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10 Must-See Tampa Attractions

SmarterTravel

At some point on your visit to Tampa, you might want to ditch the bathing suit and enjoy some of the other things this lively city has to offer. From amusement parks to nature preserves, there are plenty of ways to spend your non-beach time.

Must-See Tampa Attractions

Don’t miss out on these must-see Tampa attractions.

Busch Gardens

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After the beaches, Busch Gardens is one of the top reasons people come to Tampa. The most thrilling of Tampa attractions, this amusement park is a Florida favorite. Some of the most extreme rides in the state are here, like the triple launch coaster Cheetah Hunt, and the 200-foot tall floorless dive coaster Sheikra.

For those who aren’t fond of loops, there are a number of water rides to cool down from the Florida heat. What makes Busch Gardens stand out from other theme parks, however, it’s is expansive zoological grounds, which house more than 12,000 species.

Tampa Theatre

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Go back to the grandiose exuberance of the 1920s in this historic theater. A masterpiece of John Eberson, the Tampa Theatre is one of the most important historical landmarks in the city, and is often used as a backdrop for movies, videos, and photoshoots.

Run as a non-profit, the daily screenings bring independent and foreign films and documentaries to its audiences, who enjoy them almost as much as they enjoy the beauty of the theater itself.

Florida Aquarium

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With beachy coasts and large rivers, not to mention the swampy Everglades, there’s no question water plays a major role in Florida’s ecosystem. The Florida Aquarium brings visitors more than 20,000 species from all over the world. Journey to Madagascar, explore dragon-like marine animals from the Australian coast, or become immersed in a 4-D film. Better yet, get up close and personal with the Tampa Bay ecosystem by swimming and diving with several species, including sharks. If you want to get even more hands on, join an off-site excursion like a dolphin-watching cruise, or a shipwreck dive.

Tampa Bay History Center

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Satisfy the history buff in you by exploring 12,000 years of Florida and Tampa Bay history at the Tampa Bay History Center. Learn about the life of the Seminole and Miccosukee peoples before and after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, and get to know the region’s most iconic historical figures. Don’t leave without going into the 1920s Cigar Store reproduction, one of the museum’s most popular features.

Florida State Fair

If you happen to visit Tampa in February and are looking for family-friendly Tampa attractions, check the Florida State Fair calendar. It may be that the stars align and your visit coincides with this annual fair. Enjoy delicious fair food as you try your best to win a prize by knocking down or shooting targets. Watch live action sports, interact with animals, and enjoy a nightly laser show.

Salvador Dali Museum 

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If you’re a fan of the surrealist movement and love the whimsical and powerful work of Salvador Dali, head to nearby St. Pete and treat yourself to an incredible museum experience. Housing the largest collection of the painter’s work outside of Europe, the museum counts seven of Dali’s 18 masterpieces to its credit, including The Hallucinogenic Toreador.

Adventure Island

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An amusement park that also keeps you cool from the Florida heat. Need anything more be said? If you love water slides, Adventure Island is the must-see Tampa tourist attraction to visit. Try the five tubes of Runaway Rapids, feel what it’s like to be inside a corkscrew at Caribbean Corkscrew, and tube race with your friends at Riptide. By the end of the day you’ll be tanner, wetter, and bursting with adrenaline.

Lettuce Lake Regional Park 

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Leave the city lights behind for a immersive nature experience at Lettuce Lake Park. Built around the banks of the Hillsborough River, this park is the perfect place to see some Florida wildlife, and one of the best natural Tampa attractions.

Get active by cycling or jogging one of the trails, and kayaking or fishing in the river. You can also take a leisurely hike and look for wildlife. The park has several boardwalks which take you straight into the middle of different habitats, including wetlands and hardwood forests. When you’ve done enough exploring, go for a picnic or a BBQ and enjoy the sound of nature.

Tampa Riverwalk 

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Spanning 2.4 miles, the Tampa Riverwalk is one of the most popular Tampa attractions for both locals and tourists alike. It follows the Hillsborough River and crosses numerous museums and landmarks, including the Tampa Museum of Art and the Glazer Children’s Museum. The trail also boasts yearly events like the Riverfest and the Lighted Boat Parade.

Henry B. Plant Museum 

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This U.S. National Historic Site is one of Tampa’s greatest prides. First opened as the Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891, the palace-like structure gives it an imperial air that has withstood the test of time. When it opened, it was one of the most luxurious hotels in the country, boasting Florida’s first elevator, and the state’s first hotel room suites with lights and telephones. Some of the famous guests who rested their heads here include Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Babe Ruth.

Today, a great part of the former hotel’s estate is part of the University of Tampa. The south wing of Plant Hall, however, has been conserved as the Henry B. Plant Museum, in which visitors can see how the Victorian upper class enjoyed the hotel. Visitors also enjoy Plant Park, which is decorated with sculptures, fountains, relics, and beautiful walking paths throughout.

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– Original reporting by Mariana Zapata

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