the hot air balloons used for Big Red Balloon in Tampa

Helicopter Ride

Another thing to do in Tampa that may give you a little bit of a thrill! At The Hangar, you can do a helicopter ride through Tampa Bay Aviation and get an aerial view of this beautiful area.

There are different options from the length of ride, the area you want to see, and what time you want to go that will determine the cost. Afterward, grab a drink at The Hangar!

mother and daughter inside helicopter going for a ride in St. Pete

Theatres, Museums, and Concert Venues in Tampa

Tampa Museum of Art

The Tampa Museum of Art provides innovative exhibits and art classes with a focus on ancient, modern, and contemporary art. TMA has one of the largest Greek and Roman antiquities collections in the Southeastern United States!

Check here to see their current exhibitions. They also often have fun events like make-and-take art workshops! Adult admission is $20 There are several discounted rates, and college students enter for free!

If you love museums, check out more of the top museums in Tampa.

Tampa Museum of Art

Tampa Theatre

The Tampa Theatre is not only a protected historic landmark, but it’s also a local icon. Every time you pass it, it’s hard to not gaze at it in admiration.

Better yet if you get to experience one of the 600+ events that are held here each year!  

You can see contemporary films, classic movies, comedians, musicians, and even get tours.

Ticket prices vary depending on the event or show you choose to see. There are concessions as well as a full bar available.

Tampa Theatre lit up at night

Straz Center

The Straz Center for the Performing Arts is the second largest performing arts complex in the Southeastern US.

You can expect to see performances and events ranging from the grand opera to Broadway shows, as well as classical music and rock concerts. Around the holidays you can get tickets for the Nutcracker!

In 2022 you can expect to see Frozen and Pretty Woman: The Musical! Ticket prices vary by event and seat.

Straz Center in Tampa, Florida. One of the best things to do in Tampa.

See a show at The Ritz

The Ritz is located in Ybor, and it’s the place to go if you’re looking for a fun show. They usually host EDM artists, with the occasional rap and other genre guests.

If you’re into the artist or music playing, you’re going to have a good time. I’ve gone to a great number of shows at The Ritz over the years myself, and I enjoy their shows.

The Ritz in Ybor Tampa

The Dali Museum

If you’re into museums, The Dali Museum is a must. Aside from Europe, St. Pete houses the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s work! It’s truly a unique experience, and it’s so fun trying to interpret Dali’s Surrealism.

Tickets are $25 for adults. Make sure to reserve your tickets in advance! After you’re done at The Dali, make sure to check out St. Pete Pier!

Shopping, Dining, & Drinking in Tampa

International Plaza and Bay Street

Located just a short drive from Tampa International Airport you’ll find International Plaza and Bay Street shopping center. If you enjoy shopping, it’s one of the most stunning malls in Tampa with stores like Armani, GUCCI, and Kate Spade along with an open-air village and several restaurants ranging from fine dining to quick eats.

Tampa markets

Tampa’s markets are the heartbeat of local culture, offering an exciting mix of flavors, crafts, and community spirit. Whether you’re a local seeking fresh produce or a visitor eager to dive into the city’s vibe, these markets are where it’s at.

From bustling farmers’ markets bursting with seasonal goodies to funky artisan markets showcasing local talent, there’s always something cool to explore. Soak up the lively atmosphere, chat with vendors, and maybe even discover your new favorite snack or handmade treasure!

The Riverwalk

Bike, Rollerblade, scooter, walk, or jog the Tampa Riverwalk. It’s one of my favorite free things to do in Tampa! It’s so enjoyable strolling the Riverwalk and taking in the beautiful city as well as the Hillsborough River.

The Riverwalk is 2.4 miles, but feel free to walk as little or as much as you want. Some interesting stops along the Riverwalk include:

Just to name a few! There are also several free events throughout the year held at the Riverwalk! This is a great Tampa activity night or day.

Sparkman Wharf & Splitsville

This is such an awesome waterfront location located right in Channelside. Sparkman Wharf has a ton of little food stands set up with several fun options.

Once you go into Splitsville, you’ll notice the setup is southern and upscale, but it has a chill vibe. They have darts, pool, lawn bowling, bowling, ping pong, and Skee-Ball. (Check out other fun bowling alleys in Tampa!)

