The 12 Best Food Truck Cities in America

There is no denying it; we are living in a glorious age where food trucks have become the hottest places to grab some grub. Cities all over America are host to hundreds of food trucks that offer everything from the typical taco to over the top gourmet meals. What makes a city better than another in terms of food trucks? We looked at how many food trucks operate in the city, how diverse the selections are and how friendly the cities are to these trucks. Without further ado, these 12 cities are the ultimate food truck cities in the country:

12. Honolulu, HI

Lunch wagons have been part of the landscape in Hawaii for generations and used to serve the same thing, a couple scoops or rice, some macaroni salad and gravy based main. But things have come a long way in recent years and innovative trucks have popped up all over Honolulu and visitors should be sure to check at least a few of them out. Melt Honolulu became an instant hit when it hit the streets in this city serving up incredible grilled cheese sandwiches, including one called the “Melt of Shame”. Fresh wood fired pizzas can be found at the Inferno’s truck or if you are in the mood for shrimp and grits, head to Soul Patrol. Warm weather all year round, awesome new food trucks popping up all over the city and the ocean at your fingertips; sounds like a pretty amazing food truck city to us!

Theodore Trimmer / Shutterstock.com
Theodore Trimmer / Shutterstock.com

11. Seattle, WA

Seattle has always been overshadowed by Portland in terms of being a food truck city but as the years tick by they are holding their own and home to some of the best food trucks in America. For some down home New Orleans cooking make sure to check out Where Ya At, a food truck that continuously rates as one of the best in the country. It is here where you will find Creole soul food, hot beignets and fried-oyster po’boys. Marination is another truck in this city that has garnered press country wide for its Hawaiian-Korean cuisine and attitude towards delivering incredible flavors and a dose of “Aloha” to the city. Seattle’s Largest Independent Food and Craft Festival happens yearly in the summertime and if you have a chance to check it out, we highly recommend it. One of the best cities in America for food trucks, yet highly underrated.

Photo by: Urban Beer Hikes
Photo by: Urban Beer Hikes

10. San Francisco, CA

This city is teeming with food trucks, new ones popping up every day and no matter where you are headed you are sure to find one that absolutely blows your mind. Although this city wasn’t the birthplace of the food truck craze, they have upped their ante by offering food of new gastronomic levels. Fried oyster and bacon sandwiches, curry goat tacos and Vietnamese caramel ribs are just a slice of what you can find here. The SoMa Streat Food Park is a popular place to head, especially for visitors looking to get a variety of trucks. The lineup here changes daily and features a dozen or so trucks, entertainment and picnic tables to eat at. If you are looking for sustainable meat and veggies make sure to check out Go Streatery who is famous for serving up their famous handmade brisket sandwiched piled high and topped with an incredible savory jam.

Photo by: Carlos Muela
Photo by: Carlos Muela

9. Tampa, FL

This city is all about food trucks and getting them out on the road. They even are home to a Food Truck Rally, a company that specializes in promoting local cuisine and connecting the public with the food trucks, hosting seminars for potential food truck owners and staging events all over the city. Tampa Bay’s Florida State Fairgrounds also holds the World’s Largest Food Truck Rally on a yearly basis! Wicked Wiches is one of the most popular food trucks in the city, offering gourmet sandwiches including a fried chicken sandwich served on jalapeno waffles. If you are after vegetarian or vegan seek out the Taco Bus who are known for their awesome menu and the fact they only ever use fresh ingredients.  But if there is one thing to try in this city it is the famous Gorilla Balls from the Fire Monkey Food Truck. Gorilla Balls are balls of mushroom risotto stuffed with beef and blue cheese, then deep fried to crispy perfection.

Photo by: Bay News 9
Photo by: Bay News 9

8. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta is an up and coming city when it comes to food trucks and there is no better time to experience these awesome trucks than now. This city is where you will find down home southern comfort food mixed with Mexican and Asian influences. Head first to The Good Food Truck where “the Poodle” is served from a lipstick red carriage. The Poodle is actually a hot dog, sandwiched between a French toast bun and loaded with apple-maple slaw and spicy mustard. If you are more in the mood for something a little more Mexican, head to the Blaxican where you will find Buffalo chicken tacos and collard green quesadillas. New laws in Atlanta have made it easier for trucks to operate on public roads and expect to see even more as the years go on.

