Pass-A-Grille Beach in St. Petersburg, Florida

Tampa, Florida is most well known for being home to Busch Gardens, part of the SeaWorld family of amusement parks, and one of the most visited theme parks in the US.  The Florida Aquarium and Zoo Tampa are 2 other notable attractions in the area, popular with both locals and tourists.

Additionally, you will find many beautiful beaches, some of which are ranked amongst the best in the country. Tourists and snowbirds often frequent the beaches during the cooler winter months. Although summers are hot and muggy, the fall and winter season are considerably cooler and less humid. This is the perfect time of the year to take a peaceful stroll along the beach.

Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, Florida

Amusements and beaches aside, Tampa has much more to offer both locals and tourists. Numerous parks and preserves provide a peaceful escape from the noisy beach crowds, not to mention a shady escape for summertime strolls and bike rides.

Beautiful Gulf Coast beaches offer year-round sunshine and relaxation, while cultural attractions add endless educational and entertainment opportunities for tourists and locals alike. And don’t forget to plan some time to visit a preserve or two. These beautiful parks, scattered about the region, give you a glimpse into what Florida looked like before everything was built upon. And, if you visit during the right time of the year, you are more than likely to see a gator and other forms of small native wildlife such as armadillos and gopher tortoises.

Alligator sighting in Tampa, Florida

There are so many diverse things to do in Tampa area to suit everyone’s interests. Take a look at my list of 50 fun things to do in Tampa Bay and feel free to share some of your personal favorites as well.

In no particular order…

50 Fun Things to do in the Tampa Bay area

1. Hillsborough River State Park

Gator on the trail at Hillsborough River State Park near Tampa, Florida

Grab your hiking shoes and/or bike and plan for a relaxing day at shady Hillsborough River State Park, one of Florida’s oldest and most beautiful parks. It is one of just a few Florida parks with rapids (Class II can be spotted along the trails). The park is so peaceful you will forget that you are just 20 miles from the city. Pictured above is an alligator that we spotted along the Rapids Trail. Oftentimes, they are hard to see as they blend so well into their surroundings!

7 miles of trails, canoe and kayak rentals, a beautiful bike loop, an on-site cafe, and a popular campground can all be enjoyed at Hillsborough. The setting is relaxed, natural, and great for photography.

Address: 15402 N Us Highway 301, Thonotosassa, FL 33592

2. The Upper Tampa Bay Trail

tunnel of trees 2

An oasis amongst the suburban congestion, the Upper Tampa Bay Trail is a beautiful escape for just about any type of recreation. You are likely to see everyone, from walkers, to rollerbladers, to runners out enjoying the day on this gorgeous 7.5 mile paved trail. The flat, mostly tree-lined course is a great place to escape the summer heat and even more comfortable during the cooler fall and winter months.

Along the course, you will be treated to great views of the Hillsborough River. Wildlife sightings are common, depending on the time of day/year. Grab your bike, running shoes, or skates and head over to this quiet gem for a fun-filled morning of exercise and great scenery. For this bike ride (as well as any others), I recommend a hydration backpack. You need more water than you think in such a hot climate, with one water bottle not being enough. As an added benefit, you will have multiple pockets for storing useful essentials like sunblock, a camera, snacks, your wallet and keys, and whatever else you might need.

Address: There are 6 trailheads to choose from. The Memorial Trailhead at: 7499 Montague St. is an ideal place to start your ride.

3. Tampa Theater

Tampa Theater

The historic Tampa Theater, built in 1926, has been rated as one of the 10 most beautiful theaters in the world (BBC). This comes at no surprise as the architecture is simply stunning. With an interesting lineup of events throughout the year, including a popular Summer Classic Movies Series and an annual showing of Halloween and classic Christmas films, you have endless opportunities for year-round entertainment in a classy, beautiful setting. Pre-show live music and a starry sky set the mood right for the perfect romantic date night destination.

Address: 711 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602

4. Weedon Island Preserve

Views from the observation tower at Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg, Florida

One of your best bets for fun, relaxation, and affordability all rolled into one is St. Petersburg’s beautiful Weedon Island Preserve. Far away from the beach congestion, Weedon Island provides hours of relaxing fun in the form of scenic, nature trails. The trails are shady and wildlife is abundant. Views of Tampa and St. Petersburg, as well as the entire preserve from the observation tower are simply incredible. Bring your camera and enjoy this welcome escape from the city and suburban congestion. Oh and grab your binoculars – Weedon is one of the top birdwatching destinations in Pinellas.

Address: 1800 Weedon Dr NE, St Petersburg, FL 33702

5. Fred Howard Park

Gorgeous sunset at Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs, Florida

Fred Howard, a beautiful, underrated Gulf Coast beach in Tarpon Springs, provides one of the most picturesque settings in the area for sunset viewing. Gorgeous white sand, swaying palm trees, and fewer crowds make this an ideal beach to unwind at after a long week. Grab your chair and camera and enjoy a beautiful Florida sunset at this local gem.

Address: Howard Park Causeway, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689