Top 10 Tampa Bay
Blue skies and sunny days mix with cultural scenes and thrilling performance venues, all on the waterfront in Tampa Bay. Encompassing a busy downtown, scenic riverfront, unique neighborhoods, and the bay itself, there are so many things to see and do here that you might feel lost. Don’t worry - we’ve made a list of the top 10 places to visit in Tampa Bay, from a world-class art museum to a thriving aquarium and historic Latin community.
1. Straz Center for the Performing Arts
The Straz Center for the Performing Arts is the largest performing arts center in Southwest Florida, presenting over 650 performances annually in its five theaters. The performances offer great range and include dance, symphony, opera, plays, cabaret, pop concerts, comedy, children's shows and Broadway musicals. World-class entertainment is found here, from a memorable performance of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (October 8-13) to the daredevil stunts of DIAVOLO DANCE THEATRE: ARCHITECTURE IN MOTION® (Ocotber 25). The Straz can make your whole evening one of magic, when you choose one of their superb dining options to accompany your show; one of the favorites is Maestro’s On the River, near the fountains and overlooking the shimmering waters of the Hillsborough River, accessible by the beautiful Riverwalk that runs through the city. This center is also available for your own event, and is a particular favorite for weddings due to its unique architecture, beautiful indoor and outdoor waterfront ceremony and cocktail hour spaces, and catering from the restaurants.
2. Tampa Museum of Art
The Tampa Museum of Art provides the area with world-class traveling exhibitions, a growing collection of contemporary and classical art, expanded educational programs, and access to scenic outdoor events in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Tampa's Riverwalk (see #4 on this list). The sleek, boxy building is your first glimpse into the sensational style of this museum, with a range of exhibitions to tickle your fancy. As the museum nears its 100th anniversary, exhibitions in 2019 and 2020 will focus on the museum’s permanent collection including its most unique pieces in its collection history.
Plan to spend the better part of the day here getting lost in the spectacular breadth of pieces. The museum’s Sono Café overlooks the banks of the Hillsborough River from the expansive, covered terrace and offers an unparalleled view of Curtis Hixon Park and the downtown skyline; and if you really like the food, you can come back through the admission-free entrance anytime of the week. At the end of your day, your bed can be close by; the museum actually has an official hotel. Le Méridien Tampa offers inspiring architecture which complements the warm palate and modern touches. Recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, the century-old historic federal courthouse has been transformed into a boutique hotel boasting 130-inspiring guest rooms and suites, meeting and event space, a French Bistro, and Longitude Bar.
3. Florida Aquarium
Particularly for families, the Florida Aquarium is a must-visit attraction, ranked among the nation's best by the Travel Channel, and housing 20,000 marine plants and animals, from sharks to penguins to alligators and more! For families with older kids, diving with sharks is a fantastic experiences. Smaller tykes will spend tons of time at the touch tanks, where you can feel the smoothness of a stingray or the wiggle of an anemone. Take a Wild Dolphin Tour onboard the Bay Spirit II, a 72-foot powered catamaran that takes you out onto Tampa Bay to see finned friends in their natural habitat. During the summer months, the aquarium offers a huge splash pad outdoors!
4. Tampa Riverwalk
For those who want to see the heart of the city, the Tampa Riverwalk leads the way to many attractions while adding a bit of romance to your evening as you walk hand-in-hand with your traveling companion. Located along the Riverwalk are two dining hot spots: ritzy steakhouse Malio’s Prime that specializes in delicious steaks and seafood, and a fresh Native American cuisine-inspired eatery, Ulele, which tickles your tastebuds with intricately flavored, visually appealing dishes prepared on the 10' diameter barbacoa grill. Now, it’s not just the food that is tasteful - downtown Tampa offers many incredible forms of entertainment, including the timeless treasures of the Tampa Theatre. Built in 1926, Tampa Theatre hosts 600+ events each year, including contemporary films, classic movies, concerts, corporate events, educational programs, weddings and tours. The historic landmark was recently named “One of the Most Spectacular Theaters in the World” by CNN - and we bet you’ll think it’s pretty spectacular, too. There are also hotels located along the Riverwalk, like the romantic Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel, which occupies some of the most scenic space along the river. The rooms offer unimaginable comfort on their special Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed. The sparkling outdoor pool, also overlooking the river, welcomes you to take a refreshing dip, and the Rivers Edge restaurant welcomes you to a lovely evening with gourmet cuisine and stunning views.
5. Ybor City
The historic Latin quarter and former center of cigar manufacturing, Ybor City has become a key part of the Tampa Bay social and entertainment scene. Enjoy daytime lunching, shopping, cigar smoking and coffee sipping, and a high-spirited playground at night. America's two oldest cigar-making families, Arturo Fuente and J.C. Newman, are rooted in Ybor City; the former via Tampa Sweethearts Cigars, a shop housed in a bright yellow casita, and the latter, J.C. Newman Cigar Co., via the factory, rehabbed in 2002. You can visit both of these spots yourself and pick out your own stogies. It’s not just Cuban cigars that are great to take in here - it’s also the Cuban food! Cuban food is an Ybor City must, and La Tropicana Café serves breakfast (cheesy Cuban toast) and lunch (Cuban sandwiches) six days a week. Another Ybor dining tradition, one with a more upscale ambiance, Columbia Restaurant, has been serving exceptional Cuban-Spanish food for more than a century. When the sun goes down, the dancing begins at some of Ybor City’s hottest clubs: LGBT havens (Liquid, G Bar, The Honey Pot), hipster haunts (Orpheum), chic dance hideaways (Prana, Amphitheatre) and college zones (Coyote Ugly, Gaspar's Grotto, Green Iguana). The RITZ Ybor plays host to national concert tours, while its resident nightclub Czar draws ample crowds with raging dance parties on Friday and Saturday nights. Located right in the Historic Ybor portion of the city, the Hilton Garden Inn keeps you close to all the action. Each morning, indulge in a tasty cooked-to-order breakfast from The Garden Grille, or grab lunch and dinner. Unwind at the end of the day with beer or wine in The Garden Grille Bar.