Photo by: The Good Food Truck
Photo by: The Good Food Truck

7. Miami, FL

South Florida loves their food trucks and you will find hundreds of trucks lining the streets, with offerings you won’t find anywhere else. The Latin Burger is one of the most popular trucks in this city, serving up something they call the Macho Burger, created out of a combination of chorizo, chuck and sirloin, topped with caramelized onions and Oaxaca cheese. If you are looking for Asian fare there is only one food truck to seek out that that is Dim Ssam a GoGo who serves up gourmet sandwiches with ingredients such as foie gras, kimchi and pork. But the real hit in this city is HipPops, a truck that offers handcrafted desserts. Hugely popular, this truck offers the chance for customers to create their own custom dessert. Choose from gelato, sorbet or frozen yogurt, and three kinds of premium Italian chocolate dips. Top your POP with finely crushed pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans. And ta da; an incredibly delicious creation.

Photo by: The Latin Burger
Photo by: The Latin Burger

6. Denver, CO

Denver boasts over 100 food trucks and there is seemingly no bad place to grab a bite to eat. Whether you are looking to grab a green-chili cheeseburger, pizza or barbecue; you can find it in this city. If you are looking to try some delicious made from scratch tacos or quesadillas make sure to search out the pink food truck named Comida, the best of its kind in town. If you want to get back to your childhood there is no better food truck to visit than HEY pb&j, a truck that puts an innovative spin on the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Combinations such as The King (peanut butter, applewood smoked bacon, sliced bananas, clover honey) and the Mother Clucker (mo’ pecan-peanut butter, fried chicken, homemade green tomato jam, goat cheese, spicy hot honey) are true favorites.

Photo by: Comida
Photo by: Comida

5. Minneapolis, MN

Residents of the Twin Cities can certainly get their fill of any type of cuisine they are looking for in this city with its multitude of food trucks. Dozens of choices are parked along meters, outside the breweries and setting up shop at the farmers markets. Fans of tater tots will want o head directly to the TOT BOSS food truck where you can find anything from tater tot nachos to tot and beer burritos. If it is something like a burger you are after make sure to head over to Butcher Salt, where small town restaurant meets sustainability meets four wheels. Here you will find grass-fed beef sliders, candied maple bacon and a whole lot other deliciousness. If you are looking for something more gourmet head to Get Sauced, where you will find locally sourced and organic foods, all transformed from scratch into gourmet dishes.

Photo by: TOT BOSS
Photo by: TOT BOSS

4. Washington, DC

This city boasts more than 150 food trucks, many of them roaming the streets, many of them with permanent spots and a whole lot of them turning out for festivals. Washington stands out due to the unique and creative foods these trucks are seen serving up. Food truck pioneers The Fojol Bros are well worth a visit with their colorful trucks and carnival like costumes, not to mention the delicious food they are serving up including butter chicken and beef berbere. On a cool Washington day make sure you head over to Red Hook Lobster Pound where you can get a steaming cup of authentic New England clam chowder or delicious lobster roll. With all these food trucks it seems hard to keep track of but luckily the Food Truck Fiesta app has you covered with its real time map that lists where the trucks are and whose serving up what.

Photo by: Mobile Cuisine
Photo by: Mobile Cuisine

3. Austin, TX

Austin is a city which has been supporting food trucks at a time when no other city was, and it’s no surprise they have maintained that level of support. Featuring over 250 food trucks, this city is the perfect place to take a culinary tour. Visitors will want to head to the East King Side truck, a vibrant and colorful display of artwork that happens to serve up an incredible serving of beet home fries. The most famous food truck in this city though is Hey! You Gonna Eat or What?, a truck that is known for its snarky chefs and large sandwiches. The Shiner Bock Monte Cristo is the sandwich to order here and is loaded with cheddar, provolone, mesquite-smoked turkey and pit-smoked ham. It is then fried in batter, topped with powder sugar and served with a side of cherry-fig jam. Anywhere you turn in this city there is surely going to be a food truck to suit your needs.

Photo by: Hey!. You Gonna Eat or What?
Photo by: Hey!. You Gonna Eat or What?

