Tampa treasures: a guide to the city’s must-see attractions

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Uncover the best of Tampa with us, an odyssey of rich history, stunning wildlife, and world-class museums. Keep reading to find out the best experiences “the big guava” has to offer.

Discover the best of both worlds in Tampa – where modern city living meets stunning natural landscapes and a rich cultural heritage. Image credit: Kody Cheyne/ Unsplash

Known for its world-renowned beaches, vibrant arts, and cultural scene, Tampa is the third-largest city in Florida, following Miami and Jacksonville. With blue skies overhead and waterfront parks and beaches just steps away, the city offers endless opportunities for outdoor fun. But don’t let the sunshine fool you when it’s time to head indoors. Tampa’s air-conditioned museums are waiting with a line-up of engaging exhibits that educate and entertain visitors of all ages. Here we’re taking you on a journey through Tampa’s top destinations and secret treasures, so sit back, relax, and let us handle the rest.

Remember each neighborhood of Tampa has something unique to offer, so getting around the city stress-free and easily is a must. When you download the Blacklane app, you’ll get access to local chauffeurs who’ll whisk you off to your preferred location with ease. 

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is partly a zoo and partly an amusement park, where thrill rides, exotic animals, and endless fun come together in one 335-acre, African-themed park. This magical destination offers a unique blend of excitement and education, all set against the backdrop of breathtaking natural habitats for tigers, gorillas, birds, and more.

Shiekra Curve, Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Florida. Image credit: Matthew Paulson/Flickr

From ziplines and water slides to bumper cars and elephant enclosures, there’s something for everyone at Busch Gardens. The park also offers over 10 adrenaline-fueled rides, including the legendary “SheiKra”, a roller coaster that will flip your stomach with a 70 mph and 60-meter-tall drop into a splash landing.

Tampa Riverwalk

A visit to the Tampa Riverwalk is a must for anyone looking to explore downtown Tampa. This scenic promenade winds its way along the waterfront and offers breathtaking views of the Hillsborough River. With a stunning collection of public art and key Tampa landmarks, like the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Aquarium, the Riverwalk is one of the city’s most famous attractions. Whether you prefer to walk, bike, or hop on the quirky Pirate Water Taxi, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to take in all that this iconic location has to offer.

The Tampa Riverwalk is not just a picturesque promenade, but also a hub for local cuisine and nightlife. No matter if you’re in the mood for casual dining with fresh seafood or seeking a more upscale dining experience with gourmet dishes, the dining scene offers a variety of options to tantalize your taste buds. And after a delicious meal, you can continue your evening by sipping cocktails at one of the many bars or catch a live performance at nearby venues.

Throughout the year, the Riverwalk also hosts a range of events, including Tuesday Zumba classes and Sunday evening yoga sessions, making it a lively and vibrant hub for residents and visitors alike.

The Florida Aquarium

Explore the wonders of the ocean and learn about marine life at this world-class aquarium. With over 20,000 animals and 250,000 square feet of exhibitions, the Florida Aquarium offers an immersive experience. From underwater domes to simulated wetlands, you’ll be amazed by the array of marine life and more species on display, including starfish, anemones, and even lemurs!

The Florida Aquarium, Tampa, Florida. Image credit: Matthew Paulson/Flickr

For an extra dose of excitement, make sure to check out the 4D theater, where you’ll have the chance to dive into the underwater world and learn all about its mysterious creatures. But the fun doesn’t end there. If the heat of the Florida sun is getting to you, head to the outdoor water playground and take a refreshing dip.

For a truly unforgettable experience, we recommend you take a wild dolphin cruise and watch as these magnificent creatures glide and leap through the waters of Tampa Bay. You’ll be awe-struck by their grace and beauty as they put on a show that’s both thrilling and unforgettable.

Tampa Museum of Art

Situated in the bustling heart of downtown Tampa, this cultural institution boasts a stunning exterior that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Designed like a “jewel box on a glass pedestal,” the museum features stone floors, translucent ceilings, and fiber optic lights that create a stunning visual experience.

Tampa Museum of Art. Image credit: Matthew Paulson/Flickr

Founded in 1920, the Tampa Museum of Art has a rich history of inspiring and educating residents of the Tampa Bay region and visitors from around the world. With an emphasis on ancient, modern, and contemporary art, the museum houses one of the largest collections of Greek and Roman antiquities in the southeastern United States, as well as a diverse array of sculptures, photography, paintings, new media, and more.

The museum’s commitment to education and community engagement is evident in its innovative programs, from yoga classes and summer camps to engaging exhibitions and events. 

Museum of Science and Industry

With over 150 interactive exhibits, the Museum of Science and Industry is a treasure trove of education, fun, and adventure. Immerse yourself in a giant game of “Operation” and unravel the mysteries of the human body. Then, soar to new heights as you explore the starry “Saunders Planetarium”, where you can witness celestial wonders twinkling in the night sky.

Tampa Museum of Science and Industry. Image credit: Wikimedia

Ready for a challenge? Test your skills on the “Sky Trail Ropes Course” and take your gaming experience to the next level with an exhilarating virtual reality ride. Don’t miss the chance to embark on a lunar mission with “Mission: Moonbase”, as you work towards colonizing the moon. The museum also features an exhibit showcasing NASA’s vision for human life off-earth and a life-size model of the Mercury spaceship, sure to ignite your imagination.

Henry B. Plant Museum

Nestled within the historic walls of the 19th-century Tampa Bay Hotel, now a National Historic Landmark, lies the Henry B. Plant Museum. Once a symbol of grandeur and opulence, the museum showcases the rich history of the hotel and transports visitors back in time to the late Victorian era and the beginning of Florida’s tourist industry. The Henry B. Plant Museum is also proud to call the University of Tampa its home.

Henry B. Plant Museum, Tampa, Florida. Image credit: jpellgen/Flickr

The museum serves as a testament to the impact and influence of Henry Plant, an influential railroad and steamship magnate, on both the city of Tampa and the state of Florida. Harry Plant’s vision and investment transformed Tampa Bay into a thriving commercial and cultural hub, and his legacy is still felt today. In addition to educational and seasonal exhibits, the museum offers the chance to explore the original furnishings and artifacts collected by Mr. and Mrs. Plant on their travels to Europe and Asia. These items provide a fascinating insight into the lifestyles of the wealthy during the Gilded Age and help to bring the history of the Tampa Bay Hotel to life.

Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center

If you’re an animal lover looking for a unique and memorable experience, Tampa is the place to be, and the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center is an essential visit. With its roots dating back to 1986, when the abundance of manatees at the power station’s discharge canal was noticed, the center has now become a state and federally designated sanctuary for these lovely and gentle creatures.

At the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center, you’ll find a wealth of opportunities to learn, explore, and have fun. Beyond the manatee sightings, there’s a touch tank filled with stingrays and educational exhibits showcasing real manatee bones, ensuring that every visitor will find something to captivate their interest. 

Take in the surroundings from a different perspective by climbing the stairs to the viewing tower, located halfway down the Manatee Viewing Center’s habitat loop trail. And don’t forget to stop by the gift shops for some souvenirs before grabbing a bite at one of the surrounding cafes.