During Spring Break this year, my family and I went somewhere we had never been before: Tampa, FL. We have spent lots of time in Central Florida visiting the attractions there like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, but have never ventured a bit west to Tampa. And boy have we been missing some great fun!
My family of six (with kids aged 8 to 2) spent three days exploring, eating, and splashing our way through Tampa. I’ll write more in the future about some of these attractions but I wanted to share the highlights with you right away. As you are thinking about your summer family travel plans, here are the 10 reasons I found to visit Tampa with kids:
- Busch Gardens. Roller coasters. Snapping alligators. Amusement park games. Exotic birds. I could go on and on. There is truly something for everyone at this multi-faceted theme park. My only disappointment at Busch Gardens? We only had one day there.
- Glazer Children’s Museum. Do not miss this museum. The Glazer Children’s Museum is three floors of active, hands-on fun for kids aged 10 and under (though older kids can find things to do here too). You can easily spend half the day here.
- Florida Aquarium. While many varieties of fish, alligators, and mammals are showcased in this homey aquarium, the real showstopper at the Florida Aquarium is the outdoor pirate-themed splash grounds. Parents can sit on shaded benches while children have a ball getting soaked and burning off lots and lots of energy.
- It’s a walking city. Park your car at your hotel and walk to where you’re going. We stayed at the conveniently-located and budget-friendly Barrymore Hotel on the Tampa Riverwalk and walked to the Glazer Children’s Museum and Water Works Park easily. Don’t want to walk too far? Ask if your hotel has a shuttle. The Barrymore had a complimentary shuttle that ran almost non-stop.
- Spray grounds galore. We all know Florida is hot and the city of Tampa is prepared for it! I loved the various spray grounds (or playgrounds with water features) they have throughout the city, giving children the opportunity to cool off while they are letting some steam off.
- Welcoming city. As a family of color, it is important to my husband and I that we aren’t the “only ones” when we go on vacation. I found Tampa to be very diverse, open, and welcoming to everyone. Local blogger, Marisa from TampaMama.com even came out to meet us and brought us a box of GoGoSqueeZ!
- The Riverwalk. Whether for a lovely walk before breakfast or a sunset stroll after dinner, the Tampa Riverwalk is both beautiful and useful. Get out there and take advantage!
- Outdoor free events. Since attractions can sometimes cost a lot of money, free activities are great. The Tampa Bay area has many of them including those at Water Works Park on the Riverwalk. Water Works park offers free family-friendly concerts, movies, and other activities throughout the year.
- Sports teams. Though Tampa is not a huge city, it boasts a NFL team (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), a NHL team (Tampa Bay Lightening), and a MLB team (Tampa Bay Rays). The area is also host to six MLB Spring Training camps. If you want to go to a game, chances are they have one for you!
- Diverse accommodations. While we stayed at the recently renovated Barrymore Hotel, there are a plethora of other hotels in the same Riverwalk location. The Embassy Suites Downtown Convention Center is a great option for families with two-room suites and a hot complimentary breakfast.
While you think about your summer travel plans, I recommend including a trip to Tampa. It has a little off-the-beaten-path feeling about it that is comforting and exciting at the same time. Don’t miss out!