2. Portland, OR

This city has been at the forefront of the food truck revolution and despite their reputation for being vegan hippies; you can find just about any food you want at one of their awesome trucks. With over 350 food trucks throughout the city, deciding which ones to visit will be your hardest choice. It is imperative that you head to the Grilled Cheese Grill where you can get your favorite childhood meal reinvented. The Cheesus is perhaps the most famous of dishes where a burger is served with grilled cheese sandwiches acting as the bun. Weenies from Another World is another truck you shouldn’t miss as this awesome looking vintage truck serves up homemade dogs, bread and incredible tater tots. If its southern food you are after head to Ms. Kate’s Southern Kitchen for homemade mac n’ cheese, pumpkin spiced waffles and buttery fluffy biscuits.

Photo by: Reddit
Photo by: Reddit

1. Orlando, FL

There are almost 200 food trucks in Orlando and counting, and this city wins in terms of having the most food trucks per capita in all of the United States. The good weather, the incredible creativity and the outpouring of support from citizens of this state all contribute to the number of them. One of the best food trucks to check out is Twisted Plates where you can get gourmet food without dolling out a ton of cash, or having to get dressed up. The menu here changes regularly depending what is in season. Dixieland Diner is where you will find Cajun and the best of southern food including shrimp and grits and jambalaya. The winning combination of southern hospitality and generous portions means this truck gets big lines, but it is well worth the wait. Natural juices, shaved ice, waffles and chicken, gelato, burgers and pizza are available state wide at a number of food trucks.

Photo by: Dixieland Diner
Photo by: Dixieland Diner

10 Amazing Historic Hotels in Florida

With its seemingly endless coastline, crystal clear water, and warm weather year-round, Florida has been attracting people like a magnet for generations. Given its long history as a tourist mecca, it stands to reason that the Sunshine State has some of the most amazing historic hotels in America.  From a shimmering pink castle on St. Pete Beach to Art Deco masterpieces on Miami Beach, Florida’s historic hotels continue to dazzle new generations of fans of majestic hotels with a long and colorful past.

10. Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

The Fontainebleau Miami Beach continues to make history as the most famous hotel at one of America’s most desirable locations. Situated on 20 acres in the heart of Millionaire’s Row, the Fontainebleau completed a stunning $1 billion makeover in 2008 that expanded total guestrooms to 1,504 and reconfirmed its long-time standing as one of the nation’s most luxurious resorts. It originally opened in 1954 with 554 rooms, making it the largest hotel in Miami Beach. Designed by noted architect Morris Lapidus, the Fontainebleau in 2012 was named the “Top Building in Florida” by the American Institute of Architects for its distinctive curved façade facing the Atlantic Ocean. The original hotel tower featured a 17,000-square-foot lobby with a bowtie marble floor and the famous two-story “staircase to nowhere.” The elevated, 6,500-square-foot pool was the setting for a memorable scene in the James Bond classic, “Goldfinger.” Today’s Fountainbleau features a 40,000-square-foot spa.

9. Loews Don Cesar

Nick Fox / Shutterstock

The Loews Don Cesar has been a Gulf Coast icon since it opened in 1928. The landmark pink castle on St. Pete Beach showcases Mediterranean and Moorish architecture with balconies and terraces lining the 10-story masterpiece. Named for Don Ce-Sar in Vincent Wallace’s opera Maritana, it has been the playground for the famous including Clarence Darrow and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1942, it was purchased by the U.S. Army to serve as a sub-base hospital and convalescent center for airmen returning from WW II. It didn’t reopen as a hotel until 1973 when it regained its status among Florida’s elite resort hotels. Its unique design has served as the backdrop of two notable movies—“Once Upon a Time in America” (Robert De Niro and James Woods) and “Forever Mine” (Ray Liotta, Ralph Fiennes). Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the 277-room hotel recently completed an extensive renovation.

8. The Breakers

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, The Breakers stands as a testament to the resilience of great places in beautiful locations. Originally constructed as the Palm Beach Inn in 1896 by Henry Morrison Flagler, the hotel burned down in 1903, rebuilt in 1904, and burned down again in 1925. After $7 million in construction, The Breakers opened in 1926 and today spans 140 acres along Palm Beach. The 540-room, Italian Renaissance-style resort was inspired by Italian villas of the 1400s and features a majestic, 1,040-foot main drive leading to the Florentine Fountain patterned after the Boboli Gardens in Florence. The main lobby’s inspiration was the Great Hall of the Palazzo Carega (circa 1560) in Genoa. Today, it’s better than ever with two golf courses, four swimming pools, eight restaurants, a half-mile of private beach, 20,000-square-foot spa, 11 onsite boutiques, and a new 6,000-square-foot, indoor-outdoor oceanfront fitness center.

7. Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

The Vinoy has stood watch over Tampa Bay since it opened with great fanfare on New Year’s Eve 1925 and after a $93 million restoration in 1992, it ranks among Florida’s most luxurious resorts. The salmon-colored, Mediterranean Revival building hosted everyone from presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover to Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Stewart, and Babe Ruth during its heyday. It was converted into a training center for the U.S. Army Air Corps and military cooks during WW II. The hotel reopened in 1944 but eventually fell out of favor to the point that it became a boarding house charging just $7 per night. It closed in 1974 but was saved from the wrecking ball by St. Petersburg residents in 1984 due to its cherished place in the city’s history. Today, the 361-room resort boasts a 74-slip marina, golf course, 12 tennis courts, and a 5,000-square-foot fitness center.

6. National Hotel Miami Beach

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock

The South Beach Art Deco Historic District in Miami is among the coolest collections of American architecture around and nowhere is it better displayed than the National Hotel Miami Beach. Opened in 1939, the National was designed by Roy France, one of Art Deco’s most revered architects. New owners and management did an extensive restoration in 1997 of the hotel that has 116 rooms in its iconic, 14-story tower as well as 36 luxury cabanas and suites. Today, original furnishings can be seen throughout the property including terrazzo flooring in the Martini Room cigar bar, the oak bar that anchors the Blues Bar, and the Oval Ballroom’s original, restored carpeting and chandelier. Polished chrome light fixtures and dark wood furnishings also are original. During the restoration, a narrow, 205-foot-long, infinity-edge pool was created to mimic Art Deco’s streamlined style. The ultra-hip, palm-lined pool is Miami Beach’s longest.

5. Casa Monica

Vlad G / Shutterstock

As the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the U.S., it’s natural to assume St. Augustine is home to some really old hotels like the Casa Monica. The circa 1888 hotel was purchased shortly after it opened by Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler who changed its name to Cordova and built a bridge in 1902 to connect it to another hotel nearby, the Alcazar. It officially closed in 1932 after Flagler abandoned the complex during the stock market crash, and it became the St. John’s County Courthouse in 1968. It was restored and reopened as a 138-room hotel in 1999. Today, the Moorish Revival-style hotel showcases hand-painted Italian tile, Spanish tapestries, and hand-painted gold-leafed archways in the lobby. Rooms are elegantly appointed with Spanish-style furnishings, mahogany tables, and four-poster, wrought-iron beds. In 2001, the king and queen of Spain visited what has become one of Florida’s most luxurious boutique hotels.

4. Gasparilla Inn & Club

The tip of Boca Grande Island has long been a special place with its deep water and legendary reputation as one of the best tarpon fishing spots in the world. The Gasparilla Inn & Club opened in 1913, largely as the result of phosphate rock being discovered nearby and subsequently mined for use in detergents and other products. Built originally to appeal to visiting business barons and wealthy Northerners seeking a winter respite, the Inn has been a favorite over the years for celebrities and business pioneers alike including J.P. Morgan, Henry DuPont, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Katharine Hepburn and George H.W. Bush. Through careful stewardship, Gasparilla remains one of the best examples of old Florida luxury and style. The original pillared Inn has 63 guestrooms, while surrounding cottages offer 74 more. Sandy, secluded beaches, 18-hole golf course and 250-slip marina keep new generations coming back to this Florida classic.

Photo by: Midwest Golf Blog
Photo by: Midwest Golf Blog

3. Terrace Hotel

Air conditioning and railroads had much to do with the creation and enduring popularity of the Terrace Hotel. The railroad boom of the late 19th century had 25 trains stopping daily at the Lakeland depot by the 1890s, bringing increasing numbers of well-to-do visitors from the Northeast U.S. The Terrace Hotel opened in 1924 with the big new thing—air conditioning—which made it enormously popular with A-list guests such as Henry Ford, Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Sinatra. The 10-story landmark was Lakeland’s first high-rise structure and featured spectacular crystal chandeliers imported from Italy, floor-to-ceiling arched windows and patterned Cyprus ceilings in the lobby. After a long run of popularity, it faded from the limelight and eventually became a flop house for transients before closing in 1986. The 73-room hotel was restored and reopened in 1998 as the anchor of Lakeland’s revitalized downtown historic district.

