Visiting Tampa offers a unique opportunity to visit theme parks, and immerse in arts, culture, nightlife, shopping, and delicious cuisine.
Tampa is also a cruise port for over 300 cruise departures to the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Panama Canal.
Today’s guide is written by Stephanie – a long-time resident of the Tampa Bay Region and owner of Fluerty Girl Travels.
She’ll cover all of the need-to-know information and then jump straight into the long weekend in Tampa with a 3 day itinerary filled with awesome activities.
At the end of the guide, you’ll also find some recommended places to stay and an FAQ.
Take it away, Stephanie!
Where is Tampa
Tampa is located on the West Coast of Florida, about a 90-minute drive from Orlando, and 20 minutes from St. Petersburg and the beautiful Gulf beaches.
This vast city is situated on Tampa Bay, with access to the Gulf of Mexico.
Best time to visit Tampa
Tampa is truly a year-round destination, however, the summer months can be very hot and humid.
The best time to visit and experience a more moderate climate is from November to March.
Spring Break (March – April) is also a very popular time to visit Tampa and the surrounding areas.
If you’re considering visiting at another time of the year, here is a breakdown of what you can expect by season:
- Summer (June-August): Hot and humid with frequent thunderstorms, and high temperatures in the upper 80s to mid-90s°F.
- Fall (September-November): Milder temperatures, mid-80s to low 90s°F, decreasing rainfall, and decreasing humidity.
- Winter (December-February): Mild and dry with highs in the upper 60s to low 70s°F, low rainfall, and comfortable humidity levels.
- Spring (March-May): Warm and pleasant, with high temperatures ranging from mid-70s to mid-80s°F, increasing rainfall, and rising humidity.
Weekend in Tampa (3 day itinerary)
Day 1: Discover Downtown Tampa & Ybor City
To kick off your long weekend in Tampa, you’ll start your day at the Florida Aquarium.
If you have a car, parking is easy and convenient at the garage directly across the street from the aquarium.
The Florida Aquarium has been a staple in the community for nearly 40 years and is committed to saving marine wildlife.
Plan on spending around 3 hours exploring many habitats that feature animals from the Tampa Bay Region, as well as creatures from exotic places from around the world.
If you’re travelling with children, plan some extra time for the splash pad play area, and don’t forget your sunscreen!
For lunch, a short walk next door to Sparkman Wharf will offer a variety of cuisines for every taste.
Sparkman Wharf is a vibrant area offering a beer garden, waterfront views, and food truck-style eateries.
Additionally, there are several dine-in restaurants offering various opportunities for grabbing a bite.
After lunch, take the free TECO StreetCar to the Tampa Riverwalk.
The streetcar offers 11 stops from the Tampa Riverwalk to Ybor City.
It’s free, just hop on and ride.
The Tampa Riverwalk offers a wonderful way to see downtown Tampa and the waterfront.
Along the Tampa Riverwalk, you will pass the Convention Centre, the Tampa Museum of Art, the Glazer Children’s Museum, and the Armature Works – a trendy food hall.
After a nice stroll along the river, find the nearest TECO StreetCar stop and hop back on for a free ride to Ybor City.
Ybor City is the only neighbourhood on Florida’s West Coast that is designated as a National Historic Landmark District.
Recognized as one of “The 10 Great Streets in America”, Ybor City has a rich history spanning more than 138 years.
Walk along 7th Avenue, the main thoroughfare, and browse eclectic shops, historical landmarks, and lively entertainment venues.
Ybor City is known for its hand-rolled cigars, so if this is your thing, don’t forget to pick some up while you’re here.
Hop back on the free TECO StreetCar to your car parked near the Florida Aquarium.
Day 2: Adventure day
After a good night’s rest, day 2 of your Tampa 3 day itinerary will include a full day at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
If theme parks are not your thing, an alternate activity will be listed below.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a premier theme park offering thrilling rides and attractions, animal encounters, and award-winning shows.
The park opens at 10 am, daily.
Depending on the time of year you’re visiting, you may want to include an add-on for a seasonal event, such as beer fest, Howl-O-Scream, or Christmas Town.
Upgrade your park tickets with VIP access or special animal encounter tours.
The 65-acre Serengeti Plain safari gets the visitors up close and personal with many of the animals, including giraffes, zebras, rhinos, and antelopes.
Beat the heat with a ride on the Congo River Rapids or plunge straight down on the ShieKra.
Whatever your taste, a day at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is sure to be a highlight of your visit to Tampa.
Hillsborough River State Park
Alternatively, if visiting a theme park during your 3-day visit to Tampa is not in the cards, do not worry.
Instead of this activity, you may enjoy visiting the Hillsborough River State Park.
Just a few short minutes from downtown Tampa, the Hillsborough River State Park offers visitors a respite from the city scene.
Bring a picnic, and plenty of drinking water, and plan to spend the day hiking the 7+ miles of trails for a spectacular nature experience.
A visit to this park will give you a very rare sighting, of Class II river rapids! This is rare in Florida.
