Creative Things To Do In and Around Tampa
Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tampa, Florida, is a vacation destination filled with museums, family-friendly activities, flea markets, restaurants and famous attractions. Explore the Tampa Riverwalk past scenic parks, hotels and restaurants, soak up the famous Florida sunshine on the beaches, visit a few museums and, if you’re so inclined, see some quirky attractions!
Visit The Dali Museum
The Dali Museum, designed by the renowned architect Yann Weymouth, reflects artist Salvador Dali’s singular approach to the visual arts. It is a work of art in its own right. The building’s blending of the fantastical and rational provide an illusion of stepping into a Dali painting. The museum houses the largest collection of Dali’s work in the United States, including oil paintings, original drawings, sculptures, and prints. Opened in 2011, the museum offers new collections, both permanent and temporary.
Explore the Tampa Museum of Art
The Tampa Museum of Art has something for everyone—artifacts from ancient antiquities all the way to modern and contemporary art. Established in 1979, the museum offers its inspiring exhibits in multiple permanent and temporary exhibit rooms. Educational programs and lectures for both adults and children round out the experience.
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Take a selfie at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
Do your vacation selfies need a nudge? Take your photographs to the next level with inspiration from the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. In the Waterfront Arts District of Tampa, the museum is in a visually-arresting Cube building with windows that look like they’re just waiting to display a snapshot. Inside you’ll find a complete survey of the photographic arts. Eye candy ranges from permanent historical and contemporary photography work to ever-changing temporary exhibits. Find inspiration in the work of gifted photographers – you might just find ways to improve your own vacation photos!
Explore the Contemporary Art Museum
The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), established in 1989, collects, preserves and presents significant and innovative exhibitions of contemporary art from around the world. The collection of over 5,000 works resides on the campus of the University of South Florida and includes graphics and sculptures by artists such as by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist. In addition to showcasing significant art, the Museum also offers a variety of educational programs, workshops and classes, as well as symposia, conferences and lectures.
Tour the Big Cat Rescue
The Tampa Bay Big Cat Rescue provides a safe home for abused and neglected big cats from around the country. The lions, tigers, servals, bobcats and cougars are all rescue animals. A day at the shelter will allow you to delight in these majestic creatures and learn about efforts to end the abuse of big cats in captivity and saving them from extinction in their natural habitats.
Lounge on Clearwater Beach
Soak up the southern Florida sun on the wide white sand of Clearwater Beach. There are plenty of activities to pursue on or in the water. Or just bring a good book (or a trashy beach book) and plenty of sunscreen so that you can people-watch and experience a day of beach fun.
Stroll through Cypress Point Park
Cypress Point Park is a public space off the beaten path, but well worth searching out. The waterfront park is lined with boardwalks and hiking trails, steep sand dunes, picnic shelters, and a canoe dock for paddle lovers. Bird watch for shore birds in the early morning, then people-watch as you transition between activities.
Learn about the Gilded Age at the Henry B. Plant Museum
The ornate building once known as the luxurious Tampa Bay Hotel and resort on the Tampa coast, the Henry B. Plant Museum, a National Historic Landmark, shows off the lifestyles of America’s rich and famous during the Gilded Age. Experience the opulence of this grand old hotel by exploring the stunning grounds. The pastimes of the day included a golf course, casino, bowling alley – even an indoor swimming pool which was a rarity at the time! You’ll find the Moorish Revival style building designed by architect J. A. Wood in the south wing of Plant Hall at the University of Tampa. It’s storied history includes use as a base of operations during the Spanish-American War.
Get smarter at the Museum of Science and Industry
The Tampa Museum of Science and Industry, a part the community for fifty years, has evolved with the times. Today it houses an IMAX dome theater, planetarium, bio-works exhibit and an outdoor butterfly exhibit. Exhibits rotate so you will have a new experience every time you visit. No matter your age, you’re sure to leave the museum smarter than you entered. There is much to see and do here – a destination in itself. Allow between four and eight hours to fully experience the museum.
Watch the sun set at Pier 60
Take in some of the best sunsets in the country at Pier 60. Daily festivals during the four hours surrounding sunset feature local artisans, crafters, street performers, incredible boardwalk food, and, of course, the gorgeous sunsets.
Find a great deal at Saint Petersburg Saturday Morning Market
The St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market is the place to go for fresh fruits and vegetables. The market showcases food from all over the world, celebrating local and global together. Foods and crafts from over 200 vendors will tempt you every Saturday from October to May.
