From theme parks to natural parks, world-class museums to a world-famous dolphin, there’s plenty to see and do in Tampa. Here is our list of the five best things to check out in the sun-filled city:
1. Theme parks. If theme parks are your thing, there’s no need to go all the way to Orlando. Instead, check out the African plains, animals and stomach-churning rides at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay; make a splash at Adventure Island waterpark; tower over the plastic-brick miniatures at the newly opened LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven; or having a roaring good time with the 80-foot-tall dinos at Dinosaur World in Plant City, just 20 minutes east downtown Tampa.
2. The beaches. Though there aren’t any beaches directly in Tampa, drive just a half hour west and find miles of sandy white shores. Two of the best are Fort De Soto Park, a great spot for families, and Honeymoon Island State Park, named from a Life magazine contest for newlyweds in 1939.
3. The museums. The Tampa Museum of Art is housed within a work of art itself, designed by San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz. The eye-catching façade features perforated aluminum with LED lights sandwiched between the layers. Across the bay in downtown St. Petersburg, the surrealism begins even before you walk through the door at the The Dalí Museum, which holds the largest collection of the artist’s work outside of Spain. The geodesic glass exterior is made up of 1,062 unique triangular-shaped panels.
4. A cute dolphin. Winter the dolphin splashed on the silver screen in A Dolphin Tale, and into the hearts of all of those who visit her at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You can even take a tour of props and scenes that were used in the 2011 movie starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.
5. Tampa Theatre. Whether you stop in for an independent film, an intimate concert or a behind-the-scenes tour, you’ll be awed by the splendor of the storied 1926 movie palace, the Tampa Theatre. Before your feature, sit back and listen as a volunteer plays the Mighty Wurlitzer.