Every night, the sun sinks down into the depths of the turquoise waters of Tampa Bay, accompanied by cirrus clouds brilliantly streaked with warm hues, seagulls crying overhead, and palm trees swaying in the sea breeze. Welcome to Tampa, Florida.
Being a local, I can vouch that it’s definitely worth cramming the whole family into a mini-van and taking a drive to vacation here in Tampa. If you decide to do just that, I know a few places and activities that are “musts” when vacationing in my lively city.
QUARTER FINALIST 2013 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
When you first reach the hub of downtown Tampa, the skyscrapers dominate the sky; however, just beyond them is the Florida Aquarium with its signature sting ray characterizing the front of the structure. Being native to the area, I have been on many school field trips there, and it’s quite an experience. Penguins that walk around, coral reef galleries, and of course, lots of other underwater inhabitants that will leave your kids babbling about them for days.
As well, in Tampa’s urban setting sit two large buildings side-by-side, one dedicated to history, and the other where history is often made. The Tampa Bay History Center is a very unique multi-story interactive museum that vividly paints the picture of where we come from as a city. I remember visiting with my family, and ending up “riding” on a horse simulator while learning about the “crackers” who lived here decades ago. The other building that resides near the museum is the Tampa Times Forum. During hockey season, the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team stride all over the ice-covered floor. Games are literally charged with energy, bolts of electricity are conducted in the ceiling; “spider webs” of purple appear. Attending one should definitely be on the family vacation itinerary. Just near those structures, is Channelside, where you can shop, bowl at Splittesville, and enjoy Coldstone ice cream, as well as the Riverwalk, which leads you on a path with views of the water coming from the bay.
For those who may not care for museums or sporting events, but who have an affinity for performing arts, the Straz Center is the place for them. It’s there, in the heart of the city, where you can watch a Broadway show or a concert. I have been a member of the audience there for many shows, and I highly recommend getting tickets to a show while you’re in town.
Additional attractions that make Tampa a great vacation spot include the very popular theme park, Busch Gardens. Home to Sheikra, the original dive-coaster of the continent. Speeds of seventy miles per hour, a height of 200 feet, and a feet-dangling thriller make it the best ride in Tampa, my favorite roller coaster, and one that you should definitely convince your family to go on.
Now, I’m sure you’ve adopted the stereotype that Florida is one giant beach. While that’s not necessarily true, Tampa is home to and within a short radius of many beaches, including Clearwater, Apollo, St. Petersburg, and Palmetto beach. Dolphins pop up commonly, the hot summer sun is great for tanning (And sunburns- bring sunscreen!), and the water is a cool refuge.
All of these things make Tampa a wonderful place to live; however, I have only scratched the surface of all of its picturesque landscapes and activities. I would love to send you all a postcard, but I suppose I don’t need to since I’m sure after this, you’ll be packing that mini-van. In that case, I’ll be seeing you soon.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.