Visit the Straz Center for the Performing Arts
The largest performing arts facility in the Southeastern United States, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts offers a wide range of world-class entertainment. Experience everything from Broadway musicals to rock concerts. Come dance the night away on Latin Nights, or experience the wonder of a full orchestra performing just feet away. If you are lucky enough to have an extended stay in the area, consider participating in educational classes. They range from beginning dance classes to adult improv and zombie makeup lessons.
Marvel at the Sunken Gardens
In the center of St. Petersburg, the Sunken Gardens are a stunning botanical sanctuary that provide a natural respite from the bustle of the city. As the city’s oldest living museum, the 100-year-old gardens showcase gorgeous tropical plants and flowers; some of them are the oldest living tropical plants in the entire country. Winding paths, hidden forest groves, and tumbling waterfalls will delight you.
Cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge
Be sure to take a trip across the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge (commonly called the Sunshine Skyway). This enormous suspension bridge towers over the ocean and connects St. Petersburg to Tampa with an expanse of 21,877 feet, or about four miles. The bridge has been a regional landmark since it opened in 1987. As you drive the four miles of the bridge, enjoy the awe-inspiring vistas of the open ocean.
Cheer for your favorite stallion at Tampa Bay Downs
For some good old-fashioned horse racing, visit Tampa Bay Downs, the only thoroughbred racetrack on Florida’s west coast. The racing season lasts from late November to early May. Comfortable clothes and shoes are all that you need for regular entry’ in some places you can even bring your own cooler. Box seat visitors have an excuse to dress up – the dress code is akin to that of a fancy restaurant – collared shirt, preferably with tie, and slacks for men and dress, skirt or coordinated pants outfit for women. For those less interested in horses, the Downs also includes a golf course, picnic grounds, fine dining options and frequent poker tournaments.
See a real live manatee at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center
When the Big Bend Power Station opened in 1986, residents soon noticed that manatees congregated near the discharge canal. The warm, clean water provides a warm respite when the ocean waters dip below 68 degrees. With a win for the manatees, today the channel is a federally protected manatee sanctuary. Enjoy the beauty of these creatures and learn about the challenges that they face in the wild while wondering at the man-made and the natural world coexisting together. The sanctuary is a must-see for animal lovers.
See a movie at the historic Tampa Theatre
The Tampa Theatre‘s stunning interior graces an elaborate American movie theater on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1926 by the famed architect John Eberson, the theater still plays movies daily. You can even hear the historic Wurlitzer Organ play a song before every show.
See the Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida
Established in 1981, the Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida benefits the local Thai community with Buddhist teachings and religious activities. The structure is a stunning work of art designed in the traditional Thai temple style. Visit the temple in the late morning or early afternoon and get a glimpse of southeast Asian majesty. You might even learn some meditation practices from the monks at the temple.
Go back in time at the Tampa Bay History Center
Located on the waterfront in Tampa’s Channelside District, the Tampa Bay History Center features three floors of permanent and temporary exhibitions. With 12,000 years of Florida history to display, you will find a variety of interactive activities, presentations and theaters. The Center also houses the Witt Research Center, an extensive map gallery and event hall, a museum store and café. If history makes you hungry, that is.
See the Cigar Capital of the world at the Ybor City Museum State Park Ybor City Museum State Park invites you to explore the rich cultural heritage of the National Historic Landmark District of Ybor City. The 1923-era Ferlita Bakery building in the center of the park is home to the museum. It showcases the history of Ybor City, the birth of the cigar industry and how it contributed to the town’s growth. Ybor City Museum State Park also has a typical ‘casita’, a recreated cigar worker’s house, and beautiful Mediterranean-style gardens. Take advantage of the range of educational programs, workshops, and classes about the history of the District and its reputation as the “Cigar Capital of the World.”
Learn and grow at the Glazer Children’s Museum
Children need a place to imagine explore, discover and grow. The Glazer Children’s Museum provides a variety of educational exhibits, displays, programs, and experiences to grab their interest. The kids can explore themed areas with interactive exhibits ranging from ‘Design and Build’ displays to an ‘Engineer’s Workshop’ where children can immerse themselves and grow their curious minds with hands-on learning experiences. The museum also presents staff-directed daily programs for children of all ages based on seasonal themes.
Experience Cuba at Parque Amigos de José Marti
Florida is about as close as you can get to Cuba without leaving the U.S. So close that you can visit Cuban property when you cross through the archway to enter Parque Amigos de José Marti (Friends of José Marti Park). This small bit of American land was a gift to Cuba in 1956; it remains the property of Cuba despite tensions between the two countries.
