Interesting Things to See in the Tampa Area

If you were to look for an area in the United States that has just about everything, the Tampa-St. Petersburg area may be one of those places. It has some of the best beaches in the country, great theme parks within an hour and one-half drive, museums, animal attractions and science centers. The weather is great, cruise lines are close at hand, and if you like city living Tampa is the third largest city in Florida and St. Pete the fourth. It has just about everything except mountains.

You can have a great time soaking up the sun and just hanging out. But if you are looking for some real fun and interesting things to do, here are a few ideas:

1. Beaches. There are many excellent choices within short driving distance of downtown Tampa, but Fort De Soto County Park may stand out as the best for many people. It has been voted the top beach in America by Trip Advisor, and although it averages in excess of 2.7 million visit the park its seven miles of waterfront can accommodate a lot of visitors.

2. Amusement parks. Only about an hour or a little more from downtown Tampa is Orlando, the amusement capital of the world. But just north a little ways is an excellent park in its own right: Busch Gardens Tampa. It has a collection of some of America’s top roller coasters, but perhaps what sets it apart is the Serengeti Plain, a large place where African animals freely roam.

3. Other animal attractions. A great choice here is the Florida aquarium, which is ranked as one of the best in the world. Some of their interactive exhibits are really interesting and creative, but try to get on the Eco-Tour aboard their catamaran. They have a wide variety of marine animals, but they rightly emphasize those from the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay area.

4. Science centers. The Museum of Science and Industry of Tampa will keep kids busy with a lot of hands-on gadgets to play with. The Imax Dome is also worth checking out. For a real local flavor of Tampa there is the Ybor City Museum. It’s small but gives an excellent history of Cuban immigration to Tampa and the role the cigar industry played in the city’s early development.

Speaking of Ybor City, this is really a quaint area not far from the cruise-line docks and not a bad option for spending some time in. I’ve noticed that in the last five years this area has been spruced up quite a bit.