12 Things To Do With Family In Tampa, Florida

Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Tampa is a vibrant city on Florida’s Gulf Coast known for its beautiful beaches, diverse neighborhoods, family-friendly attractions, and warm weather nearly year-round. With thrilling theme parks, interactive museums, delicious restaurants, and outdoor adventures, Tampa offers non-stop entertainment and activities the whole family will enjoy.

Whether you’re visiting Tampa for a long weekend or an extended vacation, there are plenty of things to see and do to keep everyone happy and engaged. This article outlines 12 of the best things to do in Tampa for families looking to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Busch Gardens Tampa

One of Tampa Bay’s most popular attractions, Busch Gardens Tampa combines roller coasters, live entertainment, and animal encounters into one exciting, family-friendly theme park. Don’t miss one of Florida’s top roller coasters like Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, Montu, and Tigris. Catch live shows featuring dancers, acrobats, ice skaters and more across multiple stages.

Get up close to African elephants, giraffes, rhinos and other exotic animals on the 65-acre Serengeti Plain. With thrill rides, kid rides, animal exhibits and shows, there’s something for every member of the family at Busch Gardens. Take advantage of combo deals that include admission to their waterpark Adventure Island for a full day of fun.

What to Know Before You Go: Busch Gardens Tampa is open year-round. One-day tickets cost around $100 for adults and $95 for kids ages 3-9. Parking costs $25 per car. Save money by booking online tickets in advance.

ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Spread across 56 acres in North Tampa, ZooTampa at Lowry Park features expertly designed animal habitats with elevated platforms that allow families to view exotic animals like leopards, orangutans and Florida panthers up close. This contemporary zoo emphasizes family fun and education through animal encounters, feeding experiences with giraffes and stingrays, and a petting zoo where kids can interact with sheep, goats pigs and more domestic animals.

Don’t miss the zoo’s signature manatee and dolphin shows. Other highlights include a free-flight aviary, rides like the Safari Wild Ride and Skyfari that let you survey the zoo from above, and water play areas to cool off in like the Splash Fountain and Wallaroo Station, which is designed just for kids.

What to Know Before You Go: ZooTampa is open daily 9:30AM-5PM. General admission is $44.95 for adults age 11+ and $37.85 for kids ages 3-10. Book tickets online to save 10%. Parking is free.

Tampa Riverwalk

Running along the Hillsborough River through downtown Tampa, the scenic Tampa Riverwalk is one of the city’s most popular attractions. This 2.6 mile waterfront promenade lines both sides of the river, passing modern high-rises as well as historic landmarks like the Tampa Bay History Center. Rent a bike or scooter from one of the many rental kiosks and explore at your own pace.

Stop at Curtis Hixon Park to let the kids run around the playground and splash pad. There are also lots of grassy spots for picnics. Grab lunch or snack at one of the cafes dotting the Riverwalk. Hop on Pirate Water Taxis for fun short boat rides between stops like the Florida Aquarium, Sparkman Wharf dining complex and Armature Works food hall. The paved path is flat, wide and stroller friendly.

What to Know Before You Go: The Tampa Riverwalk is open 24/7 and always free. On weekends from October to May, community events like yoga and live music often take place in Curtis Hixon Park.

Glazer Children’s Museum

One of the top children’s museums in Florida, Glazer Children’s Museum offers hands-on exhibits focused on STEM, health, environmental awareness and global culture. Kids can climb a gigantic indoor banyan tree, shop at a mini farmers market, or perform surgery on a 4D interactive anatomy table.

Other popular permanent exhibits include Water’s Journey, where kids can control locks and dams along a river, and Fire Station No. 1, an imaginative play firehouse with kid-sized trucks and firefighting gear. The museum also features special exhibits like “Dino Explorer”, where animatronic dinosaurs come to life. Smaller children will enjoy Tot Spot, a special play space designed just for kids under 4. Outside, kids can burn off steam on the museum’s large outdoor playground.

What to Know Before You Go: Glazer Museum is recommended for children 10 and under. It’s open Monday through Friday from 10AM–5PM and Saturday 10AM-6PM. Entry costs $15 for kids and adults, free for children under 1 year old.