The park contains soil from each of Cuba’s provinces and memorial statutes to two heroes of the Cuban independence: the park’s namesake, José Julian Marti Perez, and José Antonio de la Caridad Maceo y Grajales. It’s located at the site of Pedroso’s boarding house, where Marti stayed during his various visits to Tampa. It is where Paulina Pedroso, a leader of the revolution who donated the land to Cuba and was also Marti’s companion, helped him recover from an assassination attempt in 1892.
See the Seminole Heights two headed alligator
With the development of the suburb of Seminole Heights in 1911, a two-headed alligator, with both mouths open, became the neighborhood’s emblem. The image came from old Florida folklore as told by R. Lopez and A. L. Perez of the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project in 1929.
The story says that a rabbit teases an alligator. An old turtle warns, “Stay away from that gator, rabbit. By bite or smite, it’ll get you.” The rabbit ignores the turtle, taunts the alligator by dangling his feet in front of its mouth, and is surprised to find that the gator has not one head, but two, complete with its own set of sharp teeth. The second head gobbles up the rabbit, to which the turtle remarks, “I told that rabbit, by bite or smite, it’ll get him and, by the looks of it, smite got to do the eating today.” For years, the two-headed gator has symbolized Seminole Heights.
Ella’s Americana Folkart Café, displays a taxidermied gator with two heads; they claim it was a gator that Justin Arnold found in 2014. At Southern Brewing and Winemaking, a six-foot-tall two-headed gator sculpture installed by Urban Arts Attack stands at the brewery’s entrance, enticing visitors to sample the “Bite or Smite” beers.
Get inspired to reclaim and reuse at Hong Kong Willie
Hong Kong Willie is a fishing business turned preservationist art center. The squat bait shop that it calls home looks like it may have been dragged up from the bottom of the ocean with fishing buoys wrapped all around it. Found object art adorning the bait shop begins with detritus and found items.
Old fishing buoys are everywhere, including a tall “tree” made of strings of lost and discarded buoys. More strings of buoys line the walls accented by signs, life preservers, and assorted other artfully placed pieces. An out of commission brightly-painted orange helicopter on the grounds is another netting-covered attraction. But Hong Kong Willie is more than an eclectic art collection – locals come here for the best composting worms around.
Soak in Spongeorama
Tampa is full of wonders, including the world’s largest selection of natural sea sponges at Tarpon Springs. Sponge aficionados say these are the best. Explore the curated collection of sea sponges at the Spongeorama museum, tour the Sponge Docks, and learn about the local sponge industry. Don’t forget to go souvenir shopping (maybe even buy a sponge!) in the gift shop.
Find the unusual at Dysfunctional Grace Art Co.
Ybor City’s Dysfunctional Grace Art Co. is a storefront and curated collection of odd and unusual items that challenge imaginations. It describes itself as “The only shop in Ybor City where death and dysfunction dance in a graceful ballet”. The store is open seven days a week for your daily fix of oddities and creativity!
Take a walk on Bayshore Boulevard
As the longest sidewalk in the entire country, Bayshore Boulevard is a prime spot for walking, running, and even rollerblading! And the length isn’t the only awesome thing about Bayshore Boulevard. Whether you’re admiring the downtown skyline or watching the sunset over the water, you’ll appreciate the view. You may even get lucky with a dolphin sighting!
Get wet at WaterWorks Park
Spend the day at WaterWorks Park, a giant splash pad that’s as much fun for adults as for kids! The park also has spectacular waterfront views of the Hillsborough River and Tampa Riverwalk. Next door is Ulele Restaurant, which has a wonderful menu. The kids will love the fantastical statues that depict iconic fairytale characters like Humpty Dumpty.
Take some pictures in front of the South Howard Murals
Spice up your visit with an artful journey along South Howard Avenue. Popular restaurants feature murals and paintings both inside and out. Travel along SoHo for some great impromptu photo shoots.
Go play at Largo Central Park
Known for its clock tower, this 70-acre public park has an on-site playground, Rainbow Rotary Playground. It is is fully accessible to users of all abilities. And the Fit Zone, for adult users, provides many of the same workouts as a paid-membership gym, but for free! Ornate light displays during the holidays make Largo Central Park a festive place to get your move on!
Enjoy the view from the Sulphur Springs Water Tower
Is it a castle? Is it a lighthouse? No, it’s a water tower, but you would never guess! This 214-feet-tall water tower is a Tampa landmark that resembles the tower of a medieval castle. Have cameras ready for the view of the sun setting over the water tower!
Make time to do a little fabric shopping while in the Tampa / St. Petersburg area. Check out these fabrics shops in and around Tampa:
Add a little bling to you next project with some beads! Check out these bead stores in and around Tampa:
Knitting or crochet more your thing? Pick up some great yarns and accessories at on of these yarn shops in and around Tampa.