Busch Gardens is an animal theme park with a focus on Africa and tons to do for the whole family. For thrilling rides, get in line at Cheetah Hunt, Montu or SheiKra. Animal lovers can’t miss the Serengeti Safari, a 65-acre recreation of Africa’s eastern plains. Combine that with a variety of live performances, and you’re sure to have lots of fun!
Big Cat Rescue
Started in 1992, Big Cat Rescue is a sanctuary for exotic felines, many of which have been rescued from abusive situations. Daily guided tours take visitors around the 55-acre facility to see the 100 or so cats in their new homes. Book your tour in advance on the BCR website, and get a preview of the felines on BCR’s regularly updated YouTube channel.
Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center
Open from November 1 to April 15, this free attraction is delightful for visitors of all ages. During the winter season, Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center is home to groups of manatees seeking warm water discharged from the power station. The gentle mammals spend much of the day lazing about in the canal and are easily sighted.
Though Tampa’s Cuban population isn’t as large as Miami’s, the food here is just as good. If you’re hankering for a Cuban sandwich, head to West Tampa Sandwich Shop. Cubanos and other fare are dished out at Columbia Restaurant, Tampa’s oldest family-run restaurant, as well as La Teresita, loved for its puerco asado and arroz con pollo.
Steak at Bern’s
Bern’s Steak House has been a culinary landmark in Tampa for decades. Reservations are commonly made months in advance; once in, diners are treated to world-class steaks, plentiful sides (included in price of entree) and the best service in the city. Once you finish, take a tour of the kitchens and wine cellar before heading up to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room.
Tampa has plenty of tapas bars to offer, whether you’re craving Spanish flavors or more of a modern American bent. Ceviche Tapas Bar is arguably the most well-known, serving tasty sangria alongside its menu of more than 100 options. Also check out Vizcaya Restaurante & Tapas Bar, which continues to wow customers with its hearty paella.
David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts
Located on the banks of the Hillsborough River, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts has been hosting entertaining shows since 1987. The complex comprises five theaters, each of which offers fantastic acoustics and good sight lines. The largest of these, the Carol Morsani Hall, seats more than 2,600 and is a gorgeous venue for musicals and concerts.
The closest thing to a Latin Quarter in Tampa, Ybor City comes alive at night with bustling bars and restaurants. Whatever you’re looking for, Ybor City has it all, from dance clubs to gay bars to live music venues. An old favorite is the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, which brews its own tasty beers and even incorporates them into menu items like beer cheese soup.
A venerated historic landmark, the Tampa Theatre was built in 1926 and operates as the city’s only non-profit theater. The gorgeous venue hosts a full schedule of new and classic films, concerts and special events. The Theatre also boasts a Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ, which is played before film screenings to preserve the classic theater experience.