Embarking on a visit to the Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area can feel overwhelming, with its world-class beaches, rich history, and diverse attractions. As a newcomer, you might worry about missing out on hidden gems or not fully experiencing the local culture. Fear not; we've crafted the ultimate guide to help you navigate the area's breathtaking sights and unique experiences. Take a deep breath and get ready to uncover the true essence of Tampa-St. Petersburg. Get ready to dive in and discover the best of what this vibrant region has to offer – your adventure starts now!
Ybor City is Tampa's historic Latin quarter and was once the Cigar Capital of the World. Check out the Cuban restaurants, Tampa Bay Baseball Museum, Ybor City Museum State Park, and grab a beer at the local brewery during the day. If you really want to see this district come to life, stick around into the evening. Ybor City is home to numerous nightclubs and bars, including LGBT bars, dance clubs, and college bars. If this isn't your scene, don't worry—you can always grab a hamburger at Mary's Bar & Grille or people-watch at the Carne Chophouse.
Fort De Soto Park is located on five interconnected islands in the southwest corner of Tampa Bay. It has just about everything an outdoor lover is looking for nature trails, fishing, boating, camping, and beautiful white, sandy beaches. Not to mention, it's stunningly beautiful, especially at sunset. This group of islands also has quite a military history. It was once home to a post that consisted of 29 buildings, concrete sidewalks, and a narrow-gauge railroad. Only two coastal defense mortars remain.
Just west of Tampa along the Gulf Coast is Dunedin, one of the oldest coastal towns in Florida. The historic downtown area is frequently described as "charming," and the laid-back lifestyle and waterfront views are addicting. Take part in seasonal events like the lighted holiday boat parade, Oktoberfest, and the annual Scottish celebration, or head off the coast to explore Honeymoon Island and Caladesi State Park.
There's a lot to see at the Florida Aquarium, which is probably why it's one of Tampa's most popular attractions. The Coral Reef tank is one of the aquarium's most impressive draws, and the unique Wetlands Trail gives you an up-close and personal view of free-flying birds, alligators, and cypress swamps unique to the state. In addition to observing ocean life, you can also take behind-the-scenes tours, go on a dolphin cruise, and even snorkel with sharks!
Head to Tampa's Channelside District to explore 12,000 years of Florida history at this Smithsonian affiliate museum. From the area's native inhabitants, the Seminoles, Tocobaga, and Timucua, to Spanish conquistadors, treasure hunters, a map library, and a 1920 cigar store replica, there's plenty of ground to cover and many tales to tell once you step out of the enormous elevators. The family-friendly exhibits span three floors and are interactive. Tampa Bay History Center runs free 90-minute guided tours of the city's historical sites.
GOAT Tom Brady chose to spend the twilight of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and boy, did that work out well. The Bucs have the lowest winning percentage in the NFL but two Super Bowl wins (2002 and 2020) to their name. During their 2020 triumph, they became the first team to play in and win a Super Bowl at their home stadium. Cannons fire after every touchdown, so if you don't like loud noises, steer clear of the otherwise awesome pirate ship during the game. With a capacity of close to 66,000, the stadium is huge and hosts music concerts too.
The short drive to St. Petersburg is a must if you love art and architecture. The Salvador Dalí Museum is not extensive, but you could easily spend at least two hours looking at the permanent and temporary exhibits. Download the app with its audio tour and augmented and virtual reality elements—it provides more memorable insight into the Surrealist masterpieces. The free docent tour is highly informative, and don't miss out on the garden area, which has a maze and Daliesque touches.
If you prefer frost to fire, check out Amalie Arena, formerly known as the Ice Palace, in Downtown Tampa. The Bolts have won three Stanley Cup championships, including two back-to-back victories, and made three straight finals appearances in recent years, so they know what they're doing. The arena has a capacity of 21,500, and the atmosphere befits the team's electric name. NHL aside, you can catch concerts and other sports contests here too.
Tampa Museum of Art, next to the city's Riverwalk, features ancient and contemporary works to transport you back in time and make you contemplate the present. Peruse pottery from the Greek civilization before mulling over digital art and photography. The building is an ode to clean design and its exterior lights up exquisitely at dusk. You can look into attending one of the many art classes or lectures the museum hosts. Kids are welcome too.
Cool off in air-conditioned comfort and catch the resident Tampa Rays in action at Tropicana Field. The dome-covered stadium also hosts occasional concerts and conventions. But that's not all, as there are a number of activities for non-game days at the venue. The most unusual has got to be the Touch Tank exhibit of cow nose rays that encourages interaction with visitors. There's also the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame for baseball fans to explore.
Close to a million people visit ZooTampa at Lowry Park every year because it's arguably the most family-friendly zoo in the country. This nonprofit venue is a conservation center for endangered wildlife staffed with folks passionate about animals. Their enthusiasm may rub off on you and ignite a lifelong love for the natural world and its inhabitants. Kids especially love the Wallaroo play area with splash pads and rides. When your adventure ends, you can catch more of the action on Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa on Nat Geo WILD.
The Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg are more than a hundred years old and one of the oldest roadside tourist attractions in the U.S. Amble through this local historic landmark with its pools, waterfalls, flamingos, rescue parrots, and tropical plants, and enjoy the shade and sense of tranquility. You can buy food to feed the koi fish, and there are loads of photo ops amidst the lush greenery. Most of the paths are ADA-accessible, but you'll want to apply insect repellent liberally or bear the consequences.