Photo by: Terrace Hotel
Photo by: Terrace Hotel

2. Le Meridien Tampa

Actually, the Le Meridien Tampa is new, having just opened in 2014, but the former Federal courthouse that houses it dates back to 1905. More than $27 million was required to transform this stately, Greek Revival-style hall of justice into a luxurious hotel in downtown Tampa. The courthouse was built to last, and remnants of its former life are prevalent throughout the hotel. A former witness box now serves as a host stand at its restaurant, while a witness selection desk has been re-purposed as a business center. Former courtrooms are now ballrooms or meeting rooms with clever names like the Verdict Boardroom and Sidebar One. What’s special about this place is how the new hotel tastefully blends old with new, like modern chandeliers illuminating traditional marble floors and granite columns. Rooms are decidedly modern with 42” flat-screen TVs, contemporary furniture and carpet and WiFi.

Photo by: Hotels.com
Photo by: Hotels.com

1. Marquesa Hotel

The Marquesa Hotel in the heart of Key West’s historic district is comprised of four Victorian-style homes built in 1884. Together, the pastel-colored houses frame two pools and an interior garden so lush with tropical plants and rock waterfalls that guests will be tempted to simply kick back there and relax all day. Those who do venture out will find all the attractions on Duval Street only one block away. The Gulf of Mexico is just four blocks. The luxury boutique hotel features decadently decorated rooms with antiques, plush bedding and marble baths. It has been included on “best hotels” lists from the likes of U.S. News & World Report and Travel & Leisure, while Zagat named its fine-dining, 50-seat Café Marquesa Key West’s top restaurant. The owners emphasize comfort and quiet for their guests, and children have to be at least 14 years old to stay there.

Photo by: McNees
Photo by: McNees

The 10 Best Kids Activities in Tampa That Skip the Beach

White sand beaches, a glittering gulf coast and sunshine 361 days of the year, Tampa Bay, FL, is the perfect family destination made up of sandcastle building and kite flying. But ask any parent and they’ll tell you that after a day or two on the beach, their wee ones start whining about all that scratchy sand and super hot sun. So take a break from the beach on your next family vacation in Tampa and try one of these kid-approved activities instead. The best part? No funny tan lines on the young ones!

10. Lowry Park Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! And penguins and primates, too — plus a whole lot more. Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa was voted the #1 zoo for kids by Parents Magazine offering up nearly endless animal delights for the young and young at heart. And you can get up close and personal, too; in the Safari Africa exhibit, try stepping on the raised platform to feed long-necked giraffes, or help your child saddle up on a llama for a ride through Wallaroo Station. Plus, much of the zoo’s sidewalks and paths are covered by a canopy of old oaks, so you and the kids will be clocking in summer fun in the shade.

Waddell Images / Shutterstock.com
Waddell Images / Shutterstock.com

9. Dinosaur World

Zoo animals are cool and all, but they don’t compare to the thrill and chills of life-sized dinosaurs! Just off of Interstate 4 (about 20 minutes from downtown Tampa), this attraction may come off as a little kitschy to the adults, but kids are sure to get a kick out of the Fossil Dig, Dino Gem Excavation, and plenty of fearsome Jurassic beasts to climb all over. Your wee ones might even learn something educational at the Prehistoric Museum, which houses interactive exhibits and dino artifacts like eggs and raptor claws. Plus, leashed dogs are welcomed at the park, perfect for if you’re traveling with Fido. The exit for Dinosaur World is easy to spot: as you drive down the interstate, you’ll spy a ferocious T-Rex and a leaf-loving Brontosaurus peeking through the trees!

Dinosaur World, Tampa

8. Tampa Theatre

After sightseeing in the sun all day, you and your kids will be ready for a little relaxing, so sit back and take in a show at the historic Tampa Theatre downtown. Built in 1926, the theater boasts a breathtaking interior built to resemble a Mediterranean courtyard, complete with twinkling lights on the ceiling that mimic a bed of stars in a clear night sky. The main attraction, though, is the fun line up of contemporary and classic films that the theater airs; if you’re lucky, they may even be offering a sing-along experience to one of your family’s favorite musicals, like The Sound of Music.

