Visit Tampa Bay with Kids: 4 Exciting Days Exploring the City Together

*This article featuring an itinerary to visit 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.*

A young girl and her mom look out onto the Hillsborough River, while exploring Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay boasts one of the best combinations of Florida attractions for families! From thrilling theme parks and Cuban culture to year-round outdoor activities, Tampa Bay is an exciting destination for families with kids of all ages. As such, it’s no surprise that Tampa Bay is gaining in popularity with families. While visiting Tampa with kids, you can spend sunny days strolling along the Hillsborough River, racing down some of the nation’s best roller coasters, or checking out some of the best Tampa, Florida attractions with kids like ZooTampa and The Florida Aquarium. Of course, no Tampa itinerary with kids is complete without meandering the historic streets of Ybor City. When you’re ready to visit Tampa Bay with kids, use this 4-day itinerary, based on our experiences, to explore the best the city offers kids and their parents!

Day 1 in Tampa Bay with Kids

On the first day of this Tampa Bay itinerary with kids, start by settling into your accommodations. I’ve included some top-notch, family-friendly Tampa Bay hotel recommendations below! If you have time and your kids can’t wait for the pool, let them kick off your time in sunny Tampa splashing in the hotel pool! This is what we did, and it was a great way to get settled and have a little fun before seeing the sights.

Lunch in Midtown Tampa

When you’re hungry, it’s time for lunch! No visit to Tampa Bay with kids is complete without dining at Colony Grill in Midtown Tampa. With pizza unlike any other, Colony Grill offers a low-key ambiance that families will love. While there isn’t a specific kids’ menu here, kids will be delighted to dine on one of the many pizzas available. Adults can’t miss trying the iconic hot oil on their pie! Trust me; it’s a must when eating here! Those with extra time can also let kids run about the small greenspace across the street.

Ready to explore some of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, with kids? The next stop is ZooTampa!

ZooTampa

A young girl watches two manatees eat within their habitat at ZooTampa, a must do when you visit Tampa Bay with Kids.

When planning a 3-day to 4-day Tampa itinerary with kids, ZooTampa will certainly be at the top of the list! The well-designed zoo is a great place to see over 2,000 animals. Plus, it’s the nation’s only non-profit hospital and rehabilitation center for injured West Indian manatees. Kids will delight in seeing these gentle giants roam their habitat and munch on leafy greens. I know that we did! This was undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip. After you say hi to the manatees, don’t miss the other exhibits showcasing amazing creatures like Florida panthers, rhinos, giraffes, and much more! 

There is even an Australia-themed water park with rides and a splash pad for small children. Not to mention, a chance to see koalas nearby! It’s a great spot for parents to lounge, while kids burn some energy playing. Nearby, older kids will find a few rides their size too. Parents will also appreciate that there is an onsite cafe, as well as a gift shop, at ZooTampa.

Dinner in Midtown Tampa

After exploring ZooTampa together, head back to the hotel for a rest (or a little pool time!). When you’re ready for dinner, head to Midtown Tampa. Here, you can have a lovely Italian meal at Bellabrava. Families adore the lively atmosphere with a great wine list and cocktails. Parents can enjoy dinner options like the house Pasta Brava (highly recommend!), Stuffed Gnocchi alla Vodka, and Seafood Fra Diavolo. Then, kids can select from fun options on the kids’ menu or enjoy a wood-fired pizza. Afterward, top off your first night with a quick walk to Ben & Jerry’s for a yummy ice cream cone.

Consider CityPass Tampa for discounted attractions!

Day 2 in Tampa Bay with Kids

When you visit Tampa Bay with kids, there is no shortage of fun things to do! Undoubtedly, one of the best Tampa, Florida attractions for families is Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay! And, day two of this Tampa Bay itinerary is all about spending time at this thrilling theme park!

Located near Tampa Bay, you may also want to read The Ultimate Guide To Peppa Pig Theme Park For Families.

