Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tampa Bay is a natural harbor that connects to the Gulf of Mexico. More than just a shallow estuary in Hillsborough County, Tampa Bay is the heart of tourism in the area. Full of beaches, great attractions, food, and a rich Cuban culture, Tampa Bay is going to be a summer destination that you will never forget. However, tourists who go to Tampa Bay miss out on a lot of what makes this place a true gem. Here are some secret tips that will make your trip more than worthwhile when in the Tampa Bay area.
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Where to Go
Florida is known for its stunning sunsets and beautiful coastlines. Tampa Bay is no exception when it comes to natural beauty. If you want to take in the Tampa Bay area, the sites, and the history, there are some great places you should check out.
If you’re already in the area, you might want to check out Ybor City – a historic neighborhood northeast of downtown Tampa Bay. Walk along the Ybor City brick streets and take in the history of the place, while witness how much Cuban culture is integrated in Tampa Bay. You can even get a Ybor City guided tour and learn about the neighborhood’s fascinating history of cigar factories and immigration.
While you can learn something new during the day, why not experience something new at night while in Ybor City? Just because you can get a Ybor City guided tour, doesn’t make the place boring. In fact, Ybor City is also home to Tampa’s wildest nightlife. Go bar hopping and explore all the different pubs and dance floors your feet can take you.
Taking a step back from Ybor City’s wild night, you can take a breather and head over to the Oxford Exchange. It’s a bookstore, cafe, and restaurant all in one place. Still have a hangover from last night’s party? Head over to Oxford Exchange as it is considered as one of the city’s most relaxing and charming places to be. Not into partying, it is definitely one of the quieter and more relaxing things to do in Tampa Bay. Remember, Florida isn’t all spring break parties and wild nights. There is something in Tampa Bay for everyone.
Get Some Shopping In
There are plenty of places you can go to get some shopping in that isn’t a gift shop. For example, Hyde Park is one of Tampa’s favorite shopping spots, with a wide range of stores in proximity. From bistros and cafes, to jewelry stores, clothing stores and even a Pottery Barn, Hyde Park has some of everything.
You can also check out popular Tampa spots like International Plaza and Bay Street for more shopping like this. Stores in these spots include Tiffany’s, Crate and Barrel, Gucci and even an Apple Store. You can also find something to eat at one of the restaurants in the area, including a Cheesecake Factory.
You can also look for more unique items at Brocante Village Market. Taking place the first weekend of every month, people get together to sell all sorts of things. If you are looking for something really special to bring home, you will probably find something there.
Take in A Museum
For someone who is more of a history buff, there are plenty of places in Tampa to wander around. From museums like Henry B. Plant, and the Tampa Bay historical center, to the Museum of Science and Industry and Tampa Museum of Art, there are lots of different exhibits to check out. You can also check out the Florida Fossil Museum, or look into guided tours.
Big Cat Rescue
If you are looking for a more “wild” adventure in the Tampa area, you can also check out the Big Cat Rescue. Here you can see real wild cats like lions and cheetahs in the flesh, and even check out feeding time. It is worth noting that this is no ordinary zoo, so it may not be somewhere to go if you are faint of heart.
How to Get Around
Given Tampa Bay is conveniently located near water, there’s no better way to get a lay of the land just like how a local would: the Cross-Bay Ferry. This high-speed ferry will transport you from downtown St. Pete to downtown Tampa. With the docks located at St. Pete’s Vinoy Basin in St. Pete and the The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, it’s only a 50-minute journey that would get you great sights, the sun on your skin, and a connection to the water that you can only get in Tampa.
More Hands On Things To Do
Whether you are traveling as a couple, or with the whole family, it is important to also be able to make some memories with more hands on experiences. From beaches to theme parks, and much more, there is something for everyone to do together in Tampa, Florida. For further information about this great city, visit the Tampa Bay Visitors Center. While we didn’t build their website, and our design would have been a bit different, our web design team would still like to mention what a beautiful site it is. Nice job!
Check Out The Beach
Tampa Bay, Florida is known for its beaches, with lots of swimming, snorkeling, and fun. You can also go get yourself a paddle board and paddle, which is greatly growing in popularity. In Tampa, Florida, you can check out Urban Kai to rent paddle boards and give it a try. Ben T Davis beach is also highly recommended.
Catch a Movie
If you’re looking to wind down and relax, why not enjoy a movie? The Tampa Theatre allows you to watch lots of classic and indie movies as well as occasional live music concerts. Tampa Theatre is definitely worth checking out the movie list while down in Tampa.
