Tampa has many choices of places to take your family – like the state of Florida it’s in, the city is reputed as being kid-centric. Located on the Gulf coast, it’s the 3rd-largest city in Florida after Miami and Jacksonville. The hospitable residents of this family-friendly city ensure everyone receives a warm welcome.

    Under blue skies and year-round sunshine, it’s hard to beat Tampa’s waterfront parks and paths – not to mention the many nearby beaches – while a line-up of air-conditioned museums tempt families inside with engaging exhibits that entertain as much as they educate. Check out the best things to with kids in Tampa, below.

    1

    The Florida Aquarium

    Get up close with sea creatures

    • Families

    The Florida Aquarium in Tampa is where you can enjoy popular activities like swimming with sharks, getting up close with penguins, and seeing wild dolphins on an adventure cruise. The huge facility is right on the waterfront in Tampa’s Channelside district, with other highlights like the American Victory Ship & Museum and the Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal next door.

    The design of the facility was meant to sequentially introduce you to the world of aquatic life, from Florida's freshwater springs to the underwater realms of the Florida Keys. Exhibits include simulated wetlands, as well as coastal environments of shallow bays and beaches, and a colourful coral reef. There’s a splash pad where the little ones can splash, play, and cool off in the summer.

    Location: 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602, USA

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 813-273-4000

    Map

    photo by Jared (CC BY 2.0) modified

    2

    Tampa Bay Water Bikes

    Take to the water for a bike ride

    • Families
    • Adventure

    With Tampa Bay Water Bikes, you can get a whole new perspective on the city of Tampa from its bays, rivers and waterways. The stable design of a water bike ensures riders won’t risk tumbling in, so all the family can enjoy a stress-free adventure.

    Other than the port area and shipping channels, riders are permitted to “cycle” almost anywhere. Trundle up the Hillsborough River or hug the shoreline of Hillsborough Bay at the pace of a kayak. You can even bring your dog or go on a picnic. If your children can’t reach the pedals, there’s even a tandem bicycle option so everyone can enjoy.

    Location: 333 S Franklin St, Boat Slip 15, Tampa, FL, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +1 813-465-8025

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    3

    Glazer Children’s Museum

    For innovative play and discovery

    • Families
    • History

    The Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa works on 1 fundamental principle: innovative play leads to discovery. Over 170 hands-on exhibits prove that interaction is the key to keeping kids happy. Themed zones, including a fire station and cruise ship, entertain and educate children up to the age of 10.

    In the engineers’ workshop, kids can design their own train line or create the ultimate paper aeroplane. The KidsPort exhibit offers the chance to play with a working model of Tampa’s port – its levers and bars allow children to route model ships and figure out what it might be like to work as a harbour pilot.

    Location: 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, FL, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, Sunday from 1 pm to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 813-443-3861

    Map

    photo by Glazer Children's Museum (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    4

    Ride the SheiKra at Busch Gardens

    Cute characters and adrenaline rushes

    • Families
    • Adventure

    This park offers a wide range of family fun that can take up your whole day, from water parks and cute animals to death-defying rides. The park is set in an oval-shaped loop with more than 10 thrill rides to choose from.

    Don’t miss the SheiKra, a roller coaster designed to flip your stomach with a 70 mph and 200-foot-tall drop into a crash-and-splash that will send butterflies fluttering through your veins. For shorter queues, early weekdays and schooldays are recommended.

    Location: 10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612

    Phone: +1 813-884-4386

    Map

    photo by Josh Hallett (CC BY 2.0) modified

    5

    Adventure Island

    Slide and splash to your heart’s content

    • Families

    Adventure Island is a waterpark where families head to when the sun is beating down in Tampa. What could be better than to throw on a bathing suit and run to Tampa's famous water park? There are numerous ways to get soaked to the skin, from refreshing in a wave pool to sliding solo or with a friend down a steep and twisting flume.

    Race family members on your own enclosed tube, hop on a floating toboggan, or simply chill out in Paradise Lagoon. If you feel like perfecting your spikes, you can practice on an onsite volleyball court.