During the week, everything can be very open, but on the weekends, it tends to get busy. You can test your luck, show up and get your name on a list, and explore the area and get some eats at Sparkman while you wait, or you can call ahead and make a lane reservation for bowling.

Hard Rock Casino

Dress up a little bit and head to the Hard Rock! Grab a bite to eat at The Rez Grill (or one of the casino’s numerous options) and try your odds at the slots or tables! If you win, up the ante by treating yourself and getting a room for the night!

They also often have fun pool parties, and getting dinner at Council Oaks is a must!

Wat Thai Temple

I feel like this is a pretty unique thing to do in Tampa. I haven’t been yet, but I have heard nothing but great things about this spot! The Temple grounds are open daily between 9 am and 6 pm if you want to go at a time outside the Sunday Market.  

If you do visit the Sunday Market, get there early because they do sell out! They only make a certain amount of each menu item. Also, it’s cash only, so don’t forget your wallet.

Everyone I know who has visited raves that it’s the best Thai food in the area, and from the pictures, I totally believe it! You can even enjoy your meal at one of the picnic tables by the Palm River.

Wat Tampa Thai Temple

Family-Friendly Activities in Tampa

Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium houses over 14,000 creatures. It’s not just limited to marine life either. There are otters, lemurs, alligators, pythons, free-flying birds, and more alongside the marine life you know and love. Sea turtles, dolphins, eels, and sharks are all aplenty throughout the aquarium.

There is a splash pad for the kids and touch pools where you can get up close and personal with stingrays, sea stars, anemones, sea cucumbers, and other interesting creatures. I would say this experience usually takes around 2-3 hours.

Ticket prices fluctuate between $28-$32 depending on multiple factors. Book your tickets online and skip the line here.

Make a custom candle at Candle Pour

One of the more unique things to do in Tampa is offered by Candle Pour, where creativity and scent blend seamlessly to create a truly personalized candle-making adventure.

The process is both engaging and gratifying as you begin by perusing the scent wall, selecting your favorite fragrances from an array of options. Next, you will collaborate with an expert who will assist you in combining 3-4 of your chosen scents to craft the perfect candle that reflects your taste.

This is one of the best things to do in Hyde Park! While you wait for your candle to settle you can wander around the charming village or even grab a bite at one of Hyde Park’s top restaurants!

Check out a sporting event

Tampa Bay has been killing it these few years in sports. The games are so fun to watch and be a part of. Depending on the season, cheer on one of our Tampa Bay teams, whether it be The Rays, The Bucs, or The Lightning!

Sky Zone

Sky Zone is the world’s first indoor trampoline park. They have over a dozen core attractions including an air court, sky tower, ninja warrior course, and free climb.

An all-day pass is just $29.99. But be sure to check out their Family Fridays and Sunday Fundays for special deals!

Topgolf

Topgolf is a 3-level golf entertainment complex that features 102 bays, a rooftop terrace, lively bars, and a unique spin on your golf game.

Even for those who don’t actually like golf, Topgolf is fun. Is it embarrassing when you attempt to swing and miss the ball completely (speaking from experience)? Sure. But after a few of their yummy cocktails, you’ll be convinced you’re the next Tiger Woods (minus the scandal). This is fun for groups, or even just you and your partner or friend!

Woman putting at Topgolf

Dave & Buster’s

SO MANY GAMES. Places like this are so fun because it doesn’t matter what type of game person you are— they have something for you! Basketball, DDR, the classics like Pac-Man, etc. It makes you feel like a kid again running around here.

Pro tip: sign up for Dave & Buster’s emails to get monthly savings as well as $10 in free gameplay with a $10 gameplay purchase for joining!

Dave & Buster’s can be a little far of a drive, but it’s right by Topgolf if you choose to do that too. GameTime in Ybor may be a closer option, and they also have plenty of fun games!

Escape room

I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would to be honest! It is so fun working together (or maybe against each other) to solve riddles and clues and try to beat the clock to get out of the room! What makes escape rooms even more fun is there are so many different themes to choose from!

Check out The Great Escape Room Tampa to see what rooms they currently have!

Pirate and code themed escape room entry way on Clearwater Beach

Busch Gardens

Enjoy an action-packed day at Busch Gardens! This African-themed amusement park is like stepping into a whole new world of excitement. You can even hand-feed giraffes—yes, real giraffes! It’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

Tickets are pretty reasonable, and if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can splurge on the giraffe-feeding safari tour for a truly unforgettable encounter. Oh, and did I mention there are cocktails? Yup, even the grown-ups can enjoy some liquid fun while exploring the park.

