Tampa Bay’s tourism will get a boost when it hosts the Republican National Convention from Aug. 27-30, but the area is more than a political hub. Thousands of tourists flock to the area each year to enjoy a variety of activities perfect for weekend getaways or family vacations.
Reserve a day of your trip for Busch Gardens, a popular theme park that offers a little bit of everything for visitors of all ages. Busch Gardens is known for its thrilling G-force roller coasters and drenching water rides. If you prefer to get your excitement from the stability of land, catch a show offered at various times throughout the day or take a safari ride through the African Wilderness, where giraffes, zebras and elephants – to name a few – roam the fields.
Lowry Park Zoo - named the No. 1 zoo in the U.S. - houses more than 1,500 animals and offers interactive exhibits, rides, shows, affordable on-site dining and shopping. If you need something to keep the kids entertained for a night, the zoo offers sleepovers for children of all ages — just remember to register a week in advance.
Arts and Theater
The Tampa Museum of Art plans to add a display of political cartoons just in time for the RNC. At any time of the year, visitors can view the museum’s 20th Century fine art and Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiques.
For an in-depth look at the city, the Tampa Bay History Center sits on the Hillsborough River and contains 12,000 years of enriching stories about the city’s past. You can visit a 1920s-era cigar store and read of war stories that impacted the region, among other exhibits.
The Tampa Theater is a Tampa landmark built in 1926 as one of America’s “movie palaces.” The theater shows classic movies and often incorporates its well-known Wurlitzer organ into shows.
Downtown Tampa offers plenty of activities that can easily be crammed into half a day to ensure you see it all.
On your way to downtown, drive by Bayshore Boulevard, which claims to be the world’s longest continuous sidewalk. You can’t miss it along the Hillsborough River. Locals frequent the boulevard via rollerblading, biking and running.
Your first stop in Channelside should be The Florida Aquarium, which features a variety of animals and birds native to the Sunshine State. The aquarium gets you up close with its creatures, including a penguin encounter, diving with sharks and dolphin cruises.
After your aquarium adventure, stay in Downtown Tampa because Channelside Bay Plaza – just next door – has a number of restaurants to choose from for dinner and many retail shops to browse.
Families can enjoy the Splittsville bowling alley or the 10-screen movie theater. If you’re 21 years old and up, you can hang out at Channelside’s popular nightclubs.
Sports fanatics won’t run out of things to do since Tampa Bay is home to a number of professional teams.
You can catch a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game at an affordable price. The Rays host “Family Fun Days” every Sunday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL. On those days, a meal voucher is offered with special ticket deals.
Depending on what time of year you’re in town, baseball fans can watch spring training before the season heats up for major and minor league teams including the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Tampa Bay is also home to the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and football teams Tampa Bay Buccaneers and University of South Florida Bulls.
A trip to Tampa Bay would not be complete without a beach day. Clearwater Beach is often ranked among the top beaches in the Gulf Coast. You can rent a cabana for a day and book a parasail trip for a bird’s eye view of the beach and crystal clear water.
Before you leave, watch the sunset off Pier 60, where free entertainment and live music is offered every night.
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