Known as the Cigar City and home of the world’s longest continuous sidewalk, Tampa isn’t just for Cohiba aficionados and power walkers. In fact, in recent years, the city is experiencing a surge in all things cultural - with new eateries, coffee shops, craft breweries, museums, and outdoor activities popping up constantly. But that’s not to say Tampa attractions are limited to the new stuff; some of the best things to do in Tampa include century-old theatres, historic neighborhoods, and, of course, restaurants that have stood the test of time.
Here at Stay Alfred, we’re nuts about uncovering hidden gems and finding things to do in Tampa that locals actually like doing too. So we’ve put together our ultimate guide of what to do Tampa today, tomorrow, or whenever your travels bring you to this fabulous city. Traveling with little ones? We’ve got some tot-approved things to do in Tampa with kids. Or maybe you’re searching for things to do in Tampa this weekend? We’ve got a knockout collection of Tampa activities as well as Tampa bars and restaurants that will make any Tampa Bay getaway a memorable one.
Besides helping you experience the best the Big Guava (yes, that’s a real nickname) has to offer, we’re here to make your “where to stay in Tampa?” decision an easy one. You deserve much more than a cramped Tampa hotel room or a questionable shared space, after all! And our Stay Alfred on Kennedy Boulevard checks all the boxes on your Tampa travel apartment wishlist. Revel in the luxury of having your own kitchen, access to the building’s swanky amenities, and a ridiculously comfy bed to lay your head at night. It’s not just a place to stay - it’s your place in the city.
So without further ado, let’s dive into planning your Tampa itinerary!
Save the $$ for later with these fun, free things to do in Tampa
An exciting trip to Tampa doesn’t have to be expensive; in fact, when you compare the food, drink, and ticket prices to a city like New York, Tampa might seem like a steal! But that doesn’t mean you need to flash your plastic all day, every day. Give the credit card a break and indulge in some of the best free things to do in Tampa.
It’s not every day you get to take a stroll along the longest continuous sidewalk in the world, but when you walk along Bayshore Boulevard, you can do just that. It’s not so much a simple trail but a “linear park,” as it has been dubbed by locals. Take the kids, dogs, bikes, or your running shoes for an adventure with a water view, and don’t miss stopping to admire the pirate ship at the Gasparilla Pirate Ship Dock and spotting some manatees along the way. If you’ve made it all the way to Ballast Point Park, give yourself a pat on the back and crack open an ice-cold Ballast Point beer - you deserve it!
If the miles and miles of Bayfront Boulevard’s sidewalk seem a bit intimidating, take a scenic meander instead at the Tampa Riverwalk, a mile from Stay Alfred on Kennedy Boulevard and in the heart of Downtown. This waterfront path is a highlight at any time of day: start your morning off right with an invigorating run or admire the sunset here as the day comes to a close. Adjacent to the Riverwalk are several bars, restaurants, and colorful murals.
And another fantastic, free, outdoor activity is to visit Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, where you’ll find an array of attractions from kid-friendly water features to a dog park. Once per month, the bandshell hosts a free evening concert, and we highly recommend bringing your own picnic blanket and some snacks.
But if the weather turns - after all, Tampa is the Lightning Capital of the World - it’s a good idea to have some indoor activities on the docket too. The Yuengling Brewery offers free tours at 10:30am and 1:00pm from Wednesday to Saturday (with samples!), and several area museums, including the Tampa Firefighters Museum, are completely free to visit.
See science, art, and history come to live at these top Tampa museums
Speaking of museums, there’s no better way to wait out the rain than by wandering through a world-renowned museum. Tampa’s museum scene has something for every age and every interest. History buffs will enjoy learning about the Tampa area’s fascinating past at the Tampa Bay History Center. This interactive space features films, photographs, artifacts, maps, and more from the city’s years gone by. And fans of maritime history shouldn’t miss climbing aboard the restored American Victory Ship, a World War II-era warship that’s docked just a 10-minute walk from Stay Alfred on Kennedy Boulevard. Art enthusiasts will find plenty of works to admire in the Tampa area between the Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa and the skyline-defining Tampa Museum of Art. And if the kids get antsy just thinking about staying quiet in a traditional museum, add the Glazer Children's Museum to your agenda. It’s best for kids under 12, and the little ones just might learn a thing or two at its exhibits on meteorology, robotics, medicine, and cruise ship operations. Yes, there’s a miniature cruise ship in a kid-sized Tampa Bay port exhibit.
