*This article featuring things to do in Tampa Bay with kids was done in partnership with Visit Tampa Bay as part of a hosted visit. All ideas and opinions expressed are that of the writer, Antonia Grant. Find additional disclosure information at the bottom of this article.*
Tampa Bay is a vibrant destination in Central Florida for families, on the Gulf side. Not only does this beautiful city offer lovely waterfront views and dynamite food, but Tampa Bay also offers easy access to some of the best theme parks in the United States, including Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay. Its warm year-round weather and its perfect blend of thrilling and relaxing attractions also draw family travelers each year. Indeed, families love spending sunny days strolling along the Hillsborough River, exploring the historic Ybor City neighborhood, and seeing manatees at ZooTampa. From thrilling Tampa, Florida, attractions to quiet nights spent along the Tampa Bay Riverwalk, keep reading to discover all the best things to do during your visit to Tampa Bay with kids, including day trips from the city and where to stay!
Unique Things to Do in Tampa Bay with Kids
There are so many fun things to do in Tampa, Florida, with kids that are truly unique to this fantastic city! From flamenco shows to exploring vibrant neighborhoods and embarking on historic streetcar rides, Tampa Bay offers families a fun list of attractions and experiences to please all travelers. Then, keep an eye out, because there are many fun free things to do in Tampa with kids too. Wondering what to put at the top of your Tampa Bay itinerary with kids? Keep reading to discover a few iconic Tampa Bay activities and things to do when visiting!
The Columbia Restaurant with Flamenco Show
When looking for unique things to do in Tampa, Florida, for families, The Columbia Restaurant has to be at the top of the list! The oldest restaurant in Florida, The Columbia Restaurant takes up an entire city block in the heart of Ybor City. Make your dinner even more fantastic by reserving one of the flamenco show tables! Besides dinner and the flamenco show, there are a few other dining options here, too, including a sandwich shop for lunch.
For those interested in the flamenco show, there are two shows per night Monday through Saturday; families can check out either the 7:00 or 9:30 pm show. Reservations are required for dinner and the show. Kids will be amazed by seeing the dancers perform. During the show, there are several costume changes and multiple dancers. Undoubtedly, it is an excellent experience for the whole family. For their meal, kids can select yummy options from the kids’ menu, while parents dine on delicious entrees like Grilled Grouper, Paella “a la Valenciana”, or the Filet Mignon. Plus, there are also scrumptious nightly specials! You won’t want to miss adding a night at The Columbia Restaurant to your Tampa Bay itinerary with kids!
Purchase CityPass Tampa for discounted attractions here!
Pirate Water Taxi
Looking for a unique way to tour Tampa Bay? See the sights and sounds of Tampa by water! Kids will love embarking on a Pirate Water Taxi ride. As one of the best things to do in Tampa with kids, this hop-on, hop-off experience allows you to move from attraction to attraction with ease throughout the day. As you cruise down the Hillsborough River, you’ll be able to see many iconic Tampa Bay landmarks like the formidable Amalie Arena, the unique spires of the Henry B. Plant Museum, and the park and playground at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Take some of the pressure off making your kids walk around all day, by sitting back and enjoying the sights as they pass by.
When you’re ready to get off and explore a new museum or do some sightseeing, you can! Then hop back on when you’re ready to check out a new destination. The Pirate Water Taxi makes stops in front of the Glazer Children’s Museum, Amature Works, Tampa Bay History Center, and The Florida Aquarium – to name just a few!
Note: The Pirate Water Taxi is included with the Riverwalk Attraction Pass.
Take a Family Class at Peterbrooke Chocolatier Tampa Downtown
Families love Peterbrooke Chocolatier Tampa Downtown! Just a short walk from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Glazer Children’s Museum, this locally-owned chocolate shop is an excellent addition to any Tampa Bay itinerary for families. From chocolate-covered popcorn and truffles to chocolate wine, there are many fun treats to choose from when shopping here. If you’re short on time, you can just pop in and try the outstanding chocolatey creations or their locally-made gelato.
Those with more time, or aspiring chocolatiers in the family, can schedule a family class with Jennifer and Sidney (the mother/daughter team that owns the shop!). To book a family class, give them a call to set up a time. During the class, families will learn how chocolate is passionately made in the shop with high-quality ingredients. Each class is designed around the size and interest of the group, as well as the season of the year. As such a unique experience, it’s no wonder this is one of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, for families!