Tampa's waterfront district or Riverwalk has everything you could want for a relaxed morning or evening, with restaurants, shops, parks, an aquarium, and some of the museums on this list. It's a pedestrian-friendly 2.4-mile stretch, and you can switch to the water when you tire of having the ground under your feet. E-boats and water bikes are readily available, or you can kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
Hillsborough River State Park is the perfect place to escape city life. The park offers RV and tent camping with hot showers and laundry facilities. If you want to rough it up, hike to the primitive camping area on the other side of the river. There's a lot to do here, including nature trails, bike trails, playgrounds, a swimming pool, and a cafe. This park is also home to class II rapids, which are hard to come by in Florida.
If traveling to Tampa with young children, the Glazer Children's Museum is a must-see destination. The museum is a 53,000-square-foot space full of permanent and temporary exhibits, as well as interactive displays that teach kids about art and science, and math. There is something for everyone at the museum, whether it's developing a train route, using lego building blocks, or designing a perfect paper airplane.
The Armature Works Heights Public Market is a warehouse of retail shops, places to eat, and a rooftop bar. There is also a unique event held called "Show + Tell" Workshop, where there are product demonstrations, cooking classes, and wine tastings. The Armature Market was originally where the city's electric streetcars were stored and maintained; it now offers visitors a wonderful architectural experience.
With its dazzling turquoise waters, Clearwater Beach is a highlight of any visit to the city. Sugar-white sands and shallow water make it a prime choice for families, not to mention couples and groups of friends looking to spend time in the sunshine. Enjoy sunbathing and fun watersports. Nearby, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and snack shops. There are also vendors who rent beach amenities like umbrellas and lounge chairs.
Pier 60 is a prominent fixture on the Clearwater coast, both for fishing and strolling. It's a great place to enjoy views of the Gulf and the sunset. At any given time, street performers can also be found entertaining the crowds who visit this tourist hotspot.
Ruth Eckerd Hall is a celebrated hub for the arts in Clearwater. This venue features symphony, theatrical, and dance performances. If you're a fan of the performing arts, you'll want to check out the schedule when you're in town. While there are more than 2,000 seats, tickets can sell quickly for popular shows.
A cultural landmark, Capitol Theater has been welcoming Clearwater residents and visitors through its doors since 1921. The historic theater is one of the oldest still operating theaters in the entire state. It features comedy routines, cinema showings, band performances, recitals, and more. Although on the small and cozy side, the Capitol brims with Art Deco flair.
Visit Cliff Stephens Park to enjoy the many trails for jogging, biking, and strolling. Situated on 44 acres, the park has plenty of space for its other installations, like disc golf, exercise courses, and picnic areas. Go boating, fishing, canoeing, or inline skating.
A celebrated practice space used by Major League Baseball teams like the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, BayCare Ballpark is a great place to spend an afternoon. Many baseball fans head to the field to catch some of their favorite ballplayers in action. The field features more than 8,000 seats and has a sought-after food court where you can grab your favorite ball field snacks.
Enjoy an afternoon in the sunshine while perusing the produce and handicrafts at the Clearwater Farmers Market. Of course, you'll want to come hungry, as you'll find a wide array of vendors serving up delicious eats. Shop for arts and crafts or special souvenirs. Live entertainment often adds to the market's vibrant atmosphere.
Clearwater's fabulous Beachwalk is popular with visitors for its old-fashioned charm. You'll find classic ice cream parlors and cafes nearby, not to mention restaurants, boutiques, craft shops, and more. The pedestrian area is a great place to meet friends and stroll in the sunshine. It's also a popular place to shop for souvenirs.
Dale Chihuly is probably the best-known glass artist in the world for good reason. His ginormous surreal, and brightly colored creations are nothing short of spectacular. The permanent Chihuly Collection, located adjacent to the Morean Art Center in the downtown arts district, features several ornate site-specific works and large-scale installations that may cause your jaw to drop. Check out the technique behind the magic at the Studio Glass and Hot Shop demonstration included in your ticket price.
Old Florida architecture is preserved to great effect in the historic residential district of Kenwood. Pleasant for strolling, with large shade trees and wide brick sidewalks, the neighborhood is full of ranch and mission-style bungalows built between 1920 and 1950. Strictly adhering to historical conservation codes, the homes and other buildings dating from 1926 are a coherent tribute to simpler, human-scale design times.
This 3,190-acre preserve is a nature lover's oasis. Hiking and paddling trails transport you deep into the wilderness as you explore this coastal ecosystem up close. Birding, fishing, canoeing, and wildlife watching are all popular pastimes. Two miles of handicap-accessible boardwalks lead to an impressive 45-foot observation tower, from which you'll score panoramic views of Tampa Bay. Learn about the city's ancient past at the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, which encompasses 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits.
The Florida Holocaust Museum was built to honor the millions of lives lost during one of the most tragic periods in history. History, Heritage, and Hope tell the stories you didn't hear in class, with displays and artists leading you through the history of the Holocaust and life leading up to WWII, in addition to devastating tales of ghettos and concentration camps. It's one of only a dozen museums worldwide displaying Dimensions in Testimony, an interactive experience between viewers and Holocaust survivors.