Ah, Florida – the warm southern tip of the East Coast. There are many fascinating places you can visit in this lovely state, but if you’re looking for a city that can be thoroughly enjoyed in a day, Tampa is arguably the best choice. There are plenty of things to see and beaches to enjoy, so it’s perfect if you just want to enjoy a day out in the sun on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, this city has it all and will show you the best side of this part of the United States. Here’s an itinerary that will help you make the most of your one day in Tampa.
What’s the best time to visit Tampa?
Summers are fairly hot in Tampa (this is Florida, after all), but it should be noted that the weather in Tampa from May to October also comes with high humidity. This is the reason for frequent thunderstorms in the afternoon during this period. So, if that poses a problem for you, maybe it would be better to visit in April or October.
Winters are generally dry and quite mild, so you will rarely see the temperature drop below 50 °F (about 10°C).
The biggest event in Tampa is definitely Gasparilla, a celebration that features numerous festivals in the first quarter of the year. Among them, the most famous is the Pirate Festival where “pirates” invade the city in late January or early February.
Tampa Riverfest at the beginning of May is also worth checking out, and there are many other notable occasions and celebrations to watch out for, especially in the first half of the year.
A few facts about Tampa
With about 400,000 people, Tampa is the third-most populated city in the state of Florida. It developed around Fort Brooke, which was built in 1824.
Over time, the city changed many hobbies: it was considered the cigar capital of the world (one of its nicknames is Cigar City), the death metal capital of the world, and the lightning capital of North America due to the common and severe thunderstorms that happen during summer.
Today, the city is Florida’s biggest port despite the fact that the waterway is just 12 feet deep. Channels had to be constructed to facilitate commerce. Oh, and Bayshore Boulevard is the longest uninterrupted sidewalk in the world stretching out for four and a half miles!
One day in Tampa itinerary
Follow this guide to make the most of your one day in Tampa. See all the most important sights and find the most interesting things to do in this wonderful city. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss!
Start your day at the Riverwalk
Nothing to start your day like breakfast at the heart of a new town. So, head to Tampa Riverwalk and grab a coffee and something to eat at the mouth of Hillsborough River. There are plenty of cafes and shops to choose from, from Starbucks to Kahwa Coffee or Portico Cafe.
Start heading upstream and enjoy the city’s vibe a bit before you get to your next destination.
Visit Tampa Museum of Art
Tampa Museum of Art is just a fantastic museum with an excellent collection of ancient pieces, but there’s also a lot of contemporary art to enjoy, too. Greek and Roman antiquities, photographs, new media, and many other forms of art are all represented, so this is a great way to spend an hour or two while in the city.
It should be noted that close by are other interesting museums, including the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Glazer Children’s Museum, and Tampa Police Museum. If museums are your thing, this is where you need to be in Tampa.
Head to the Aquarium
After the museums, head to the aquarium. The Florida Aquarium, to be more precise. It’s just a short walk east and allows you to see more than 20,000 different species from all over the world. Interactive exhibits, a water adventure and a pirate ship make this a fantastic place to visit if you’re here with your kids, but even if you’re not, the sheer amount of lifeforms that are taken care of here is incredibly impressive. You can book Skip-the-Line ticket here.
Grab some tasty lunch
You will probably be getting pretty hungry at this point, but fortunately, there are some excellent restaurants nearby. Cena, for example, is an upscale Italian restaurant, but if you’re looking for a more affordable bite, Al’s Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que is an absolutely brilliant place.
But wait, there’s more! Columbia Restaurant is also close by, and this Spanish restaurant is probably one of the most popular places in town. A bit further west, you will find Ulele, a very nice place with intriguing dishes that makes its own beer. In short, no matter what kind of food you’re looking for, you should be able to find it easily.
Admire some really big cats
After lunch, head to the amazing Big Cat Rescue, where more than 100 majestic animals are being cared for. Mountain lions, bobcats, and even tigers are just some of the species you can see, and what makes this place even more worthy of a visit is the fact that all these animals have been saved from abuse.
True, the place is a bit farther away from the city center, but the ride will be well worth it (you can hop on an Uber if you don’t have a car). How often do you get a chance to see a tiger from up close? Another great place to visit if you have your family along.
Check out the Hindu Temple of Florida
Yes, you’ve read that right, there is a Hindu temple here, and it’s very close to the aforementioned Big Cat Rescue. The Hindu Temple of Florida is open to tourists and worshippers alike, and its fascinating architecture is bound to impress you. Best of all, there are no fees you need to pay and no times when you are allowed to enter. You are completely free to come and enjoy this place, whenever you want.
It would be a shame to miss it if you happen to be close by.
