Florida is known for its entertainment, namely its amusement parks, being home to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. The Tampa Bay region has its fair share of amusement parks so if you want to stay away from crowded Orlando and stop fighting the tourists in Disney, then come give Tampa Bay a try. These five attractions have it all. Much less crowded than the previously mentioned places, these give a variety of fun for all ages. From wild rides to exotic animals the Tampa Bay area has it all. I am a thrill seeker so I tend to gravitate to the roller coasters and other speed rides, but when I am not looking for the next speed turn I love to walk through and see animals and wildlife that isn’t seen in everyday life.
Owned by the SeaWorld Parks, Busch Gardens of Tampa gives you something for everybody. Thrill rides such as; Cheetah Hunt, Sheikra and the new Falcon’s Fury will give you non-stop action. Come during non-peak season and you can ride these continuously all day. I went in the middle of January and my longest wait was 10 minutes! Along with the rides they have walk-through animal viewing and a safari ride. You can see giraffes, orangutans, lions and tigers. Oh my! There is also a sesame street kiddie-land for the young ones to play.
This is Busch Gardens’ waterpark. Located right next door in Tampa this park is opened seasonally from around April through September. It has many water slides and pools to enjoy the Florida sun in. It is a good break from the summer beaches to also go and get some rides. These parks are affordable as well. I purchased a combo ticket with Busch Gardens for $129 and it gave me free admission for a year with free parking.
You will see animals like you see in Busch Gardens but this has the traditional Zoo feeling to it. No getting lost in the thrill rides and attractions. It is all about the animals. The education that comes with it is phenomenal, they do a good job about informing guests about the animals and their habitat.
This non-profit aquarium dedicates its efforts to marine life rescue, rehabilitation and environmental education. It was home to Winter Dolphin, the dolphin that lost its tail and learned to swim with a prosthetic one. This was the dolphin the movie Dolphin Tale was made after. A great place to take the family and see fantastic marine life and learn about the rehabilitation of animals. Located in Clearwater right near Clearwater Beach it is a popular destination for all sorts of people. It is very affordable and nearby to many other entertainment hot spots.
Located on the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa this state fair comes to town in February. With great weather this state fair is a popular destination. It includes free entertainment, agricultural exhibits, plenty of food and one of the largest travelling carnivals in the United States. This an event that many families put on their calendar and wait for. I see strangers in town that ask me, “are you going to the fair?”.
Years ago when someone mentioned Florida to me, I immediately thought of beaches and golf. It was the main two reasons that drove me to move here. The thought of sitting on a beach or playing golf all year round was exciting to me. However, you must think that with all that prime real estate there must be thousands of golf courses. Well, there are! I didn’t know which ones to visit and what courses were a must to play. Frankly, any of them down here are better than most of the courses where I am originally from. But I don’t have that kind of time to play all of them, I wish though. Here are five, and let me tell you there are still plenty more, that must be played if you are visiting the Tampa Bay area.
Now I am bias on this one since I worked there part time for a while, but I can tell you it’s on many people’s lists. It has 4 championship courses located on 900 acres in Palm Harbor, just north of Clearwater. One of these courses is called Copperhead and it holds one of the PGA tour tournaments in March every year. The accommodations are spread out amongst the property so chances are you would stay right on one of the courses. It has 4 pools and 72 holes of perfection to play on. I have played every course several times and I literally can’t tell you which one is my favorite. Everything you need is right on the resort property including two restaurants and a spa.
Located 30 miles north of Tampa airport in Wesley Chapel this 480 acre property has two golf courses and 45 tennis courts as well as 800 rooms and four restaurants. These two Arnold Palmer signature courses house many aspiring players as well as tour professionals to work on their game at the Saddlebrook Golf Academy. Beautiful resort outside of Tampa. Pricey but well worth it for a golf vacation.
Labeled as one of Tampa Bay’s most challenging public courses The Claw is where the University of South Florida plays their golf. It’s on the northern outskirts of Tampa near USF. The course is known for its long, tight fairways as well as its distinct towering trees. This is one I have not been over to play but it is on my list since its open to the public and is known as challenging. Hope I don’t lose too many balls!
TPC Tampa has won many awards since being built in 1991. It was rated #13 best public golf facility by GolfWorld and received a 4.5 star rating by Golf Digest just to name a few. This 18 hole course welcomes the Champions Tour players every year and gives them a challenging memorable experience. It is a favorite among a lot of those players.
This course is located south of Tampa, east of Bradenton, more in the outskirts of town. It may be more secluded but that is what gives the course its uniqueness. These two golf courses wind through a landscape of towering sand dunes, ridges, and deep-basined lakes. This is quite the sight and a must play course.
