Tampa Bay is a huge natural harbor located on Florida’s west-central coast. The name Tampa Bay, however, is often used to refer to the Tampa Bay Area of the Sunshine State. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not a single municipality or city but rather a territory composed of several towns and cities from multiple counties located in and around the bay. With that being said, here are some of the places you should visit and things to do in Tampa Bay, Florida.
1. Have an afternoon of fun at the Adventure Island
If you think Disneyland is the only park in Florida for you and the entire family to enjoy, think again. There are more destinations to enjoy in the Sunshine State and one of the forerunners is Adventure Island. The water-based theme park sits on the northeast part of Tampa and features more than 30 acres of rides and slides as well as dining and other amenities.
Start off the day of wet and wild fun with the Caribbean Corkscrew. Tag your best buddy and race down 230 feet of this twin purple tubing twisting and turning in a twin helix formation in complete darkness until you meet at the large splash pool at the end of the ride. There are also other fun rides such as the Key West Rapids and the Runway Rapids – a complex of multiple 3 adult slides and 2 kid slides.
After screaming and swimming your heart out, satisfy your taste buds with the cool treats and island cuisine at any of the kiosks and restaurants within the water park. Go for large servings of burgers, hot dogs, and chicken strips at the Surfside Café. For your quick grab and go food options, Kurrents keeps you full and on the go with their frozen drinks for kids, or ice-cold beer of adults, as well as a variety of meals like turkey legs.
2. Get immersed in Cuban culture at Ybor City
The upbeat Ybor City is a historical and cultural neighborhood within Tampa initially founded by a group of cigar manufacturers and has been inhabited mostly by Cuban, Italian, Spanish, and Latin American immigrants.
One of the must-see destinations during your visit to Ybor City is the stretch of authentic Cuban and Latin American restaurants on 7th avenue. Check out one of the persevering branches of a local chain of restaurants dating back to 1905 at the Columbia Restaurant. It occupies an entire block, housing 15 classical Spanish dining rooms and courtyards featuring water fountains for centerpiece. For your one-stop shop of Cuban and Italian cuisine, head to Carmine’s Restaurant and Bar. This restaurant has become an old-school institution specializing in Cuban sandwiches, deviled crabs offered in a large hearty space.
The Ybor City State Museum exhibits the history of the neighborhood, with large collections and notes on the beginnings of the local cigar industries as well as the diverse groups of people behind it. It is currently housed in what used to be a local bakery in the 1920s. Also, around 7th avenue and 15th street is the area known as GaYBOR, Ybor’s center for fun and music. The area is usually packed with locals and visitors drawn to its variety of bars and clubs for you to choose from.
3. Enjoy a day of sand and sea at the Clearwater Beach
As mentioned earlier, the entirety of the Tampa Bay Area does not start and end with the city of Tampa. A little to the northwest of Tampa is the city of Clearwater, in Pinellas County. The city is the smallest of the three main cities of the Tampa Bay but is in no way behind the other two when it comes to must-see destinations.
The relaxing soft, fine sand of Clearwater Beach makes it a favorite for both Americans and tourists from other parts of the world. The cool and calm waters of Clearwater are also ideal for a lot of activities such as jet skiing, swimming, parasailing, and even stand-up paddleboarding. Outfitters are also nearby to help you suit up and get up for whatever activity you plan on doing. Also, a few steps back from the beach is its long and winding beachfront promenade. Feel bits of sand carried by the sea breeze as you go walking, jogging, or biking. Try something new and go skateboarding or rollerblading along the beach walk.
After a day lazing around or getting challenged with the different activities available, take a bite or a sip at the casual seaside restaurants and cafes. Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill and Cooters Restaurant are among the most visited places along the beach, and for good reason. Frenchy’s lets you enjoy the open-air environment as they serve grilled fish freshly caught from the nearby waters. Cooters’, on the other hand, boasts a sporty ambiance and lets you dig in their seafood favorites such as the eat-all-you-can crab legs plus chicken legs and a selection of local and imported spirits.
4. Go nature tripping at the Sunken Gardens
The third of the principal cities of the Bay Area is St. Petersburg. Its pleasant weather is the reason for its Sunshine City moniker and is always inviting for a day of golfing, beach-going, fishing, and boating. The city is also the home of a large collection of surrealist artworks made by the master Salvador Dali at the Dali museum.
However, one underrated gem worthy of a slot in your next Tampa Bay Area visit is the Sunken Gardens. The four-acre property is a well-renowned botanical garden. On top of that, the garden is located in the Historic Old Northeast neighborhood in St. Petersburg. What makes it stand out is that the Sunken Gardens is one of the oldest roadside attractions in all of the United States. Also, the flowers in bloom are actually already visible from the roadside. While admission to the inner parts of the Sunken Garden requires a small fee, you can enjoy both the history and the flowery inside by joining any of the guided education tours hosted by the venue. See more than 500 species of unique tropical and subtropical plants set in landscapes of freshwater pools and cascading waterfalls. Also available inside is a Japanese garden, a cactus garden, as well as the newly-acquired Chilean flamingos. The new flamingos are introduced to the older ones first exhibited in the gardens back in 1956.