39 Things to Do in Tampa, Florida for Cruise Passengers

If you’re heading out on a cruise to Tampa, Florida, check out this list of fun and exciting things to do on this leg of your cruise journey.

We have a list of some of the best things to do in Tampa, Florida, before or after your cruise vacation from the port. You will find opportunities for plenty of fun, places to eat, and so much more for cruise passengers.

If you’re making the trip to Tampa, Florida, to depart on a Caribbean cruise, why not make the most of your visit by seeing some of the local attractions?

Tampa has something for everyone close to the cruise port with its historic Ybor City district, theme parks, Lowry Park Zoo, the Florida Aquarium, fabulous museums, modern shopping centers, world-class sporting and event arenas, and a stunning waterfront. 

A little farther afield, you will find some of the best beaches in the US with soft white sand, warm Gulf waters, and top fishing and boating around the barrier islands. Tampa is also home to some famous theme parks, miles of trails, history centers, museums, theaters, and exciting nightlife activities. 

Whatever you enjoy seeing and doing, Tampa will surely have something to suit every budget and taste. So, let’s get started and see what Tampa has to offer before or after your luxury cruise.

In This Article:

Tampa Historic Attractions

Ybor City in Tampa, Florida
Ybor City in Tampa, Florida (Photo Credit: Wangkun Jia)

1. Tour Historic Ybor City

Join Lonnie on a fascinating walking tour around Ybor City. See the historic factories that once employed thousands of Cuban workers in the largest cigar-making district in the world. Visit local parks, the Cuban Uprising against Spain, and see the original homes of these migrant workers. It’s fascinating!

2. Haunted Tours in Tampa

Take a Ybor Ghost Tour around Ybor City…if you dare! Featured on TV and regularly listed in the Top 10 Haunted Tours in the USA, this tour takes you to some chilling places where Ghostly Legends and untimely deaths occurred in one of the most Haunted Towns in the USA. Informative, entertaining and definitely spine-chilling!

3. Learn About the Seminole Wars at Fort Foster

History lovers should make time to visit the Fort Foster State Historic Site during your pre-cruise stay in Tampa. During the Second Seminole War, Fort Foster was built to defend the bridge across the Hillsborough River and was operational from 1836 to 1838.

Now part of the Hillsborough River State Park, the site includes an Interpretive Center with 100 artifacts, and there are regular re-enactments.

4. Visit a Touching Memorial to the Heroes of 9/11

The 9/11 Fallen Heroes Memorial is a historical landmark in Tampa located at 1900 North 20th Street in historic Ybor City and serves as a reminder of that fateful day.

The memorial includes an iron beam salvaged from the remains of Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. In front of the beam, you will find sculptures of the fearless leaders from that day and the words, “We will never forget.” 

5. Ready to Dive Into 12,000 Years of Florida History?

The Tampa Bay History Center is a Smithsonian affiliate and has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. It is located at 801 Water Street in Tampa, Florida.

They are open daily from 10 to 5 and makes a great stop before or after your cruise. You can explore its collection of over 90,000 historical artifacts and the Touchton Map Library and Columbia Café. 

6. Learn More About the Heritage of Tampa’s Fire Department

The Tampa Firefighters Museum is a former fire station that is now on exhibit and showcases the local service history of the location while displaying firefighting memorabilia and vehicles.

Located at 720 East Zack Street in Tampa, you can experience the history of the former fire station in all its glory. This perfect historical experience is free for everyone, but they do appreciate donations. 

Things to Do With Kids in Tampa

Florida Aquarium
Florida Aquarium (Photo Credit: Michael V Riggs)

7. Get Acquainted With Marine Life at the Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium will wow you with its massive aquariums, including the 500,000-gallon Coral Reef Tank, which is home to Giant Turtles, Sand Tiger Sharks and divers! Throughout the day, there are animal encounters and educational talks.

Connect with the sea prior to your cruise as you explore this award-winning facility housing 14,000 animals. Exhibits include Madagascan lemurs and South African penguins, as well as sea turtles, sharks, stingrays and shoals of brightly colored fish.