Florida Aquarium

One of America’s top aquariums, the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa impresses visitors with thousands of aquatic animals and plants showcased in imaginative exhibits representing Florida’s diverse wetland and coral ecosystems. Get eye level with sharks, stingrays and sea turtles by walking through the unique acrylic tunnel inside the Coral Reef Gallery.

Let kids burn off energy in the Explore a Shore playground, then touch small rays and horseshoe crabs in Stingray Beach. See otters, alligators, flamingos and more native Florida species in Wetlands Trail. For an additional cost, your family can get VIP private tours, have encounters with penguins or swim with the fishes on special Aquarium Adventure tours. The Florida Aquarium also hosts fun kids events and activities like PAW Patrol Meet and Greets throughout the year.

What to Know Before You Go: General admission runs $29.95 for adults and $21.95 for kids during peak season. Save money by purchasing tickets online in advance. Children under 3 years get in free.

Adventure Island

Located directly next door to Busch Gardens, Adventure Island delivers family-friendly fun with its massive wave pool, kid-sized water slides and tubes, and attractions for older kids like solar vortex bowl slides. Covered dining areas, private cabanas, and lounge chairs allow parents to relax while kids play. Little ones will love Splash Attack with its kid-sized water slides and dump buckets.

Bigger kids can ride water coasters like Solar Vortex and Riptide. The 70,000-square foot wave pool generates waves up to six feet high for body surfing and riding inflatable tubes. Life vests are free to use for non-swimmers. Lots of shade structures, food kiosks and nearby parking make it easy to spend a full day playing in the water as a family.

What to Know Before You Go: Adventure Island is open March through December. One-day tickets start around $50 for adults and kids over age 3. Free for kids under 3. Save money by purchasing Busch Gardens/Adventure Island combo tickets valid for seven days.

Tampa Museum of Art

Located on the Hillsborough River alongside beautiful Tampa Bay, this imaginative museum hosts fun hands-on art labs for kids as well as impressive visiting exhibits focused on modern and contemporary art. Permanent collection highlights include ancient Greek and Roman, African and Native American artifacts along with substantial works from the 20th century.

The series of flexible event spaces called the Art Play PREserve offers regular hands-on art making activities themed around exhibits on view, with all materials provided free of charge. Kids can get creative with activities like canvas painting, clay sculpting, collage and more. The spacious Lobby Studio features family drop-in art labs every Saturday afternoon. After getting their hands dirty, kids can run around and play outdoors on the museum’s sculpture garden overlooking the waterfront.

What to Know Before You Go: This downtown Tampa museum is open daily 10AM-5PM (until 8PM on Thursdays). Admission runs $10 for adults, $5 for kids 6-17. Children 5 and under get in free. Family memberships are also available.

Ybor City

Transport your family back to Tampa’s vibrant Latin roots with a visit to historic Ybor City. This charming neighborhood features colorful rows of brick buildings that once housed cigar factories in the 19th century. Today the district’s cobblestone streets are lined with Cuban sandwich shops, dessert cafes, and old-school soda fountains. Learn how Italian and Spanish immigrants made cigars and rolled them by hand at sites like Centro Ybor and Ybor City Museum State Park.

Other family friendly stops include video game bar Joysticks and the pirate-themed magic and illusion show at Pirate City Adventure Park. Finish your visit with a trolley tour to hear more stories about the people and political events that shaped this unique neighborhood. Just 15 minutes from downtown Tampa by car, Ybor City offers plenty to see, do, eat and explore as a family for a half or full day.

What to Know Before You Go: Ybor City Museum State Park offers free admission and parking. Other attractions have varied ticket prices. The best times to visit are weekdays or mornings to avoid heavy crowds. Street parking is limited, so ride share services or trolleys are recommended.

ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Spread across 56 acres in North Tampa, ZooTampa at Lowry Park features expertly designed animal habitats with elevated platforms that allow families to view exotic animals like leopards, orangutans and Florida panthers up close. This contemporary zoo emphasizes family fun and education through animal encounters, feeding experiences with giraffes and stingrays, and a petting zoo where kids can interact with sheep, goats pigs and more domestic animals.