Explore the Historic Ybor City
Families looking for fun things to do in Tampa Bay with kids can’t miss spending a day exploring Ybor City. The city was founded in 1886 by Don Vicente Martinez Ybor (where Ybor City gets its name from). By 1900, Ybor City became known as “the cigar capital of the world”. Now, of the 150 cigar factories that once operated here, only El Reloj still operates today. In fact, one of the best free things to do in Tampa for families is to visit J.C. Newman Cigar Company’s factory and museum (more on that later).
During your time in Ybor City, start by walking down 7th Avenue to get a sense of its charming and historical vibe. As you walk around, notice the cobblestone streets, as well as the historical buildings and markers (not to mention the many resident chickens and roosters!). Be sure to stop and read the historical markers around the neighborhood, which share interesting facts and events that happened in Ybor City.
Then, there are several great places to eat in Ybor City, including La Creperia Cafe, The Columbia Restaurant, and The Stone Soup Company (one of the best places to get a Cubano!). Those looking for a sweet treat will love Mayday Ice Cream.
More Things to Do in Ybor City with Kids:
- Jose Marti Park is a must-stop at the corner of 8th Avenue and 13th Streets. Travel to Cuba, without leaving Tampa Bay, as the people of Cuba own this plot of land. It was named for Jose Marti, a Cuban poet, journalist, professor, and soldier who died fighting for Cuban independence.
- Ybor City Museum offers an excellent overview of the neighborhood’s history, starting with Spanish immigrants, and the neighborhood’s namesake, Don Vicente Martinez Ybor. It’s a great place to learn more about Tampa Bay and the immigrant communities that established this vibrant city.
- Ybor City Saturday Market, located in Centennial Park, is a fun stop with live music and food for visitors of all ages. Check the calendar of events before planning your visit.
J.C. Newman Cigar Company
Located in Ybor City, J.C. Newman Cigar Company’s factory and museum is one of the best free things to do in Tampa for families. As the area’s only cigar factory that still operates today, they offer visitors a chance to learn about the history of Cigar City and the Newman family.
Inside the historic building, there are three floors that you can visit. On the first floor, there is a small, but well-curated museum highlighting many interesting facts and information about Ybor City, the Newman family, and the cigar industry. The museum provides an excellent opportunity to better understand this part of Tampa Bay’s history. On the second floor, there is an interactive video area, where you can continue to learn more through stories from people who work at J.C. Newman Cigar Company. Finally, on the third floor, families can see cigars being hand-rolled by master rollers. A staff member is available to answer questions about what the master rollers are doing and the cigar production here. Finally, guided tours can also be reserved for those interested in seeing more of the factory and production.
Looking for more free things to do in Tampa Bay with kids? Take the TECO Streetcar! Kids will love looking out the window from this historic street car as you make your way between Ybor City and Downtown along a 2.7-mile track. In fact, the TECO Streetcar offers 12 stops between the two neighborhoods. While you plan your family’s Tampa Bay itinerary, keep this transportation option in mind, as it can easily take you between many Tampa Bay attractions, including The Florida Aquarium, American Victory Ship Museum, Sparkman Wharf, and Tampa Bay History – just to name a few.
The TECO Streetcar also offers an excellent transportation option for families staying at the many hotels between Ybor City and Downtown, including Hotel Haya, Tampa Marriott Water Street, and Hilton Tampa Downtown.
Best Museums in Tampa Bay for Families
Undoubtedly, some of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, for families are the many museums in the city. There are several excellent options to add to your Tampa Bay itinerary with kids, from history museums to children’s museums. No matter your family’s interests, you’re bound to find a Tampa Bay museum or two that kids will love. Keep reading to learn about the best museums in Tampa Bay for families.
Looking for an itinerary to fit in the Tampa Bay highlights for families? Read our article featuring how to Visit Tampa Bay with Kids: 4 Exciting Days Exploring the City Together.
Glazer Children’s Museum
Next, Glazer Children’s Museum is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Tampa with young kids. This exciting children’s museum is ideal for kids ages infant to 7 (stretch to 8 or 9 with younger siblings). There are so many fun exhibits for kids to be inspired by here. Kids will delight in saving animals in the Vet Clinic and building delightful creations in the Engineers’ Workshop. Additional Glazer Children’s Museum exhibits include a grocery store, farm, pizzeria, fire station, ice cream parlor, and more! In fact, there is even a large indoor play area for kids to crawl, climb, and explore. The best part (for parents, at least!) is that each day ends with a parade to encourage children to finish playing and prepare to leave.