There are many other entertainment spots in Tampa Bay apart from the obvious amusement parks, beaches and golf courses. Looking through lists and chamber of commerce websites get you lost in trying to find something to do that may be unique or that may be holding events depending the time of year. I love to do new things and even though I live in the area I love to get aboard the attractions the tourists take. Sometimes you take for granted what is right in your backyard. These are five places and things to do that are sort of random but didn’t necessarily make the top of any other specific list. They needed to be mentioned though because they are fun and are places that need to be seen. Again this list hits a wide variety of interests but are something that many people like to do or visit.
I know gambling isn’t for everyone but this resort and casino isn’t just slot machines and blackjack tables. The Hard Rock Café is one of many around the world. Travelers make it a point to visit as many as they can. Put this one on your list, Hard Rock Tampa. The resort and casino also holds performers and entertainers throughout the year. The casino is an exciting place and easily accessible in Tampa near route 4.
North of Clearwater is where Tarpon Springs and their world famous spongedocks are. This area is so unique and a must see. Located on a long pier there are shops, restaurants and guided tours where you can take a wide variety of tours to see dolphins, whales, and even the famous sponges. All along the pier there are educational stops informing visitors of the sponges and how they are caught and used. It is truly the sponge capital. A very unique place to visit.
Hop aboard a pirate ship and take a cruise you will remember. Sailing off of Clearwater Beach, this two hour cruise travels through the Gulf of Mexico and keeps kids busy with interactive games, treasure hunts, and music. A crew of pirates navigate you through the gulf and entertain you with pirate-themed activities. The cruise is popular for private parties and corporate events. A unique experience aboard a flashy looking pirate ship.
A new craze, this unique activity has people talking about. Can You Escape is a themed and interactive room where you and your party figure out clues, find hidden objects, and solve puzzles in order to unlock the door and escape. Trick is, you have to do it in under 60 minutes. It is a great activity to get a group together and try to accomplish its task. This concept is very popular and places like this are popping up all over the country. A cool and easy concept and has you laughing and working hard to escape. I highly recommend taking your own group to do this, makes it so much more fun.
Home of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team this arena located in downtown Tampa holds many events. It is a great venue to see a show or a game. There is not a bad seat in the house. I have seen concerts and games there and plan on going soon to catch a cirque du soleil show. One tip: get a parking pass ahead of time for the parking garage, it is cheaper and gets you parked right next door, but only way to park there is to buy the ticket in advance.
There are thousands of places to stay in the Tampa Bay area. It is definitely a destination for all sorts of people. I walk or drive around here and see many beautiful places. There are so many that I get lost in which places are which. However, there are a few that stick out based on their location and sheer stunning architectural design. Also the amenities that surround them stick them out from the rest. The ones I name below are ones that are located on the beach or shores of the bay. I omitted any golf course resorts from this list simply because that is a category in of itself. These places are ones that brush the 5-star caliber and where you feel like a king or queen when you stay there. For me, simply driving by these forces me to drive a little slower and take in all I can hoping not to crash my car. There is no way I could stay at all of them, and barely any of them. However, if you are someone that can afford to do so and come to the Tampa Bay area then please look these up. You won’t regret it.
Labeled the “Pink Castle” this south St. Pete resort sticks out from all the rest. It has been a main landmark for a century. Every president since Ford (except Reagan) has stayed at the resort. The resort, along with the spa and restaurant, has been continuously winning rewards for its service. If you have ever been to the area then you have probably seen this hotel sticking out almost into the ocean. You may have wondered what it was. Now you know.
The sheer size of this resort is breathtaking. This resort is in St. Pete Beach down near Loews Don Cesar. The amenities are incredible. It has 5 heated pools including one built strictly for toddlers. It also has its own private river that guests can paddle around the property on. Add a high tide slide and 11 restaurants on property and this makes it a wonder.
Sheraton Sand Key Resort is just south of Clearwater and has access to its own private 10-acre beach with activities such as volleyball and private cabanas. With access to the Intracoastal Waterway guests can rent jet skis and take part in many boating activities. What is also cool is that it is next to Sand Key Park so nature walks can be taken. Tons of stuff just walking distance from the resort.
This is a different type of resort. Safety Harbor is located on Old Tampa Bay and was built in the early 1900’s. It is well known for its spa and 50,000 square foot fitness center. It is all about fitness and wellness here. The spa is quite popular with its restorative services and making good use of the natural springs.