Don’t miss the zoo’s signature manatee and dolphin shows. Other highlights include a free-flight aviary, rides like the Safari Wild Ride and Skyfari that let you survey the zoo from above, and water play areas to cool off in like the Splash Fountain and Wallaroo Station, which is designed just for kids.

What to Know Before You Go: ZooTampa is open daily 9:30AM-5PM. General admission is $44.95 for adults age 11+ and $37.85 for kids ages 3-10. Book tickets online to save 10%. Parking is free.

Big Cat Rescue

Unlike traditional zoo exhibits, Big Cat Rescue provides rescued exotic cats like tigers, lions, leopards and cougars a protected, comfortable home within a natural sanctuary habitat. Families can visit and take educational guided walking tours to see these majestic animals up close from safe barriers and elevated platforms. Additional guest experiences allow you to feed birds in the free flight aviary or take Private Backstage Tours with extra time observing vet care and feedings.

Kids and adults alike will be amazed by these powerful, gorgeous predators and inspired to help protect endangered big cats around the world through rescue, education and advocacy promoted at the sanctuary. Located just 15 minutes from Tampa in Citrus Park, this nonprofit rescue is one of the area’s most unique, feel-good attractions.

What to Know Before You Go: Standard 1.5 hour walking tours at Big Cat Rescue are offered daily for $35+ per adult and $22.50+ per child 12 and under. Tours sell out weeks in advance so book early online. Closed shoes and no bags/purses allowed.

Manatee Viewing Center

One of Florida’s most beloved marine mammals, manatees journey to the warm discharge canals next to this free observation center every winter to take refuge from cold ocean waters. Families can look out from covered walkways and spot these gentle “sea cows” swimming peacefully with their calves. Educational signs, displays and ranger talks teach visitors all about manatee habits, biology, conservation status and threats they still face from habitat degradation and boat collisions.

In addition to wild manatee viewing, the center features fun kids play areas like Pop’s Dream boat and Scales and Tales Educational Play Zone. Located 20 minutes southwest from downtown Tampa in Apollo Beach, the Manatee Viewing Center offers an easy, rewarding experience for nature lovers. Late fall through winter are the best months for guaranteed manatee sightings.

What to Know Before You Go: The Manatee Viewing Center is open daily, November 15 through April 15 from 10AM to 5PM. Admission is always free, making it a top thrifty destination for families. Parking is $2 per vehicle. Busy weekends see heavy crowds.

Lettuce Lake Regional Park

Just 20 minutes north of downtown, this peaceful wilderness park encompasses 240 acres of natural Florida beauty surrounding the serene Lettuce Lake. Kids can look for turtles, herons, otters and other wildlife species that call this refuge home. Four miles of hiking trails that are stroller and wheelchair friendly allow families to explore towering cypress swamps, open meadows, and boardwalks that venture out over the lake.

Rangers also lead free educational nature walks on weekends. Other family activities include renting canoes, kayaks or paddleboards for easy paddling fun suitable for beginners, bird watching from overlook decks, casting fishing lines from docks, and picnicking on pretty lakefront grounds. With plenty of shade and cool breezes, Lettuce Lake Park makes for an inexpensive, relaxing outdoor retreat.

What to Know Before You Go: The park is open daily from 8AM until sundown. Entry costs just $2 per vehicle. Canoe/kayak/paddleboard rentals available on weekends for $25 per hour.

Conclusion


From thrilling roller coasters to hands-on children’s museums, Tampa overflows with diverse attractions and experiences guaranteed to delight families of all ages and interests.

No matter, if you want an action-packed visit filled with theme park rides and splash pads or a more educational trip, focused on wildlife encounters and historic neighborhoods, Tampa truly has it all.

Spend quality time bonding as a family while soaking up the beautiful scenery and warm weather Tampa is known for. Whether traveling with toddlers or teens, everyone will come home with unforgettable memories from a family getaway spent discovering and playing together in Tampa.

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