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21 Best Things to do in Downtown Tampa You’ll Love

Nestled along the shimmering banks of the Hillsborough River, Downtown Tampa beckons visitors with its unique blend of history, modernity, and vibrant Floridian spirit. As the urban heart of the Gulf Coast’s hidden gem, Downtown Tampa offers an eclectic array of activities, from world-class museums and theaters to scenic parks and gastronomic delights.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast eager to explore the artistic expressions of the city, a foodie searching for the next best eatery, or simply looking for a waterside stroll beneath swaying palm trees, there are plenty of things to do in downtown Tampa you’ll love.

In this article, we’ll journey through the bustling streets and hidden corners of Tampa’s downtown, revealing 21 must-see spots and hidden gems that define the essence of this dynamic urban landscape.

Things to Book Before You Leave Home
Few things are more frustrating on vacation than missing out on that amazing hotel or tour because it is sold out or waiting in long lines. Here are our top things to book before your vacation.

🏴‍☠️ Most Popular Tours and Tickets in Tampa:
1. Tampa Bay CityPASS – top value
2. Skip The Line Tickets for the Florida Aquarium
3. Dolphin Sightseeing Tour – the most popular Tampa tour
4. Busch Garden Tickets – minimize time spent in lines and maximize time on roller coasters!

🛏️Where to Stay in Tampa:
1. Hotel Haya – Ybor City -super stylish boutique hotel in historic Ybor City
2. JW Marriott Water Street – if you need to stay downtown

Best Things to do in Downtown Tampa

If you’re looking for a fun and vibrant area to explore in Tampa, Downtown Tampa is the place to go. With a variety of attractions, restaurants, and shops, there’s something for everyone.

1. Tampa Riverwalk

One of the most popular attractions in Downtown Tampa is the Tampa Riverwalk. This scenic walkway stretches along the Hillsborough River and offers stunning views of the city skyline. You can take a stroll, bike ride, or even rent a water bike to explore the river.

tampa water taxi
tampa water taxi

The Tampa Riverwalk is open 24/7 and free of charge. It’s a great place to start exploring Tampa as it is home to many of the activities in this article.

tampa riverwalk
Tampa riverwalk

2. Tampa Theatre

If you enjoy classic movies and historic architecture, don’t miss the Tampa Theatre. This beautifully restored 1920s movie palace is on the National Register of Historic Places and features a variety of films, concerts, and other events throughout the year.

Tampa Theatre
Tampa Theatre

3. Tampa Museum of Art

tampa museum of art interior
tampa museum of art interior

Art lovers won’t want to miss the Tampa Museum of Art. This modern museum features a collection of contemporary and classical art, rotating exhibits and special events. The museum itself is quite spectacular. Designed by Stanley Saitowitz, its modern design has won many awards.

tampa museum of art exterior
Tampa Museum of Art exterior

4. Sparkman Wharf

sparkman wharf

Sparkman Wharf is an outdoor space along the Tampa Riverwalk with various food and drink vendors. Check out the Lighthaus Beer Garden.

sparkman wharf
Sparkman wharf

5. Tampa Police Museum

If you’re interested in law enforcement history, don’t miss the Tampa Police Museum. This small museum features exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the Tampa Police Department and its role in the community. Do take the time to visit the moving memorial to Tampa’s fallen officers.

tampa police museum
Tampa police museum

6. American Victory Ship and Museum

SS victory

The American Victory Ship is one of only four operation World War Two merchant ships in the United States. The ship was built in an impressive 55 days in 1945 and served in World War Two, Korea and Vietnam. It is now a museum and features exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the ship and its crew.

SS victory view

7. Teco Streetcar

inside the tampa tram

One of the most fun ways to get around Downtown Tampa is the charming Teco Streetcar. This historic streetcar. This historic streetcar system runs along a 2.7-mile route and stops at popular attractions like Ybor City and the Tampa Convention Center. And it’s free!

tram stop

8. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is a lovely park in Downtown Tampa’s heart. This park offers a variety of activities for visitors of all ages. Stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk, play a game of frisbee on the lawn, or relax in the shade of one of the many trees. The park also features a splash pad for the kids to cool off on hot days.

curtis hixon park
curtis hixon park

9. Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium is home to over 7,000 aquatic animals, including sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles. You can get up close and personal with these creatures through various experiences.

florida aqaurium bird

Seatrek allows visitors to get up close and personal with the aquarium’s inhabitants in full scuba gear for 20 minutes. This guided underwater walking tour is a truly unique experience. Or have a 45-minute behind-the-scenes Penguin Encounter experience. If the penguins like you, contact with feathers may be possible!

florida aquarium fish

Don’t miss the Wetlands, home to many local birds and a great place to get up-close wildlife photo opportunities.