If you enjoy paddle sports, visitors will need to bring their own kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, but plenty of time can be spent on the hiking trails.
Day 3: Hyde Park and Bayshore Boulevard
On the final day of your 3 day Tampa itinerary, it’s time to head to one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Tampa, Hyde Park is a great place to spend the day.
Hyde Park Village is a 6 city block shopping mecca for the most discerning shoppers.
The village offers unique stores for fashion, beauty and wellness, and food and drink.
Some of the most notable stores in Hyde Park Village are Anthropologie, Lululemon, and Pottery Barn.
Sprinkled amongst these well-known stores are a variety of speciality stores offering jewellery, pet products, and apparel.
This area is great for doing some window shopping and perhaps you will find that special gift for someone back home.
But, shopping can make you work up an appetite!
Hyde Park Village has a wide array of places to eat, from tacos and burgers to a more fine dining atmosphere.
Whatever your pace, make room for dessert at one of the eclectic shops offering ice cream, Hyppo popsicles, and sweets.
Plan on spending a few hours walking around the village.
Once you’ve shopped until your heart’s content, drive through the beautiful, historic Hyde Park neighbourhood as you make your way to Bayshore Boulevard.
Touted as the longest continuous sidewalk in the world, Bayshore Boulevard skirts along Tampa Bay for 4 ½ miles.
The beautiful, scenic walkway is always bustling with residents and tourists, alike, getting in their daily dose of cardio.
The homes along this walkway are a spectacle in themselves and going for a drive through these streets is something truly special if you enjoy beautiful homes.
What to do in Tampa if you have more than 3 days
Day Trip to Downtown St. Petersburg
The Sunshine City, St. Petersburg, is a city rich in arts, culture, and entertainment.
Located on the west side of Tampa Bay. St. Petersburg has a wide array of museums, tours, and restaurants that will delight just about any visitor.
The pier district is home to the newly constructed, state-of-the-art pier, with breathtaking views of downtown and Tampa Bay.
Dolphins and other wildlife are often observed from the pier.
At the foot of the pier is the St. Petersburg Museum of History which includes the certified Guinness World Record baseball collection, over 5,000 baseballs, and the world’s first airliner.
The pier district also has a splash pad for the kids and a beach area to dip your toes in.
The newly constructed pier opened in 2020 and is the jewel of the city.
The Dali Museum offers an up close and personal account of the unusual art of the famed artist.
Located on the downtown waterfront, the museum is within walking distance of all of the downtown attractions.
Beach Boulevard is lined with unique shops, galleries, and sidewalk dining options.
Watch a movie at The Sundial, and enjoy an icy cool place to dodge the sun for a bit.
If you’re looking for live music, you might happen upon a show at Jannus Live, or try the courtyard at the Ale and the Witch.
Sports fan? Catch the Tampa Bay Rays in action at MLB’s most unique ballpark, Tropicana Field.
This indoor ballpark won’t be around forever, as the planning commission has been looking to relocate the Tampa Bay Rays for years.
The ballpark offers air-conditioned space, plenty of cold beer, and a stingray tank.
Before the game, grab some wings or a burger at Ferg’s Sports Bar, across the street from The Trop, and walk to the game through the underground tunnel.
St. Petersburg is a walkable city, however, the best way to see the city is with a bicycle tour.
Allow a local guide to show you the secret gems of this vibrant city and guide you through the streets of the sunshine city.
- Check prices: St. Petersberg Bike Tour
Just like Tampa, St. Petersburg is known for its craft breweries, and the downtown area is dotted with these little gems.
Each with its own character, the craft breweries offer a variety of beer choices, a cool atmosphere, and friendly locals.
Day Trip to Crystal River
If you and your family love the outdoors, you will certainly enjoy a visit to this quaint Gulf Coast community.
Here, you can swim with the manatees in the Crystal River, kayak pristine water and habitats, or go out fishing for the big catch.
When the Gulf of Mexico temperatures drop during the winter months (November – March) and the West Indian Manatees seek refuge in the natural spring waters of here.
During peak ‘manatee season’, it is possible to see hundreds of manatees resting, foraging, and migrating in the spring waters.
There are a few outfitters in the area where you can rent kayaks and paddle boards to explore the area.
Hunter Springs Kayak is a trusted source for paddle craft rentals and information.
If you have some mariner experience, renting a small skiff or pontoon boat is a great way to see the waterway and the surrounding area, in a more private setting.
If you’re not familiar with operating a boat, you may want to opt for a charter boat.
The springs and the river are busy during the winter months, so great care must be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.
Spend A Day At Clearwater Beach
The Tampa Bay Region is home to some of the world’s best beaches.
Depending on traffic, you can be basking in the hot Florida sun after a 45-minute drive from Tampa to Clearwater Beach.
Often named America’s number one Beach, it doesn’t take long to understand why.
Clearwater Beach is always abuzz with activity along the sugar sand beach, hotel-lined boulevard and the countless recreational activities that are available just steps away.
While you’re at the beach, you may enjoy one of the many boat rides and experiences that are offered along Coronado Drive.
