Being the only major city on the west coast of Florida, Tampa is a little quieter than the bustling east coast that has many major cities like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Daytona and Jacksonville. But it offers a variety of Sunshine State activities such as boating, fishing, swimming and amusement parks. Here are some selected highlights of the attractions in the Tampa Bay area.
One of the major Tampa Bay attractions is Busch Gardens which covers more than 300 acres in central Tampa. Busch Gardens opened as an adjunct to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in 1959 and has evolved to compete with Disney World and its sister park, SeaWorld, in nearby Orlando. The park specializes in a wide variety of roller coaster rides with several other amusements. Not far from Busch Gardens—and also owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment—Adventure Island offers a variety of water park activities. The wave pool is nearly half an acre and there is a large variety of slides plus a lazy river for enjoying some wet fun ranging from exciting to relaxing activities.
The Tampa Bay History Center is a museum that has information about Tampa Bay’s first native inhabitants (the Indians), the conquistadors who occupied the area and state (the Spaniards) and influential people who shaped the area’s history. The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) has more than 450 exhibits highlighting science and technology in a fun atmosphere. It includes a hurricane simulator, an IMAX Dome theater and a planetarium. The Henry B. Plant Museum, with its Moorish architecture, opulent furnishings and spectacular tropical gardens, has attracted a host of celebrated guests. A visit the museum and the authentically restored rooms of the Tampa Bay Hotel will transport you back to Victorian splendor.
The Tampa Museum of Art is located in downtown Tampa and exhibits modern and contemporary art, as well as Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities. There is also the SS American Victory that is one of only four operational World War II ships in the U.S. As a national historic landmark, the Mariner’s Museum Ship offers educational tours, event hosting and semi-annual cruises.
Tampa has great restaurants, many right on the water with a great view. One that stands out is Bern’s Steak House where you will probably have the best steak dinner you can remember. They have an extensive wine list and special upstairs room just for dessert. Also consider a dinner cruise and for lunch try a Cuban sandwich or deviled crab at a local restaurant like La Tropicana Café. For more restaurant information, visit www.visittampabay.com/eat/.
Enjoy the Outdoors
Honeymoon Island State Park is a natural barrier island. Cross over the bay on a causeway and travel into a little area of what coastal Florida used to look like. The mangrove swamps and tidal flats attract birds and other small animals. Shelling is great along the shoreline and it is a great place to picnic and enjoy the beach. Tampa offers some great fishing in both the flats off shore and deep sea fishing. There is plenty of charter boats available specializing in all types of fishing. There are also many opportunities to enjoy the water like canoeing and kayaking, or for the more adventurous, jet skiing and water skiing. The Florida Aquarium features a fascinating array of animals and birds found along Florida’s waterways including more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals from Florida and all over the world.
Tampa offers some beautiful beaches and outdoor water activities so try to carve out some extra time to see the local attractions. IMS always offers many organized companion activities. So have your significant other or family check those out if they are coming along.