Busch Gardens in Tampa is perhaps one of the most famous of all the theme parks, with lots of things to do without Disney’s high prices. Check out lots of roller coasters and other types of rides to get your adrenaline going while in Tampa. You can also check out nearby Adventure Island to get even more rides and even a water park feature.
There are almost a dozen state parks and preserves in Tampa Bay, Florida alone. If taking in nature and the Florida wildlife is more your style, you can go on walks, hikes, and take some amazing pictures. There are also some absolutely amazing picnicking spots in Tampa for a lunch out in nature.
Consider places in Tampa like the Weedon Nature Preserve, Lettuce Lake Park, Hillsborough River State Park, Little Manatee River Park, De Soto National Memorial Park, Cypress Point Park, and Ballast Point Park to name a few. The views alone will not leave you disappointed.
Whether it is a smaller outdoor concert, buskers, or a major event at Amalie Arena, there are plenty of live shows, live music and entertainment to take in here in Tampa. Depending on the time of year you go, you can also catch some amazing games from your favorite teams.
Aquariums and Zoos
Whether you are a fan of zoos or not, we guarantee there is something for people of any age to enjoy. For example, there is the Aquariums like the Florida Aquarium and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is all about providing education, and is a non-profit. You can see sharks, sea turtles, stingrays otters, and more. You can also meet two dolphins named Winter and Hope, that starred in the Dolphin Tales movies.
The Florida Aquarium has almost 14000 sea creatures you can enjoy watching in their 200,000 square foot building. They are also a non-profit, working to restore coral and natural habitats. There are also Madagascar animals like lemurs and even a penguin meet and greet.
If you are looking for a more typical zoo in Tampa, you can check out the Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park. This zoo has over 1300 types of animals you can view, with everything from sting rays to Indian Rhinos that you can see. This zoo also sets a president for putting protection of animals first and keeping animals from going extinct.
A slightly atypical zoo is known as the Serengeti Safari where, while behind fences, the animals have much more freedom to move and play. Some animals can even come right up to your car and interact with you while you drive through.
Another experience worth looking into is the Manatee Swimming Center in Tampa. This is where you can interact with these lovable sea cows, and check out what their natural environment would be like without the threat of humans injuring them.
The best time to go is during November to mid-April, when the manatees will be more likely to frolic and pay attention to the visitors coming to see them. There is also a butterfly garden and mangrove exhibit in the same location in Tampa to check out. These places are all very family friendly and great for kids.
For those who prefer to see a more “extinct” version of a zoo, you can also check out Dinosaur World. No need to worry, this is no Jurassic Park, but instead a park made up entirely of life sized dinosaur statues. Take in these amazing recreations and snap some really cool pics posing with them.
What to Eat
No matter where you travel, food will always be an important part of the destination. This is especially true for Tampa Bay as you might have already learned, the place is rich with history and culture – this means that the place has pretty interesting cuisine as well. Here are some food that will give you good memories of Tampa for a long time to come.
Bern’s Steak House
If you ask any Tampa local where you have to eat in Tampa Bay if you can only have one meal, that one meal would be at Bern’s Steak House. A Tampa classic, Bern’s Steak House will surely be one of the more iconic meals you will have in the area. A classic Tampa steak house, Bern’s Steak House is more than just excellently prepared steak. It’s about Tampa history. The place was first opened in 1956. It also boasts an extensive wine list – you can even get a tour of their wine cellar! Aside from the food, the service, and the ambiance, the whole experience dining at Bern’s Steak House is one that is hard to beat.
If fine dining at Bern’s Steak House isn’t your thing, then maybe El Cap is the place for you. Undeniably a local Tampa favorite, El Cap is the place where you can satisfy your craving for a good old fashioned burger. But don’t be too surprised at how good their burgers are because they don’t call them “world champ” for nothing. Also one of the pillars of the community, this food establishment has been serving up great food since 1964. No wonder you’ll see patrons of this restaurant from all ages.
For those who love live music with their meals, Skipper’s is an absolute must see. It is a combination bar and restaurant, with lots of Tampa Bay, Florida favorites to choose from.
Hemingway’s and Columbia Restaurant
If you want amazing Cuban food in Tampa, especially famous Cuban sandwiches, take your pick between Hemingway’s and Columbia restaurant. You will easily find these sandwiches becoming your new must get when in Tampa.
There is no doubt that Tampa Bay is full of the best things to do, eat and explore. From Hillsborough River, to Tampa Bay History Center or the Manatee viewing center, there really is something for every one. If you are also considering visiting Orlando, check out our Best Kept Secrets of Orlando page.