8. Explore Lowry Park Zoo

Compact yet full of interest, Lowry Park Zoo is an uncrowded attraction with elephants, giraffes and zebras viewed from an open-sided safari vehicle. Book zoo tickets online and get the best deal. There are Backstage Encounters, Giraffe Meet and Greet, Rhino Feeding, fun rides and mini rollercoasters.

9. Seek Out Some Thrills

Ready to experience a 335-acre animal theme park in Tampa? Busch Gardens Tampa Bay was designed around the themes of Africa and Asia. It is a great place for the whole family, from the coaster enthusiast of your brood to the animal lover looking forward to some of the most interesting animals. Remember that Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a whole-day excursion and can be costly. 

10. Cool Off While Having Some Fun

Adventure Island is Tampa’s largest water park across the street from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, with outdoor pools and an outdoor water playground. You will find over 30 acres of water rides, dining opportunities, and other fun attractions for the whole family. You can find the Lazy River, kid-friendly rides, and many different water slides to choose from. Single-day tickets for this family theme park attraction start at $34.99 for adults. 

11. Invest in a Tampa CityPass

If you plan to visit several attractions during your cruise stay in Tampa, check out the 9-day CityPass. For under $150, you get entry to ZooTampa at Lowry Park, the Florida Aquarium, and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. You also get admission to two more attractions of your choice: the Museum of Science and Industry, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, The Tropics Boat Tours Dolphin or Sunset Cruise, or Glazer Children’s Museum. 

12. Go Dolphin Spotting

Tampa Bay is home to many pods of dolphins, and the best way to see them is on a scenic boat cruise. Dolphins are curious and love to jump and play in the wake of boats. Book a trip with Tampa Bay Fun Boat Cruises at the Marina near the Tampa Bay Convention Center on South Franklin Street.

You’ll see many barrier islands, flocks of birds, multi-million dollar homes on the waterfront, and plenty of leaping dolphins. Take your own drinks and food and enjoy a daytime cruise or a stunning Sunset Cruise around Tampa Bay.

13. Stretch the Imagination!

School-age children will love the interactive rooms and experiences at the Glazer Children’s Museum. Located on the Riverwalk on Gasparilla Plaza, it has endless play areas. Your child can get inspired in Art Smart or master money in Central Bank. They can build and create in the Engineer’s Workshop or save the day in the Firehouse. There are so many opportunities for imaginative play. 

14. Meet at the Intersection of Science and Technology 

The Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa Bay is a non-profit science museum with more than 100 hands-on activities, including the Sky Trail Ropes Course. You can lie on a bed of nails, learn about the solar system, explore optical illusions, and make your way over rope bridges, tight ropes, and swinging platforms. It is affordable and fun for the whole family.

15. Dive Into Marine Life

Just a short trip from Tampa, you will find the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where you can see rescued dolphins and sea turtles, meet other rescued animals, and explore the rescue center. You can even take a boat tour around Clearwater Bay for an exciting add-on experience to enhance your day at the aquarium. 

Cultural Things to Do in Tampa

Theatre in Tampa
Theatre Tampa (Photo Credit: ImageMD)

16. Visit the Theatre

For things to do in Tampa, Florida, then how about booking tickets to see a show at the historic Tampa Theatre on N. Franklin St. Built in 1926, it is said to be one of the most beautiful theaters in the world with stunning architectural features inside and out.

Check out the latest program and attend a film or show, or take the Balcony to Backstage Tour of this unforgettable non-profit theater.

17. Transport Yourself Through Time

The Henry B Plant Museum can be found in the south wing of the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel located at 401 West Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, Florida. The museum transports you to another era through its exhibits and innovative programs. It is a self-guided audio tour that details its rich history. 

18. Go to a Drive-In Movie

Take a trip down memory lane by attending one of the last remaining drive-in theaters in the area. The Silver Moon Drive-in is on New Tampa Hwy in Lakeland. It is easy to reach via the I-4, this family-friendly drive-in has in-car speakers and a snack bar for your favorite snacks, and the tickets are even more affordable than most regular theater tickets. 

On the weekends, the Silver Moon Drive-In Theater becomes a Swap Shop where almost anything can be bought and sold. Gates open as early as 5 a.m., and it is free to attend and to park. 

