When the temp soars past 90 on a daily basis, with sunny skies and intense humidity to boot, it can be difficult to enjoy the summer season on Florida’s Gulf coast. While beaches are always a go-to option, the waters are quite warm this time of the year. In fact, temps often rise past the 90 degree mark! Not really a day of “fun-in-the-sun” if you ask me! Finding ways to get out of the house, without overheating, can be quite a challenge feat this time of year, especially if you love the outdoors!
Instead of basking in the sun, considering incorporating a few of the fun ideas suggested below into your summer bucket list. Featured here are a handful of entertaining, sun-free activities that will cool you down on a hot summer’s day. From air conditioned indoor attractions, to covered boat rides, to creamy cool treats, to local food and drinks, there’s plenty of fun to be had if you know where to look.
1. See a show at the historic Tampa theater
Summer is the perfect time to plan a visit to what the BBC has declared as “one of the top 10 most beautiful cinemas in the world.” This historic
masterpiece has been a part of the Tampa community since 1926. The Mediterranean architecture is gorgeous. Most stunning of all, is the gorgeous domed ceiling which resembles a twinkling night sky. The romantic ambiance places this theater near the top of the list for date night destinations.
During the summer season, the theater runs a classic movies series. What better way to cool off then sit in a beautiful air conditioned building for a few hours while enjoying nostalgic classics on the big screen (the way they were meant to be seen)? Additionally, you will want to check into the lineup of special events. Oh, and no need to eat before you arrive. All sorts of tasty snacks and beverages including beer & wine, local bakery treats, delicious popcorn, coffee and tea, and of course, candy are available!
2. Treat yourself to a massage
Getting a massage is a great way to relax, repair your muscles, and de-stress. After weeks of battling the heat, nothing could be more relaxing
than a soothing massage in a nice air conditioned setting. Even better is a super affordable massage. Affordable luxury can be found at Essentials Spa, tucked away in a little strip mall in Palm Harbor, a relaxed suburb of North Pinellas County. Massages are priced at just 40 buck (save $5 on Tues). And, if you are looking for a few hours of pure bliss, consider adding a facial, a detoxifying body wrap, or a pineapple body exfoliant treatment.
Another great affordable massage is located within the Westfield Countryside Mall. Ultimate Relaxation offers chair, table, & reflexology massage. Chair massages start at 10 bucks for 10 min, and reflexology starts at $30 for 30 min. The staff are very skilled at what they do. This is a wonderful option for anyone who likes a lot of pressure and deep tissue work!
3. Indulge in healthy fare with a Hawaiian twist at Ohana Cafe
Ohana Cafe is my to-go choice for healthy breakfast fare in Pinellas County. This cute local Dunedin establishment serves up the most delicious healthy
morning fare including fruit filled smoothies, acai bowls, and veggie filled omelets. They offer plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian selections
including the tastiest plant based pancakes, topped with a decadent macadamia nut butter.
Start with the Tutu Berry Banana smoothie featuring strawberries, bananas, flax, and dates – what a wonderful cool treat for the summer! If you are craving something savory, consider the very veggie omelet. Their local fair trade house coffee is delicious too, so no need to hit the Starbucks drive-thru. The entrees are presented beautifully with fresh tropical fruit. The design is minimalistic with an airy tropical theme. Ohana is the most relaxing place to enjoy a long, leisurely weekend brunch.
4. Go under the sea at the Florida Aquarium
The best time to explore the Florida Aquarium is during the hot summer months. Step inside the massive 200,000 square foot facility and enjoy a few relaxing hours in the dim, cool setting. There’s something special about stepping from the bright blinding hot sunlight into a nice cool aquarium on the hottest of summer days.
Here you can get up close and personal with over 9000 exotic forms of marine life. Unique features include a jellyfish touch experience, a dragons down under exhibit featuring seahorses and relatives, a colorful 500,000 gallon coral reef exhibit, and a massive shark tank.
5. Cool off with a frozen yogurt
Not surprisingly, there are no shortage of ice cream and yogurt shops across Tampa. While ice cream is the standard summer treat, self serve yogurt
bars have been gaining popularity in recent years. Frozen yogurt is a bit healthier due to the lower fat content and also easier to digest due to the natural presence of probiotics and live cultures. Anyone who cannot tolerate a lot of dairy may want to give froyo a try!
Menchies’ is one of the best of the bunch. Here you can mix and match from an assortment of 10 creative yogurt flavors and top your bowl with all sorts of tempting toppings, from cookie dough bites, to sprinkles, to chocolate chips and hot fudge. They always offer one vegan and low sugar option. Conveniently, Menchies operates a number of locations across the Bay, so a cool treat is always just a short drive away.
