The hip, urban heart of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tampa is also hugely popular with families thanks to its clean and safe beaches and array of child-friendly attractions.
Whatever the age and tastes of your kids, there’ll be something to keep them entertained in Tampa. From wildlife to water sports, they’ll find themselves spoilt for choice, with plenty of attractions and activities that can be enjoyed by parents too. If you’re planning a trip to Tampa with little ones and are looking for inspiration ahead of your visit, then look no further, as we’ve compiled 12 of the best and most fun things to do here with your family.
Visit a magical theme park
The ultimate family adventure in Tampa can be found at perhaps the city’s most famous attractions, Busch Gardens. Featuring more than 12,000 animals, along with world-class rides and live entertainment, this 335-acre park offers something for every taste, however sedate or extreme. For adrenaline-junkies, there’s a 335-foot drop tower, while those of a calmer disposition can sit down to enjoy a show or simply wander around and marvel at the array of exotic wildlife to be found here.
10165 McKinley Drive Mon-Thurs 10am-7pm Fri-Sun 10am-10pm
Located directly across the street from Busch Gardens, Adventure Island is another hugely popular Tampa entertainment venue for kids. Perfect for making the most of the city’s excellent year-round weather, the vast outdoor water park is spread across some 30 acres and is home to a huge variety of slides, rides and other attractions, suitable for babies through to teenagers – and there’s nothing to stop grown-ups joining in the fun too.
10001 McKinley Drive / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Explore a kid-friendly museum
Located downtown next to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Glazer Children’s Museum is part of Tampa’s cultural corridor along the beautiful River Walk. Featuring over 150 interactive activities focused on weather, art, communication and more, it is an interactive learning laboratory where children play, discover, and connect to the world around them to develop as lifelong learners and leaders. Whether kids put on a lab coat in the Vet Clinic or leap to stardom in the Twinkle Stars Theater, imaginative play is essential to the experience.
110 W Gasparilla Plaza / Mon-Fri 10am-5pm Sat 10am-6pm Sun 1pm-6pm
Florida’s only attraction dedicated to the giants of yesteryear, Dinosaur World is housed in a natural lush garden setting that’s dotted with native vegetation and water features to simulate an authentic landscape. The open-air park features over 150 life-size dinosaur sculptures, with many activities for small children. Among the most popular is the “Fossil Dig” where kids can dig at a sand table for real fossils and take home their favourites.
5145 Harvey Tew Road, Plant City / Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
If you’re seeking a museum that will be of interest to grown-ups as well as kids, then the American Victory Ship Mariners Museum could be just the ticket. Recognised on the National Register of Historic Places, the 455-foot cargo vessel that survived WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War showcases a huge assortment of rare and historic artefacts, exhibits, uniforms and medals. Visitors can embark on self-guided tours of the nine-deck ship, navigating its cavernous cargo holds, radio and gyro rooms, hospital, galley, weaponry, steering stations, flying bridge, wheelhouse, mess halls, crew cabins, and more on their own voyage of discovery.
705 Channelside Drive / Tues-Sun 10am-5pm Mon 12pm-5pm
You can book this Tampa activity and others with big discounts at Groupon
Attend a fun-packed festival
The official Florida State Fair includes indoor and outdoor agricultural exhibits featuring over 5,000 animals, along with a wide range of thrilling rides, equestrian shows, aerial entertainers and other live entertainment. Among the regular highlights at the annual event are performing sea lions, giraffe petting sessions and pig racing. There’s also plenty of fair food and drink, including tasty fried treats, to keep revellers well satiated.
Florida State Fairgrounds / February each year
Each year, downtown Tampa plays host to the Gasparilla Music Festival featuring musical acts from a wide variety of genres, with the event created to support and promote music and education. While the main festival itself is geared towards adults, it also features a ‘fest within a fest’ designed specifically for kids. During Kids’ Fest, you can enjoy family-friendly music across several stages as well as interactive musical experiences for little ones. Even better, children 12 years and under go free.
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park / March each year
Take part in a city scavenger hunt
Kids love a scavenger hunt and in Tampa visitors can take part in their very own by forming in to teams, answering trivia questions, following clues scattered around the city, and completing photo and compass challenges. Organised and run by ZeeTours, the hunts combine sightseeing with unadulterated fun, adding an adventurous element to your city trip. Using a dedicated smartphone app, participants will get to explore the local area and learn about its history, all while competing against other players. After finishing the game, you’ll be directed back to your starting location. Teams can be of any size.
Observe underwater life at Florida Aquarium
One of the finest aquariums anywhere in the US, the Florida Aquarium is spread across 250,000 square foot and is home to thousands of amazing sea creatures, terrestrial animals and plants, including such exotic creatures as sharks, alligators, seahorses. Among the most popular attractions are the Wetlands Trail which winds through a vast mangrove forest where you’re likely to encounter river otters, free-flying birds and native fish.
701 Channelside Drive / Mon-Sun 9.30am-5pm
Join a local culinary tour
Explore downtown Tampa and discover some of the district’s best food and drink on this guided walking food tour. Over the course of three hours, you’ll sample dishes and delicacies at four local independent restaurants, enjoy house-made chocolates from an artisanal chocolatier, and visit Tampa’s oldest family-owned eatery. As you walk through the city, your guide will share stories about Tampa’s history and architectural highlights, and there’ll even be the chance to savour a glass of paired wine with your food.
Book onto a dolphin sight-seeing tour
The waters around Tampa are home to a diverse array of marine life, including a large population of dolphins. Visitors can get up close and personal with these majestic creatures of the sea on a 90-minute dolphin sight-seeing cruise. With the choice of a morning or afternoon departure, you’ll travel out in the bay, with your captain bringing you to the spots where the pods of friendly Atlantic Bottle-nose dolphins spend their day feeding, playing and raising their young. When the dolphins are seen, the boat will stop within 30 feet so you can get the best possible view. After 1.5 hours at sea, you’ll return to your departure point.
Enjoy a family day out at the zoo
There’s no more sure-fire winner with the kids than the promise of a trip to the zoo – and Tampa boasts one of the best in Florida. ZooTampa is home to awe-inspiring wildlife, thrilling rides, and up-close encounters at every turn. Visitors can stroll the shady Florida Boardwalk where hundreds of native animals reside, see rare and endangered species from Florida and around the globe, meet famous Animal Ambassadors and chat with Animal Care Specialists. And if after all that there’s still excess energy to shed, hop onto the Roaring Springs rollercoaster and feel the rush of a three-storey splashdown. Tickets can be upgraded to include entrance to the adjoining Florida Aquarium.
1101 West Sligh Avenue / Mon-Sun 9.30am-5pm