The best things to do for Halloween in Tampa, Florida

While the hot, muggy, sunny climate of Tampa makes the city far from an ideal spooky Halloween destination, there are a few festive things to do if you find yourself venturing to the Bay area this October. Highs at this time of year still hover in the high 80’s with high humidity to boot, so forget about cozy sweaters and beautiful fall foliage. Regardless, there are a few standard fall treats, haunts, and events to look forward to.

From specialty pumpkin flavored treats, to traditional pumpkin patches, to spooky ghost tours, and of course, the ever popular Pumpkin Spice Latte, you will find numerous classic fall treats & activities which can make this uncomfortable time of the year feel a bit more fall-ish. Take a look at all the fun ways to get into the Halloween spirit in Tampa

1. Treat yourself to a Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Spice Latte and Pumpkin Bread at Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa, Florida
Delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte and Pumpkin Bread with cream cheese frosting at Buddy Brew

While everyone has heard of Starbucks’ trademark fall drink by now, did you know that many local coffee shops also serve up a great Pumpkin Spice Latte this time of year? Some even use real pumpkin. While the Starbucks creation is undeniably delicious, it’s always a great idea to support a local business. Buddy Brew, a popular specialty roaster with numerous Tampa Bay locations, offers the best local PSL every fall, not to mention delicious Pumpkin bread with a cream cheese frosting.

Visit the Hyde Park location, which features a shady patio and easy access to the wonderful shops and restaurants of Hyde Park Village, Tampa’s favorite outdoor shopping oasis. Also be on the lookout for the seasonal pumpkin patch.

2. See a Halloween movie on the big screen

Hocus Pocus Halloween movie screening at the Silver Moon Drive In - Lakeland, Florida
Hocus Pocus at the Silver Moon drive in

As soon as October rolls around, most major theaters add a series of classic Halloween movies to their lineup. Recent screenings at AMC have included Nightmare Before Christmas, Halloween, and The Conjuring. Not only is it super fun to see these old horror classics on the big screen (esp if you missed them the first time around!), but tickets are usually much cheaper! It’s a win-win situation.

Asides from the standard big chain theaters, look into Studio Movie Grill, a fun dine-in theater serving a full restaurant menu. Also, if you are up for an hour drive, the Silver Moon drive-in in Lakeland is one of the best drive- ins in the state. They air several Halloween classics each year and admission is super affordable. For 2020, Hocus Pocus, It, and Casper are all being featured. Take the unique opportunity to enjoy some old-fashioned Halloween fun.

3. Indulge in a pumpkin treat

The delicious seasonal pumpkin cheesecake at The Olive Garden
The delicious seasonal Pumpkin Cheesecake at the Olive Garden

Although local businesses around Tampa tend not to go as pumpkin crazy as many of the cold Northern cities, numerous cafes and restaurants begin to roll out fall specials. Here are a few treats to keep in mind!

Pumpkin poptart at Buttermilk Provisions – This local coffeehouse in Wesley Chapel serves amazing coffee and GF & vegan pastries. In October, you can look forward to an incredible Pumpkin Spice pop tart.

GF Pumpkin Spice poptart at Buttermilk Provisions coffeehouse in Wesley Chapel, Florida
Pumpkin spice poptarts at Buttermilk – amazing!

Pumpkin muffin at Sips Specialty Coffee – This cozy local coffeehouse serves homemade Pumpkin muffins each October, plus a Pumpkin Spice Latte. They also go all out with fall decor. The fall ambiance plus the fresh scent of pumpkin will easily transport you out of Florida, at least for a bit! Update: Sips has new owners. Unfortunately, this place is not as festive as it used to be!

Pumpkin muffin and house coffee at Sips Specialty Coffee house in Tampa, Florida
The seasonal Pumpkin muffin at Sips – a must for pumpkin lovers!