Located in Clearwater on Clearwater beach this resort looks right over the skyline of Clearwater Beach. It is one of the newest hotels to come to Tampa Bay. Its closeness to entertainment like dolphin cruises and deep sea fishing excursions makes it a great resort. This 250 suite resort has a world class spa and is known o have guests take advantage of the nightlife.
About 35-45% of all households in the U.S. have a dog. With that said there are millions of people out there that love pets and love to do things with their dog. You see more and more places today that are built for pets or are accommodating pets now. More and more stores are allowing pets to accompany their owner as they shop. They are smart doing this because they know pet owners treat their pet as a family member. Businesses wouldn’t restrict people from keeping their baby out of a store so now some aren’t restricting patrons to keep their pets out either. But let’s face it, most dogs don’t want to shop any more than most men do. Therefore, dog parks are popping up all around more and more. In Florida, and Tampa Bay in general, often that means a place to take your dog to the beach. The beach is a popular destination and one does not want to leave their dog at home alone when there are beaches out there that allow dogs. I have listed 5 places in the Tampa Bay area that are great for dogs, 3 of which allow your furry friend on the beach access also. These are my favorite places, and if my dog could write this post he would say the same I am sure.
Located in Dunedin, just north of Clearwater, this state park has a wide variety of attractions. The best feature, and why I put it on the top of my list, is the pet beach. It has a designated pet beach where pets can run around the beach (on a leash) and go in and out of the water. Humans can enjoy this too, the beach sand is what you would find anywhere else, and the views are tremendous. It’s a moderate walk in from the parking lot but is well worth it for you and fido.
Located in South Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, Fort DeSoto Park was named “Best Family Beach” by USA Today. It has historical forts, two fishing piers and paved trails for cyclists. But what we care about is the dog park. It has a separate pet beach entrance where you can enjoy with your four-legged friend. A great place to spend with the entire family.
One of the parks where your friend can’t access the beach but Sand Key has a wide open area to explore. A fenced in dog park where your dog can run off his leash and play with other dogs is the focal point to this place. Sand Key also has paved trails to take longer walks and barbecue pits to sit and relax with a treat.
Located in Safety Harbor just east and north of Clearwater on the bay houses a great historical park you can enjoy with your best friend. This park is extended all along the bayside and along the way you can read about the park’s history while your dog sniffs away. Plenty of walking trails and fields you can play ball in.
At Picnic Island in Tampa you can access the beach with your pet as well as fish from a pier, rent a boat, or rent a shelter for a party. There is plenty to do here and you don’t have to leave your dog at home. One of few parks to allow dogs on the beach makes this a great destination for pet owners.
Vacation can be expensive. I love to go on vacation and probably would every couple of months if I could afford it. The Tampa Bay area offers so many places to visit that are exciting and fun for the whole family. Trouble is when you take everything into account then it really adds up quickly and you are left looking at your statements when you return from vacation and wondering what you did that was so pricey. Have you ever returned from vacation and after a week or so you felt at a real low because you know you are back to the grind and it will be too long before you go on vacation again? Well it is even worse when you look at those statements and see how much you spent because you know it will be any longer before you go again because you need to recover financially. If you love to vacation, and do it often, then what you can do is cut down in all areas so you can afford everything and be able to come back that much quicker. Like I said before I love to vacation so I wind up trying to fit a budget and save money while I do that way my next vacation isn’t years away. If I were to blow it on one single vacation and really live the high life then I am never sure when I will be able to go again. Here are a list of places in St. Petersburg that don’t break the bank while you visit the area. Remember the area itself is the vacation and spending it with loved ones is what really gets cherished.
There are hundreds of places to eat in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area. I have sought out and listed some of the ones that are inexpensive but at the same time rated high for an experience and quality of food. These are places that are unique to the area. I could have put the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King on the list, that would save you money, but that doesn’t need to happen to save money and have a cool Tampa Bay experience.
Tried to stay away from the obvious Super 8or Budget Inns here. Those places are inexpensive but sometimes run down and also want to make sure they are in a safe area and a place where one can access the beauty of the Tampa Bay area. Here are a couple places to stay.
Now obviously there is plenty to do, and it can be expensive when you are talking about amusement parks, golf and other boating tours etc. Here is a few things that are cool and cheaper.
This is the crème de la crème. It is like determining the best ski mountains in the Rockies or the best music bars in Nashville. Tampa Bay is known for its beaches and entertainment so picking out just the top 5 beaches is tough to do. Basically, you can’t go wrong when you set out for the beach, especially on the gulf coast. These five beaches of course draw in a lot of tourists but it is because they are so much fun to visit. Spending all day at one of these still gives you plenty to do and you will leave with those beautiful images in your mind and a fresh sunburn on your back.