6. Raymond James Stadium
For all the sports lovers who may be visiting, it’s essential that you visit the community’s very own 2002 Super Bowl Champions: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their home games are spent in the Raymond James Stadium, which has been named by FOX Sports as the NFL’s best stadium to attend a game. So break out your favorite jersey and don’t miss a chance to see this team play on their home turf! This is also the home of the University of South Florida Bulls, and anyone alma maters or relatives of students at the school cannot miss their home team playing this epic stadium. The stadium will be home to the Outback Bowl in January 2020, which serves the Tampa Bay area charities. But football is not all that this magnificent stadium offers; indeed, throughout the year there are many thrilling events to attend at the stadium, from pop music performances by the likes of Taylor Swift, to rock concerts by bands like U2, to horse shows, the thrilling Monster Jam truck and motor rally, and much more. If you’re planning to attend an event at the stadium and want to stay close by, the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel is a top choice among travelers, thanks to its perfect balance between comfort and luxury. Enjoy plush bedding, marble bathrooms, and choice amenities like a swimming pool complimentary breakfasts. The hotel is adjacent to the fabulous International Plaza shopping mall, so you can pop over to do some first-class shopping or grab some dinner.
7. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
How would you like to hang out with the cool cats of the Cheetah exhibit and then hop on Florida’s first triple-launch coaster, Cheetah Hunt, to see what real speed feels like? At Busch Gardens Tampa, you can do just that! Combining one of North America’s largest zoos containing over 12,000 thousand animals with the thrill of world-class rides, Busch Gardens gets everything right about theme parks! This park truly has it all: adrenaline-pumping rides, unforgettable dining options, live entertainment, shopping, and so much more! Get a more intimate look at animal care with keeper talks, feeding experiences, and a trip to the park’s vet center. Those who want to take it slow will enjoy plenty of live shows staged throughout the park. If you want to go fast, you should check out the new ride Tigris, which is America’s tallest launch coaster! It will truly be an unforgettable adventure.
8. ZooTampa at Lowry Park
ZooTampa at Lowry Park brings together animals and visitors to create unforgettable, natural connections and is home to more than 1,300 animals, making it famous for having one of the most beautiful, tropical zoological settings in the world. Guests get closer to wildlife than ever before by touching a giant tortoise, feeding a giraffe, getting nose-to-horn with an Indian rhino, hand-to-fin with slippery stingrays and more! Any young animal lovers will surely want to immerse themselves in the zoo’s popular Adventures, like feeding animals or going backstage in the elephant habitat, or even taking pictures with a koala. Schoolchildren can become even more involved during Zoo School, a unique learning experience for children ages 4 and under to discover wildlife in a safe environment. The zoo also provides camps and sleepovers for groups. The zoo’s amazing settings make for a perfect and unique wedding venue, which offers climate-controlled spaces like the Savannah Marketplace or Reilly’s Reserve, as well as the Ituri Forest Patio beneath towering banyans.
9. Amalie Arena
In the heart of downtown Tampa, located near the The Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Convention Center, is the Amalie Arena, best known to locals as the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey team. Visitors may know it as the home of spectacular, stadium-style events and host of top performing artists like Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes. The arena also hosts WWE events, comedy artists like Adam Sandler, and classic musicians like Phill Collins. The perks of seeing an event at the Amalie include premium experiences like club and lounge seating for groups, as well as hospitality suites and lofts if you’re hosting a party. The arena also offers the Firestick Grill, an enhanced dining area and ambiance with open fire action stations, menu items indigenous to the Tampa Bay area and world-class service levels. There are also numerous restaurants and cafes surrounding the arena, allowing you to plan your exciting evening to perfection. Right down the road is Yeoman’s Cask and Lion, a British-inspired space serving microbrews and pub food. Across the bridge is the Cafe Dufrain, a relaxed space that offers global cuisine directly on the waterfront.
10. Hyde Park Village
Built in a circular space surrounding a historic Victorian-era park and spreading outwards to cover a whole neighborhood, Hyde Park Village is an outdoor lifestyle and entertainment center that offers unique shopping, dining, and drink experiences. With a mix of national, regional and local retailers, the Village features a variety of shops and restaurants including an upscale cinema, full service salon, 24/7 cupcake ATM and more. Search for apparel and home goods at Anthropologie, find furniture and decor perfect for your home at Pottery Barn, or score some hand-crafted popsicles at The Hyppo. Irish 31 provides a traditional Irish bar experience mashed with a sports pub, while bartaco offers traditional tacos and tequila drinks in a whitewashed setting with wanderlust-inducing photos and decor. The park itself plays host to events throughout the year, from yoga sessions hosted by lululemon to pop-up shops and film viewings.