Photo by: Christopher Sessums via Flickr
Photo by: Christopher Sessums via Flickr

7. Manatee Viewing Center

Don’t let the nickname “sea cow” fool you — manatees are graceful, gentle creatures, and kids of all ages will delight in spotting them in Tampa’s waters. For the best chance of spying these hefty aquatic mammals, head to Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. Stroll down a wooden boardwalk to a 50-foot-high wildlife observation tower that gives you an amazing vantage point to the water below. A visit to the Manatee Viewing Center is perfect if you’re in town with the kids during the cooler months of winter and spring, since the center is only open from Nov. 1 through to April 15. To make a day of the outing, pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the tables scattered around the observation tower.

Photo by: Walter via Flickr
Photo by: Walter via Flickr

6. Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

Rip-roaring winds, slimy science experiments, and tightrope walking — you’ll find it all at MOSI. Load up the kids in the Gulf Coast Hurricane simulator to experience hair-whipping 74-mph winds. Snap pics as your wee one’s swing and zip line their way through the outdoor ropes course, then cool off inside with a starry show at Saunders Planetarium. When the kids get hungry, grab some snacks at the ground floor MOSI café, and try not to jump with fright when you spy the two giant diplodocus dinosaur skeletons standing guard over the lobby. Don’t worry, they won’t bite! The biggest can’t-miss spectacle at MOSI, though, is the IMAX Dome theater. The massive, curved screen and booming surround-sound system completely envelop theater goers in the film experience, so it really feels like you’re right there petting pandas, exploring outer space, or feeling the spray of humpback whales. Tickets cost extra, but it’s so worth it.

Photo by: Museum of Science and Industry
Photo by: Museum of Science and Industry

5. Salvador Dali Museum

With his colorful, trippy paintings and cartoon-like pointy mustache, Salvador Dali is one artist that appeals to the kid in all of us. Impart some culture on your kids with a trip to the world-renowned Dali Museum in downtown St. Petersburg, just across the bridge from Tampa. The museum hosts a score of activities for children and families; visit on a Saturday to participate in “Dillydally with Dali,” where kids learn more about the surrealist master through fun puzzles, games, and crafts. The best part of this program? It’s free! After your museum visit, take a stroll with your kids down the nearby St. Pete waterfront. Taking a moment to survey the gently bobbing boats in the marina will be super soothing after an afternoon viewing Dali’s topsy-turvy paintings.

doma / Shutterstock.com
doma / Shutterstock.com

4. Saturday Morning Market

If you and the kids are getting hungry, pop over to downtown St. Pete’s Saturday Morning Market, which runs from 9 am to 2 pm. In addition to over 50 food and produce vendors, the market is normally abuzz with jamming live music. This fun farmer’s market is perfect for families; instead of trying not to fidget in a stuffy restaurant, kids can pick from an array of easy-to-eat cuisines served from some of St. Pete’s best food trucks. Plus, the handcrafted gifts and gourmet food items for sale make the perfect souvenirs to bring back home — you’ll find everything from hand-thrown pottery to handmade strawberry jam up for grabs. The market is also extremely pet-friendly; you’ll find all kinds of animals, from dogs to bunnies and even parrots, enjoying the warm Saturday morning with their owners.

Photo by: CityofStPete via Flickr
Photo by: CityofStPete via Flickr

3. Tampa Bay Rays Game

Do you have a budding baseball star in the family? Take him or her to Tropicana Field in St. Pete to watch the Rays in action. And don’t worry, you’ll keep cool during the game even with the intense Florida heat, since Tropicana Field is an indoor stadium. Try to visit on a Sunday, which is considered “Family Fun Day”, for cool discounts and giveaways that will delight the kids. Face painters, magicians, and mimes will be around providing extra entertainment if things get a little dull down on the field. Stick around after the game for Kids Run the Bases, which is exactly what it sounds like — kids get the chance to run the bases of a giant MLB diamond!

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

2. Adventure Island

Slip into your bathing suit and beat the heat at Tampa’s Adventure Island theme park. We’re talking 30 acres of rip-roaring, hair-wetting fun at a water park that’s the definition of “fun for the whole family”. Join your kids for the ride of a lifetime down Colossal Curl, the park’s newest slide that seats four in a giant inflatable tube that tossing and turning through corkscrews and waterfalls — you’ll even experience a stomach-flipping feeling of weightlessness during the slide’s descent! If you’re looking for something that’s not quite so heart-racing, head to Paradise Lagoon to watch your wee ones navigate their way through rope nets, slides, and a cool pool. There’s even a cliff that your miniature adventurers can jump off of (don’t worry, it’s not that high!). And you can rest easy knowing that life vests are available to kids who are still brushing up on their swimming skills.

