Regionally, Tampa Bay encompasses four cities — Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Bradenton. Tampa Bay is actually a body of water, the largest open-water estuary in Florida, covering nearly 400 square miles around these cities. While the television media has expanded their viewing area to also include Hernando County to the north and Sarasota County to the south, geographically Tampa Bay only includes these four cities.
Besides its unlimited outdoor recreational opportunities, including some of the nation's best beaches, Tampa Bay is unique in its diversity of available activities. Home to the African-themed Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, it also boasts major sports, museums, shopping and entertainment venues and water parks. If you're planning a vacation in the Tampa Bay area, learning a little bit about the area and what to expect will help you get the most from your time and vacation dollars.
If you are planning to visit the Tampa Bay area on vacation, one of the hardest things to do is choose when to visit. Other than the weather, special events and promotions tend to have the most influence on attraction crowds. The area's beaches trend toward being the most crowded during spring break and in the summer, of course. You may prefer to plan your vacation around one of these popular events:
- Gasparilla (Tampa) - January
- Florida State Fair (Tampa) - February
- Florida Strawberry Festival (Plant City) - March
- Honda Grand Prix (St. Petersburg) - March
Read more about what to do in Tampa Bay during Christmas time.
Getting to and Around Tampa Bay
When planning your vacation to the Tampa Bay area, how you're going to get there is an important consideration. If cost is your primary concern, decide whether it is cheaper to drive or fly.
If you've decided to fly, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the airport and transportation options from the airport:
If you're planning a vacation in Tampa Bay and you've never been there before, it is important to get to know the neighborhoods and learn how to get around. No matter how you are getting around town — rental car, cab or public transportation —maps of the greater Tampa Bay area will be helpful.
And, finally, if you plan to visit Central Florida's attractions and beaches located along the East Coast of Florida, knowing the driving distances will be helpful.
Tampa Bay Attractions
Tampa Bay's attractions offer a wide variety of entertainment for families.
- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is an African-themed attraction that offers thrilling rides, beautiful gardens and animals in natural habitats.
- Glazer Children's Museum is one of Tampa's newest attractions that features permanent and traveling exhibits.
- Museum of Science and Industry is more commonly known as "MOSI" and is the largest science center in the southeastern United States.
- The Florida Aquarium, located in Downtown Tampa's Channelside District is a cool way to "sea" life.
St. Petersburg Attractions
- The St. Pete Pier in under construction in 2018, so keep an eye out for the new and improved pier.
- Florida Holocaust Museum honors the memory of millions of innocent people who suffered and died in the Holocaust.
- Florida International Museum is a Smithsonian affiliate that brings you the latest exhibits making it the premier museum in Florida.
- Salvador Dali Museum was recently relocated into a building inspired by the artist.
- St. Petersburg Museum of History houses a great collection of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County history.
Tampa Bay Beaches
Tampa Bay's beaches are some of the top in the nation, even making it onto Dr. Beach's annual Best Beaches in America list. If relaxing on sugar white sand under sunny skies sounds appealing and simply spectacular sunsets sounds romantic, then these top Tampa Bay beaches are for you!
If you're looking for a particular Tampa Bay beach, look no further:
Increasingly, Clearwater Beach is becoming a spring break destination, bringing crowds to the beach and area hotels. Those that want to avoid crowds on the beach and roadways, will want to avoid visiting this time of the year.
Tampa Bay Cruises
Tampa is home to one of the nation's fastest-growing cruise ports. The Port of Tampa is located in Downtown Tampa's Channelside District, adjacent to the Florida Aquarium. Passengers can book cruises to their favorite Mexican or Caribbean destinations and spend a day before or after their cruise exploring nearby attractions in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay also offers a variety of dinner cruises, sightseeing cruises, sunset cruises and themed cruises that sail from marinas along the Bay and Gulf of Mexico.
- Calypso Queen Cruises sails from Clearwater Beach Marina for tropical fun and casual dining.
- StarLite Dining Cruises sail from St. Petersburg and Clearwater for lunch and dinner cruises.
- Yacht StarShip Dining Cruises set sail from Tampa and Clearwater for lunch and dinner cruises.
- Dolphin Racer Speedboat Adventure guarantees you'll see dolphins or your next cruise is free.
- Sea Life Safari Boat Tour features two hours of high seas adventure.
- Kai Lani Daily Sunset Cruise via catamaran off Clearwater Beach. Other sails available.
- Windsong Sunset Cruises depart Gulf Harbors in New Port Richey about two hours before sunset.
- Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise sets sail from Clearwater Beach on high seas adventures daily.
Places to Stay in Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay has a variety of lodging choices.
There are a variety of hotels to choose from in Tampa ranging in price and location.
St. Pete Beach
- Sandpearl Resort is the first new resort built on Clearwater Beach in a quarter of a century.
Places to Eat in Tampa Bay
There are plenty of good Tampa Bay restaurant choices, many of which are right on the waterfront.
Restaurant Recommendations Around Tampa
- Bern's Steakhouse - Tampa
- Costas Restaurant - Tarpon Springs
- Frenchy's Rockaway Grill & Beach Club - Clearwater Beach
- Gigi's Italian Restaurants - North St. Petersburg, Treasure Island & St. Pete Beach
- Green Springs Bistro - Safety Harbor
- Gulf Drive Cafe - Bradenton Beach
- Hard Rock Cafe - Tampa
- Hula Bay - Tampa
- Skipper's Smokehouse - Tampa
Shopping in Tampa Bay
The Tampa Bay area boasts some of the best shopping in Florida — malls with nationally recognized brand-name stores, one of the most popular outlet malls in Florida and unique shopping districts.
- Hyde Park Village - Tampa
- International Plaza and Bay Street - Tampa
- Westfield Brandon Shopping Mall - Brandon
- Westfield Citrus Park Shopping Mall - Tampa
- Johns Pass Village and Boardwalk - Madeira Beach
- Tyrone Square Mall - St. Petersburg
- Westfield Countryside Mall - Clearwater
- Ellenton Premium Outlets - Ellenton/Bradenton
Tampa Bay Sports
Tampa Bay teams "sport" all kinds of titles — including winning three pro sport championships within just 18 months — and win or lose the teams continue to win the hearts of Tampa Bay fans.
Tampa Bay's Teams
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003. Their home turf is Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
- Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL) won the Stanley Cup in their 2003-04 season. They call Tampa's St. Pete Times Forum home when they're not on the road.
- Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) franchise is based at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and won their first division title in 2008.
Tampa Bay's Spring Training Locations
- New York Yankees Spring Training - Tampa
- Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training - Clearwater
- Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training - Bradenton
- Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training - Dunedin