Things To Do in Tampa for All Budgets
All prices and hours were accurate at the time of this writing and are subject to change. Please confirm prices and hours of operation before making reservations.
Now that summer is here, many of us are looking for a new adventure. While many visitors to Florida may rush to the large parks in Orlando or the thrills in Miami, the Tampa Bay area, situated on the Gulf Coast side of the state, offers the best qualities of both and then some. Tampa is a city steeped in history and loaded with cultural attractions with its theme parks, museums, active restaurant life, and cultural centers. The area has plenty to offer everyone, from families to solo travelers, on any budget.
The Tampa Bay CityPASS provides discounts on many activities in Tampa Bay. Be sure to check it out if you plan to visit more than one of the attractions listed below.
If You Like Adventure and Want to Spend a Lot of Money:
Head to Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens is the most well-known amusement park in the area. Along with several thrill rides, rollercoasters, and kid-friendly rides, it also boasts one of the largest zoos in North America. There you can have an animal encounter, visiting animals like sloths and flamingos up close, and learn more about conservation. Or you can take a train ride on the Serengeti Express to view animals from the African continent.
If you like thrills, try the SheiKra, the first vertical dive roller coaster to be constructed in North America. When it was built in 2005, it was the longest, fastest, and tallest rollercoaster in the world. Although other coasters have since broken those records, the SheiKra still boasts a 145-foot drop and reaches speeds of 70 mph.
Price: Tickets start at $89.99 though special offers are often available depending on the date.
Time and Duration: In the summer, the park is open from 10 am to 10 pm. You can expect to spend the entire day enjoying the park.
Empower Adventures offers a zipline-guided tour over the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve. You can traverse the 200-foot suspension bridge and tackle the aerial obstacle course.
Price: Tickets cost $74.00 to $84.00.
Time and Duration: The zipline tour takes about two hours.
Rent a Charter Boat
Head out to Clearwater and charter a boat for a relaxing cruise along the shore, some water-skiing, or a fishing adventure. You can fish for red drum, snook, and trout all year long. In addition, dozens of other species, including several shark species, can be caught in the shallow waters off the shoreline.
Price: $300 to $600, depending on the boat.
Time and Duration: Most rentals are for 6 hours, departing at 9 am, 10 am, or 11 am.
If You Like Adventure and Want to Spend a Little Money:
Head to the Great Outdoors
The Tampa Bay area is rich with state and regional parks. Head to any of the many outdoor spaces to hike or bike. Or set out on the water in a kayak or canoe. Hillsborough River State Park offers some Class II rapids, while Alafia State Park has over 20 miles of trail for mountain biking and hiking. For a more low-key afternoon, head to Lettuce Lake Conservation Park and rent a canoe to paddle down the Hillsborough River. The park has an extensive boardwalk and observation towers to check out the scenic views and wildlife.
Time and Duration: The park is open every day from 8 am to sundown. Expect to spend two to four hours enjoying the parks.
Take a Stroll on The Tampa Riverwalk
The nearly three-mile Tampa Riverwalk provides waterfront views as it winds along the Hillsborough River. You can start at the South Plaza and take in the Riverwall, a collage of over 500 photographs by artist Bruce Marsh. About halfway, pause at the bustling Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, a great place to relax on the lawn, people watch, let your dog let out some energy at the dog run, or even catch a free show on the Riverwalk Stage. The aquarium, children’s museum, and a variety of shops and restaurants line the way. If you want to make good use of your time, you can rent a bike or scooter to tour up and down the strip.
Price: Free, plus the cost of food or entertainment along the way.
Time and Duration: Times will vary. You can walk up and down the walkway in under two hours or spend more time visiting the sites along the way.
If You Like Science and Want to Spend a Lot of Money:
Visit Zootampa at Lowry Park
ZooTampa, with over 1300 animals, mixes preservation, rehabilitation, and connection in an experience for the entire family. Here you can feed a giraffe, get up-close with a rhino, or witness an injured manatee be rehabilitated at the David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Hospital. ZooTampa has won numerous awards and recognitions for its work aimed at its mission to rescue and care for animals.
Price: Tickets are $42.95 for adults and $32.95 for children (ages 3 – 11). A slight discount is offered for online purchases.
Time and Duration: The zoo is open 9:30 am – 5 pm most days. You can expect to spend several hours there.
Visit The Florida Aquarium
Located downtown on the waterfront, The Florida Aquarium houses over 14,000 animals and includes an aviary with free-flying birds and a Journey to Madagascar in the ticket price. There are also three touch pools and a Penguin Meet & Greet. You can pay extra for a Dolphin Cruise or Penguin Backstage pass. The Florida Aquarium is a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of marine life conservation.
