Miami, the Gulf Coast, and the Florida Keys have all won top recognition for being favored places to visit when in Florida, but a city too often overlooked is Tampa. Tampa is part of Central Florida on the Gulf side of the state. It’s in close proximity to the beautiful beaches of Clearwater and St. Petersburg and not too far of a trek to the smaller towns of Tarpon Springs, where you can head to the famed sponge docks, and New Port Richey, a welcoming place with a small-town feel.
Three days in Tampa is plenty of time to experience this Southern city. If you’ve never been, you’ll soon start to understand why it’s considered a gem among travelers.
10:30 AM – Tampa Water Bike Company
There’s places you can bike and places you can boat, but have you ever thought about combining the two? Tampa Water Bike Company allows you to get the best of biking, while floating on water (through the help of kayak) for a truly unique, yet leisurely adventure that’s perfect for all ages. Water bikes can be rented by the hour which makes the activity more affordable, so saddle up and take a ride (or glide?) through the water.
3:00 PM – Plant City
If you have time for the short half hour drive to the east, you’ll hit Plant City, which is known as the Winter Strawberry Capital. It’s home to the Florida Strawberry Festival and if you’ve ever eaten strawberries in the “off season,” it’s likely they came from Plant City. The festival happens every spring and has been a longstanding tradition of the state since 1930. If you’re lucky enough to be there during this time, you could be part of the Strawberry Mashed Potato Pie Eating Contest. Regardless if you make it for festival time or not, make sure to have some strawberry pie, cake, or cobbler when you’re in the area.
6:00 PM – Ted Peters Smoked Fish
Being close to the water has its perks, especially for those who enjoy fresh seafood. Smoked fish is a common item on many Florida menus and Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish keeps theirs simple, but delicious for people passing through. They’ve been in business since the 1950s and what they lack in frills, they make up for in fish. Order a complete fish dinner, which is served with coleslaw and German potato salad, or go with a staple and get the smoked fish spread served with Saltines.
1:30 PM – Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center
Have you ever seen a sea cow? That’s the unofficial name for a manatee and you can learn all about these great animals and see them up close at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center. This facility is considered a manatee sanctuary and additionally provides guests an opportunity to view beautiful, butterfly gardens, animal and bird life, and coastal plants native to Florida along the center’s tidal walk. Admission is free but the center is only open between November and April, so plan accordingly.
3:30 PM – Henry Waugh Dessert Room
Never has there been a better time to eat dessert first. Bern’s Steak House’s offers an extensive dessert menu including concoctions for chocolate lovers, cheesecake fans, and everyone in between. Get your mouth watering looking over their four-page dessert menu, which has unique favorites, such as Bern’s Baked Alaska, Strawberry Key Lime Tart, and a Peach Melba Sundae. If you can’t quite decide, go for the Taste of Bern’s, which are sample size portions of five of their most sinful desserts.
5:00 PM – Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Walk the walls of rock stars past and present on the self-guided memorabilia tour. As part of a one-of-a-kind experience, visitors have a chance to view displays of clothing worn during special performances and appearances of some of music’s finest artists, as well as see instruments and other popular music memorabilia. After you take the tour, see who’s scheduled to perform at Hard Rock Live, head to the bar for a cocktail, or stroll the casino floor and try your hand at a game of poker. A trip here feels like a getaway within a getaway. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished in just a short 72 hours.
11:00 AM – Hillsborough River
After a full two days, a relaxing time spent at the river is probably going to look pretty nice. The river is a popular place when the weather is nice because you can spend an entire day here and not be bored. From river paddling to guided tours to swimming and more, pack a sense of adventure and get ready to explore the activity available at one of Florida’s most favorited state parks. Not only can you get a snack or lunch at the Hillsborough Park Cafe concessions, you can also rent a bicycle, segway, golf cart, or canoe. When it comes to getting around, you have options.
10:30 AM – Datz
Before you head out on your flight back home or to your next vacation destination, make sure you properly fuel up with brunch at Datz. The menu has plenty of options including: a nostalgic favorite, Monkey Bread, innovative benedict dishes (try the Chicken N’ Waffle Benedict), and an egg sandwich called the Popeye’s Rise N’ Shiner, a sourdough bun topped with fried eggs, bacon, spinach, and smoked gouda and served alongside of your choice of (more) bacon, potatoes, cheesy grits, or fruit.
Life in Tampa may not be as known for its nightlife as Miami or the Jimmy Buffet vibes of the Florida Keys, but Tampa has secured a spot as a go-to place for family-friendly attractions, coastal history, and delicious local cuisine.