19. Experience Abstract Impressionism

Located right on the Riverwalk near Tampa cruise port, the Tampa Museum of Art is a compact gallery of contemporary art on Gasparilla Plaza. Friday nights, you simply pay a voluntary donation to enter.

20. Open-Air Shopping in Hyde Park

Just a mile from Tampa Bay Port, Hyde Park Village offers upscale boutiques, specialty shops and restaurants in a beautiful landscaped park setting dating back to 1905. Visit the CineBistro for a luxury dinner and movie, and check out the Calendar of Events – there’s something happening every week.

21. Get Yourself Some Cruise Wear

Spend a day at the bright International Plaza on N. Westshore Boulevard, where you’ll find all the best names in high-end shopping. Pick up some cruise wear, costume jewelry or deck sandals and window shop in Gucci, Tiffany, Kate Space and more.

22. Attend a Sporting Event

Tampa is home to many top sports clubs, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (National Football League), Tampa Bay Lightning (National Hockey League), and Tampa Bay Rays (Major League Basketball). Once you have booked your cruise from Tampa, why not book tickets to an exciting sports fixture at one of Tampa’s world-class stadiums and start your cruise in the best possible way?

23. Roll the Dice

Get some practice in for your cruise casino by visiting the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on N. Orient Rd. It is the sixth largest casino in the world (eat your heart out, Vegas!) and has 10 restaurants, including a sumptuous buffet at Fresh Harvest. There’s a Poker Room, 5000 slots and 100 table games, and plenty of Hard Rock memorabilia.

24. Smoke a Genuine Cuban Cigar!

Several fascinating old cigar shops are along E. 7th Ave in Ybor City. After taking a tour of the area and learning about the history of cigar-making, you can sample your own at Tabanero Cigars, which also serves coffee and offers live demonstrations. It’s a true Tampa experience!

25. Sample Tampa Nightlife

Ybor City is just a stone’s throw from Tampa cruise port and offers lively nightlife and some of the best dining in the city. Ride the TECO Trolley and enjoy this historic district’s plethora of bars and clubs.

Food and Drink Activities in Tampa

Aerial View of Tampa
Aerial View of Tampa (Photo Credit: Robert Miller Online)

26. Lunch on the Sidewalk

Next to the International Plaza and the Renaissance Hotel, you’ll find Bay Street, a charming outdoor area of sidewalk cafés. Outdoor seating puts you in the mood for your cruise, and you can enjoy your favorite dishes for Bar Louie, the Cheesecake Factory, Capital Grill and more.

27. Sample a Tampa Roll

Famous for its fish and seafood, Tampa is also the only place to find an authentic Tampa Roll. You’ll find it at most sushi restaurants in and around Tampa Bay. The sushi includes fried grouper, scallions and mayo wrapped in rice and tastes delicious!

28. Spanish Paella or Cuban Sandwich?

Visit Columbia, Florida’s oldest Spanish restaurant and the largest in the world. Located in the heart of the Ybor City Historic District, it has several restaurant-sized rooms and offers a fantastic menu of seafood dishes and paellas.

You can also find Cuban restaurants in this area, celebrating the earliest residents in Ybor City. It is about a mile from the cruise port and within easy reach of most hotels.

29. Enjoy Classic Bar Food and Seasonal Selections

The Tampa Bay Brewing Company is located in Central Ybor. They are dedicated to pursuing leading-edge processes while using sustainable ingredients and environmentally friendly practices.

If you are looking for a place to relax after a day of adventure, fun, and shopping, kick back and enjoy classic bar food and outdoor seating at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. 

Outdoor Adventures in Tampa’s Backyard

Tampa Riverwalk
Tampa Riverwalk (Photo Credit: VIAVAL TOURS)

30. Stroll the Riverwalk

Tampa Bay Port is adjoining the Tampa Riverwalk, a new waterfront attraction in downtown Tampa. The 2-mile boardwalk starts near the Sheraton Hotel. It offers gentle, breezy walks beside the bay during the day and is lit up after dark for romantic evening strolls. You’ll find the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Museum of Art, and the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park along the Tampa Riverwalk.