Breakfast at Goody Goody Burgers 

Before heading to Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, make sure you eat a hearty breakfast at Goody Goody Burgers in Hyde Park Village. Once one of America’s first drive-in restaurants, Goody Goody Burgers offers a touch of Tampa history alongside a delicious menu filled with Southern favorites (be sure to get the grits!). Recently updated, this diner is an iconic place to eat in Tampa Bay with kids. While in the area, families can also explore the trendy Hyde Park Village neighborhood surrounding the restaurant. It’s a great place to go shopping or take a brisk walk before heading to the theme park.

Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay

Spend the rest of day two of this Tampa itinerary with kids at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay. Kids and adults alike will love racing down heart-pounding roller coasters! Busch Gardens’ newest addition is Iron Gwazi, North America’s tallest, fastest and steepest hybrid coaster. This was, hands down, our favorite ride of the day. My daughter even went on it a few times without me because she couldn’t get enough!

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 (another one of our favorites!), and Cobra’s Curse, a family 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. Regardless of which types of rides your family prefers, you’re just to find a few favorites in no time.

A young girl looks at flamingos in an exhibit at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, a must do when you visit Tampa Bay with Kids.

In between rides, families can explore the African wildlife preserve and breeding program exhibits stationed throughout the park. They are great places for families to catch their breath and take a break. Or, for younger siblings to stay entertained while older kids enjoy the rides. There is even an add-on where you can take a trip through the preserve and feed the giraffes! If you’re looking for unique things to do in Tampa, Florida, for families, add that to your list! We loved roaming around and looking at the animals during our day at the park. In fact, my daughter still talks about how she could see animals on the roller coasters!

Finally, there are several great places to eat at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay with kids. I recommend looking up the different areas before your visit to decide where you would like to eat for lunch and plan your route accordingly.

A Few Tips for Visiting Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay with Kids:

A mom and her young daughter pose in front of a sign at the entrance of Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay.
  • 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, you need to 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, and it is straightforward to use. There are options for purchasing it onsite too. 

Dinner in Hyde Park Village

Likely, you’ll need a quick shower after spending all day at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay. After a break at the hotel, head back to Hyde Park Village. If you’re not ready to eat yet, you can take a nice walk around the neighborhood; there is also a pleasant greenspace where you can sit and let kids run around a bit too. Alternatively, those with teens can send them off to do a bit of browsing or shopping. 

When tummies are hungry, grab a bite to eat at Forbici Modern Italian. Serving modern, Italian-inspired dishes, families are sure to find a dish they will enjoy here. There is a small kids’ menu for little ones, or families can split a couple of pizzas. They even have square pizzas, which kids may get a kick out of! (Families with sensory needs should be aware that this restaurant can get a bit noisy in the evening – patio dining is much quieter.) We lucked out and even got to hear live music during dinner! If you have room for dessert, walk over to The Hyppo for gourmet popsicles. There are tons of fun flavors to choose from.

Wondering about Florida Beaches for Families? Click here for a Guide to the Sunshine State’s Best Coastal Spots by Region!

Day 3 in Tampa Bay with Kids

During your visit to Tampa Bay with kids, you will definitely want to learn about the area’s history. I know that was one of the things that most interested us about visiting Tampa Bay! On day 3 of this Tampa Bay itinerary for families, it is time to explore Ybor City. Featuring some of the best free things to do in Tampa with kids, Ybor City offers a vibrant mix of culture, history, and food. In fact, the Cubano sandwich was invented here! Keep reading to discover all the fun things you can do in Ybor City with kids.

Meander Ybor City

I recommend arriving in Ybor City in the morning and starting with breakfast at La Creperia Cafe. They have several savory and sweet crepes that are sure to please everyone! After breakfast, it’s time to walk around and take in the neighborhood. Walking down 7th Avenue is the best option for getting a sense of Ybor City and its historical vibe.

As you walk around, notice the cobblestone streets, as well as the historical buildings and markers (keep an eye out for the resident chickens, too!). Each historical marker describes important events and interesting facts about this neighborhood. Ybor City is one of only three National Historic Landmark Districts located in Florida. 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”. Of the 150 cigar factories that once operated in Tampa Bay, only El Reloj still operates today. In fact, one of the best free things to do in Tampa for families is to explore J.C. Newman Cigar Company’s factory and museum.

