29 Things to Do in Tampa, Florida for Cruise Passengers

The best things to do in Tampa, Florida before or after your cruise vacation from the port. Plenty of fun, places to eat and more for any cruise visitor.

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 events arenas and a stunning waterfront. A little farther afield you will find some of the best beaches in the USA with soft white sand, warm Gulf waters, top fishing and boating around the barrier islands.

Also Read: 16 Reasons You Should Cruise from the Port of Tampa

Whatever you enjoy seeing and doing, Tampa is sure to 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.

Tampa Historic Attractions

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 an 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 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 artefacts and there are regular re-enactments.

Things to Do with Kids in Tampa

4. Get Acquainted with Marinelife at the Florida Aquarium

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.

Florida Aquarium
Florida Aquarium

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.

5. 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.  

6. 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 $103 you get entry to Tampa Zoo, the Aquarium, Busch Gardens, the Museum of Science and Industry and Clearwater Aquarium which is basically 2 free admissions.

7. 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 Tampa Bay Convention Center on S. Franklin St.

You’ll see many barrier islands, flocks of birds, multi-million dollar homes on the waterfront, and of course plenty of leaping dolphins. Take your own drinks and food and enjoy a daytime cruise or a stunning Sunset Cruise around Tampa Bay for just $18 per person with discounts for children.

8. 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.

Cultural Things to Do in Tampa

9. 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.

Tampa Theatre
Tampa Theatre

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

10. 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 and charges just $5 for a double feature. Easy to reach via the I-4, this family-friendly drive-in has in-car speakers and a snack bar for your favorite snacks.

11. Experience Abstract Impressionism

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

12. 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.

13. Get Yourself Some Cruise Wear

Spend a day at the bright International Plaza on N. Westshore Blvd 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.

14. Attend a Sporting Event

Tampa is home to many top sport clubs including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (National Football League), Tampa Bay Lightning (National Hockey League), 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!

15. Roll the Dice

Get some practise 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 as well as plenty of Hard Rock memorabilia.

16. Smoke a Genuine Cuban Cigar!

There are several fascinating old cigar shops 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!

17. Sample Tampa Nightlife

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

Ybor City, Tampa
Ybor City, Tampa

Food and Drink Activities in Tampa

18. 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.

19. 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!

20. Spanish Paella or Cuban Sandwich?

Visit Columbia, Florida’s oldest Spanish restaurant and the largest in the world. Located in the heart of 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.

Outdoor Adventures in Tampa’s Backyard

21. Stroll the Riverwalk

Tampa Bay Port is adjoining the 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. Along the Riverwalk you’ll find the Florida Aquarium, Tampa Museum of Art and the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

22. Walk the World’s Longest Continuous Sidewalk

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

23. Ride the TECO Trolley

You can’t miss the historic streetcars that run around the port and hotel district of Tampa. 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 am to 11 pm Monday to Thursdays, and until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays. The Sunday service is 8.30 to 11 pm.

24. Yoga in the Park

Part of the Riverwalk near Tampa Bay Cruise Port you’ll find the 8-acre Curtis Hixon Waterfront 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.

25. 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.

26. 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!

27. 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 up close to Florida flora and fauna.

28. GoRrollerblading 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 trail 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.

29. Visit the Beach

Tampa Bay does not actually have any 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 organised tout and visit the white sandy beaches and Gulf waters that lie about 20 miles away.

Take your pick from famous St Pete Beach, Madeira Beach and Clearwater. To the south of Tampa Bay, you’ll find Bradenton, Sarasota and Siesta Key offering upscale shopping, cultural attractions and miles of award-winning beaches.

Also Read: 17 Ideal Hotels Near Tampa Cruise Port

FAQs About Things to Do in Tampa

When is the Best Time to Visit Tampa, Florida?

If you are cruising out of Tampa, the best months to visit are from 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 reposition 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 more hot and humid and there are fewer tourists around.

How’s Tampa Weather?

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 15 minutes to drive from Tampa, on Florida’s central Gulf Coast, to Miami in Southeast Florida.

Gillian Birch
Gillian Birchhttps://www.cruisehive.com/author/gillian

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.

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