Located right smack dab in the middle of Tampa Bay and on the gulf coast, Clearwater Beach was named by USA Today as the “Best Beach Town” in 2013. It has a wide variety of attractions including; a long wooden pier for fishing, a wide open white sand beach, cabana rentals for sitting out all day, and volleyball courts for the sports enthusiasts. It is a popular destination for spring-breakers. As a popular destination, Clearwater Beach is also surrounded by other hot spots located just inland. So if you need a break from the sun then take a stroll to the nearby shops, attractions and restaurants.
As you travel south down Gulf Boulevard from Clearwater Beach you come to Indian Rocks Beach. As its own town in Pinellas County, it is entirely located on the inlet in the gulf which is surrounded by two beautiful causeways. In all directions you see the beautiful blue water of the gulf. Still a tourist attraction, however, Indian Rocks Beach houses more boat slips and uses the inlet of water on the east to traffic more boating activities. White sand still lines the beach and the focus here is sitting back, enjoying the sun, and taking in the views. Don’t get me wrong, you can still walk to restaurants and shops, but it is a quieter crowd with gentler shorelines. On Gulf Boulevard there are 20 beach accesses for the public to take advantage of on Indian Rocks Beach.
As you travel further down the inlet along Gulf Boulevard into South Tampa Bay you come along Madeira Beach. Home to many exotic million dollar residences Madeira Beach distinguishes itself as being a popular destination for retirement and beach homes. Known for its marina along the causeway, like Indian Rocks Beach, Madeira Beach has its fair share of boating activity.
Traveling further south on Gulf Boulevard and crossing John’s Pass, you come to Treasure Island Beach. The expensive homes and white sand beaches continue and more of the resorts pop back up. Treasure Island is a popular place for tourists to stay and walk right out their resort’s back door onto the beach. Resorts like; Sand Pebble Resort, Treasure Bay Resort and Marina, and Thunderbird Beach Resort line the beach and attract visitors year round. Lined with area seafood restaurants Treasure Island Beach is a great place to come and spend the entire day.
I had to throw in a beach that is located on the bay. Not all the best beaches are located on the west shore of the gulf. This beach is located in Tampa just on the east end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, a beautiful drive if you are coming from the west. In fact this beach stretches along the causeway into Clearwater. Great places to park here and a couple restaurants right on the beach with outside balcony seating gives this beach a great feel.
This was a tough one for me. There are so many great places to eat plus there are so many categories I could narrow this down to. For instance; chain restaurants, local cuisine, seafood places near the beach, or classy fine restaurants. I wound up just picking five restaurants that I happen to enjoy that are in mixed categories. I picked them for different reasons; some because of their food, some because of the history, and some because of the story or location. There are foodies out there that will not like my list mainly because they will say chain restaurants that mass produce this food is no good. I am no food connoisseur by any stretch of the means. I just like good simple food with a nice atmosphere that also won’t break the bank.
I know what you’re thinking! Let me explain. Florida, and Clearwater particularly, was the original Hooter’s. This is my historical pick. Hooter’s on Gulf to Bay Boulevard is the original site. I know it’s not the atmosphere for some but I have seen plenty of families in there, mainly because the variety of wings are unbelievable. Now yes, for the single guy, or gentlemen’s night out, the atmosphere is right up their alley. They can go, have some beer and wings and watch the game, among other things. These people will love the next pick as well.
Ok this is in the same genre as Hooter’s. However, top shelf isn’t hanging out at Winghouse. They may have short shorts but that is it. I put this on the list simply because of the location of these restaurants. They have several but I have never seen them up north. Some of my buddies come down to visit and we have to go to Winghouse because they don’t get the chance and honestly the wings are dynamite!
A very small quaint little place with excellent pizza and calzones! Located in central Clearwater this small restaurant has a nice house of pizza feel to it. Everyone is friendly and when you go it feels like you are hanging out with family. The menu is huge and offers a wide variety of options. The calzones are great and contain numerous cheeses including ricotta, a very nice change to the food. Highly recommend this place, prices were great.
Located in downtown St. Petersburg Z Grille introduces fabulous food prepared by award winning chef Zack. This American cuisine is a nice change to downtown St. Pete. This place opened in 2008 and ever since Z Grille has been growing and improving. Chef Zack pushes the boundaries and delivers great food options every time. A nice change to the food scene in downtown St. Petersburg.
You always need a barbecue place on the list right? You can’t make a food list without putting a place on it that makes you so full it hurts. Holy Hog is located in Tampa and is extremely affordable. If you can get past the taxidermy décor this place is worth it. Make sure you try the jalapeno macaroni and cheese.