Inside the historic building, there are three floors that families can visit, including a well-curated museum, an interactive video area, and, on the third floor, you can see cigars being hand-rolled by master rollers. In the museum, visitors can learn about the Newman family and a bit of the history of Ybor City. It’s an excellent opportunity to better understand this part of Tampa’s history. Finally, guided tours can also be reserved for those interested in seeing more of the factory and production. 

Here are a few more stops in Ybor City you can add to your Tampa itinerary with kids:

A mom and her young daughter pose together in front of a statue in Jose Marti Park in Ybor City.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant
  • Jose Marti Park, at the corner of 8th Avenue and 13th Streets, is a must-stop. Here you can travel to Cuba, without leaving Tampa Bay. It was named for Jose Marti, a Cuban poet, journalist, professor, and soldier who died fighting for Cuban independence. The small park has been owned by the Cuban government since 1956.
  • Ybor City Museum provides an excellent overview of the area’s history, starting with Spanish immigrants, and the neighborhood’s namesake, Don Vicente Martinez Ybor.
  • Ybor City Saturday Market, located in Centennial Park, is a vibrant stop with live music for visitors of all ages.

For lunch, head to The Stone Soup Company for one of the best Cuban sandwiches you’ll ever have! While parents can enjoy a Cuban and a mojito, kids can munch on favorites like pretzels and burgers. While there is no kids’ menu here, the extensive menu offers something to love for everyone in the family. Then, grab an ice cream at Mayday Ice Cream while you wait for the TECO Streetcar to take you to your next stop.

Take the TECO Streetcar to The Florida Aquarium

After lunch (and a bit of ice cream), take the TECO Streetcar to The Florida Aquarium. The TECO Streetcar offers 12 stops between Ybor City and Downtown. It’s also one of the best free things to do in Tampa with kids! Kids will love looking out the window from this historic street car as you make your way to the next attraction on your 3-day to 4-day Tampa itinerary.

The Florida Aquarium is our next stop! This waterfront aquarium will be a hit with kids – it certainly was with our daughter. Here, you can encounter over 20,000 aquatic plants and animals, including Roseate Spoonbills, sharks, sea turtles, penguins, and more! As you explore the Wetlands of Florida, kids will love searching for fish and turtles in the aquariums, while birds fly overhead. Then, you can also explore other exhibits like Journey to Madagascar, Coral Reef, and Stingray Beach. Outside is a fun playground and splash pad area for kids to run about, too (make sure to have swimsuits in your bag!). With so many things to do here, no wonder The Florida Aquarium is one of the best things to do in Tampa with kids!

Note: For an extra price, visitors can also participate in fun experiences, like swimming or diving with fish! Plus, the aquarium also offers dolphin-spotting expeditions into Tampa Bay several times a day. If you’re spending 4 days in Tampa with kids, this is an excellent addition to your itinerary!

RELATED: 9 Best U.S. Aquariums To Visit For Kids

The Columbia Restaurant with Flamenco Show

Four flamenco dancers put on a show on stage at The Columbia Restaurant, a must do when you visit Tampa Bay with Kids.

After you explore the aquarium, take the TECO Streetcar back to Ybor City for dinner. No visit to Tampa Bay with kids is complete without having dinner at The Columbia Restaurant. Make it even more exciting by reserving one of the flamenco show tables! The oldest restaurant in Florida, The Columbia Restaurant takes up an entire city block in the heart of Ybor City. In addition to dinner and a flamenco show, there are a few other dining options, including a sandwich shop for lunch. I highly recommend dinner with the flamenco show for a unique twist to your Tampa Bay itinerary.

Several dancers perform a flamenco dance on stage at The Columbia Restaurant in Tampa Bay.

