For many families, their only visit to Tampa is the journey through the airport – but with so many things to do in Tampa with kids, you’re missing out if you don’t spend more time in the city and Tampa Bay.
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Because while Orlando’s attractions, Miami’s style and the Florida coastline are what get the limelight, you’ll find a whole string of Tampa family attractions if you’re heading to the Florida west coast with kids.
So whether you’re planning a Florida road trip or heading off to explore the Florida Gulf Coast attractions, save some time to discover the best things to do in Tampa Bay with kids, including Tampa itself and day trips from the city.
The Florida Aquarium
One of the best aquariums in the US, the Florida Aquarium is home to everything from sea otters to sharks and sea turtles, as well as moon jellies and corals, plus some inhabitants happier on dry land, such as lemurs.
The huge air-conditioned site is right on the waterfront, easy to access with the streetcar, and as well as promising some great Tampa family fun, it’s perfect for helping kids learn more about marine ecosystems, while also teaching them about conservation and rescue efforts.
The non-profit organization has a 4D multisensory cinema and splash pad as well, plus a whole string of experiences, including options like a wild dolphin cruise to take out in the bay.
Fun, creative, and educational, it’s easily one of the best things to do in Tampa with kids. You can buy skip-the-line tickets here.
If you’re visiting the Florida Aquarium and Zoo Tampa, you can also find joint ZooQuarium tickets
Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center
Tampa Bay’s water, which is used to cool the city’s power station, creates the perfect habitat for manatees, and one must-visit Tampa family attraction is manatee sanctuary at the Tampa Electric’s Big Bend.
As soon as the temperature in the city begins to drop, you find these gentle creatures naturally converging on the site, usually between November and April – you can check the webcams to see who’s visiting.
Inside the Manatee Viewing Center building, there are bright displays to help immerse you in the world of the manatee, from the mangrove tunnel to seagrass beds, as well as learning about their lives.
Add in a stroll among award-winning butterfly gardens and the center’s tidal walk, and it’s a little slice of natural Florida within the city. Don’t miss the lovely loop trail with a wildlife observation tower, to look out to the water from a 50ft high viewpoint.
While you’re there, head over to the Rays Touch Tank which houses a group of cownose rays, the actual mascots of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park
If you’re visiting Tampa with kids who love animals, you can’t miss ZooTampa at Lowry Park. With a series of aviaries, including macaws circling as you enter, the focus is firmly on rescuing, rehabilitating and conserving wildlife.
You’ll find local wildlife, such as manatees, bald eagles and river otters at the Florida Boardwalk & Manatee Mangrove, while you could also feed giraffes, interact with giant tortoises and splash aroud in the Manatee Fountains.
Look out for endangered primates, a whole area that’s home to Asian wildlife, including Malaysian tigers, sunbears and Komodo dragons, as well as another section focused on Africa. Add in rides, from carousels to coasters, and it’s a really fun day out with kids.
If you’re visiting the Florida Aquarium and Zoo Tampa, you can also find joint ZooQuarium tickets
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
One of the best-known attractions in the areas is Busch Gardens, a 335-acre theme park that is also one of the best things to do in Tampa with kids.
Also home to one of Tampa’s largest zoos, with 300 species of animals for your kids to meet plus some great family shows to enjoy, it’s the rollercoasters and rides which really make this a must-visit on your list of Florida west coast attractions.
There’s everything from adrenaline thrills like the 335-foot freestanding drop tower of Falcon’s Fury to rides for younger kids themed around Sesame Street – to name just a few.
Book tickets with free cancellation here, including combined ticket options and tickets with pre-paid parking.
The Tampa Bay City Pass, which covers entry to five major family attractions, also includes tickets to Busch Gardens
Adventure Island Tampa
Right across the street from the Busch Gardens is the Adventure Island Tampa water park, if you’re looking to combine a couple of Tampa family attractions in one day.
Kids can enjoy plenty of adventure, including the adrenaline-fueled free-fall Vanish point or race down the four-lane slide, Riptide – plus there’s gentler fun in the lazy river and wave pool.
You’ll find plenty for littler ones as well, including the water-friendly jungle gym of Fabian’s Fun Port, plus 50 water toys in the Splash Attack splash zone, while Paradise Lagoon has something for everyone – a pool to relax in, a net climb and fun obstacles plus cliff jumps for the thrill seekers.
Book tickets with free cancellation here.
Leave ordinary family fun standing with one of the most exciting things to do in Tampa with kids, during an unforgettable, gravity-defying indoor skydiving experience.