31. Walk the World’s Longest Continuous Sidewalk

Who could resist the challenge of walking the 4.-5 mile-long pedestrian path along Bayshore Boulevard, especially as it starts close to Tampa Riverwalk? Keep your eyes open for dolphins and manatees as you stroll along the palm-lined waterfront.

32. Ride the TECO Trolley

You can’t miss the historic streetcars that run around Tampa’s port and hotel district. The TECO Trolley is a free service connecting hotels and downtown with historic Ybor City and the cruise port. Take a 25-minute tour of the area and get on and off as you wish.

There’s so much to see and do in Tampa within easy reach of the trolley stops. The service runs from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The Sunday service is 8.30 to 11 p.m.

33. Yoga in the Park

Part of the Riverwalk near Tampa Bay Cruise Port, you’ll find the 8-acre Curtis Hixon Park. This green space has fountains, a pavilion and stunning water views. It frequently hosts community events. Visit on Sundays and join the free yoga class in an inspirational setting.

34. Spot Gators at Hillsborough River State Park

If you want to see alligators in the wild, Hillsborough River State Park is the perfect place to go gator spotting and birdwatching. Located on Hwy 301 at Thonotosassa in northeast Tampa, the state park is just a few minutes from downtown Tampa.

35. Go Cycling, Kayaking and Hiking

Don your walking shoes or rent a bicycle and explore the peaceful natural park on 7 miles of trails along the Hillsborough River. You can also rent kayaks and explore the river, which includes some Class II rapids!

36. Walk the Boardwalk

Escape the bustling traffic and urban sprawl with a visit to Flatwoods Regional Park on Morris Bridge Rd. This lovely green wilderness area has a 9-mile loop for longer walks and several short boardwalks for getting close to Florida flora and fauna.

37. Go Rollerblading on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail

You might want to stretch your legs and get some exercise to work off those cruise buffets! The Upper Tampa Bay Trail offers 16.5 miles of flat paved trails beneath shady native trees. It’s ideal for rollerblading, inline skating, bicycling or walking.

There are six trailheads to choose from, including the Memorial Trailhead at 7499 Montague St, Tampa. The trail winds through suburban Citrus Park on a former railway track with plenty of wildlife, birds and cafés for refreshment stops.

38. Visit the Beach

Tampa Bay has no sandy beaches, but you will find some of the best beaches in the world on the offshore barrier islands nearby. Rent a car or take an organized tour and visit the white sandy beaches and Gulf waters about 20 miles away.

Take your pick from famous St Petersburg Beach, Madeira Beach and Clearwater. In South Florida, Bradenton, Sarasota and Siesta Key offer upscale shopping, cultural attractions and miles of award-winning beaches.

39. Explore a Place to Remember

The Weedon Island Preserve is over 3,100 acres of natural area that can be found along the western shore of Tampa Bay in St Petersburg, Florida. It is a coastal system with aquatic and upland ecosystems and is home to many different native plants and animals. 

Things to Do in Tampa, Florida: FAQs

When is the best time to visit Tampa, Florida?

If you are cruising out of Tampa, FL, the best months to visit are November through April, when the weather is dry and sunny. These months also coincide with the main season for Caribbean cruises. 

After that, some cruise ships were repositioned for Alaska or Mediterranean cruises. However, if you’re looking for a bargain, hotels, flights and attractions are generally much lower from May through September as the weather is hotter and more humid and fewer tourists are around.

How’s the weather in Tampa, FL?

Tampa has a humid subtropical climate. Winter months are warm and dry, with daytime temperatures around 70-80°F (21-27°C). Summers tend to be hot and humid (86-90°F / 30-32°C) with short but heavy rain showers and thunderstorms some afternoons.

How far is Tampa from Miami?

Tampa is 275 miles northwest of Miami. You should allow 4 hours and 15 minutes to drive from Tampa, Florida’s central Gulf Coast, to Miami in Southeast Florida.

Gillian Birch
Gillian Birch
Gillian Birch is a full-time travel writer and author of 12 travel books. British educated with a diploma in journalism she has traveled the world, writing about her experiences with wonderful clarity and eyewitness detail. She uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many cruise experiences around the Caribbean, Mediterranean, trans-Atlantic, Norwegian Fjords, Panama Canal and South America including Cape Horn. Find out more about us here.

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