➡️ Book Your Florida Aquarium Skip The Line Ticket

florida aquarium

10. Take a Craft Beer Tour

TBBC brewery
TBBC brewery

Tampa is home to some of the best breweries in the country, and a craft beer tour is a must-do activity for any beer enthusiast. There are over 100 craft breweries to choose from in Tampa so a tour is a great way to sample a few.

➡️ Check Prices and Availability for Craft Beer Tours in Tampa

11. Enjoy a Cuban Sandwich Tasting

bodega roast pork sandwich
roast pork sandwich

No trip to Tampa is complete without trying a Cuban sandwich. The city is known for its delicious Cuban sandwiches, made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread. Some of the best places to try a Cuban sandwich include the famous Columbia Restaurant, Floridian Cuban Sandwiches, and La Segunda Central Bakery. Or why not take a Cuban Sandwich Tasting Tour?

12. Have a night out on a Tampa Bar Crawl Tour

glass of wine on tampa riverwalk

A Tampa bar crawl tour is a great way to explore the city’s nightlife if you’re looking for a fun night out. And why not go for a bar crawl in a golf cart for an extra fun night out?

➡️ Check Prices and Availability for a Tampa Bar Crawl Tour

13. Taste Tampa on a Food Tour

A Tampa culinary tour is a great way to explore the city’s diverse food scene and Ybor City has some of the most interesting and unique things to eat in Tampa. Combine learning about Ybor City with six food and drink tastings.

➡️ Check Prices and Availability for Tampa Food Tours

14. Make Chocolate Truffles

If you have a sweet tooth, a chocolate-making class at Peterbrooke Chocolatier is a must-do activity. You’ll learn about the chocolate-making process and get to make your own chocolate creations. Peterbrooke Chocolatier offers a range of classes, including truffle-making and chocolate-dipping classes.

Peterbrooke chocolate
Peterbrooke chocolate

15. Visit Tampa’s Top Gin Joint

CW Gin Joint is a speakeasy-style bar that serves craft cocktails and small plates. But best of all it serves gin flights. Choose four different gins from its Gin Matrix. The Gin Matrix plots gin brand based on juniper, savory, floral and citrus flavors.

The Gin Joint
The Gin Joint

16. Enjoy a Sunset Cruise

One of the best ways to experience Tampa’s waters is on a sunset cruise. You’ll get to enjoy stunning views of the city skyline and the sun setting over the water. Several companies offer sunset cruises, including Yacht Star.

17. Go Stand Up Paddleboarding

SUP hire

For a more active Tampa experience, try stand-up paddleboarding. I tried SUP for the first time on my visit to Tampa Bay. I was a little nervous at first, but my awesome instructor from Urban Kai really helped me to feel safe. I managed to stand up completely. I wouldn’t say it was relaxing but I didn’t fall in! Next time I am sure I will be able to appreciate the experience a bit more!

Stand up Paddleboarding

18. Take a Dolphin Cruise

dolphin cruise

See dolphins and other marine wildlife on a guided, 90-minute cruise along the bustling waters of Tampa Bay. you could see dolphins, manatees and other local marine wildlife.

➡️ Check Prices and Availability for Tampa Dolphin Cruises

19. Go to a Tiki Bar on the Water

tiki bar

I love having a glass of wine on a boat. But even better is having a drink at a Tiki bar on a boat! This Tiki Boat Cruise is BYOB snacks and drinks and they provide the floating Tiki Bar that you can enjoy for 90 minutes along the Hillsborough River. There’s even a Bluetooth speaker so you can bring your own music.

➡️ Check Prices and Availability for Tampa Tiki Bar Cruise

20. Take a Speedboat Tour

bay rocket
bay rocket

Bay Rocket is a speedboat tour that takes you on a thrilling ride through the waters of Tampa Bay. 2800 horsepower with 180-degree spins, turns and dips, you’ll get a genuine adrenaline rush when on board. Friday and Saturday night evening tours are offered.

You might enjoy reading my article on the best beaches in nearby St Petersburg (a short drive from Tampa).