The state-of-the-art technology is safe for kids (open to age 3+) but with plenty of thrills for teens and adults; the wind tunnels’ fans can blow up to 185mph (300kph) with space for 12 flyers at once time. You even get a longer freefall experience than jumping out of an actual plane…
Travel back in time and see over 150 life-size dinosaurs at Dinosaur World in Plant City, just 30 minutes outside of Tampa. Set among lush vegetation, kids are sure to have a blast as they take on the roles of young paleontologists and excavators.
Look for real minerals and gems at the Dino Gem Excavation and uncover a life-size stegosaurus skeleton from under the sand. Visit other animals from the Ice Age and watch a live animatronic animal display. Don’t miss the chance to end your day with the ultimate themed picnic lunch at Dine with the Dinos.
Book tickets here, including a discount using my link and code MUMMYTRAVELS6.
Bits-n-Pieces Puppet Theatre
Bits-n-Pieces Puppet Theatre brings together the best of childhood with elements of fantasy and quality storytelling – a lovely family attraction guaranteed to spark the imagination, thanks to the atmosphere of creativity at the PuppetWorld Playhouse.
Its giant puppet productions and shows are performed throughout the year and feature classics like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Hansel and Gretel among others.
And the award-winning performances mix a range of puppet styles, including marionettes and hand puppets, which kids are guaranteed to love.
Glazer Children’s Museum
There’s a world of learning disguised as play at the Glazer Children’s Museum, designed to teach them to think and act purposefully and become lifelong learners.
Among their range of different activities is a KidsPort, an Engineers’ Workshop, a Pizza Place, and a theatre, so your child can take on the roles of anything from chef to vet and farmer and more, all while letting their imagination have full rein and playing to their hearts’ content.
The museum also offers special programs and bi-monthly Sunshine Sundays dedicated to kids with special needs, making it an inclusive space for all.
Museum of Science and Industry
Find another chance for kids to get hands on at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, a scientific playground with more than 100 interactive activities.
Families can try everything from building a robot and exploring optical illusions to solving brain puzzles, and even exploring another world in their NASA-funded mission; Moonbase lunar colony!
There’s also a Jurassic Park-themed exhibit to explore the science of prehistoric life, plus the chance to gaze at a multitude of stars in their planetarium, and even traveling to another world in their virtual reality simulator.
The Tampa Bay City Pass, which covers entry to five major family attractions, also includes tickets to MOSI Tampa
Tampa Bay History Center
A Smithsonian Affiliate Museum, this history center features three floors covering over 12,000 years of Florida history.
From pirate Jack Rackam to Teddy Roosevelt, this fascinating museum holds a rich history of all the personalities and communities that were present in Florida, so it’s a great way to look beyond the tourist attractions in Tampa with kids.
There are regular temporary exhibits too, with changing displays that have covered everything from fossils to Hispanic art, music and much more.
As a bonus, the History Center’s waterfront Columbia Cafe has some fantastic classic Spanish and Cuban-inspired dishes – don’t miss their original Cuban sandwich.
Book tickets here with a discount if you use my link and code MUMMYTRAVELS6.
If you’re interested in Florida history, don’t miss the Ybor City Museum State Park too
The Tampa Museum of Art
Keep an eye out for the Tampa Museum of Art, an iconic landmark of downtown Tampa with its 23-foot tall cast iron sculpture named Laura with Bun on the north and a 14,000 square-foot LED installation of Leo Villareal’s Sky illuminating the south.
The permanent collection also showcases a range of sculpture, photography, painting, and new media, and shares new perspectives on art-making with children, teens, and adults.
Plenty to inspire and get your kids thinking, you’ll find classic, modern and contemporary artworks at this much-loved Tampa family attraction.
Tampa Bay Automobile Museum
From the early Mercedes to Mustangs and more, the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum is home to some of the best examples of the evolving automobile industry.
From elegant vintage cars to quirky prototypes, and vehicles from across the United States, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Czechoslovakia, it’s a fascinating tribute to engineering innovation over more than a century.
A treat for car-lovers of all ages, and a fun chance to head down memory lane if you’re visiting Tampa with kids and their grandparents.
Mixing culture, entertainment and a chance to get active outdoors, Tampa Bay’s Riverwalk makes an unmissable place to visit for families in Tampa.
The south end is home to the Riverwall, a collage of more than 550 photos by artist Bruce Marsh, which sums up this beautiful riverwalk, plus it’s bike-friendly if you want to check out more of the attractions, parks and museums linked by the route.
Keep an eye out for the Historical Monument Trail, pick up the nature guide or eye up some of the public art along the way.
