PUBLISHED JULY 28, 2016
By LISA STARK
Summer in Greater Tampa Bay is packed full of things to do, including stuff for the kids and grandkids too. From the cultural offerings of greater metropolitan Tampa, to the natural wonders of Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Lake Wales, Weeki Wachee, Indian Shores and Homosassa Springs, you’re sure to find interesting experiences to suit your most adventurous inclinations. Here are just a few of the fun and magical treasures you may be surprised to find just a short drive away.
Weeki Wachee Springs
See Magical Mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs, where you can take a river boat cruise and see animal shows. Later, you can swim in the springs at Buccaneer Bay next door.
Visit the Giraffes at Busch Gardens Tampa – You will also see cheetahs, lemurs, and elephants, not to mention an awesome roller coaster.
Go Back in Time at Cracker Country, named after Florida’s early cattlemen (known as crackers because of the sound of their whips). Cracker Country is at Tampa’s Florida State Fairgrounds. There are 13 original Florida buildings dating from 1870 to 1912, including the grand old two-story Carlton House.
See Ocean Life at the Florida Aquarium, located in downtown Tampa near Channelside and the Port of Tampa. Kids can swim in the splash park to cool off.
Parkesdale Farm Market
Shop at Parkesdale Farm Market in Plant City, celebrating the farm’s 55-plus years in existence. Have a strawberry milkshake, strawberry shortcake, or take some fruit preserves home to the family.
The Straz Center
Take in a Broadway Show in Tampa at The Straz Center, as part of their summer Broadway series. If you hurry, you can take the kids to see the enchanting new production of The Wizard of Oz, which includes new songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Go inside the Beer Can, otherwise known as The Rivergate Tower in Tampa, where you can see an impressive collection of Photographic Art. The tower was originally built in 1988 to look like a lighthouse, but locals nicknamed it the Beer Can building because of its odd shape.
Learn about the Planets at MOSI, and be sure to take the grandkids along to the Tampa attraction. In addition to the planetarium, there’s a flight simulator, an IMAX theater, Disasterville and a ropes course with zip-lines.
Take a Trolley ride through downtown Tampa on the TECO Line Streetcar, where you can ride all day with unlimited stops for one modest fee.
See the Manatees at Homosassa Springs, about an hour north of Tampa. There is an underwater observation area for viewing the resident manatees, as well as black bears and Florida alligators.
Honeymoon Island Beach
Get Engaged at Honeymoon Island Beach in Dunedin, where you can walk through the state park and along the natural beaches of North Pinellas County while fanning the flames of romance.
Embark on a Dolphin Cruise on one of the many dolphin sightseeing cruises you can take from Tampa, St Petersburg, Apollo Beach, Clearwater or Tarpon Springs. Bring your sun visor and Polarized sunglasses.
Don CeSar Hotel
Visit the Pink Palace, also known as The Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach. The iconic hotel was opened in the Gatsby Era in 1928, and can be seen from anywhere in St. Pete Beach. You can come for a lunch or dinner visit, or reserve a weekend getaway right on the beach.
Big Cat Rescue
See lions and tigers at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, a sanctuary for the majestic big cats who have been abandoned, abused, or rescued from slaughter.
Celebrate a Sunset at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach. The nightly “sunset celebration” starts at 5:30 p.m. each evening with local artists and performers. Don’t forget your camera.
Go paddleboarding with Upper Tampa Bay Paddle Sports. Tours are available locally in the Tampa Bay area and in surrounding areas that are within an hour’s drive.
Pass-a-Grille Beach stroll
Take a romantic Stroll along Pass-a-Grille Beach, one of Florida’s most beautiful small beaches located at the tip of St. Pete Beach, with some of the most romantic sunset views you’ll ever see. Bring wine and cheese.
Museum of Photographic Art
Eye a photo collection at Tampa’s Florida Museum of Photographic Art, which includes portraits of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne by Andy Warhol. The cube-shaped building itself is something to see.
Vist a craft brewery
Enjoy a craft beer at one of the many Tampa Bay area’s craft breweries and brewpubs that have set up shop along the Gulf Coast, including Cigar City, 7venth Sun Brewery and Sea Dog Brewing, to name a few.
Adventure Island Water Park
Cool off at Adventure Island Water Park in Tampa. Take a lazy float in the Rambling Bayou or splash around in the Colossal Curl. It’s a great escape from the Florida heat for young and old alike. Bring plenty of sunscreen.
Fool Around with Legos at Legoland in Winter Haven, about an hour’s drive from Tampa. In Miniland USA you can ride Lego-themed rides, swim at the water park and see all the Lego creations inspired by cities from around the world.
Morean Arts Center
See twisty glass at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, a stunning permanent collection of world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly’s glass works. But hurry — the collection relocates on July 31 and won’t open again until October.
Bok Tower Gardens
Smell fragrant flowers at the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, about an hour from Tampa, which boasts one of the greatest works of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. — the Singing Tower. You’ll see acres of ferns, palms, oaks, pines and flowering fragrant foliage.
Savor a steak
Savor a Steak at Charley’s Steak House, one of the finest restaurants in Tampa. Aged steak is hand-cut daily, then flame-grilled over a 1200-degree citrus and oak wood-burning pit. Make it a dressy occasion, and leave the flip-flops at home.