Price: Tickets prices vary depending on the day but range from about $30 - $35. Children’s (ages 3 – 11) tickets range from $25 - $30. Parking is an additional $10.
Time and Duration: The aquarium is open 9:30 am – 8 pm most days. Currently, online reservations are required to visit. You can expect to spend several hours there.
If You Like Science and Want to Spend a Little Money
Visit The Glazer Children’s Museum
Located along the Riverwalk, Glazer Children’s Museum combines fun and learning for kids (and adults) in their interactive exhibits. These exhibits include a range of themes like art, finance, cooking, engineering, and medicine.
Price: $15 for adults and $13 for children (ages 1 – 12).
Time and Duration: In the summer, the museum is open Monday through Friday, 10 am – 5 pm; Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm; and Sunday, 1 pm – 6 pm. It is closed on Mondays during the school year.
Visit the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)
Like the Children’s Museum, MOSI boasts interactive activities such as a dinosaur lab, the planetarium, a moon base simulator, and a ropes course.
Time and Duration: Open daily, 10 am – 5 pm.
If You Like Art, History, Or Architecture and Want to Spend a Lot of Money
Attend the Opera at the Straz Center for Performing Arts
Recently renovated, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts is one of the largest performing arts centers in the U.S. and includes five theaters. It hosts a Broadway series as well as produces a grand opera. In addition, it hosts a variety of other events, such as concerts, performances, and free events. Check these out if you have a smaller budget.
Price: Currently, due to COVID restrictions, access to many shows requires you to be a season ticket holder. Prices range from $90 - $320.
Time and Duration: Times will vary depending on the performance.
If You Like Art, History, or Architecture and Want to Spend a Little Money
A rendering of the original Tampa Bay Hotel. Today it houses the Henry B. Plant Museum.
This image is from the Henry B. Plant Museum. For more information, please visit https://www.plantmuseum.com/about/the-museum.
Visit the Henry B. Plant Museum
The Henry B. Plant Museum is located in Plant Hall, which is a National Historic Landmark. The University of Tampa shares the remainder of the building. Formerly named the Tampa Bay Hotel, the building features the original furnishings, art, and other artifacts from 1891. The guided tour attempts to recreate the experience of late 19th century Florida tourists for today’s visitors. Henry Plant was a railroad baron who used his lines and steamships to link southern Florida with the rest of the United States. Plant Hall is the last of the Henry Plant hotels still in existence.
Time and Duration: The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday from 12 pm – 5 pm, and closed on Monday. The museum takes one to two hours to visit.
See a Show at the Tampa Theatre
The Tampa Theatre (that’s right, “theatre” with an “re”) is a historic theater designed by architect John Eberson in 1926 with elaborate ornamentation and uniformed ushers that earned it its status among the movie palaces of the era. As the popularity of downtown theaters dwindled, the Tampa Theatre was almost demolished in 1973, but the city rallied and raised funds to keep the theater alive as a place for films, concerts, and special events. When it reopened in 1978, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places. Further restoration was completed in 1992 after it survived a fire. The Theatre offers tours as well as showing of classic and contemporary movies.
Price: Tickets for a show are $10 - $13 plus fees.
Time and duration: Showtimes run two to three hours, but leave some time to tour the theater and take in the elaborate architecture.
Tour Ybor City
Ybor City, located just outside of downtown Tampa, is a historic neighborhood established in the early 1800s as the center of the Cuban cigar-rolling industry in Florida. Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants flocked to the city to create a vibrant and diverse area. Today it still holds the nickname Cigar City and offers many places to eat and shop during the day and plenty of nightclubs for those who want to keep the party going. Consider touring it by streetcar to relive how many of those early workers commuted to the factories.
Price: The streetcar service is free.
Time and Duration: The streetcars run every 15 minutes. Streetcar service operates from 7 am – 11 pm during the week. It runs until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, it begins at 8:30 am.
With its rich history, nearby waterfronts, and vast cityscape, the Tampa Bay area has a lot to offer its visitors.
If you want to learn more about activities and cultural events in Tampa, Florida, keep following the ReDefiners blog or get involved. ReDefiners World Languages offers courses and events through the area to support the community and advance cultural awareness. For example, consider our free Intergenerational Spanish Class for students K – 5th grade and their guardians. This class offers interactive and engaging activities that encourage communication in Spanish. We also have online and in-person courses available in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin for kids and adults. For more information, visit our website, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org