Sightseeing in Tampa

With 165 parks and beaches within the city limits of Tampa, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the temperate climate, sea air and sand between your toes. You’re not likely to miss a meal with the multitude of fine dining options before or after enjoying the exciting nightlife or fun attractions. There are  also many sightseeing opportunities that you might miss if you didn’t add them to your itinerary. So, when making your vacation plans, schedule in  a few of these suggestions.

Hyde Park is known as one of Tampa’s oldest neighborhoods. Located just south of downtown, it is in the heart of Tampa. If your interests lie in the direction of pre-1940s architecture you will love perusing the old Tudor, Queen Ann and Colonial style homes. In fact, Disney used the neighborhood as a template for one of their own housing developments. The Hyde Park Village is built to fit into the neighborhood as a European promenade and boasts top-of-the-line restaurants, shops and theaters.

Channelside is downtown Tampa’s huge entertainment complex. Besides the shops, great dining and nightlife, you can enjoy watching the commercial cruisers and cargo ships enter and leave Tampa’s port. You can get to Channelside by trolley, which is a fun excursion in itself. And relieves you of trying to find a parking spot, although there are parking garages available.

Bayshore Boulevard has one of the longest continuous sidewalk in the world (4 ½ miles). Walk it or drive it and enjoy the view of the bay on one side and historic homes and towering condos on the other. It’s the daily path for many walkers, joggers, skaters and bikers getting their exercise in. It’s also the location for the once-a-year event, the Gasparilla Parade at the end of January.

Busch Gardens Africa is not just a theme park. It’s work putting on the sightseeing list because of the beautiful grounds and “African” animals. Of course, if you have kids or just adults that are young at heart, they will enjoy all that this park has to offer. Visit the replica of King Tut’s Tomb in the Egyptian area then head over to their wild roller coasters, the Python and the Scorpion. The water rides, Tanganyika Tidal Wave and the Stanly Falls Log Flume or more fun than riding a barrel down the Niagara Falls.

University of Tampa’s unique architecture are a prominent feature of the downtown skyline. A “have-to-see in Tampa” as a sightseer is the Henry B Plant Museum which is part of the university and housed in old Tampa Bay Hotel which is now on the National Historic Landmark registry. The museum is filled with art treasures and European furnishings. It also has a permanent Spanish-American War exhibit.

St. Pete Times Forum (yes it’s in Tampa) is known by locals simply as “The Forum.” It is the popular location for concerts and entertainment all year long as well as the home of the Stanly Cup and Tampa Bay Lightening (hockey). Check out their site for a calendar of events so that you can plan your trip to Tampa around the events you love to experience. Better yet, go to their website and signup for their free weekly newsletter to find out what’s coming up in weeks and months ahead of time.

The Florida Aquarium is a huge photo opportunity with sharks, stingrays, alligators and many more interesting creatures from the Florida coast. You can’t miss the shell-shaped glass dome as you drive towards the aquarium along Tampa’s waterfront. It’s a great place to be on a hot Florida summer’s day with 152,000 square feet of air-conditioned space. The gallery of exhibits tell Florida’s water story from the wetlands, bays and beaches, coral reefs and sea hunt. The aquarium even offers special programs such as “Swim with the Fishes” which allows patrons (ages 6 and up) to swim in the coral reef tank.

Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the University of South Florida Bulls, is called the “crown jewel” by NFL insiders. Most exciting, they will be hosting the Super Bowl XLIII in February, 2009. But, they aren’t new to this event as they also hosted the Super Bowl XXXV with the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants. It boasts a three million dollar pirate ship you are not likely to forget any time soon. If you visit Tampa, you have to see a Buccaneers game.

Tampa Bay Historic Center is a fun way to learn the history of the Tampa Bay area. Their new grand opening, in the Channelside district takes place in January, 2009. The new building will complement the river walk and stand tall for the many events that will be held in this convenient location. Explore over 500 years of history in the Tampa area as well as 12,000 years of human habitation in the area.

Dinosaur World take you back 144 million years to the age of the dinosaur. This outdoor excursion shows off over 150 dinosaur replicas with educational information posted by each one. It’s hands on for both adults and children as they dig through the paleontological setting for authentic fossils and explore through caves. The “Bone Yard” is the newest exhibit full of life size skeletons. There are gift shops, playground and picnic area for your convenience. There is no food service so be sure and stop for some deli sandwiches to take with you.

Weeki Wachee Springs has mermaids. That’s right, and they entertain with underwater performances breathing through hoses placed strategically in the swimming area which is 15 to 60 feet deep. It is part of the Florida State Park system. You can also enjoy a river boat ride, the sandy beach and have a picnic under a covered pavilion. The springs bubble up, keeping the water a comfortable 72 degrees. You’ll find that old Florida has been well preserved at this site with manatees and river otters.

Creative Commons License photo credit: hyku Creative Commons License photo credit: joshuakaufman Creative Commons License photo credit: john w Creative Commons License photo credit: a.magnetta