Don’t miss a visit to Sparkman Wharf, one of Tampa’s best dining centers with the best waterfront view, or head towards the Tampa Convention Center, where you can find the Tampa Bay Water Bike Company’s unusual crafts – the views of Tampa as you pedal on these water bikes won’t be quickly forgotten.
You can also download a Riverwalk smartphone audio walking tour to pick out some of the highlights.
Lettuce Lake Conservation Park
Located just outside Tampa, Lettuce Lake Conservation Park is one of Hillsborough County’s most visited parks and a prime Gulf coast attraction.
It has a 1.25-mile paved path for an easy way to explore with kids, a 3,500-foot boardwalk with an observation tower, and lots of opportunities to explore and study nature here and in the wooded areas.
You’ll find family-friendly activities as well, including volunteer-led nature education tours, canoeing and kayaking.
Catch some live sport
If you are interested in professional sports, Tampa has three major venues – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play their home games at Raymond James’s Stadium from August to December.
Then directly across the street from the stadium is George M Steinbrenner Field, formerly Legends Field, where the New York Yankees do spring training from February to March. The club’s minor league team, the Tampa Tarpons, plays at Legends from April through August.
Or for National League hockey, the Tampa Bay Lightning begin their series in October at the St Pete Times Forum, located near downtown Tampa.
Easy day trips from Tampa with kids
There’s so much to do in Tampa itself that you won’t be bored, but if you’re looking to add some easy day trips to your family break, here’s some more inspiration.
Legoland Florida resort
Around an hour from Tampa, you’ll find around 50 rides, shows, and attractions at Legoland Florida, for a fantastic day out with kids, including the cities in miniature at Miniland.
It’s also around a similar distance from Orlando, if you’re visiting both part of Florida with kids, with multiday tickets available to include Peppa Pig Theme Park and Legoland Waterpark.
Hit the beach
You can’t visit the Florida Gulf Coast without hitting at least one beach – well, you could, but you shouldn’t! There’s choice galore if you’re looking for the best Florida beaches with kids, but keep these two on your list, both in easy distance of Tampa.
Fort DeSoto Park, at the southern end of St Pete, has almost three miles of stunning white sand beach – some of the best in the whole United States.
The 2.5-mile stretch of Clearwater Beach is known for its equally lovely white sand, as well as calm, shallow and clear waters which make it perfect if you’re visiting Florida with kids.
Or just off the coast of Clearwater is Caladesi Island State Park, that’s popular with nature enthusiasts as well as beach-goers – only accessible by ferry but well worth the effort.
Meanwhile St Pete Beach has the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in Pinellas County, Pass-a-Grille Beach, with watersports including paddleboarding, as well as sea, sun, sand and shells.
It’s also easy to cross to nearby Anna Maria Island, with yet more white sand beaches and dolphin-spotting boat tours.
Sunken Gardens, St Pete
Head out to St Petersburg to the 100-year-old Sunken Gardens, a botanical paradise which is St Pete’s oldest living museum. Home to tropical plants galore, you’ll pass waterfalls and a flock of flamingos as you follow some of the paths past more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers.
St Pete is also home to the Parrot of the Caribbean Trolley Boat tours of Tampa Bay, replacing the old amphibious Tampa Duck tours.
This little piece of Florida heaven is full of outdoor adventures for families, with one of the highlights at Three Sisters Spring. This wildlife reserve on Crystal River allows you to easily spot manatees, as well as swimming with them during your visit.
You can also explore the springs which give the places their names, with gorgeous clear water that’s perfect in the Florida heat.
Weeki Wachee mermaids
The oldest roadside attraction in Florida, you’ve been able to marvel at the mermaids of Weeki Wachee for decades – but it doesn’t make them any less enchanting for kids (and big kids).
The mermaids perform three times a day, year-round – it’s only around 45 minutes north of Florida, with plenty more to discover in the state park, including the chance to swim, paddleboard or take a boat trip, and learn about local nature.
Another highlight less than an hour from Tampa, Giraffe Ranch sits next to the Green Swamp, Florida’s second largest wilderness area, and this wildlife preserve is home to sand hill cranes as well as native orchids – not to mention the big stars, the giraffes.
There are five kinds of safaris to choose from, each led by driver-guides, whether you prefer to stay in your own vehicle following a guide who provides commentary to your FM car radio, a 4WD tour experience, or even camel-back safaris. Many include giraffe feeding, plus you can also see rhino, tapir and pygmy hippos at the reserve. Must be booked in advance.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission
Dinosaur World/Museum of Art courtesy Visit Tampa Bay; MOSI courtesy Visit Tampa Bay/Keir Magoulas, all other images courtesy of Depositphotos