Fun Things to do in Tampa Florida
Fun things to do in Tampa Florida – Honestly, the Tampa/Sarasota area is our favorite part of Florida. This area spans the Suncoast and Cultural coast regions of Florida which stretches from Clearwater/St. Petersburg/Tampa down through Bradenton and includes Sarasota. The region names give you a hint of what makes them so great – many sunny days and lots of cultural activities.
RVers and snowbirds could easily spend the entire winter here and not run out of unique and fun things to do in Tampa Florida. First off, there is the obvious – beaches. But the beaches in these regions are truly some of the country’s finest. With beautiful Gulf of Mexico waters and white fine sand beaches lined with palms and cypress trees, you couldn’t ask for better beach days. Some of the most famous are Clearwater Beach and Siesta Key, but you don’t want to miss St. Petersburg Beach and taking a drive out around Santa Maria Island with a stop at Coquina Beach (more on Coquina Beach below).
Surprisingly, we didn’t get in any beach days because we had a couple of big projects on the coach, and we also focused on seeing and doing some different and off-the-beaten path activities. After getting the coach basement cleaned out and installing solar panels on the roof, we treated ourselves to getting out on the family boat, taking in some holiday light displays, checking out nature preserves, experiencing a few local markets, and sampling a few unique and fun things to do in Tampa Florida.
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT CAMPING AROUND FLORIDA — You don’t have to spend a ton of money as there are numerous free camping options. Check out some of the wonderful options at a few of our friends’ blog posts: Chickery’s Travels, Hebard’s Travels, and Drivin’ and Vibin’,
Boating around Florida’s Suncoast
Naturally, with the proximity of the Gulf of Mexico there are a ton of opportunities for boating fun in this region. There are numerous gulf fishing excursion companies for those who really want to get way out on the water and land some big catches. But in addition to that, the coast is full of smaller bays (Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay) and intercoastal waterways to explore in smaller craft. There are numerous marinas and boating centers where you can rent all kinds of water craft from fishing boats to jet-skis or you can go out on a chartered cruise or tiki tour. One of the best ways to take in the natural beauty is by kayak or stand-up paddle board. We enjoyed being out on Sarasota Bay in our family’s pontoon boat, where you can do some fishing if you like, but also tour the coastline for places to beach the boat or gawk at the McMansions on Bird Key. All along the way, you’ll see plenty of wildlife including many types of water birds, dolphins, and manatee.
Tampa Local Markets
One of the best ways to really feel like a local and support local businesses is to visit the farmer’s markets, and there’s a market almost every day of the week throughout this area. One of our favorites and most exotic is the Sunday Brunch market at the Tampa Thai Buddhist Temple. Visitors can sample authentic prepared Thai foods at very reasonable prices (cash only!) amidst the gorgeous grounds right on the banks of the Tampa Bypass Canal. Two additional markets we highly recommend are the Saturday market in downtown Bradenton and the Sunday market at Coquina Beach. Both of these have a great selection of locally grown veggies, organic fruits, homemade baked goods and sauces as well as crafts and goods from local vendors. If you’re looking for an urban market experience, check out Heights Public Market at Armature Works on the north end of the Tampa Riverwalk.
According to Atlas Obscura, there are 265 cool, hidden, and unusual things to do in Florida, and at least 49 of those are in the Suncoast and Cultural Coast regions. Truthfully, these kinds of attractions and experiences really get our attention, so we made it a point to hit a few of these during our time in Florida this winter. It’s hard to have a favorite, because each of these are so unique. Most of what we did was free or very inexpensive, like ~ Escaping the heat to relax in the breezy shade at a regional park, ~ Strolling the historic, cigar-scented streets of Ybor City, ~ Learning about nature and animal conservancy at one of the many nature / animal preserves, and ~ Immersing ourselves in Greek culture at the Tarpon Springs sponge docks.
About an hour inland from Bradenton is Solomon’s Castle, a truly one-of-a-kind experience. The entrance fee for the home, gallery, and car collection is $48 for two people, and this did give us pause. But, since we drove an hour to get there, we thought we might as well see the life works of artist, builder, and author Howard Solomon. The guided tours of the collections and exhibits happily and unexpectedly exceeded our expectations — even our hard-to-please brother-in-law was impressed and enjoyed the story of this unusual character. It’s a classic Florida story of a quirky but amazingly talented and driven individual who pursues a crazy dream of building a castle on Florida swampland along with populating the castle with thousands of art projects along the way. Lunch is served in the restaurant on the property, making this a great day trip excursion from the Tampa/Sarasota area.
Fun Things to do in Tampa Florida – More than Enough !
Even though we spent nine weeks in this part of Florida, we feel like we barely scratched the surface of the many attractions and activities. Fortunately for us, since Florida is our domicile state, we will definitely be back, and we’re looking forward to seeing more of the great places in this part of the state. If you have any recommendations for us, please tell us about them in the comments below.
To see more about our recommendations for destinations we’ve been to, check out THESE posts.
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