Pumpkin Bread at Blind Tiger Cafe – This regional coffee chain has several convenient locations across the metro. Stop by this fall to indulge in their seasonal GF/vegan Pumpkin bread.

Gluten free, vegan pumpkin bread and Americano at The Blind Tiger Cafe in Tampa, Florida
Moist flavorful pumpkin bread that is both dairy & gluten-free at Blind Tiger

Oggi’s – This popular Italian establishment serves a delicious Butternut squash ravioli.

Pumpkin treats at your favorite chains – Of course, all the chains will also be rolling out the pumpkin menu. My favorites include the Pumpkin muffin at Panera Bread, the Pumpkin Cheesecake at Olive Garden, Pumpkin donuts & muffins at Dunkin’ donuts, and Pumpkin pancakes at First Watch.

Sprouted bagel and seasonal pumpkin muffin at Panera Bread
Panera serves the best pumpkin muffin of the coffee chains. The coffee is great too!

4. Get back to nature via a shady park

Beautiful shady boardwalk trail at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, Florida

While it’s still way too hot to consider a lengthy hike, a short shady stroll through the forest sure beats a sun drenched walk on the beach! While you may luck out and score some cloudy weather which adds to the fall ambiance, there are a number of trails which feature heavy tree coverage, and thus, can be enjoyed anytime.

John Chestnut Park – This Palm Harbor beauty is probably the most shady option of all the Tampa Bay parks. It’s beautiful, free, features a tree-lined swampy boardwalk trail, and is an alligator and deer watching hotspot.

The lush shady boardwalk trail at John Chestnut Park in Tampa, Florida

Lettuce Lake – This quaint park features a shady boardwalk trail and an observation tower. Also, it’s an alligator sighting hotspot!

Alligator sighting at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, Florida

Moccasin Lake – Quiet place to enjoy a relaxing stroll amidst natural surroundings. Also features an injured birds exhibit & a nature center.

Shady boardwalk trail at Moccasin Lake Nature Park in Clearwater, Florida

Morris Bridge – Quiet park featuring a boardwalk and nature trails. Great place to get lost in nature and possibly see a gator or 2. The creepy Bald Cypress swamp gives the preserve an eerie feeling which is just perfect for Halloween.

Bald cypress swamp at Morris Bridge park in Tampa, Florida

Zoo Tampa – Unfortunately, the zoo does not open until 9:30 which doesn’t give you much time to get out there before it gets too hot. Luckily, a large portion of the zoo is shady, plus there are various indoor exhibits, gift shops, and even a water ride to keep you cool. The zoo is small, yet nicely landscaped and the animals appear to be well taken care of.

Giraffe at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida
The Africa habitat is particularly impressive

5. Bike the Upper Tampa Bay trail

While Tampa has a fair number of biking trails, most lack ample shade. Portions of the Upper Tampa Bay trail are shaded – you just need to know which trailhead to park at. Park by the Rocky Creek Nature preserve ($2 fee) to begin the most shady section of the trail. As an added bonus, this trailhead is located just minutes from Sips Coffeehouse mentioned above, so you can fuel up with a Pumpkin muffin before your ride!

A shady section of the Upper Tampa Bay trail in Tampa, Florida
The shadiest section of the Upper Tampa Bay trail near the Rocky Creek nature preserve

Other shady biking options:

Palms and lush greenery lining the Pinellas trail near Tarpon Springs, Florida

Pinellas trail – The 7 mile Dunedin portion of this 40+ mile path is reasonably shady. Start in downtown Dunedin and continue on a leisurely trek to Tarpon Springs. Treat yourself to some authentic Greek food before completing the return ride!

Al Lopez – The 1.5 mile loop around this shady park is great for biking.

Shady biking trail around Al Lopez Park in Tampa, Florida

John S Taylor Park – This park features a nice shady 1.8 mile multi use trail which circles around a lake.

