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Tampa Bay: Florida’s Playground for Family-Friendly Fun and Food

Maybe it’s the craft beer scene that brings you to Tampa. Or you’re about to set off on a cruise out of Tampa Bay. Whatever brings you to town, know that there are plenty of attractions to keep you busy—and the menus will keep you satisfied, too. On my own recent getaway to Tampa, I loved exploring the city’s rich history (like the century old tradition of Cuban sandwiches!), the many popular family attractions, and a world of waterfront activities. So follow my lead for some must-do and must-eat adventures for your own Tampa travel planning.

Take a stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk for a fresh air exhibit of arts and culture, while admiring the gorgeous waterfront. Looking for another easy way to get around town? Try the TECO Streetcar, which connects downtown Tampa with Channelside, Amalie Arena, and Ybor City. And you definitely must visit Ybor City for a tour around this historic area. I loved exploring the architecture and cigar shops, and suggest visitors sip some Cuban coffee and sample a Cuban sandwich. I tried the award-winning version at Gaspar’s Grotto, but you’ll see plenty of options throughout this National Historic Landmark District.

Another great foodie experience I recommend is visiting Armature Works. This restored historic building is now a diverse food hall with everything from espresso cafes to fine dining eateries. Whether you’re looking for a fresh fabulous lunch, a spot to sip wine among friends, or a romantic night out, you’ll find a cornucopia of tastes at this venue. I especially enjoyed Union Coffee & Tea Bar for a quick morning pick-me-up, but the vibe at Graze is also wonderful for a healthy and hearty breakfast.

Around town, you’ll find so much to discover and explore. Tampa has a wealth of arts and culture, and so many family-friendly attractions offering year-round enjoyment. I loved my experience at The Florida Aquarium. In addition to hands-on activities for kids, there was an incredible variety of marine life exhibits to explore. This is your perfect time to catch a glimpse of a sand tiger shark! Plus, the coral reef system on display was pretty incredible, and I loved the glowing exhibition of jellyfish. When compiling your list of must-see attractions, consider the savings offered with CityPASS Tampa. It’s a great way to maximize your savings on five top attractions in the area, including Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and your choice of the Museum of Science & Industry or Chihuly Collection. For a little nighttime action, pay a visit to Seminole Hard Rock Casino for a grand assortment of slots and table games, as well as live entertainment. I thought this was a wonderful spot to gather with friends and wind down for the evening.

Then, for the ultimate in rest and relaxation, book a stay at Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa. This beach-vibe venue has a great location—just nine miles from downtown, and less than five miles from Tampa International Airport. I loved the waterfront location, offering stunning sunrise and sunset views from my private balcony. The heated outdoor pool was a great perk for soaking up that incredible Florida sunshine, and those cabanas are perfect for lazing about in between travel adventures. My room had a cool coastal decor with super comfy bedding and great amenities including a mini-fridge, free WiFi, and plenty of lounge seating. In the morning, I appreciated the availability of local roaster Buddy Brew Coffee in the hotel lobby. If you happen to be traveling by air, the hotel offers complimentary airport shuttle, too.

These are some of my own top tips and must-dos for visiting the area, but for even more travel ideas see the Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Florida websites.

Lori A. May is a Seattle-based travel writer. Follow her on Twitter at @loriamay.
Photography by CT Shier.
This itinerary was made possible thanks to assistance from Visit Tampa Bay.

Where I stayed / started

Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa

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