Here, you will find dolphin watch tours, sunset cruising, helicopter rides, and much more.
There is certainly something for everyone!
Here are just a few of the best things to do here:
- Check prices: Dolphin-Watching Tour
- Check prices: Sunset Cruise
- Check prices: Private Boat
- Check prices: See-through Kayak Tour
- Check prices: Helicopter Tour
There are many restaurants along Gulfview Boulevard that offer the freshest seafood this area has to offer.
Having a grouper sandwich is about the most Florida thing you can eat, and it’s the most delicious fish, too!
After your day at the beach, be sure to stay for the sunset celebration at Pier 60.
This takes place every day of the year from 2 hours before sunset to 2 hours after sunset.
You will find a variety of buskers, entertainment acts, local artisans selling their wares, and one of the most gorgeous sunsets you will ever see!
The Pier 60 bait house also offers everything you need to toss a line in, with your own fishing equipment, or rental gear.
Where to stay during your weekend in Tampa
Budget: LaQuinta Inn by Wyndham, near Busch Gardens
This budget-friendly hotel is located across the street from Busch Gardens and includes complimentary breakfast and wifi.
It’s not the best, but if you’re on a budget then it will suffice.
- Check prices: LaQuinta Inn by Wyndham
Mid-range: Four Points by Sheraton Suites, near Westshore
Centrally located near the Tampa International Airport, Westshore, and International plazas, this property offers an indoor pool, a limited complimentary shuttle service, and is great for a 3-night stay.
- Check prices: Four Points by Sheraton Suites
Luxury: JW Mariott Tampa, Water Street
In the heart of downtown Tampa, the JW Mariott will delight the most discerning guests.
This beautifully appointed hotel is located on the waterfront in the downtown area and offers private parking, free bike use, and a large outdoor swimming pool.
- Check prices: JW Mariott Tampa Water Street
Different: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa
Whether you’re into gambling, or not, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino offers over 90,000 square feet of music-themed space.
Walk through the resort and admire the costumes, outfits, and memorabilia from some of the greatest music and entertainment acts of our time, and of those past.
This property is directly across from the amphitheatre, very convenient if you’re coming to town for a concert.
Press your luck in the casino or enjoy services in the award-winning spa.
- Check prices: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa
Where to eat during your 3 day long weekend in Tampa
There are heaps of incredible places to eat and drink in Tampa, but here are some of my personal recommendations:
- Ulele – 1810 N. Highland Avenue
Located on the Tampa Riverwalk, Ulele is a popular place for native-inspired cuisine and an on-site brewery, offering indoor and outdoor waterfront dining.
- Miguel’s Mexican Seafood & Grill – 3035 W. Kennedy Boulevard
For over 30 years, Miguel’s has been serving up some of the best Mexican food in the Tampa area. Start your lunch or dinner with a signature margarita or a shot of one of their 20+ tequila flavours
- The Columbia – 2117 E. 7th Avenue, Ybor City
Named one of Florida’s Top Restaurants since 1967, the original Ybor City location takes up one city block. The Columbia offers delicious Spanish-Cuban cuisine, starting with their signature 1905 salad.
Is 3 days enough in Tampa?
Yes, 3 days is the right amount of time to spend in Tampa.
Depending on the reason for your visit and whether you’re attending a conference, Tampa Bay Hockey Game, or a concert, you will be able to see the highlights of Tampa in 3 days.
Is Tampa worth visiting?
Yes, Tampa is a beautiful and safe waterfront city that is rich in culture and is worth a visit.
Is Tampa a lively city?
Yes, Tampa is a vibrant city during the day and offers areas of nightlife during the evening hours.
How do I get to Tampa?
The closest airport to Tampa is the Tampa International Airport.
You may also choose to fly into the Saint Petersburg / Clearwater International Airport, on the other side of Tampa Bay.
Both airports will offer easy access to downtown Tampa and the surrounding area.
How do I get around Tampa?
The best way to get around Tampa and the Tampa Bay Area is by car.
Once you are in the downtown area, there are public transportation options, so you can leave your car parked at one location.
There are bicycles and electric scooters available to rent from various points around town.
- Check prices: Car rental
Explore beyond Tampa in Florida
And that’s a wrap on this long weekend in Tampa with 3 days worth of epic things to add to your itinerary, plus plenty of options if you can stretch to a few more days.
If you’re looking to explore Florida further, then this Florida itinerary might be worth checking out.
For something special, you could also hop over to Oahu in Hawaii, or head up north and enjoy a winter in Bozeman where you’ll get to see incredible wildlife and experience once-in-a-lifetime activities.
Stay Wild Travels.
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About our author: Stephanie is the CEO and author of Fluerty Girl Travels and has been a long-time resident of the Tampa Bay Region. Shortly after high school, Stephanie started her career in the airline industry and has been a global explorer ever since. Although travelling abroad is exciting and enriching, discovering the hidden gems and hot touristy spots of the Tampa Bay Region gives Stephanie a great job, too. Stephanie is often accompanied by her husband – Lee – and furry companion – Spinnaker. You can also find Stephanie on Instagram.