From rides on hair-raising rollercoasters to canoeing past alligators, adventurous days out are what Tampa does best. Right in the middle of Florida’s west coast, Tampa is an upbeat waterside city with a proud heritage, vibrant promenade and some super-sized family attractions. You’ll find the beating heart of the city in downtown Tampa, where stylish office buildings tower towards the sky and a charming waterside promenade traces the edge of the Hillsborough River. Stroll along the scenic Riverwalk and you will pass green parks with views out on to the water and some of the Tampa’s key attractions.
Elsewhere in downtown Tampa, you can catch a movie at the beautifully restored 1920s Tampa Theatre, browse Greek and Roman treasures at the Tampa Museum of Art and discover one of best sea-life experiences in the state at the Florida Aquarium, which houses seahorses, sharks and manatees among its impressive family of creatures.
For a lively taste of Tampa’s history, head north of downtown to Ybor City, where you can absorb the 19th-century neighbourhood’s Cuban heritage, explore its bars and restaurants and savour one of the area’s world-famous hand-rolled cigars.
Sports fans, meanwhile, should make a beeline for the Ray Jay stadium, home to Tampa’s Buccaneers football team. In tribute to the home team, the arena houses an enormous replica pirate ship that shoots canons as and when points are scored.
Away from Tampa’s city centre, adventure is the order of the day. It is an area rich in family-friendly days out, but the must-do for most is Busch Gardens: a vast 335-acre collection of rides and entertainment that easily rivals any of the attractions in nearby Orlando, Florida’s theme park capital. Brace yourself for adrenaline-fuelled spins on the rollercoasters and a thorough soaking at the neighbouring Adventure Island water park, a huge complex of wet rides and waterfalls.
Elsewhere in Tampa, families can see endangered orangutans and watch manatees through underwater viewing galleries at the Lowry Park Zoo, and canoe past alligators and turtles on the gentler stretches of the river at Hillsborough River State Park, or hike and cycle its scenic walking trails.