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Tampa

Chill out with wildlife or dance the night away in this charming Gulf Coast city

The laid-back Florida Gulf Coast city of Tampa combines warm weather, a thriving arts scene, an impressive selection of animal-related attractions and lots of places to party the night away. Cuban influences and other eclectic attractions make a one-of-a-kind travel adventure. It’s also a good base for exploring nearby beaches in the area, including the shores of St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

Animal Attractions

Tampa Bay has some of the best attractions in the country for lovers of animals and wildlife. The most famous is Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, a hybrid zoo and amusement park with a selection of thrilling roller coasters and lots and lots of animals, from flamingos to cheetahs. There’s even a wallaby feeding area.

The Florida Aquarium is another must-see for families, with marine life ranging from penguins to sea turtles, as well as interactive programs. Take a Wild Dolphin Cruise out into the sea aboard a 72-foot catamaran.

A giraffe cranes his neck.

Giraffe Ranch in nearby Dade City offers rides on four-wheel-drive vehicles or even on camels through a park filled with African animals, including hippos, rhinos, zebras, ostriches and warthogs. As the name suggests, there are also plenty of giraffes, and visitors can even feed them.

For an even more authentic safari experience, head over to nearby Lakeland for the Safari Wilderness Ranch, a 260-acre preserve that also offers jeep and camelback adventures. If you want to make sure that your money goes to a good cause, visit Big Cat Rescue, a nonprofit sanctuary that works to save big cats from the pet trade and poaching.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is considered one of the country’s finest animal attractions. Covering 56 acres, the zoo is home to over 1,200 creatures, including the state’s famous manatees and a huge variety of marsupials, primates and big cats.

Arts, History and Culture

Lovers of live entertainment should buy a ticket to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. This huge waterfront venue hosts regular orchestral and rock concerts as well as visiting Broadway musicals throughout the year. The past comes alive at the Tampa Bay History Center, with exhibits ranging from Seminole Indians to the local cigar industry. Military history buffs will appreciate the American Victory Ship, a World War II vessel that’s usually moored on the Ybor Channel, but is occasionally taken out for cruises. The 455-foot-long ship is one of only four fully operational World War II vessels in the United States.

Located on Tampa’s charming Riverwalk area in downtown, the Tampa Museum of Art features a collection of classic and contemporary art pieces along with a regular rotation of traveling exhibits. Nearby, the Henry B. Plant Museum is housed in a Moorish-inspired building that was once the Tampa Bay Hotel.

The museum itself is full of old artifacts and furnishings from the Victorian era, and there’s a lovely little gift shop on-site selling reproduction antiques and high-end souvenirs. While the museum is only accessible via a small fee, the rest of the building and grounds are occupied by the University of Tampa, and travelers can roam about and check out the architecture without having to pay.

Cigar Rolling in Tampa

Visit Tampa Bay

Evening Entertainment

Tampa’s a great place to go out at night, and whether you’re into bars, dining or cultural events, you’ll likely find something of interest. A good place to start is the Tampa Theatre, a historic nonprofit cinema built in the 1920s. There are also lots of daytime and evening events at downtown Tampa’s Amalie Arena, including sporting events by Tampa home teams such as the Tampa Bay Lightning (National Hockey League) and the Tampa Bay Storm (Arena Football League).

Infused with Cuban, Spanish and Italian culture, Ybor City is the former hub of the cigar industry. This history-rich district showcases vibrant culture at all hours. Grab a bite of gourmet lunch or coffee during the day, and in the evening tap your toes or dance to live music.

For More Information

Visit Tampa Bay

800-448-2672

www.visittampabay.com

Florida Tourism

888-735-2872

www.visitflorida.com