Things to Do in Tampa With Kids
When you think about vacationing in Florida, where do you think of relaxing? Many people flock to Disney and Universal Parks in Orlando. While Disney and Universal are both wonderful family vacation destinations, there is another family-oriented place that is frequently overlooked – Tampa Bay. Most families do not fully take advantage of the amazing vacationing opportunities for younger children in Tampa. As a mom of two boys who are very active and as a resident of Central Florida, my family spends a lot of time in Tampa. Here are my recommendations of some great things to do in Tampa with kids.
Where to Stay
Loews Don Cesar Resort- St. Petersburg, Florida: This is the nicest beachfront resort in St. Pete Beach. You can recognize this resort at the “Big Pink Hotel” located right on the ocean. Well worth your money, the Don Cesar will provide beach lounge chairs, children’s programing, wonderful restaurants, and beautiful sunsets. Located close to Tampa, you can quickly arrive at any destination in the Tampa area you wish.
Tradewinds Resort – St. Petersburg, Florida: Known to locals as a beachfront family resort, the Tradewinds provides endless activities for children and teenagers. With a giant inflatable waterslide, children’s activities daily, beach activities, and paddle boats. The rooms are spacious but need a little updating. If you are comfortable in a 3 star resort, you will be comfortable in the rooms. It is definitely a fun time for families.
Innisbrook- Palm Harbor, Florida: This resort is not beach front and it’s most well known for its golf courses, but Innisbrook is a wonderful resort for children. The rooms are in the process of being updated, and the updated rooms are wonderful! They have one- and two-bedroom suites available with full kitchens and seating areas. The one thing about this resort is the amount of things for children to do. There is a wonderful zero entry pool with a waterslide and sand play area. While on property, for no additional fee, children can fish, play miniature golf, and play on the playground.
What to Do
Fort De Soto State Park: Fort De Soto is a historic fort with 3 miles of protected shoreline. They have canoeing on a canoe trail, nature trails, fishing piers, and playgrounds. Pack a lunch and spend the day enjoying nature. Parking is $5.00 for the day.
Florida Aquarium: The best thing about the Florida Aquarium is the outdoor water playground for children. The Aquarium itself is not one that you could spend an entire day but make sure you bring your swim trunks, sunscreen, and towels as they have an outdoor 2-acre water play area with a pirate ship that kids love. The second great thing about the Florida Aquarium is the dolphin tour. I have gone three times and each time seen dolphins very close to the boat. You will get wet so make sure you go in the warmer months or bring clothes you don’t mind getting wet. Cost for Aquarium Admission and Dolphin Tour is $49.90 for adults and $40.90 for kids.
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI): MOSI is one place that we continue to renew our annual passes. You can easily spend an entire day with the exhibits, IMAX, ropes course, playground, and inflatables. While they do not have a place to eat on site (just snacks) there are several restaurants nearby. I recommend Jason’s Deli or McAllister’s. You can leave and come back to the museum with your admission, just keep your wristband on. Preschool age children to adults will find this one of the most fun places to spend the day in Tampa. Admission is $22.95 for adults and $18.95 for children.
Glazer Children’s Museum: Glazer is perfect for children under the age of 7. If you have older children, they will probably not be as interested as it is geared towards preschool and young elementary students. They can play in a giant water table, “sand” box (made of ground up tires), fly an airplane, climb through a rope maze, and play in a realistic town. For small children, plan on spending at least 4 hours. This is a great place for parents to have a little down time and kids to run off energy. There are two restaurants close by: a Subway in the lobby and a 5 Guys Burgers and Fries across the street. Admission is $15.00 for adults and $9.00 for children.
Lowry Park Zoo: Lowry Park Zoo is ranked the #1 Zoo by Parents Magazine for Preschool children. What I love about it is that they don’t nickel and dime you. The zoo has 5 kiddie rides and they are all FREE. The only thing that will cost you extra is food, feeding the giraffes ($3) and riding the horses ($5). I recommend feeding the giraffes. They have all of the animals that you would expect at a zoo. The one thing they have that is unique is a manatee hospital. When manatees are found in Tampa Bay injured or abandoned, they are brought here for rehabilitation and release. If you go early in the morning and go straight to the manatee hospital, they will sometimes let you through the barrier to watch the abandoned manatees drink their bottles. We have done this once and it was truly a special experience. Be advised that they will only ask if all party members are quiet and well-behaved as any noise can cause stress the young manatees. I just explained to my boys that the baby manatees were sleeping and they had to tiptoe and they did fine. Allow about 4-5 hours to explore the zoo. Admission is $27.95 for adults and $20.95 for children.
Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise: I am typically not into “touristy” things but we did this for my son’s birthday, and it was just too much fun not to mention. We allowed our kids to dress as pirates (they were 3 and 4 at the time) and they completely thought the entire experience was real. You board a large red boat that looks just like a pirate ship. From the moment you board, all drinks are free (including wine and beer). The staff entertain the children for the entire 2 hour tour of Tampa Bay. They give them water guns and have a battle, do a treasure hunt, play games, and have dance parties. It was really a lot of fun and we typically don’t do those types of cruises. I highly recommend for anyone with children ages 3-12. Admission was $34.00 for adults and $29.00 for children.
Written by Kristi Gregory. Kristi is a travel agent with Destinations to Explore who lives in the Tampa Bay area. She books trips all over the world, and specializes in Florida travel including Disney and Universal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-229-4840.