Narrowing down a spot to vacation can be the hardest part of planning a trip! You want relaxing beaches but you also want adventure-packed activities. You want kid-friendly but you also want a vacation you can enjoy. Located on the west coast of Florida, Tampa is a vibrant city known for gorgeous warm weather, a breathtaking waterfront and endless entertainment. Learn why Tampa is the perfect destination for active families that enjoy experiencing all that a vacation spot has to offer:
1. Go Where the Wild Things Are
ZooTampa at Lowry Park is known for being one of the world’s most beautiful, tropical zoological settings. From touching a tortoise to feeding a giraffe and hanging out with one-horned rhinos and endangered African penguins, tons of awe-inspiring experiences await. Explore the zoo’s Manatee Hospital, where their veterinary and animal-care team treat sick, injured and orphaned manatees, and return them safely back to the wild. Travel tip: while advance tickets and reservations are not required, they are recommended to guarantee entry.
2. Thrill Out
Head to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for exotic, thrilling adventures aplenty. Spend the day riding roller coasters, enjoying live shows, and checking out over 200 species of animals. Buy tickets for the Serengeti Safari, an-off road tour that gets you up close to African wildlife including zebras, giraffes, ostriches, rhinos and antelopes. And for any Elmo fans in your crew, the Sesame Street Safari of Fun has adorable kid-friendly rides, water play and visits with Sesame Street pals.
3. Explore the World
A hands-on museum created just for kids and their developing minds? Yes, please! The Glazer Children’s Museum is an interactive “learning lab” designed to give little ones big opportunities to explore their world through imaginative play. From caring for pets in the Vet Clinic to building in the Engineers’ Workshop, there is so much to discover.
Red Tricycle readers can enjoy up to a $35 hotel credit per night at some of our favorite Marriott hotels in Tampa. Learn more!
4. Take a Day Trip
If your vacation to the Sunshine State won’t be complete without seeing Cinderella Castle or high-fiving Mickey, good news: Tampa is just a 60-90 minute drive to Orlando. It’s easy to take a day trip to Walt Disney World, SeaWorld or Universal Studios. And speaking of easy excursions… your LEGO-obsessed little ones will be overjoyed by a visit to LEGOLAND Florida Resort, a huge theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and a waterpark.
5. Walk on Water
Take in the downtown sights on the Tampa Riverwalk, a beautiful 2.4 mile pedestrian pathway built alongside the Hillsborough River. Aside from the lovely views, this leisurely stroll includes lots of family-friendly stops along the route. For splashpads, playgrounds and outdoor fun, chill out at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Water Works Park and Spring. And keep your eyes peeled for manatees!
6. “SEA” Fascinating Marine Life
Ever touched a moon jelly or met a southern two-toed sloth? Find wonder in the 9,000 animals that call the Florida Aquarium home. Plan to spend at least two hours exploring aquatic life and underwater ecosystems. (This is probably one of the few places in Florida you can show your children alligator-infested waters safely!). Pack bathing suits so your kids can cool off at the outdoor water play zone, The Splash Pad. Following your visit, grab a casual bite to eat at nearby Sparkman Wharf, an outdoor waterfront food hall. FYI: Fermented Reality Biergarten is a popular spot for the grownups.
7. Explore Art
Tampa Museum of Art is a must for a dose of arts, culture and creative inspiration. Children 6 and under are free. Plus, this is an excellent activity for taking a break from the sun! Check the calendar to join one of their Family Days, offering activities inspired by the Museum’s current exhibitions and more.
8. Get Your Shopping Fix
With 200 stores, 15 restaurants, a food court and a great open air space to wander, there’s something for everyone at the International Plaza Mall & Bay Street. This popular shopping and dining destination is walking distance to the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel. The hotel has a AAA 4 Diamond rating with exceptional 4-star service. Rooms boast beautiful courtyard or city views. And families love the outdoor pool and patio to relax between adventures.
9. Relax at the Best Beach
According to TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice rankings, St. Pete Beach was just named the best beach in America (Yep, even surpassing Hawaii…). Pack your beach bag and enjoy white quartz sand, warm water, spectacular sunsets, and seashells galore.
10. Travel by Trolly
Lose the keys and hop on a historic TECO Line Streetcar to sightsee 2.7 miles of downtown Tampa, the Channel District and Ybor City—Tampa Bay’s Latin Quarter. Not only do kids love riding on the these vintage trolly replicas, but it makes getting around town—for free!—a breeze.
11. Cheer on Winning Sports Teams
Sports fans have their pick of great teams to cheer on year-round. Head to the ballpark to see the Tampa Bay Rays or the New York Yankees during spring training. Catch Super Bowl LV champs—the Buccaneers—at Raymond James Stadium. And root for the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team at Amalie Arena.
12. Fly in, Have Fun
Want to kickstart your vacation right upon landing? The Tampa Airport Marriott is connected directly to Tampa International Airport (TPA), making it a super convenient hotel for families. It’s equipped with everything you want on vaca—a heated outdoor pool, peaceful patio, Smart TVs with Hulu and Netflix (because, kids!), and connecting rooms based on availability.
13. Be an Outdoor Adventurer
From canoeing down the Hillsborough River to mountain biking one of Tampa’s beautiful trails, there are exciting outdoor adventures everywhere you turn. For those seeking thrills from a different perspective, book a ziplining voyage that takes you high above the water and land preserves. Spot wildlife as you cross suspension bridges, log swings and other aerial obstacles.
14. Bring Fido
No need to leave your furry family member at home. Tampa is a great destination for dogs, thanks to plenty of pup-friendly beaches, parks, hiking trails, and restaurants. The AC Hotel Tampa Airport is an awesome place to stay with kids and cuddly companions. Families love the firepit, floor to ceiling windows, free wi-fi, outdoor pool and European-style breakfast at AC Kitchen.
15. Say Cheese!
Commemorate your trip with the best family picture ever. Find a few minutes pose at the Tampa postcard mural for a snap of your crew enjoying this great city! There are vibrant murals all over town, celebrating Tampa’s rich diversity and culture.
– Jessica Solloway