While planning your Tampa Bay itinerary, note that Glazer Children’s Museum is a great indoor activity for rainy or extra-hot days. Plus, Glazer Children’s Museum is included in the Riverwalk Attraction Pass.
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)
Get inspired and learn something new when you visit the Museum of Science and Industry. As one of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, for families, there are several wonderful exhibits to explore here, including more than 100 hands-on activities. Exhibits feature learning opportunities about various topics, including the human body, dinosaurs, and space. Indeed, kids will love taking in a show at The Saunders Planetarium (add-on experience). Through one of these shows, you can take a tour of the night sky, guided by one of MOSI’s expert astronomers! Then, MOSI’s Sky Trail® Ropes Course will delight dare-devil kids who want to climb and explore in the air (add-on experience). This 36-foot-high multilevel structure is sure to test their skills and motivation. Finally, there is a cafe on-site.
Tampa Museum of Art
Included in the Riverwalk Attraction Pass, the Tampa Museum of Art is one of the best things to do in Tampa Bay with older kids and teens. Located in the heart of Tampa, near Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Tampa’s Riverwalk, the museum features a variety of exhibits. Families can explore the works of people like French artist Dominique Labauvie and renowned fashion designer Naeem Khan. Plus, many exhibits showcase ancient, modern, and contemporary art, making this museum a great option for families interested in diverse collections. In fact, the Tampa Museum of Art has one of the largest Greek and Roman antiquities collections in the southeastern United States. Then, the museum also offers a cafe overlooking the Hillsborough River. Certainly, the Tampa Museum of Art is an excellent option for families looking for indoor things to do in Tampa.
Tampa Bay History Center
There are so many fun things to do with kids in Tampa, Florida that it can be hard to choose what to do! Adding Tampa Bay History Center to your itinerary is not only an excellent way to spend time together, but the museum offers a wonderful way to learn about the history of Tampa Bay! While traveling, it’s always a good idea to get to know the place, people, and cultures of the area. In Tampa Bay, there is no better place to do this than the Tampa Bay History Center through many hands-on exhibits and immersive theater experiences. As a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum, there are so many outstanding exhibits here, including Treasure Seekers, featuring the stories of conquistadors, pirates, and shipwrecks.
Plus, visitors here can delight in lunch from The Columbia Cafe, which offers the charm and flavor of the original Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. Finally, Tampa Bay History Center is another museum included in the Riverwalk Attraction Pass.
American Victory Ship Mariners Museum
Families looking for historical and educational things to do in Tampa with kids have to add American Victory Ship Mariners Museum to their itinerary. Included in the Riverwalk Attraction Pass, this museum is one of only four operational World War ll ships in the United States. During your visit to Tampa Bay with kids, you can explore the whole ship, including the hospital, galley, weaponry, crew cabins, and mess hall. While exploring the many areas of the ship, kids of all ages will enjoy seeing rare artifacts, uniforms, medals, and more. Families can choose to experience the museum on a self-guided tour, or with an experienced volunteer tour guide.
Note: Outside the museum is a boarding zone for the Pirate Water Taxi.
Henry B. Plant Museum
Perhaps one of the most unique museums and things to do in Tampa, Florida, for families, the Henry B. Plant Museum is just as fun to look at as it is to explore. Once one of the poshest hotels in Tampa Bay, this museum now features rooms filled with lavish furnishings and lovely tropical gardens. During your visit, you can see restored rooms from the former Tampa Bay Hotel which will transport you to moments of Victorian splendor! This National Historic Landmark is a fun addition to any Tampa Bay itinerary. While self-guided tours are always an option, taking a guided tour is an excellent way for large families to learn more about the history of the building and Tampa Bay (available to groups of 10 or more). Whichever way you explore the museum, families will love learning about its opulent history, famous guests, and more.
After visiting the museum, head outside to enjoy the Henry B. Plant Park. This is Tampa’s oldest and largest public botanical garden (now part of the University of Tampa). Finally, the museum is also included in the Riverwalk Attraction Pass.
Fun Things to Do in Tampa Bay with Kids
Looking for more fun things to do in Tampa with kids? We’re not done yet! We have you covered with even more exciting things to add to your Tampa Bay itinerary. When you visit Tampa Bay with kids, add thrilling attractions and activities like ZooTampa, Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, and Adventure Island to your list. Here are just a few more reasons why your family will love visiting Tampa Bay.