Offering two shows a 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 delight in watching the dancers perform. Showcasing several costume changes and multiple dancers, it is an excellent experience for the whole family. Then, for dinner, kids can select appetizing options from the kids’ menu, while parents dine on favorites like Grilled Grouper, Paella “a la Valenciana”, or the Filet Mignon. There are also scrumptious nightly specials.

Day 4 in Tampa Bay with Kids

During our 4 days in Tampa, we did many exciting things together. However, one of our favorite activities during our visit to Tampa Bay with kids was taking a family class at Peterbrooke Chocolatier Tampa Downtown. Keep reading to learn more about this fun activity and a few more must-do Tampa, Florida attractions for families! 

Visiting Florida with young kids? Check out these 10 Best Family Resorts in Florida With Kids’ Clubs

Breakfast + Morning Walk Along the Tampa Riverwalk

Start your last morning in Tampa Bay with kids with breakfast at Oxford Exchange. Located in a historic building near the University of Tampa, it’s a great place to get fresh, colorful food. Plus, it doubles as a charming place to shop for books and other fun items. Then, take a stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk. This 2.6-mile-long open space and pedestrian trail along the Hillsborough River is absolutely stunning! You can’t miss it along the Downtown area. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the best free things to do in Tampa Bay with kids. 

A view of the urban splash area at the edge of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

For your final day using this Tampa Bay visitors guide, we recommend the section near Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Glazer Children’s Museum, as that is your next stop. If you need another coffee this morning, grab one from Kahwa Coffee. In Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, you’ll find a lovely greenspace to enjoy your coffee and a playground for the kids. 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). 

Other attractions in Tampa Bay for families 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.

Glazer Children’s Museum

Next on this Tampa itinerary for families is Glazer Children’s Museum. This fantastic children’s museum is perfect for kids aged from infant to 7 (stretch to 8 or 9 with younger siblings). While spending 4 days in Tampa with kids, this is a great indoor activity for rainy or hot days. From saving animals in the Vet Clinic to building and creating in the Engineers’ Workshop, there are so many fun exhibits for kids to be inspired. Additional exhibits include a grocery store, farm, pizzeria, fire station, and more! There is even a large indoor play area for kids to crawl, climb, and explore. My daughter loved spending time building blocks and creating new concoctions at the Ice Cream Parlor. The best part, each day ends with a parade to encourage children to finish playing and prepare to leave (how helpful for parents!).

Alternatively, those with older kids or teens may prefer visiting the Tampa Museum of Art or the Henry B. Plant Museum during this time instead. Like the Glazer Children’s Museum, both are included in the Riverwalk Attraction Pass.

Take a Family Class at Peterbrooke Chocolatier Tampa Downtown

Several types of chocolate items ready for sale on a shelf at Peterbrooke Chocolatier Tampa Downtown.

One of our favorite things to do in Tampa with kids is to take a family class at Peterbrooke Chocolatier Tampa Downtown! Just a quick walk from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Glazer Children’s Museum, this delicious chocolate shop is an excellent stop for any Tampa itinerary with kids.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier Tampa Downtown is owned by a fantastic mother/daughter chocolate-making duo who put a lot of love and passion into every chocolatey bite of their creations! From chocolate-covered popcorn to chocolate wine, there are a variety of fun treats to choose from. If you’re short on time, you can always just pop into the shop and try the chocolate or their locally-made gelato (be sure to grab a few options for the road too!).

Those with time should definitely take a family class at Peterbrooke Chocolatier Tampa Downtown with Jennifer and Sidney (the mother/daughter team that owns the shop!). In order to book one, give them a call to set up a time. During our class, we learned all about how they make chocolate in the shop with high-quality ingredients and great care. We also got to temper our own chocolate and use molds to make solid chocolate bunnies to take home with us. My daughter absolutely loved learning how to be a chocolatier and making her own chocolate bunny. It was an absolute highlight of our trip!

