Tampa has many quality hotels, restaurants, and nightlife. But Tampa also has some unique, enjoy-the-outdoors things to do.
The first thing to do is enjoy the University of Tampa in downtown. The University is styled with Moorish-inspired architecture (minarets), incongruous with the culture and architecture of Tampa This makes them all the more interesting. Park downtown along the Hillsborough River, take a few photos of the minarets from this distance, and then walk the bridge to the University.
There’s an interesting story as to the founding of the University and its connection to the Gilded Age’s railroad Barons. Discover the details on campus at the Henry B. Plant Museum, the baron that built the original hotel that eventually became the University. More evidence of Plant’s impact on the region is his namesake city, Plant City, the headquarters for strawberry farming in Florida.
Another thing to do is to kayak the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay from downtown. Not so well-known is that Tampa has a few rivers flowing in and around it, and just 15 minutes from the airport or downtown brings rural restfulness. The Hillsborough River flows through downtown before snaking northeast into the country, so guests can either do some urban kayaking along downtown or head into the country for a half day.
If country’s your thang, then visit Canoe Escape, just a twenty-minute drive from hotels near the airport or downtown. For those seeking a quicker outing, try Urban Kai, from which you can enjoy views of the Tampa’s skyscrapers, minarets, and graffiti. An additional benefit of the urban approach is easy access to libations and food at river side grilles.
The third thing to do is drive west to Clearwater Beach to enjoy a laid-back beach town foray. For the kids, a must-do is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to everyone’s favorite dolphin, Winter, from the movie A Dolphin Tale. This aquarium is rustic, but the city recently voted to build a new one. You can get close to dolphins, turtles, sting rays, and sharks.
After a morning at the Aquarium, head into central Clearwater to super-cute Wildflower Cafe for high quality, unique dishes in a flower-child setting. This is also a great place for adults and couples. Finally, take in the sunset on Clearwater Beach, parking at Pier 60. From here you can walk to a number of restaurants and the kids can enjoy the playground at the Pier.