Families who have “seeing manatees” high on their list of things to do in Tampa, Florida, with kids, need to add ZooTampa to their Tampa Bay itinerary! Kids will adore seeing these gentle giants roam their habitat and munch on leafy greens. Not only will you get to see manatees up close from an indoor viewing area, but there are over 2,000 animals across this well-designed zoo. ZooTampa is also the nation’s only non-profit hospital and rehabilitation center for injured West Indian manatees. After you say hi to the manatees, explore the other exhibits showcasing amazing creatures like Florida panthers, rhinos, giraffes, and much more! If you want to make the experience extra special, you can also book animal encounters before your visit.
Then, with little kids, visit the Australia-themed water playground, offering a few rides (like carousels) and a splash pad. Plus, you can also see koalas in this area! It’s a great spot for parents to lounge, while kids burn some extra energy playing. Near this area, older kids can find some rides that are more their size too. Finally, parents will also appreciate that there is an on-site cafe, as well as a gift shop.
Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay
Undoubtedly, Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay is one of the best Tampa, Florida attractions for families – and a huge draw for travelers of all ages. Kids and adults alike will be thrilled by the array of heart-pounding roller coasters and rides here! Busch Gardens’ newest addition is Iron Gwazi, North America’s tallest, fastest and steepest hybrid coaster. Other rides include Falcon’s Fury, the tallest drop-tower in North America, Cheetah Hunt, which makes you feel like a cheetah bobbing and weaving across the savannah cat, and Cobra’s Curse, a spin coaster (where you actually travel backward for a bit!). Plus, there is a Sesame Street-themed area for littles with toddler-friendly rides and places to play together.
Families can take a quick breath between adrenaline rushes and explore the African wildlife preserve and exhibits stationed throughout the park. These areas offer great options for families to take a break between rides. Or, places for younger siblings to stay entertained while older kids enjoy the big rides. Plus, there is even an add-on option for families to embark on a safari through the preserve to feed the giraffes! If you’re looking for unique things to do in Tampa, Florida, for families, you will want to add this to your list!
Tips for Visiting Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay with Kids
- Bring a reusable water bottle; several water fountains across the park allow you to refill it throughout the day.
- Most rides do not have bag storage. Unless you have non-riders to hold bags, you must use a locker. There is a locker option that allows you to rent the locker but change your location throughout the day. This is the least expensive option.
- If you’re visiting during a high-traffic season, get the Quick Queue! It’s completely worth it to skip waiting in long lines with kids. It is also straightforward to use. If you don’t purchase it beforehand, there are options for purchasing it onsite (throughout the park).
- There are several great places to eat at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay with kids. We recommend reviewing your options and deciding where you want to eat lunch before your visit. This way, you can plan your route accordingly and remove the stress of finding something during the heat of the day.
If you are looking for thrilling things to do in Tampa with kids, Adventure Island® is a must! Less than 20 minutes from Downtown Tampa Bay, this waterpark is right across the street from Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay. With 30 acres of high-speed thrills and tropical surroundings, this waterpark offers something for everyone. In fact, thrill-seekers can race down rapids, while those who need a rest can put their toes in the sand (there are even private cabanas available). From lazy rivers and splash zones designed for kids to several yummy on-site dining options, Adventure Island® offers everything you need for a fun day in the sun. Those traveling with littles will certainly appreciate the newly opened Shaka-Laka Shores, an interactive splash zone for small kids. Finally, Quick Queue is also available for families who want to skip long waits for the waterslides and rides.
The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is next on our list of the best things to do in Tampa with kids of all ages! Included in the Riverwalk Attraction Pass, this waterfront aquarium features over 20,000 aquatic plants and animals. You can see everything from Roseate Spoonbills and sharks to sea turtles, penguins, and more! Then, as you explore the Wetlands of Florida area, kids can search for fish and turtles, while birds fly overhead. Families can also explore other interesting exhibits like Journey to Madagascar, Coral Reef, and Stingray Beach.
In addition to the indoor exhibits, there are plenty of fun things to do outside too! Kids will adore playing on the fun playground, which includes a splash pad area (don’t forget the swimsuits!). While kids splash and play, parents can hang out and enjoy waterfront views from the shaded deck. Finally, there is a small on-site cafe and gift shop too.