Get your culture fix at Tampa’s world-class arts venues
The Big Guava might have a reputation for raucous sports games and beer-fueled days on the water, but there’s a collection of sophisticated arts establishments here too. Rivaling any big city, Tampa is home to its own orchestra, opera, and several theatre companies who perform in historic and modern venues.
In the center of Downtown, the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts features performances of all genres, from touring Broadway shows to concerts with Tampa-area musicians. It’s one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States, having attracted over 16 million visitors since its opening in the late 1980s, and the local Jobsite Theater company and Opera Tampa hold residency there.
The Cigar City has its share of storied venues too, including the opulent Tampa Theatre, built in 1926 and home to an incredible Wurlitzer organ. And the professional Stageworks Theatre has been delighting Tampa audiences for nearly 40 years with original and classic plays and musicals.
Travel back in time to the historic Ybor City
Nowadays, the entire Tampa metro is nicknamed “Cigar City,” but if we want to get picky, it’s really the Ybor City neighborhood that earned the smoking-hot moniker. During the late 1800s, Ybor City was actually outside Tampa city limits, and it began as a collection of cigar factories surrounded by employee housing. By the early 1900s, cigar production was in full force, and in 1929 over 500 million cigars were rolled in Tampa. The city definitely earned its title of “Cigar Capital of the World!”
For any Tampa visitor, cigar lover or not, Ybor City is a must-do, and you can learn more about its history at the Ybor City State Museum. And if quaint museums are your thing, don’t miss the Tampa Baseball Museum, housed in Al Lopez’s childhood home, who was Tampa’s first major league baseball player. By the way, Ybor City is known to be haunted, so keep your eyes peeled for some paranormal activity!
If all that learning makes you hungry, head to one of Ybor City’s famed restaurants. For authentic Spanish cuisine, you can’t miss Columbia, which is not only a fantastic family-run establishment, but also the oldest continuously open restaurants in the entire state of Florida. Other tried-and-true eateries include the cozy La Terrazza Restaurant for Italian classics, Al's Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que (self explanatory), and The Bricks for creative small plates.
But Ybor City isn’t all museums and restaurants; this eclectic neighborhood is one of the best nightlife areas in town, with a myriad of venues, bars, and restaurants. Improv Comedy Theater is a solid bet for stand-up shows, and music venues The Ritz Ybor, The Orpheum, and Crowbar host local and traveling talent nearly every night.
And when you’re ready for something cold and carbonated, head to one of Ybor’s local breweries. Rock Brothers Brewing pours craft beers and serves up a top-notch cocktail menu, and Tampa Bay Brewing Company is an excellent spot for pub grub to pair with your pilsner or pale ale. Not in the mood for beer? Swing by Cigar City Cider & Mead for some honey and apple-y goodness.
Have a day in the wild at one of Tampa’s unique animal attractions
Sure, Tampa is a bit of a concrete jungle like any other city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a few hours out in the wild at an incredible animal attraction. In fact, Tampa is home to a myriad of adventurous zoological activities that are super fun for any age.
Most famous is Busch Gardens, where you’ll find over 300 acres of animal exhibits, theme park rides, and restaurants. It’s one of the best things to do in Tampa with kids, but it’s lots of fun for the young at heart too. Don’t miss the Stanley Falls Flume ride (featuring a 40-foot drop!) and the tiger exhibit, home to about 10 tigers. And, if you dare, take a ride on the scary-sounding Cobra’s Curse roller coaster, which just opened in 2016.