    Location: 10001 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612, USA

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 813-884-4386

    Map

    photo by rickpilot_2000 (CC BY 2.0) modified

    6

    Altitude Trampoline Park

    Bouncing fun for families in Tampa

    • Families

    Altitude Trampoline Park has 30,000 sq ft of indoor jumping space, making it an excellent play centre in Tampa. Its trampolines, climbing wall, and trapeze bar are just the ticket for active kids who need to burn off excess energy. Proving you can achieve maximum fun in many ways, Altitude’s imaginative play spaces are a far cry from run-of-the-mill kids’ centres.

    Skills are honed on the Tumble Track. At the foam pit, a sea of 15,000 soft cubes guarantees kids a soft landing when they dive off a padded platform. Extreme Dodgeball combines trampoline bouncing with ball throwing, as does the trampoline basketball court. Friends or siblings can challenge each other to a light-hearted duel on the Balance Beam.

    Location: 4340 W Hillsborough Ave UNIT 350, Tampa, FL, USA

    Open: Monday–Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm, Friday from 10 am to 11 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 11 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 813-399-1529

    Map
    7

    Tropicana Field

    Join a tour of the baseball stadium

    • Families

    When in Tampa, it’s worth driving a short distance out of the city to take a tour of the Tropicana Field baseball stadium, home to the Tampa Rays team. Ironically, though the stadium’s Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame is a popular part of the tour, Williams never actually played for the Rays. Instead, he represented the Boston Red Sox long before the Rays became a team.

    Step into the dugout and find out what it’s like to be a commentator inside the press box. Don’t miss the ballpark’s unique feature – a 10,000-gallon tank housing cownose stingrays. These creatures are looked after by Florida Aquarium's staff and close-up encounters are free for those attending a home game.

    Location: 1 Tropicana Dr., St. Petersburg, FL, USA

    Phone: +1 727-825-3137

    Map

    photo by Eric Kilby (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    8

    Museum of Science and Industry

    Have fun while learning about science

    • Families

    Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry proves that it's possible to learn about science and have fun at the same time. A must-visit is the Imagination Playground, where cubes, cogs and cylinders can be put together to form robots. At Mission: Moonbase, it’s all about the teamwork as kids simulate life on a permanent lunar base in the year 2070, thanks to a collaboration with NASA.

    Elsewhere in the museum, there’s a chance to pedal a bicycle on a cable suspended 30 ft above the ground and lie on a bed of nails. Outside, the Sky Trail Ropes Course includes a 700-ft-hight zip line that crosses the MOSI complex.

    Location: 4801 E Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 813-987-6000

    Map

    photo by Jared (CC BY 2.0) modified

    9

    Tampa Harbor pirate cruise

    Fun for salty seadogs and little scallywags

    • Families
    • Photo

    Kids in Tampa will love taking a pirate-themed harbour cruise around Tampa Bay. The Royal Conquest Pirate Ship is the setting for a swashbuckling adventure along Florida’s beautiful west coast. Onboard, there’s plenty to put a smile on your kids’ faces, including storytelling, face painting, limbo dancing, water gun battles and a treasure hunt.

    Trainee pirates should time their visit to coincide with Gasparilla Pirate Festival (mid-January to mid-March), which has been celebrated here since 1904. The Parade of Pirates, the festival’s flagship event, is the 3rd-largest in the USA.

    Location: 140 Boardwalk Pl E West, Madeira Beach, FL, USA

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +1 727-423-7824

    Map

    photo by Christopher Hollis (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    10

    Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park

    Meet gentle manatees

    • Families

    Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park is a 65-acre site that's home to around 1,300 wild animals. Many of is residents are endangered species from Asia, Africa and Australia, including Bornean orangutans, pygmy hippos and a crash of southern white rhinos. 

    One of its most important programs is an onsite hospital facilitating the rehabilitation of Florida manatees. They’re commonly found in the warm local waters but often suffer injuries through collisions with boats or getting trapped in flood control structures. 