Note: For an extra price, visitors can also participate in many fun experiences, like swimming or diving with fish! Plus, the aquarium also offers dolphin-spotting expeditions into Tampa Bay several times a day.
Those seeking scenic views and nature parks in Tampa will adore meandering the Tampa Riverwalk. This 2.6-mile-long open space and pedestrian trail is nestled along the Hillsborough River. And, it is absolutely stunning! Undoubtedly, it’s one of the best free things to do in Tampa Bay with kids. There are many sections along the Tampa Riverwalk that families love. One of our favorite sections is Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (near the Glazer Children’s Museum).
Nearby, parents can grab a coffee from Kahwa Coffee to enjoy while kids play at the playground in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Plus, on warm days, there is a nice urban splash area for kids to run through (just outside the entrance to the Glazer Children’s Museum). This area of the Tampa Riverwalk is perfect for families seeking a low-key morning or afternoon. Other parks and playgrounds along the Tampa Riverwalk include Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and Water Works Park.
Finally, other attractions along the Tampa Riverwalk include The Florida Aquarium, Sparkman Wharf (a great place to eat with a green space for kids), and the Tampa Bay History Center, to name just a few.
Empower Adventures Tampa Bay
Just 30 minutes from Downtown Tampa Bay, in Oldsmar, Florida, Empower Adventures Tampa Bay is a great option for your Tampa Bay itinerary with older kids and teens (must be at least 70 lbs and at least 7 years old to participate – there is also a maximum weight limit of 270 lbs). As one of the best things to do near Tampa Bay, this exhilarating 2.5-hour zip line adventure includes 5 zip lines, several aerial adventure challenges, and a 200′ suspension bridge crossing. Not to mention, beautiful open water views across Tampa Bay! Challenge kids to a day of adventure, where you can celebrate everyone’s accomplishments and enhance family bonds. Then, moonlight zip-lining and standup paddle boarding are also available. Finally, reservations are required here.
Tampa Bay Fun Boat
Want to embark on a unique Tampa, Florida, attraction for families? Book an experience with Tampa Bay Fun Boat. Climb aboard for a one-hour sightseeing or sunset tour. Both tours offer discounted tickets for kids and teens. During the sightseeing tour, you’ll get a chance to cruise the bay and see homes of the rich and famous, while also taking in some of the history of Davis Islands and Harbor Island. Plus, you can keep your eyes open for dolphins and other wildlife! Then, during the sunset tour, families can take in views of the beautiful evening sun, the twinkling lights of downtown after sunset, and possible wildlife sightings. There is a bathroom aboard, and they offer complimentary bottled water. Finally, families are also welcome to bring a small cooler aboard.
Hillsborough River State Park
Less than 30 minutes from Downtown Tampa Bay, Hillsborough River State Park is one of the best nature parks near Tampa for families. Not only is it a great option for families looking to get out of the city, but there are also several fun things to do here. While visiting, spend your day swimming, picnicking, hiking, and more. If hiking is your jam, there are seven miles of nature trails beckoning your family, each offering wonderful chances for wildlife viewing. In fact, visitors have four hiking trails to choose from, with Baynard Trail and Seminole Trail being the most kid-friendly options. Plus, two playgrounds are available here, one at the riverside picnic area and the other in the pool picnic area. With stunning views of the Hillsborough River, pine flatwoods, and a floodplain swamp, families will love adding Hillsborough River State Park to their Tampa Bay itinerary.
Please note, there is a small vehicle fee to enter.
TECO Manatee Viewing Center (Seasonal)
Looking for another chance to see manatees during your visit to Tampa Bay with kids? Depending on the season of your visit, you can add the TECO Manatee Viewing Center to your itinerary. Less than 30 minutes from Downtown Tampa Bay (in Apollo Beach, Florida), it’s a great way to spend a sunny day between November and mid-April. Admission and parking are free, making this one of the best free things to do near Tampa, Florida, for families!
Manatees love the warm water put out by Tampa Electric during the winter months. In partnership with several local organizations, this area is now a state and federally-designated manatee sanctuary. Start your visit by wandering down the long boardwalk in search of the gentle giants who migrate here during the cooler months in search of warm waters. At the same time, you can also search for the many birds that call this area home. Afterward, head down the connected trail that leads through the coastal habitat, winding eight-tenths of a mile through the lush habitat. Make sure to stop at the wildlife observation tower for a great view of the area.