For more animal encounters, check out ZooTampa, which has won numerous awards for its exhibits and family-friendly amenities. Highlights include the recently renovated primate habitat, a massive aviary, and the hands-on, Australian-themed Wallaroo Station Children's Zoo where the little ones can get up close and personal with wallabies, parrots, and koalas.
Or if aquatic animals are more your thing, The Florida Aquarium is probably the only place where you can hand-feed stingrays in Downtown Tampa. And it’s just a 10-minute walk from Stay Alfred on Kennedy Boulevard, so if you’re watching Shark Week on TV in your spacious living room, you can witness the real thing and get back before the show ends.
Do all of those animal activities sound a bit too tame for you? Head to Big Cat Rescue for some quality time with exotic felines like leopard, lions, and pumas. Then, channel your inner Steve Irwin at Croc Encounters, where you might be tempted to narrate your experience in Australian accent. This reptile rescue center takes care of a variety of scaly, toothy critters and offers hands-on packages.
Start the day with a cup o’ joe from a standout Tampa coffee shop
Tampa isn’t only for cigar connoisseurs; coffee lovers will find a plethora of exceptional java joints around town, from cozy coffee houses to hipster-approved counters that look more like laboratories with an assortment of brewing methods.
In Historic Ybor City, there are two spots to add to your agenda for a pre-evening pick-me-up. Tre Amici At the Bunker serves coffee with a conscience - only organic, fair trade beans - as well as beer, wine, and small bites. Swing by at night and you just might catch some live music. Or if you’re searching for coffee-inspired souvenirs, make a stop at The Blind Tiger Cafe, where, in addition to high-quality coffee and decadent sweets, you’ll find an eclectic assortment of clothing and gifts.
And there’s no shortage of strong java in Downtown Tampa. Just steps from Stay Alfred on Kennedy Boulevard, Ginger Beard Coffee is a great place to sip a cold brew, read a book, or catch up with a friend. Other notable gems to get your caffeine fix include Indigo Coffee House, Foundation Coffee Co. (known for nitro cold brew), and the laid-back Cafe Hey.
But Tampa’s coffee scene isn’t confined to the borders of Downtown; there are stellar coffee shops all over town. If you find yourself in North Hyde Park, grab an espresso (and a hangover waffle sandwich) at The Lab Coffee. DI Coffee Bar in David Islands is always a good bet for a latte and a sweet treat. And throughout the Tampa Bay area, local chain Buddy Brew Coffee is a favorite spot to sip a cappuccino, work on your laptop, or practice the art of doing nothing.
Support the home team at a high-energy Tampa sports game
Just like its variety of food and entertainment options abound, Tampa’s sports scene also has something for everyone. Even hockey fans. Yep, despite being in the heart of Florida, Tampa holds its own on the ice. Bring a sweater and head to Amalie Arena to catch the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team in action. Can’t get enough of the wintry sport? Grab a drink at hockey-themed Hattricks.
In addition to its climate-defying hockey prowess, the Big Guava’s hometown football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, plays on a regular basis at Raymond James Stadium. The stadium itself is an attraction, featuring an extremely realistic, 103-foot pirate ship moored in the north end zone.
For baseball fans, the Tampa Bay area is paradise at any time of year. Adjacent to the “Ray Jay,” the New York Yankees play spring training games at George M. Steinbrenner Field, and the local Tampa Bay Rays play during the regular season at Tropicana Field in nearby St. Petersburg.
And the last of the “big four” teams in the Tampa area is also based in St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team plays at Al Lang Stadium. The Rowdies have a die-hard fan following, especially from a group called Ralph’s Mob who travels with the team to away games and has a reputation for teasing the opposing fans.
What’s a trip to Florida without some fun on the water?
Turn your trip to Tampa Bay into a splashing good time when you spend a day in, on, or around the water. The Big Guava boasts aquatic activities in every shape and form - so even if you’re the type that prefers to lay on the sand, you’ll find a way to have some fun in the Bay.