Lakeside biking trail at John S. Taylor Park in Largo, Florida

6. Plan a Disney daytrip

Halloween decor at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida

Orlando lies less than an hour and a half away, and thus, is the perfect daytrip destination for Disney and theme park lovers. Many are unaware that the park decorates beautifully for the Halloween season. From Mickey Halloween wreaths, to choreographed light shows and jack o’lanterns, Disney shines with over the top Halloween cheer! The decor and event lineup is simply over-the-top amazing!

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is a beloved annual event featuring live stage performances, Halloween projections and fireworks on Cinderella’s castle, trick or treat candy stations (both kids and adults can partake in the fun – you are never too old at Disney!), fun themed treats and merchandise, special festive themed rides, a special parade featuring the Headless horseman, and so much more!

This Halloween themed firework show is amazing!

7. Find the perfect pumpkin at a local patch

Pumpkin patch at Hyde Park Village in Tampa, Florida

Even with the hot, sunny fall weather, there are dozens of pumpkin patches throughout the metro area. From hayrides, to corn mazes, to special fall treats, you will find all your favorite familiar festive activities popular in the cooler fall destinations. Check out the Hyde Park Village Pumpkin patch which supports the Humane Society of Tampa.

Tip – Enjoy a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Buddy Brew and a delicious seasonal Pumpkin Spice acai bowl at Clean Juice prior to picking out your pumpkin. Both are conveniently located within the village, along with many other specialty shops.

A few more great pumpkin patches around Tampa

8. Creatures of the Night at Zoo Tampa

Creatures of the Night Halloween event at Zoo Tampa

This annual family-friendly Halloween event features spooky decor, festive lights, fall themed treats, and more. The fun runs every Friday and Saturday night through October. Children under 11 are free to wear costumes. Although completely overpriced (I recommend attending only if you are already a season ticket holder), this event is a nice opportunity to enjoy a festive night time Halloween event minus the scares & gores of a haunted house!

Book your tickets online to save time.

A few more ideas for fall fun

Browse around a Spirit Halloween store – You can’t help but feel Halloween is just around the corner with all the fun decor, costumes, and animatronics at this Halloween headquarters.

Festive Halloween decor at Spirit Halloween store

Take a walk around the mall – There’s always plenty of stores offering fall specials this time of year. From shopping for fall scented candles at Bath and Body Works, to browsing the fall decor at Macy’s & Dillards, to splurging on a pumpkin cheesecake and espresso at The Cheesecake Factory, you can easily escape the heat for a full day of fall fun.

International Mall in Tampa, Florida

International Mall directory

Farmers markets – Pick up some fresh seasonal fall produce and specialty goods. Check out the Downtown Dunedin market, held every Sat morning, from July-October.

Wesley Chapel Fall Festival – Now in its 16th year, the popular suburban fall festival still draws huge crowds. The event features over 80 vendors, costume contests, and food trucks. Details on the live music lineup.

Haunted houses/corn mazes/ghost tours – Numerous options abound throughout the metro, although none quite as scary as Scream-A-Geddon. Also consider booking a ghost tour in Ybor, Tampa’s oldest & most haunted area.

Go pumpkin crazy at Trader Joe’s – The beloved natural grocer goes all out in the pumpkin dept. The best-of-the-best include: pumpkin poptarts, pumpkin tortilla chips & salsa, Autumn pasta sauce, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin spice rooibos tea, pumpkin O’s,& pumpkin butter. Keep up to date on the newest pumpkin additions on the Trader Joe’s website.

Pumpkin goodies at Trader Joe's

Pirate cruise – Both Clearwater and Madeira Beach offer festive pirate themed cruises. Aim for an overcast day and enjoy a spooky time on the water listening to pirate stories, all while taking in the pretty scenery.

Festive pirate cruise in Tampa, Florida

Halloween themed 5ks – A themed race makes training so much more motivational. Plus, it’s fun seeing everyone decked out in festive costumes. Check out upcoming Tampa races on Running in the USA.