Take the Pirate Water Taxi to Armature Works

The Pirate Water Taxi moves through the water in Tampa Bay.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Tampa Bay

After finishing the morning activities, catch the Pirate Water Taxi in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (stop 12) and head to lunch at Heights Public Market at Armature Works (stop 16). This is the last stop on this Tampa visitors guide. Included with the Riverwalk Attraction Pass, kids will love moving down the Hillsborough River aboard this fun taxi! It’s a great way to see Tampa Bay from another perspective.

Lunch at Heights Public Market at Armature Works is a great way to end your time in Tampa Bay with kids. A large indoor food hall, there is something for every taste inside! From innovative ice cream flavors at Astro Craft Ice Cream to Ava’s wood-fired pizza, even the pickiest eaters will find something they like. While kids munch on pizza, parents can enjoy Asian-inspired meals from BENTO, Cuban cuisine at Hemingway’s, or tasty birria quesatacos from Muchachas. You will surely leave Tampa Bay happy and satisfied regardless of which flavors you choose. 

Those with additional time can head outside and enjoy a bit more sun, while kids run about on the lawn before your journey home. Here, you can also enjoy great river views, and snap a few final family photos.

Consider Getting the Riverwalk Attraction Pass

A pelican in an exhibit at The Florida Aquarium.

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 Stay in Tampa Bay with Kids

Now that you know all the fun things to do in Tampa, Florida, with kids, you may be wondering where to stay. Indeed, no Tampa visitors guide is complete without highlighting a few of the top hotels! Here are a few of our top suggestions for Tampa Bay hotels with kids. 

Remote work families or world school families traveling to Tampa Bay for an extended period can stay in the centrally located AVE Tampa Riverwalk. Within walking distance of the Glazer Children’s Museum and the Tampa Riverwalk, the property features several top-notch amenities onsite too. Not only is there a pool and fitness center, but there is a lovely rooftop terrace and private courtyard area. This is where we stayed during our visit, and we absolutely loved it!

The outdoor courtyard pool at Hotel Haya.
Photo Courtesy: Hotel Haya

Then, families seeking accommodations on the waterfront can consider Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Tampa Marriott Water Street, or Sailport Waterfront Suites. Each hotel offers a pool, and other select amenities like onsite dining or fitness centers.

Downtown has more fantastic Tampa Bay hotels for families to choose from, including Hilton Tampa Downtown, JW Marriott Tampa Water Street, and The Westin Tampa Waterside. Not only do these properties offer excellent locations for exploring Tampa Bay with kids, but each one also offers outdoor pools and onsite dining. Finally, in Ybor City, families love Hotel Haya for its rich history, outdoor pool, and more! 

Find more Tampa Bay hotel recommendations for families by reading about the 14 Best Hotels In Tampa Bay For Families In Search Of An Exciting Warm-Weather Vacation. Regardless of where your Tampa itinerary with kids takes you, these hotels will surely provide a great home base for exploring!

Here are the ​​6 Best Florida Hotels With A Water Park Or Lazy River On The Gulf Coast For Families

Enjoy Your Visit to Tampa Bay with Kids!

A mom and her young daughter stand together under the iconic Centro Ybor sign in Ybor City.

I hope you found our 4 days in Tampa Bay helpful in planning your own trip! You can certainly turn it into a 3-day Tampa itinerary if you’re only making a quick weekend getaway or plan to spend additional days in another part of the area. Either way, you’re in for a treat when you visit Tampa Bay with the kids! Between the many fun things to do in Tampa, Florida, for families, the Cuban influence, spectacular roller coasters, and scenic views of Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River, there is much to look forward to here. Enjoy your visit to Tampa Bay with your kids! I hope you love it as much as we did.

*Unless otherwise noted, all images within this article belong to and are courtesy of 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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Antonia Grant

Antonia Grant Writer Antonia Grant is a life-long learner and avid traveler. She loves equipping families with the tools and confidence they need to travel together. That is a major reason she is part of our fantastic team at Families Love Travel! Antonia is also a strong believer in the beauty of multigenerational travel. Her main travel buddies are her husband and young daughter. They have been traveling as a family since her daughter was 7 months old, and internationally since 13 months old! She’s always seeking new adventures to write about and share.