6. Dine on authentic Cuban fare at the world’s largest Spanish restaurant
Columbia has long been regarded as one of the country’s best Spanish restaurants. It also claims the title as world’s largest Spanish restaurant. Having opened way back in 1905, it still stands strong as Florida’s oldest restaurant. Visit the flagship location in Tampa’s historic Ybor city district and you will be treated to live flamenco dancing. On the other hand, the Sand Key location features wonderful views of the water.
Whichever you do decide to visit, be sure to try out the wonderful Cuban black bean soup. You cannot leave Tampa without indulging in this famous dish. Even more impressive than the food is the restaurant’s rich history. Impressively, even after 115+ years, Columbia is still owned by the same family (it is now operated by 4th and 5th generation members of the founding Hernandez Gonzmart family)!
7. Explore the Tampa Museum of Art
For a smaller city, Tampa’s Museum of Art is impressive enough to warrant a visit. The museum features an interesting mix of ancient Roman and Greek, modern, and contemporary art exhibits. The beautiful riverfront location puts you within easy reach of many other great attractions including the Tampa Riverwalk, numerous dining establishments, cruise lines, and the Florida Aquarium.
8. Get your game on at the Treasure Island Fun Center
The largest arcade in Pinellas County offers you the opportunity to enjoy hours of indoor gaming fun. As a fun alternative to a hot day at the beach, you can enjoy classic pinball and arcade games, pool, as well as newer ticket redemption games. From the classic Pac Man arcade game, to Simpsons pinball, to Skeeball and carnival style games, there is a bit of something for everyone here.
They offer a lot of great specials here including 60 minutes of unlimited arcade play for just 10 bucks. Really, not a bad deal at all. The space is large and fortunately never overly crowded. This is a great place for gamers, families looking for indoor entertainment options, couples seeking a fun date idea, and basically anyone else looking for a fun place to beat the heat!
9. Treat yourself to an acai bowl at Raining Berries
Raining Berries is an amazing place to try out your first acai bowl. This delicious cafe is located in the New Tampa area. If you plan on visiting area attractions like Lettuce Lake Park or The Shops of Wiregrass, be sure to plan a quick refueling stop here. Acai bowls are delicious cool treats consisting of pureed acai fruit, topped with granola, fruit, and various other treats such as chocolate, shredded coconut, nutella, or peanut butter.
As a healthy dairy-free alternative to ice cream and frozen yogurt, acai bowls are the perfect treat for anyone craving a healthier dessert option. Really, these bowls are amazingly refreshing on a hot day. Raining Berries also serves delicious coffee, more than 10 varieties of tea (try the Prickly Pear!), and smoothies.
10. Dinner and drinks at Cinebistro
Dine-in movie theaters are super popular today, especially in warm weather destinations. Cinebistro is Tampa’s premier option, with several convenient locations. Hyde Park Village is your best bet as there are tons of cool shops to explore while you are here. What better way to escape the heat then enjoying delicious food, drinks, and a great movie for a few hours? Unlike many other dine in theaters, Cinebistro features a classy upscale vibe, thus, making it a perfect date night destination.
The menu is composed of traditional theater fare plus full meals, as opposed to the cheap, unhealthy fried basket food served at most dine-ins. Where else can you enjoy a hummus plate, a glass of wine, Fettuccine Al Forno, and a Creme Brulee cheesecake, all while taking in the newest film?
11. Go ice skating at Countryside Mall
Ice skating in a mall? It’s actually pretty common occurrence nowadays with many major cities across the country featuring a mall skating rink. Countryside Mall in Clearwater is the perfect place to escape the heat for for a few hours. With plenty of great stores, popular chain restaurants like PF Changs, an arcade, a movie theater, and a year round ice rink, you will quickly forget how miserable the temps are outside.
The highlight here is definitely the ice rink – a rare find in a tropical city. The rink is rather large and always well maintained. While Tampa may not offer the traditional big city outdoor rink, skating inside in the cool air sure works for a refreshing summer workout idea (beats the gym!).
12. Enjoy hours of entertainment at the Hard Rock Casino
There’s lots to do at the Hard Rock Casino, whether or not you enjoy the gaming scene. Featuring several restaurants, numerous bars and lounges, a premier spa, and a huge entertainment center, Hard Rock is the perfect “heat of summer” cool off destination. The Hard Rock Cafe is a fun dinner choice featuring amazing comfort food (try the Twisted Mac and Cheese) and an attractive rock n’ roll design theme. They serve drinks in cute collectible mugs and have an awesome souvenir rock shop.