Get your Busch Gardens tickets here!

Adventure Island

Located just across the street from Busch Gardens is Tampa’s own waterpark. Adventure Island has waterslides, wave pools, a lazy river, and even VR snorkeling! Kids and adults alike are sure to be entertained here.

Or feel free to relax in a cabana while the kids wear themselves out! Get your Adventure Island tickets here.

Spend a day exploring one of Tampa’s surrounding areas

Clearwater Beach, Dunedin, St. Pete, Tarpon Springs, Weeki Wachee, Ybor, and Orlando are just a few of the amazing day trips you can take from Tampa!

For example, you can take a fishing trip or a cruise on a sunset In St. Petersburg or go attraction-seeing in Orlando – don’t forget your city pass here.

If you’re looking for things to do in Tampa with your significant other, check out some date ideas for Tampa!

Nightlife in Tampa

Best bars in SOHO Tampa

SoHo is popular with the college crowd. MacDintons, SoHo Saloon, Bar HWRD, Corner Bar, and Green Lemon are some of the most popular spots. Most of these spots have large outdoor areas as well as dancing.

Best bars in Ybor

Ybor nightlife gets pretty wild, so if you’re looking for a crazy night out, this may be the place to go with hot spots like Piranha, Bad Monkey, and Coyote Ugly. Or if you’re into shows, The Ritz always has something going on and often has big-name DJs! If you want to start your night off tamely, you can start at Copper Shaker for a delicious craft cocktail.

Best bars in Downtown Tampa

If you’re sticking to downtown, CW’s Gin Joint, Eden, American Social, Gen X, and Park and Rec are all solid choices with completely different vibes. American Social is a local hot spot located right on a channel of Hillsborough Bay. It’s a massive sports bar with scenic views and a fun environment.

Gen X is at the top of my list for fun bars in Tampa. This place will take you right back to the ‘80s and early ‘90s. They have pinball, Atari pong, cubbies full of random VHS tapes and lava lamps, and even on-theme drinks like adult Capri Suns!

Gin Joint is more sophisticated and gives off speakeasy vibes with delicious cocktails and an amazing food menu.

Speaking of speakeasies, I have quite a thing for speakeasies myself. If you do as well, be sure to visit Ciro’s! You must make a reservation, and you will get the password texted to you a few hours before 🙂

Check out the best speakeasies in Tampa Bay and my complete list of the best bars in Tampa! M. Bird at Armature Works has views, vibes, and great cocktails. It’s one of the best rooftop bars in Tampa!

Personally, my favorite place to go out is in downtown St. Pete. On Central and 1st Avenue there is bar after bar you can pop in and out of! It’s super walkable, and there are so many different types of bars you’re sure to find one that fits your needs! If breweries are more your scene, St. Pete has several awesome breweries to choose from.

I think that just about covers every option that you could want for a night on the town!

Special Events in Tampa

If you’re a fan of music festivals, Sunset Music Festival is held at Raymond James Stadium over Memorial Day Weekend every year. It’s always a magical, fun time. It’s an EDM music festival, so you can expect names like Slander, Alison Wonderland, and Marshmello. Those are just a few examples from previous years.

There are a handful of awesome music festivals in Tampa of all different genres though!

Another really fun annual event Tampa has is Gasparilla. You can expect drunk “pirates” invading the streets and canals, parades, and fun parties throughout the city. For the history of the event check here.

Best Restaurants in Tampa

Best restaurants in Tampa for an upscale dining experience

In Tampa, if you want an upscale dining experience, the best places to eat are Meat Market and Bern’s Steakhouse. Both are phenomenal for steak and seafood options. Be sure to make reservations! Bern’s is typically booked up months in advance.

Even if you can’t get into Bern’s for dinner, try going for dessert! They have their very own dessert room (with some of the best desserts in Tampa!) that is separate from their dinner dining experience!

Related read: Check out my complete list for the Best Restaurants in Tampa!

The great thing about Bern’s is they give you soo much food! I always split a steak dinner with whoever I go with to ensure we have room for the Dessert Room. The photo below is my meal after it was split! Oh, and if you’re a soup lover they have an amazing soup flight that includes two of my favorites, lobster bisque, and French onion.