After exploring the outdoor trails, head inside the cozy educational center to learn more about manatees, their habitats, and the dangers they face. While the museum is small, it is well-designed and offers an incredible amount of information about manatees, including several interactive spots. Finally, there are places for a picnic on-sight, as well as a small gift shop. If you want a waterfront restaurant nearby, try Finn’s Dockside Bar & Grill.
4 Fun Day Trips or Weekend Getaways from Tampa Bay with Kids
Families seeking fun day trips or weekend getaways from Tampa Bay with kids have four great options to consider! From thrilling theme parks and beach days to some of the best nature parks near Tampa Bay for families, you’ll be spoiled for choice with your options. Keep reading to discover our four favorite day trips and weekend getaways from Tampa Bay for families.
Peppa Pig Theme Park
Undoubtedly, Peppa Pig Theme Park is one of the best things to do near Tampa with toddlers and young kids! About an hour from Downtown Tampa Bay (in Winter Haven, Florida), this exciting theme park is a great option for day trips in the area. Here, families will discover several Peppa Pig-themed rides and attractions, including roller coasters, exciting shows, and play areas. Plus, don’t miss getting a milkshake at Miss Rabbit’s Diner. When you need to escape the heat, head inside to watch an episode or two of Peppa Pig at the Cinema. With so much to offer, no wonder this is one of the best attractions near Tampa Bay for kids.
Learn more about why families Love Peppa Pig Theme Park by reading The Ultimate Guide To Peppa Pig Theme Park For Families.
About an hour from Downtown Tampa Bay (in Winter Haven, Florida), LEGOLAND® Florida is certainly one of the top day trips from Tampa Bay with kids. Not only is there a theme park, but there is also a waterpark on-site – perfect for a fun-filled day under the Florida sun! Designed with kids in mind, LEGOLAND® Florida Theme Park includes thrilling roller coasters, a botanical garden, creative spaces to play and build, and much more. Alternatively, the LEGOLAND® Water Park features a wave pool, lazy river, 14 slides, and other interactive LEGO-themed play areas for families! In addition to so many thrilling activities, on-site dining, shopping, and hotels are also available. Then, depending on when you visit, many seasonal events occur throughout the year. Undoubtedly, LEGOLAND® Florida is one of the best things to do near Tampa, Florida with kids!
Looking for a weekend getaway, you can also get 1-, 2-, or 3-day multi-park tickets that cover LEGOLAND® Florida Theme Park, LEGOLAND® Water Park, and Peppa Pig Theme Park. Not to mention, Vacation Packages covering attractions and accommodations.
Take a Day Trip Across the Bay for a Little Beach Time
Families also enjoy taking relaxing day trips from Tampa Bay to one of the many nearby beaches. While there are no beaches in Tampa Bay, families can find many exciting beaches just a short distance from Downtown. In particular, families like Clearwater Beach, St. Pete Beach, and Indian Rocks Beach.
Clearwater Beach is one of the best options for young kids, which features a wide beach of sugar-fine sand under 45 minutes from Downtown Tampa Bay. Slightly closer, St. Pete Beach is under 40 minutes from Downtown Tampa Bay and offers white sandy beaches and calm waters. Then, about 40 minutes from Downtown Tampa Bay, Indian Rocks Beach is another great beach destination for families. Here, families will find a quieter beach area with gentle waves and several restaurants within walking distance of this beach. All three beaches also offer lovely places for strolling along the coast, building sand castles, and splashing in the water together. Find more information about these three beaches and other amazing beaches in Florida by reading about Florida Beaches For Families: A Guide To The Sunshine State’s Best Coastal Spots By Region.
Those looking to add more fun things to do near Tampa with kids on their day trip or weekend getaway to this area can add Fort de Soto Park, The Dali Museum, and Chihuly Collection to their itinerary.
Alafia River State Park
Less than an hour from Downtown Tampa Bay, Alafia River State Park offers one of the best day trips and nature parks near Tampa with kids. Mountain bike enthusiasts, in particular, will love this day trip option, as there are 17 miles of bike trails (ranging from beginner to advanced). You can bring your own mountain bikes, but a rental and repair shop is also available on-site. Then, hiking, picnicking, and birding are also popular activities here. In fact, egrets and herons are often seen by the river and lake shores! Old Agrico Trail and Bridges Loop are the top kid-friendly trails. While biking or hiking, enjoy scenic views of hardwood forests, pine flatwoods, and rolling hills. Finally, there is a playground near the picnic area. With so many exciting options, no wonder Alafia River State Park is one of the best things to do near Tampa for families!
