45 Unique Things to Do or See in Tampa, Florida

categories: USA Travel


Having lived in Southwest Florida for 2 years and traveled the area extensively I really enjoyed the Amateur Traveler episode on Tampa, Florida. In combination with that episode and advice I have given to friends traveling there I have created a map (in my opinion the best way to organize any trip) of the best things to do in Southwest Florida. It is one of the most interesting areas in the U.S., laid back and beachy on the edges, diverse and Hispanic in the cities, and warm and friendly on the inside. The lightning capital of the western hemisphere, the sequestered home of many a pirate, known as Cigar City, and the proposed location of the Fountain of Youth, Tampa is different things to different people. To me, it is paradise on Earth.

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If you are looking for adventure canoe with alligators down a mangrove-lined river, snorkel with manatees in crystal clear waters, mountain bike through the swamp, or kayak to an unoccupied island with one of the highest-rated beaches in the U.S. You can beach your way down the coast looking for sharks teeth, seashell on Sanibel Island while watching dolphins, or just walk through the softest sand you will ever feel with the sunset as your backdrop.

If you get tired of beaching, do something totally different like watch a Spring Training baseball game. Or if you have seen enough alligators (not sure if I could ever get tired of seeing these prehistoric dinosaur-like creatures) visit the old estates of inventors Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. There is culture, with one of the highest populations of Greeks outside of Greece, John Ringling’s exquisite museum on his palatial estate (including a palace) on the ocean, or the largest collection of Salvador Dali paintings outside of Europe at the Dali. Food is excellent with the classic Grouper sandwich, alligator stew at Myakka State Park (where you can also take an airboat ride to see the gators), excellent Cuban cuisine, and good ol’ country barbeque.

And we can’t forget about the kids with the new Legoland (formerly Cypress Gardens) with its kid-friendly rides, beautiful botanical gardens, and waterski show, the highest kid-rated zoo in America at Lowry Park, and the Shell factory.

There really is something for everyone in Tampa. It is a hidden gem next to its more glamorous neighbors of Disneyworld and Miami. But there are things in Tampa you can’t do anywhere else and the collection of them is what makes it truly unique. There really is no other place like it.

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Tony Mercer

by Tony Mercer

I am an Aerospace Engineer working at UC Berkeley on a satellite mission to explore the atmosphere of Mars. I love to travel and explore, and my favorite place to visit is Southwest Florida, where I lived for two years. Otherwise I spend my time waterskiing, reading, and tinkering.

2 Responses to “45 Unique Things to Do or See in Tampa, Florida”



One of the highlights of our trip to the area was a visit to the Chihuly Collection in nearby St. Petersburg, FL. Even if you don’t recognize the name Dale Chihuly, chances are you’ve seen his glorious glass sculptures somewhere. Along with museums, pieces are installed in libraries, hotels, hospitals, churches, department stores, and other locales in just about every U.S. state. We found the “Collection” dedicated to exhibiting his work to be one of the best single-artist museums we’ve seen anywhere. Certainly worth a trip. That is if you have time after trying to conquer the other 45 ideas included above. 😉



I adore Florida, especially the west coast. I think I’ve made it there three times now, and each time it’s been an unexpected thrill to discover new things. I guess that Florida suffers from the same sort of generalizations the Canary Islands (my current home) do – Orlando is roughly on the same latitude as Tenerife – because of the great climate people don’t look further than the sunshine and beaches, yet in both places there is SO much more to explore, do and enjoy. Much as I love to go to new places you’ve really made me want to hop on the next plane to Florida with this. You’ve mentioned several things I didn’t know or try!

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