Often overlooked by its neighbor, the much larger and flashier Orlando, Tampa is a city worth visiting. Not only does it offer a variety of great family activities, but Tampa is also a central place to those who also want to visit Orlando and Clearwater Beach.
Filled with museums, theme parks, zoos, culture, waterfront activities, and more, Tampa is a great family vacation destination. Thinking of visiting? Check out these things to do in Tampa with kids.
This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
We received complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens during our trip to Tampa. All opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Tampa With Kids: Kids Activities Tampa
When traveling to Tampa, note that the local airport, the Tampa International Airport, is very convenient. There are other airports in the area, but for the easiest ride to the city, choose the Tampa airport. It’s located about six miles from the city.
You can also save money on popular Tampa attractions for families by looking at the CityPASS Tampa Bay. Take a look before you go and see if it includes the attractions you plan on visiting. If so, it can definitely worth the purchase.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
If you are visiting Tampa with kids, you absolutely need to visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (buy tickets here). I used to enjoy visiting as a kid and loved taking my own children there. You’ll see animals and get to enjoy some great attractions, including several thrill rides.
My kids’ favorites were Falcon’s Fury, which includes a 300+ foot drop, Cheetah’s Hunt, which reaches speeds of 60 MPH, and the Scorpion, which is a more traditional roller coaster with a big upside-down loop.
There are also several premium add-ons that you can include with your ticket. These include quick-queue, all-day dining, and several private tours. Expect to spend most of the day at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
We arrived at park opening and stayed most of the day. Like other family attractions and theme parks, it’s best to visit early to avoid the worst of the crowds.
See our review of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay here.
Adventure Island Water Park
If you are wondering what to do with kids in Tampa when it’s hot outside, Adventure Island water park is a good option. It’s owned by the same company that owns Busch Gardens, and is open seasonally (generally March-October). Adventure Island offers a wave pool, lazy river, 10 water slides, and more. It’s located across the street from Busch Gardens.
Like Busch Gardens, there are add ons that you can include with your ticket, including quick queue where you can skip the line.
You can get more ticket information here.
Lowry Park Zoo
The Lowry Park Zoo, a non-profit zoo, is regularly rated as one of the top zoos in America by several publications (including Parents Magazine). It’s one of the most fun things to do in Tampa.
This zoo features several distinct areas, including a Florida Wildlife section, Asian Gardens, Primate World, and Safari Africa. They also recently added the Roaring Springs water ride for families. The Lowry Park Zoo is located right in Tampa so it’s easy to access.
The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium, one of the top-rated aquariums in the US, is located right in Tampa. It’s one of the most popular Tampa Florida attractions.
The Florida Aquarium offers a number of exhibits, including Journey Into Madagascar, the Wetlands Trail, and the Coral Reef. There’s also a Splash Pad and a 4D theater.
Straz Center of the Arts
The Straz Center of the Arts, located on the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa, is a performance arts center. It houses a variety of different performances throughout the year, so check the schedule before you leave on vacation.
During our trip, we decided to purchase tickets to see Wicked on tour. Since then, I’ve received emails with the center’s schedule, and there are lots of great shows that travel to this theatre.
It’s relatively large, so there are plenty of different seating options. We picked orchestra seats in the center of the theater and had a good view.
Glazer Children’s Museum
If you are traveling with young children, you may want to visit the Glazer Children’s Museum. This museum, which is best for kids in elementary school or younger, is located along the Tampa Riverwalk in the arts district.
Day Trip to Clearwater Beach
My daughter loved the movie a Dolphin’s Tale, so I knew that we’d have to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This is definitely a must-visit for families visiting the Tampa area. Check the schedule to see when the various shows and feedings take place.
After our morning at the Clearwater Aquarium, we headed to the gorgeous Clearwater beach. The sugar sand in Clearwater is beautiful – there’s even a Sugar Sand Festival held every spring right on the beach.
There are also some fabulous restaurants in Clearwater Beach. We ate at Frenchy’s, which is located right on the beach. Most restaurants serve fresh seafood and are very casual.
Clearwater also offers several festivals throughout the year, including the Sugar Sand Festival which takes place in April. If you are driving into Clearwater during the busy season, you’ll want to arrive early to make sure you can find parking.
Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, a nonprofit organization, offers a variety of exhibits. In addition to a planetarium and ropes course, you’ll find exhibits including Connectus, an exhibit showcasing inventions of the future.
Day Trip to Orlando
Orlando is located about an hour and a half from Tampa, so you could easily visit Orlando during your Tampa family vacation. Activities in Orlando include the following:
Kid-Friendly Hotels in Tampa
You may also be wondering where to stay in Tampa. During our trip, we stayed at the Westin Tampa Bay. This hotel offers a small private beach, a restaurant, and an indoor pool.
It’s kid-friendly, although it’s also a business hotel. There’s a free shuttle to the nearby mall, which we really enjoyed visiting.
If you are looking for a different hotel in Tampa to stay in, check out these ten best hotels in Tampa Bay.
There are several hotels near Busch Gardens Tampa, although I’d recommend staying elsewhere and driving in for the day. You could also stay in Clearwater Beach and then drive into Tampa for the various activities. We did that for our second trip to the area.