Please note, the trails here are mixed-use between mountain bikers and hikers. Families who are not interested in sharing the trails with mountain bikes may prefer to visit Hillsborough River State Park. While there are no hiking-only trails here, there are mountain bike-only trails. Additionally, there is a small vehicle fee to enter.
Consider Getting the Riverwalk Attraction Pass
During your visit to Tampa Bay with kids, I highly recommend getting the Riverwalk Attraction Pass, which provides admission to seven different attractions in the Tampa area. With the pass, you can discover family-friendly adventures, cultural sights, and learn about Tampa’s history at some of the most unique attractions in the city for a great price. The Riverwalk Attraction Pass includes favorite stops on our Tampa Bay visitors guide, like The Florida Aquarium, the Pirate Water Taxi, the Tampa Museum of Art, and the Glazer Children’s Museum, to name just a few. There is a 1-day and a 3-day pass option, perfect for any 3-day Tampa itinerary with kids.
Where to Eat in Tampa Bay with Kids
Throughout Tampa Bay, there are several outstanding restaurants and places to eat for families. Even the pickiest eaters will find options that suit them. We’ve listed a few great options in neighborhoods across Tampa to help you plan your itinerary.
- Midtown Tampa: Colony Grill for unique pizzas (parents need to try the hot oil!), Bellabrava for Italian-styled fare, and Ben & Jerry’s for dessert.
- Hyde Park Village: Goody Goody Burgers for southern comfort foods, Forbici Modern Italian for pizza and pasta, and The Hyppo for gourmet popsicles.
- Ybor City: La Creperia Cafe, The Columbia Restaurant, and The Stone Soup Company (get a Cubano!). Then, Mayday Ice Cream for dessert or an afternoon treat.
- Near the University of Tampa: Oxford Exchange for fresh, colorful food.
- Downtown: Sparkman Wharf is ideal for getting everyone what they want, as there are various eatery options, with a large green space to eat.
- Heights District: Heights Public Market at Armature Works, a large indoor food hall offering something for every taste, including pizza, ice cream, Mexican food, and Asian-inspired fare.
Where to Stay in Tampa Bay with Kids
Now that you know all the exciting attractions and things to do in Tampa Bay with kids, you may be wondering where to stay. Here are our top suggestions for the best hotels in Tampa Bay for families. Firstly, families seeking waterfront accommodations can consider Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Tampa Marriott Water Street, or Sailport Waterfront Suites. Each hotel offers a pool, and other select amenities like on-site dining or fitness centers.
Then, the downtown area has more fantastic Tampa Bay hotels for families, including Hilton Tampa Downtown, JW Marriott Tampa Water Street, and The Westin Tampa Waterside. Not only do these properties provide top-notch locations for exploring Tampa, Florida, with kids, but each one also offers outdoor pools and on-site dining. Then, families interested in staying in Ybor City will love Hotel Haya for its rich history and outdoor pool. Finally, families who are looking to stay in Tampa Bay for an extended period of time will love AVE Tampa Riverwalk, a 30-day minimum, apartment-style stay with a pool, fitness center, rooftop terrace, and more!
Finally, you can find more recommendations for Tampa Bay hotels for families by reading our article featuring the 14 Best Hotels In Tampa Bay For Families In Search Of An Exciting Warm-Weather Vacation.
We hope you found this article featuring the best things to do in Tampa Bay with kids helpful in planning your own trip! Tampa Bay is filled with family-friendly things to do, including zoos, aquariums, waterfront attractions, and more. Indeed, from the best Tampa, Florida, attractions to nature parks near Tampa, there are so many wonderful things to do with kids here! Enjoy Tampa Bay with kids!
*Unless otherwise noted, all images within this article are courtesy of and belong to Antonia Grant.
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
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Family Travel Tips
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Families Who Love To Travel contributor Meghan Oaks provides her 10 best tips for your...
18 Exciting Travel Toys For Young Kids That Will Keep Them Entertained The Whole Trip
When you're planning a family vacation, it's important to pack travel toys that will keep...
Tips for Cruising with a Baby
Cruising is a great option for families with babies who want to relax and not...