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With its exciting nightlife scene, family-friendly attractions and leafy parks, downtown Tampa offers an array of things to do. Here you’ll find cultural museums that showcase history and art, kid-friendly aquariums and evening entertainment at a historic theatre, performing arts centre and bowling alley. Read on to discover what we think are the best things to do in downtown Tampa.
Start your exploration of downtown Tampa at the 2.4-mile Tampa Riverwalk, a walkable and bikable stretch of walkway. On one side of the path you’ll find a placid river, while the other is bustling with museums, shops, restaurants and parks, serving as a hub for art, fitness and leisure. It’s here that you can explore the area on foot and stop at some of the city’s biggest attractions such as The Florida Aquarium, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Glazer Children’s Museum.
If you’re an art enthusiast, a trip to the Tampa Museum of Art is a must. Here you can browse its collation of classical, modern and contemporary art, then marvel at one of the largest Greek and Roman antiquities collection in the southeastern United States. Make sure to see its contemporary photography displays, including Leo Villareal’s Sky Tampa, the 14,000-square-foot LED installation. Kiss and Tell is another notable piece, which includes 30 individual wooden elements hanging from a grid in the Morsani Atrium.
Once named “One of the Most Spectacular Theatres in the World” by CNN, the Tampa Theatre in Tampa is one of Florida’s most fascinating cultural attractions. Built in 1926 as one of America’s most elaborate movie palaces, this iconic landmark now hosts a full calendar of over 600 events each year, from contemporary films to classic movies, concerts, film festivals and sing-a-long shows. Watch a classic film or concert, and appreciate its historic beauty and stunning collection of old-world features.
Located in downtown Tampa, Glazer Children’s Museum is a great destination for families. Spend the afternoon exploring the interactive exhibits, where you can sculpt a masterpiece in the Artsmart room and learn the basics of banking in the Central Bank before spending your money to power a train or launch a rocket. The Design + Build will spark curiosity in future architects and designers, while the Global Cafe celebrates worldly cultures with an African drum Hut and Japanese Pagoda.
Take a step back in time at the Tampa Bay History Center, which is a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum. Explore the three floors of exciting exhibits that showcase 12,000 years of Florida history. Both kids and adults alike will be captivated by the hands-on and interactive displays that showcase Ybor City and its Cuban cigar rollers, tales of the sea from pirates and the Florida pioneers with their cattle drive.
The Florida Aquarium consistently ranks high as one of the top aquariums in the country, where animal lovers can interact with over 7,000 animal and plant species in its 150,000-square-feet of space. Both kids and adults alike will delight in the chance to get up-close to sea turtles, moray eels and stingrays, while the ring-tailed lemurs and otters exhibits provide hours of educational fun.
Perfect for when the weather is nice, head to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. This eight-acre park features LED lighting and boasts a Great Lawn with perimeter seating that is ideal for outdoor performances, while a dog run and pavilion with restrooms make a perfect destination for your next family outing. Make sure to stop and see the park’s two interactive features, the Louver fountain and the Mist fountain, and join one of the yoga classes.
Celebrating 30 years of live performances, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts is a great activity that all ages can enjoy, whether rain or shine. It’s the second-largest performing arts complex in the Southeastern United States and has a leading Broadway series. You’ll find anything from opera to concerts and a variety of performances, with shows like ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Hamilton’, ‘Book of Mormon’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ as some of its popular events.
If you’re interested in photography, you can’t miss exploring the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in downtown Tampa. It’s dedicated to showcasing notable photographic art as central to contemporary life and culture. This museum collects, preserves and exhibits historic and contemporary works by both nationally an internationally known photographic artists. Make sure to see the ‘Beyond the Lens’ exhibit that showcases work from National Geographic photographer Bruce Dale and portrays 50 images of his travels. The museum also has a packed calendar of events throughout the year with photography classes and workshops where you can improve your skills with the help of experts.
With locations throughout Florida, Splitsville offers visitors visiting an array of cities the chance to experience its retro-related activities. The ultimate throwback to family-friendly fun, this attraction offers you a chance to go back in time where you may have delighted in wearing the silly bowling shoes. Its kitschy nostalgic feel of the decor is timeless and entertaining, while the entire family can enjoy competing over who can knock over the most pins. In addition to its 30 lanes also have access to a full bar and restaurant, live music, and billiards.
Want to step back in time to one of Florida’s most iconic landmarks? Visit the Henry B. Plant Museum. Located in the south wing of the University of Tampa’s campus, the Henry B. Plant Museum was originally built in 1891 and focuses on Gilded Age tourism. This Moorish Revival architectural feat served as a resort for the wealthy and elite and was used during the Spanish-American War.