21. Check out What’s On at Amalie Arena

amalie arena things to do in downtown tampa
amalie arena

Amalie Arena is a sports and entertainment venue in Tampa that hosts around 150 events throughout the year. Whether you’re a hockey, basketball, or concerts fan, there’s always something happening at Amalie Arena.

Great Places to Eat in Tampa beyond Downtown

Casa Santo Stefano – Ybor City

I have enjoyed some of the best food I have ever eaten on my two trips to Sicily so I was excited to head to Casa Santo Stefano in Ybor City. The restaurant has the same owners as Tampa’s famous Columbia restaurant.

casa santo stefano seafood spaghetti
casa santo stefano seafood spaghetti

Santo Stefano is known for its octopus, which was served grilled with carrots and yellow tomatoes and is delicious. Their Italian sausage is served with chargrilled lemon and is a must-order. For main I enjoyed their homemade ink squid pasta with more octopus, olives, sweet peppers, and many perfectly ripe tomatoes. And speaking of tomatoes, don’t miss Casa Santo Stefano’s amazing tomato bread.

casa santo stefano octopus
casa santo stefano octopus

Psomi – West Tampa

A Michelin bib gourmand restaurant, this Greek restaurant is famed for its in-house bakery and outstanding brunch menu. The light, bright restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating (the outdoor seating has a prime view of the bakery).

Psomi bagel
Psomi bagel

I went to Psomi for brunch; the menu is a American/Greek fusion. It was tough to decide on what to order with everything from Greek doughnuts to bougatsa french toast on the menu. I finally went with the bagle special of avocado, cucumber, tomato, shaved red onion, sprouts and whipped cream cheese.


Grab some sweet Greek breads from the bakery on the way out for dessert later in the day.

Timpano – Hyde Park Village

Another Michelin bib gourmand choice, this relaxed and stylish Italian neighborhood restaurant is one of the most popular in Hyde Park Village. I went for lunch and enjoyed iceberg lettuce with marinated white beans, crispy prosciutto, gorgonzola, roasted garlic and tomato dressing and the decadent parmesan truffle tots.

Timpano salad

Timpano is also known for its cocktails, and I can imagine its tropical design with loads of greenery creates a great atmosphere.


Boutique Hotels in Tampa

JW Marriott Water Street

🌟Rating: 9/10 I 📍Location: Downtown Tampa I 🏩View on

If you need to stay downtown check out the JW Marriott Water Street. It is huge – 727 rooms – with a sleek and modern design.

anchor and brine
anchor and brine

The key reasons to stay at the JW Marriott Water Street are its brilliant location on the Tampa Riverwalk and the lovely Anchor and Brine restaurant on the Hillsborough River’s edge.

➡️ Check Prices and Availability for JW Marriott Water Street

Hotel Haya – Ybor City

🌟Rating: 8.9/10 I 📍Location: Ybor City I 🏩View on

If you have some flexibility on where you sleep in Tampa, you definitely want to stay at the fantastic Hotel Haya. Located in Ybor City, Hotel Haya is a chic and modern hotel that pays homage to the area’s Cuban and Spanish roots. The hotel features 178 guest rooms and suites, each with a unique design that blends contemporary style with traditional elements.

Haya bedroom
Haya bedroom

The large open lobby feels like Soho House meets a bustling European train station. There is a respected fancy restaurant Flor Fina, a cool bar, a general seating area, and the fab Cafe Quiquiroqui which serves outstanding coffee.

Haya Bathroom
Haya Bathroom

The pool is located on the ground floor of the hotel and it has a clean and stylish design with some comfortable poolside loungers. There was a fitness center but I must be honest, I didn’t even look at it.

Haya lobby
Haya lobby

The rooms are a good size and the fixtures and fittings are high-end. In addition to a very comfortable bed, my room contained a mustard yellow chaise lounge perfect for getting some work done (the room also had a desk but I prefer plush seating if possible).

Haya Pool
Haya Pool

The bathroom is simple, with black edgings on the tiles and a large walk-in shower. The toiletries are from the lovely brand Alchemist.

The staff were all extremely friendly – from the front desk to the cafe to the valet. And its location means it is perfect for grown-up evenings out in Ybor City.

➡️ Check Prices and Availability for Hotel Haya

The lovely Tampa Bay tourism board covered all of my accommodation, activity and food costs whilst I was in Tampa Bay – thanks guys! I covered the costs of my flights. However, as always my opinions are my own. Also, this article contains affiliate links. That means if you click on some of the links and end up making a purchase I may receive a small commission.

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