Even better, consider booking a stay so you can take advantage of the resort’s 3 pools. Other rocking amenities include weekend DJ pool parties and “the sound of your stay experience” where you can take your pick amongst 20 Fendi guitars to play during your stay. In room TV lessons are available for first timers.
13. Dine alongside a massive 33,500 gallon fish tank
One really cool experience to look into while you are in the Clearwater/St Pete vicinity is lunch at Rumfish Grill. This theme restaurant features a gigantic 33,500 gallon fish tank. It takes up the entirety of the wall so everyone will have a prime view of this most unique sight while dining. You may have seen this tank featured on the Tanked reality series on Animal Planet.
The setting here is very dim and tropical, which works as a perfect escape from the harsh heat and sunlight. The aquarium is really beautiful and colorful with all sorts of exotic marine life. If you love fish, then you will love this restaurant even more as almost the entirety of the menu is seafood based.
14. Enjoy a modern bowling experience at Splitsville
Splitsville is a hip modern bowling concept with locations in Orlando, Miami, and Tampa. This is not your typical bowling alley, and they also do not serve your typical cheap alley style food. Here you can enjoy craft drinks as well as trendy southern style foods.
For anyone who hates the thought of walking out of a bowling alley smelling like an ashtray, Splitsville is a great smoke-free alternative. Another advantage is you do not have to be an expert bowler. You will see all types of people here having a great time, from families enjoying a tourist free day away from the beaches, to couples enjoying a laid-back date night.
15. Shop, dine, & explore downtown Dunedin
Dunedin is most well-known for being located within easy reach of beautiful Honeymoon Island State Park. Unfortunately, horrendous summer air and water temps this time of year make a day at the beach pretty much unbearable. As a more enjoyable alternative, you can explore beautiful downtown Dunedin, which is loaded with boutique shops, restaurants, coffeehouses, galleries, and more. The small walkable Main Street maintains a friendly local vibe while still offering that Florida tropical ambiance.
Start off with a quiche and delicious house coffee at Dunedin Coffee Company. Spend the day taking in the cute shops and don’t forget to explore the wonderful local galleries. Enjoy lunch at The Living Room in Main, an eclectic international restaurant and then treat yourself to homemade ice cream at Strachans a Tampa Bay favorite since 1999. For more fun out of the sun, check out the quirky Beatles Museum and enjoy hours of old-fashioned gaming fun & craft beer at Reboot.
16. Dine & Play at Dave and Busters
Dave and Busters is the perfect entertainment destination for the young and young at heart. The gaming floor includes both arcade and ticket style redemption games, as well as pool and air hockey. Asides from gaming, there is a large bar here, as west as a full service restaurant. Not surprisingly, this place is packed during football season due to the presence of numerous flat screen TVs, an extensive drink list, plus game day food & drink specials.
Additionally, D&B offers a popular dine and play special where you will get an entree plus a game card for a special price. Another popular deal is half priced games on Wednesday – this is definitely the time to go as this place is not cheap!
17. Visit the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
This is a gorgeous under visited museum which features a collection of permanent and rotating photography exhibits. Works featured include both local and international artists. The modern architecture of the building is just as appealing as the diverse photographs. As is the case with the Tampa Museum of Art, this one is also located on the Riverwalk. This is a must-see while visiting downtown Tampa. While small, you can easily kill an hour or 2 just browsing around.
18. Check out the independent coffee scene
While driving around, you will see your fair share of Starbucks around the Tampa metro. However, there are also great local coffee shops if you know where to look. One of the best-of-the-best is Indian Shores Coffee Company. This local gem is conveniently located across the street from Indian Rocks Beach, the best in all of Pinellas County. Regardless of whether or not you will be hitting the beach, they serve awesome coffee plus tasty homemade pastries. And best of all, you can relax without the sun (or bugs) on your face on the screened patio.
19. Shop til you drop at International Mall
Tampa’s most impressive mall is the International Mall which is loaded with over 100 retail favorites, with a nice mix of mid and high end shops. Also on-site are several popular chain eateries including Bar Louie, The Cheesecake Factory, and Brio Italian. The space here is really large, thus making the International Mall great for a half day heat escape.
20. Enjoy sports, games, & comfort food at Gametime
Gametime features a restaurant, arcade, and sports bar, similar in concept to Dave and Busters. Featuring 60 flat screens, NFL Sunday ticket, and a recently renovated sports bar, this is the perfect place to take in any sporting event. If gaming is more your style, you are in luck as Gametime features over 120 arcade games, plus bowling! With tasty food, drinks, lots of TVs airing every sporting event, games, & special events, Gametime offers more than enough fun to keep you occupied away from the heat!