    Location: 1101 W Sligh Ave, Tampa, FL, USA

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 813-935-8552

    Map

    photo by TampAGS (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    11

    Sand Key Park

    Go on a beachside picnic

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget
    • Adventure

    Sand Key Park is a popular go-to for families in Tampa, comprising a park with picnic shelters and a white-sand beach. This is despite it’s a 45-minute drive west from Tampa. Be on the lookout for endangered sea turtles – they land here to lay eggs on the sand.

    One of the best things about Tampa is the easy access it offers to superb beaches. If you're an outdoor enthusiast with a car, you can drive a little farther to find the calm waters and soft beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, where your young ones can build sandcastles while you unwind.

    Location: 1060 Gulf Blvd, Clearwater, FL 33767, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 727-588-4852

    Map

    photo by Denis Santana (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    12

    Tampa Segway Tours

    Glide along for some sightseeing

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Adventure

    Tampa Segway tours allow you to see Tampa’s key attractions while whizzing around the city in a leisurely pace. You'll have a tour guide to point out important landmarks and ensure you don't get lost during the tour.

    On the tour, you can take your kids (aged 12 and over) to appreciate Tampa's urban and natural beauty, all while ‘gliding’ on a Segway. Among the stops on the tour include Bayshore Boulevard, Harbour Island, and Tampa Convention centre.

    Location: Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa Downtown Convention Center, 513 S Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33602, USA

    Open: Daily from 10.15 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 813-637-9797

    Map

    photo by Roman SUZUKI (CC BY 3.0) modified

    13

    American Victory Ship & Museum

    A piece of Tampa history on the water

    • Families

    The SS American Victory was built in 1945 just before the war ended. She sailed to the Pacific with ammunition and supplies for US troops stationed in Southeast Asia. For a while, she ran back and forth across the Pacific, bringing troops home. Later, she became a charter service before returning to military service in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

    Since 1999, the SS American Victory has been a museum ship. Visitors can explore the 455-ft-long vessel, one of only a handful of operational WWII-era cargo ships in the United States. Kids will love stepping out on the deck, visiting the bridge or ducking down to the cargo hold.

    Location: 705 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday–Monday from noonto 5 pm

    Phone: +1 813-228-8766

    photo by GorissM (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    14

    HorsePower for Kids & Animal Sanctuary

    Make friends with some furry animals

    • Families

    HorsePower for Kids is an outdoor animal sanctuary, farm and petting zoo situated in Northwest Tampa. The place offers plenty of activities designed to enable children to feel comfortable around and show respect for animals of many kinds.

    Children can enjoy horse riding, a zipline, and being active on a playground. Train rides around the grounds reveal a diverse range of wildlife, including alpacas, lemurs, peacocks, a camel, a capybara and assorted farm animals. Raccoons, rabbits, turtles, ducks, and squirrels are just some of the creatures the sanctuary rehabilitates and cares for.

    Location: 8005 Racetrack Rd, Tampa, FL, USA

    Open: Thursday–Friday from 10 am to 2 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm (closed from Mondays to Wednesdays)

    Phone: +1 813-855-8992

    Map
    15

    Grand Prix Tampa

    Enjoy racing on go-karts

    • Families
    • Adventure

    Grand Prix Tampa is where wannabe racing drivers can have the chance to take go-karts for a spin. Speed freaks should opt for the super-fast Big Track, a 0.75-mile route combining fast turns and intense straights. The Family Track is a little tamer but no less fun, making it suitable for all ages.

    Alongside the go-kart tracks, Grand Prix Tampa also offers many other activities. Bounce around in the Turbo Bungy Dome, test your head for heights on the Ropes Course, return balls travelling between 40 and 90 mph in the batting cages or play a sedate game of miniature golf.

    Location: 14320 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa, FL, USA

    Open: Daily from noon to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 813-977-6272

    Map
    Julia Hammond | Contributing Writer

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