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When many families think of taking a vacation with the kids in Florida, images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disney World come to mind. However, Orlando certainly isn’t the only family-friendly destination in the state! Tampa is a great option for families because it is affordable, packed with attractions, and fun for young travelers of all ages. To help you plan your trip, here are the top things to do in Tampa with kids.
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If you’re looking to take a vacation with the kids, then a trip to Busch Gardens is a must. This Tampa Bay attraction has roller coasters, theater shows, adventure rides, and much more. It’s a great place to visit for parents with both young kids and teenagers as well. Kids can interact with their favorite Sesame Street characters, play on climbing structures, and enjoy water rides, while there’s plenty of family-friendly hotels nearby. Seasonal events are offered as well for Halloween, Christmas, and other events.
There’s a great children’s museum in Tampa called the Glazer Children’s Museum that is interactive and packed with sensory engagement. A top kid-friendly museum in Florida, exhibits to check out here are Artsmart, Central Bank, Farm, Cruise Ship, Firehouse and Forts. Check the museum’s calendar online to see what’s going on during the day you plan to visit.
If you want to treat your kids to something sweet and delicious, don’t miss out on visiting Dough Nation on North Tampa Street. This local spot specializes in edible cookie dough with the perfect concoctions of ingredients and amazing flavors, such as s’mores and sweet and salty caramel. In addition to cookie dough, the sweet shop also serves ice cream, soda, and specialty menu items like the dough shake and the cookie melt. Better yet, Dough Nation is owned by a nonprofit organization that helps to feed the hungry in the Tampa Bay area.
Something else fun to do with kids in Tampa is to catch a show at the 1926 landmark theater called the Tampa Theatre. This is an elaborate movie palace that hosts over 600 events every year, such as concerts and classic film showings. To learn more about the theater, you can also take a balcony and backstage tour. Check the venue’s website to see what’s playing when you plan to visit.
If your kids love seeing fish or you’re simply looking for an indoor activity to do that’s fun for everyone, then plan to visit the Florida Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in Florida. Here you’ll find sharks, stingrays, starfish, penguins, and many more creatures of the sea. This two-level aquarium also features jellyfish habitats and educational sessions led by the aquarium staff. Other exhibits are the Wetlands Trail, Coral Reef, and Dragons Down Under.
It’s also fun to bring the kids to Tampa’s zoo at Lowry Park to learn about animals and enjoy the wonders of the natural world. This zoo is a very manageable size for families with young children, but it still offers plenty to see to make it worth your while.
Tampa is also home to numerous sports teams, which are fun to cheer on with your kids when you attend a local home game. Depending on the season you visit, you can get tickets to see a Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL football game, Tampa Bay Rays MLB baseball game, Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey game, or Tampa Bay Rowdies NASL soccer game. The Tampa Yankees are the local minor league baseball team here. Bring your budding sports star here to be inspired by the action on the field or on the rink!
Another must-visit spot for families in Tampa is the Adventure Island Water Park. This is a local attraction near Busch Gardens and a wonderful water park to splash around and play in all day. Adventure Island offers fun for the whole family at Fabian’s Fun Port, Splash Attack, Runaway Rapids, Paradise Lagoon, and Rambling Bayou. Some fun water slides to check out are Vanish Point, Caribbean Corkscrew, and Key West Rapids.
If possible, plan your visit to Tampa during Gasparilla Season to enjoy festivals, parades, and lots of other festivities. The Gasparilla Pirate Fest is named after a famous 18th and 19th-century pirate named Jose Gaspar. The four-mile parade takes place in January and typically draws a crowd of at least 300,000 people. This is a great “excuse” to dress up like pirates with your kids and have a ton of fun. For little ones, there’s the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza with over 100 parade floats making their way down Bayshore Boulevard. These events are free to attend and beloved traditions in Tampa.