Get some excitement at Busch Gardens Tampa!
Speaking of great places to visit with your family, Busch Gardens Tampa is known all over Florida and beyond for some very good reasons. This combination of a zoo and an amusement park will make time just fly by with its ziplines, bumper cars, and many other fun rides and games. Gift shops are also here, plus you can always grab something to eat.
As for the animals, you can get really close to some of them here, and places like Orangutan Outpost and Tiger Trail are bound to bring plenty of excitement.
Find a nice place for dinner or grab a drink
When it comes to dinner in Tampa, Vino E Pasta is definitely one of the more romantic spots. This lovely Italian place is perfect if you want to have a quiet evening with your significant other. Happy Fish, on the other hand, offers interesting Peruvian dishes, or you can just go back to one of the places we recommended for lunch – you certainly won’t be making a mistake.
But if a nice drink is the thing you’re craving at this point, Edge Rooftop Bar is a great place to get just that. The Bad Monkey is a much more relaxed place with local beer and a military-themed interior, close to that Columbian Restaurant we mentioned earlier, while The Sail Plaza is an outdoor bar with wonderful water views.
Where to stay in Tampa?
Tampa Marriott Water Street
505 Water Street, Tampa, FL 33603
If you’re looking for a classy stay in downtown Tampa, Tampa Mariott Water Street is just the place you need. Located in a beautiful skyscraper overlooking the water, with an outdoor rooftop pool that comes with a hot tub, this place will really help you relax. Furthermore, the rooms are elegant and bright, with coffee machines and huge flat-screen TVs. Amazing!
AC Hotel by Marriott Tampa Airport
4020 West Boy Scout Boulevard, Tampa, 33607
If you need a place to stay close to Tampa’s airport, AC Hotel by Marriott Tampa Airport is absolutely perfect for that. It looks stunning, both inside and outside, it has an outdoor swimming pool and an excellent bar. Furthermore, the rooms are modern and very comfortable, plus the service is just superb. Simply, hotels don’t get much better than this!
Home2 Suites By Hilton
1155 East Kennedy Boulevard , Tampa, FL 33602
Not only will Home2 Suites By Hilton put you close to the city center, but this place has an amazing rooftop pool, plus there’s also Starbucks on the property. The people working here are simply amazing, and the colorful rooms will make you feel right at home. Pets are allowed, and the neighborhood is vibrant and great for exploring. Enjoy!
Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Tampa East
2520 North 50th Street, Tampa, FL 33619
Need a stay in historic Ybor City? Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Tampa East is a great choice, especially if you’re looking to get as much value for your money as possible. Well-designed and very spacious rooms offer excellent comfort, plus you will have a lot of equipment in them such as microwave, coffee machines, free toiletries and more. The great staff is just the icing on the cake.
Day trips from Tampa
Staying more than one day in Tampa? Well then, you should seriously consider setting up a day trip from this city because Florida really has a lot to offer. Need suggestions? Don’t worry, we’re way ahead of you!
Obviously, if you’re going to be making a day trip from Tampa, one day in Orlando will probably be your first thought. Sure, Wald Disney World is its most famous theme park, but there are others too, not to mention great bars and restaurants. Because of the number of theme parks, though, this is a great option for families.
Crystal River is a city about an hour and a half north (by car) of Tampa, and its Three Sisters Spring is the main attraction there. Why? Manatees! Not only can you see them here, but you can also SWIM with them. How’s that for a day trip from Tampa? Amazing, right?
Rock Spring Run State Reserve
This amazing place is ideal for anyone looking for an active outdoor vacation. You can hike, go mountain biking, or even horseback riding, or you can just hop into a kayak and take off. Whatever you decide to do, you will be doing it in an incredibly beautiful environment that epitomizes pristine nature.
Anna Maria Island
Looking for a nice beach? Well, this island has plenty of them! You can just stretch out and enjoy the sun, or you can go kayaking with wild dolphins or scuba diving. There are also some great restaurants here as well as some quaint little shops ideal for souvenirs. Something for everyone, and you can get here by car. Just an hour’s drive away!
Extra tips for visiting Tampa
– It’s a good idea to keep your umbrella nearby; the city is known for its thunderstorms.
– Heat and humidity can be a challenge during the summer months, so be careful if that kind of weather doesn’t agree with you.
– There are many bugs here, which means a repellent of some kind could come in handy. Also, don’t leave food outside if you don’t want to attract unwanted visitors.
– You may see alligators in Florida’s freshwater. While their attacks are exceptionally rare, you still don’t want to be swimming in such places.
– Get Tampa City Pass for some discounts on the city’s attractions, whereas Sunpass is great if you plan to go visit other cities by car.
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.