One of the best ways to enjoy Tampa’s watery surrounds is to get out on the water in some sort of floating vessel. Boats are the most common, but have you ever tried a CycleBoat? Kraken CycleBoats runs one of the most unique nautical activities in town. Rather than paddling a kayak or leveraging the wind, a CycleBoat lets you use the power of your own two legs to sail around. Best part about it? BYOB.
If using your own leg power to navigate around the bay doesn’t sound too relaxing, then embark a StarShip Cruise and admire the waves in style. These dinner cruises pull out all the stops - from a 3- or 4-course gourmet meal to dancing the night away - with incredible views of the Tampa skyline and the opulent waterfront mansions along the coast.
But if you’d rather be in the water than on it, head straight to Adventure Island for your waterpark dreams to come true. Bring a swimsuit because the dozens of rides here will leave you drenched, from the free-fall waterslide to the 17,000-square-foot wave pool. You’re definitely going to work up an appetite, but luckily you can purchase an all-you-can-eat pass for the on-site eateries.
Or maybe admiring the water view from the comfort of a stylish bar is what’s calling to you. The Sail Pavilion is likely the best spot to take in the vistas with a drink in hand. It’s a great place for all ages as well as furry friends, so it fills up quickly on weekend afternoons. Check their schedule for happy hour specials and live music because there’s always something special happening.
Head across the bay and take a day trip to St. Pete
Just 30 minutes from the Cigar City, St. Petersburg is a great option for an easy day trip from Tampa. Nicknamed the “Sunshine City,” it has gorgeous weather year-round and somehow escapes the frequent thunderstorms that drench Downtown Tampa.
Take a Saturday morning drive across the bay and hit the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market for a breakfast comprising of local produce, coffee, and pastries, then stroll over to Vinoy Park for water views and people watching. Grab some brunch fare at top St. Petersburg restaurants like BellaBrava, 400 Beach Seafood and Taphouse, or The Mill before cooling off with a popsicle at The Hyppo or a scoop of ice cream at Dot Ice.
St. Pete has no shortage of museums, including the renowned Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Florida Holocaust Museum, and the kid-friendly Great Explorations Children's Museum. Spend the afternoon perusing these institutions and wandering through the art galleries on 1st Avenue and Central Avenue.
Ready for a cold beverage? Grab a beer at one of the slew of craft breweries that call St. Pete home. We recommend Cage Brewing, Avid Brew Company, Pinellas Ale Works, or 3 Daughters Brewing. And we recommend rounding out the evening with a show at the outdoor Jannus Live or catching the Florida Orchestra at the Mahaffey Theater.
Relax after a fun-filled day at your Tampa travel apartment
Whether you’ve spent your day at a sports game, an opera, or taking a whirlwind tour of area breweries, there’s only one thing you want to do at the end of it: get a good night’s sleep in a place of your own. At Stay Alfred, we’re here to give you your place in the city, and in Tampa, that place is Stay Alfred on Kennedy Boulevard.
Our signature travel apartments in Tampa feature full kitchens in every unit, so once you’ve had your fill of Cuban dishes in Ybor City, you can whip up a gourmet meal in the comfort of home - or just store leftovers in the fridge. Combined with a comfy living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a modern bathroom with a porcelain tile floor, you’ll feel like you’re staying in your very own pied-a-terre in the heart of Downtown Tampa.
When you arrive, you’ll find the apartment professionally and impeccably cleaned from top to bottom, and during your stay, should you need anything, you can reach out to our smiling support folks at any time.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to your sprawling unit at Stay Alfred on Kennedy Boulevard, you’ll also have access to the building’s resort-style amenities, like a glamorous fitness center, a movie theatre, and a saltwater infinity pool that will have you wondering if you ended up at a 5-star Tampa hotel instead.
So no matter what you choose to do in Tampa, and whether you’re visiting for business or fun (wait… business can be fun too!), we’re here to make your trip as wonderful as possible with our centrally located travel apartments at Stay Alfred on Kennedy Boulevard.