April 6, 2015

Insider’s Family Guide: Tampa

Editor’s note: Insider’s Family Guide is a guest blogger series that runs occasionally on Oh My! Omaha. In advance of family trips, I like to seek a local’s advice on what to do in their hometowns. Now that Allegiant Air flies directly to Tampa, Fla., from Omaha, it’s pretty easy for an Omaha family to make a trip to this sunny destination, so check out what Marisa Langford (aka TampaMama) recommends for Tampa:

Tampa Like a Local

TampaMama shares her favorite things to do with kids in Tampa. Here, her children pose for a picture while playing at Sail Pavilion. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford

TampaMama, AKA Marisa Langford, shares her favorite things to do with kids in Tampa. Here, her children pose for a picture while playing at Sail Pavilion. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford

I love Tampa. Period. I love everything about my city and living so close to the epic center allows my family to experience it to the fullest everyday. From city park hopping, to concerts in the park, museums, the River and knowing the secrets to the city, here’s my take on Tampa if I only had three days with kids in tow.

Where To Stay

Tampa has many pockets and plenty of places to stay that will put you close to the action and a short drive away from other attractions. I would stay in Downtown Tampa at The Tampa Marriott Waterside or the Embassy Suites Downtown Tampa.

Marriott Waterside. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford.

Marriott Waterside in Downtown Tampa. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford.

Both hotels have TECO Streetcar access to get you to a number of places and are also close to I-275 in case you are heading to Busch Gardens or the beach (Clearwater and St.Petersburg are only a 45 minute drive away.) The airport is about 20 minutes from downtown and both hotels also have shuttles. My recommendation would be to rent a car and we love Alamo!

Where To Play

Once you get settled in (and of course hop in the pool) you’ll want to go explore a few of our best family attractions! If you have a half-day to explore (or a nap time to adhere to), I’d recommend visiting Lowry Park Zoo, The Florida Aquarium or the Glazer Children’s Museum.

Getting up close to a giraffe at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford.

Getting up close to a giraffe at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford.

The Glazer Children’s Museum is geared towards kids 0-5. Fun indoor hands-on activities and you’ll love playing in Curtis Hixon Park afterwards. The Florida Aquarium is downtown in Channelside and has newly been remodeled. Pet stingrays and explore Madagascar’s animals up close! The Explore-A-Shore is fun to cool off with spraying water and a splash pad. The tropical music sets a fun island-like vibe that will have you relaxing while the kids play.

Curtis Hixon Park, located near Glazier Children's Museum, is one of many places to play in Downtown Tampa. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford

Curtis Hixon Park, located near Glazier Children’s Museum, is one of many places to play in Downtown Tampa.
Photo courtesy Marisa Langford

Tampa Insider Tip: Bring swimsuits everywhere because there are usually splash pads and water to cool down and play in while visiting most places and parks.

If you’ve got a full day, and maybe some older children, visit Busch Gardens or Adventure Island. Busch Gardens also has water play areas in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun area, where you’ll also find live character shows and kid-friendly rides for kids under 3 feet! Lots of animals to see and you’ll definitely want to grab a spot on a spacious open-air tour across the wide and wild African Plain on the unforgettable Serengeti Safari. Adventure Island is a full-day of water fun where you can relax in a cabana (available for rent) along with riding some awesome thrill water rides too, or relaxing in the lazy river!

Where to Eat

A fun experience for kids is seeing the Flamenco dancers perform during dinner in historic Ybor City at the Columbia Restaurant. Since 1905, the Gonzmart Family has made its mark on the Tampa food scene with its delicious traditional Cuban food. You can’t leave the Columbia without having the 1905 salad, Cuban coffee or the flan. (Take home a cookbook as a souvenir!)

Datz Deli and Datz Dough in South Tampa are fun to experience and their food is amazing! You’ll love Ulele on the Hillsborough River for a sunset dinner and the kids will love Water Works Park too! Ducky’s is also a fun place to hit with kids (for duck pin bowling with the kids) or Ella’s in Seminole Heights has a great brunch or on Sunday, Soul Food Sunday.

Additional Places I Would Squeeze In

– Curtis Hixon Park is located on the brand new Tampa Riverwalk, along which is home to the Tampa Museum of Art, the Straz Center and the Glazer Children’s Museum. Take a stroll along this new addition to downtown Tampa and dine at Sono Café for a light afternoon lunch with a view.

– If time allows, I’d head over to the Pink Palace, the Lowes Don CeSar and stay one night. A historic hotel known for it’s “pink castle-like” appearance and a very family friendly hotel is a perfect beach stay. Seeing the sun set on St.Pete, a beach over the gulf, is one thing you should definitely make time for.

– The Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter and Hope from the hit movie “Dolphin Tale.” If your children love the movie, they will love to see them in person and learn all about how the aquarium helps and rescues other marine life too! Take a Sea Life Safari, which is a 90-minute tour into the beautiful intra-coastal waters. You will search for dolphins, sea birds and other marine life too!

Visiting with dolphins at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford.

A trainer with dolphins at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford.

– Take a ride on an eBOATs on the Hillsborough River. Start at The Sail Pavilion, right outside the Tampa Convention Center on the water, for a late afternoon snack and venture out for a tour of Tampa from the water!

A unique way to see the city - eBoat. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford

A unique way to see the city – eBOAT. Photo courtesy Marisa Langford

– If you are looking for a place to walk around and grab a bit to eat, I would head to Hyde Park Village, where on the first Sunday of every month is an awesome Fresh Market too!

 

Have an amazing time in my city! While you are here, feel free to tweet me for last minute suggestions @TampaMama or check out all my “Tampa Tips” on Trekaroo.com.

 

– Marisa Langford (aka TampaMama) is Trekaroo’s Destination Guroo for the state of Florida and the founder of Fit Kids Playground, a website dedicated to helping families push away the screen, eat healthier and move more. She is an active member of Tampa Bay Bloggers too. She is a busy Mom to 4 young kids and loves living in Tampa where the weather is always beautiful and a vacation is only 30 minutes away. On a constant search for adventures with kids, she can be found out and about with her 4 kids (and husband) in tow, enjoying family time together. Find her on Google+ or visit her personal blog at Adventures of Tampa Mama.

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