Photo by: Adventure Island
Photo by: Adventure Island

1. The Florida Aquarium

Just because you skip the beach doesn’t mean you and the kids have to miss out on seeing Florida’s incredible array of aquatic wildlife. A trip to the wondrous Florida Aquarium, regarded as one of the top aquariums in the nation, will leave your kids wide eyed with mouths agape — much like a fish’s expression! The best thing about this aquarium, located in Tampa’s bustling Channelside district, is the numerous interactive touch exhibits available to kids. They can stroke stingrays gliding through a shallow tank at Stingray Beach, poke prickly anemones and starfish at the No Bone Zone, and even cuddle with an African black-footed penguin during the “Penguins: Backstage Pass” experience. If your kids are nine or older (and very, very brave) they can get SCUBA equipment and hangout with the ocean’s toothiest predators through the “Shark Swim” program. An experience like that is sure to give your child bragging rights for months to come post-vacation!

Photo by: Jared via Flickr
Photo by: Jared via Flickr

9 Reasons Why Tampa is a Sports Lovers Paradise

Given Florida’s temperate climate and reputation for long sunny days, it’s no surprise that professional sports have a huge presence in this southern state. Leading the way, the Tampa Area is home to many teams spanning the sports world from ever-popular professional baseball to the rapidly expanding sport of Rugby Union. Those visiting the Tampa area could easily make a vacation out of game-hopping from one sports facility to another, and since they’re all in and around the Tampa area it’s only a matter of how many games can you fit in while in town!

1. NHL Hockey

Tampa is home to the Tampa Bay Lightning professional hockey team and while you might think ice hockey wouldn’t exactly fit in with the Florida lifestyle, games at the Amalie Arena in Downtown Tampa are always packed. The team was formed in 1992 at the end of the NHL’s expansion era and even has a Stanley Cup Championship from 2003-2004 under their belt. To catch a home game, visit during the NHL regular season of late October to early April.

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

2. NFL Football

No American sports destination is complete without an NFL football team. The Tampa Bay Bucaneers play their home games out of Raymond James Stadium located just east of the Tampa International Airport. Added as an expansion team in 1976, the Bucs have one Super Bowl Championship from the 2002 season and their only Super Bowl appearance. The NFL regular season runs from September to December.

Nina B / Shutterstock.com
Nina B / Shutterstock.com

3. MLB Spring Training

Where do the pros go during the off-season? Florida! Many major league baseball teams call Florida home during the spring training season while they wait for warmer temperatures in their northern home towns and with 3 major teams, the Tampa area is the best spot around to see pre-season baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays play in the charming town of Dunedin at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, The Philadelphia Phillies play at Bright House Field in Clearwater, and the New York Yankees play at George M Steinbrenner Field just east of Tampa International Airport. If you’ve ever thought about checking out the Grapefruit League, Tampa is your spot for the ultimate up-close baseball experience.

FLorida Auto Exchange Stadium

4. MLB Baseball

Of course Tampa isn’t just the home of baseball Spring training, they have their own team to cheer for come regular season. The Tampa Bay Rays play at Tropicana Field in nearby St. Petersburg and once the northern teams leave the area the focus shifts and everyone cheers for the Rays. A relatively new team, the Rays first took the field in 1998 and made it to the World Series in 2008 (though losing to the Philadelphia Phillies). Despite not having won a World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays continue to excite crowds and remain a playoff contender year after year.

Tropicana Field Florida

5. Golf

Despite being often debated as a sport or an activity, golf remains synonymous with the sunshine state. In the Tampa area alone, there are reportedly over 90 public golf courses and from PGA Tour host courses to small lesser known clubs, there’s something available for all skill levels and all budgets. If you just can’t make it through the golfing off-season, head down to Tampa where it’s always a great time to hit the links.

Golf Course Florida (2)

6. Rugby Union

One of the fastest growing sports in North America, Rugby Union has roots in the Tampa Area with 2 teams; The Tampa Bay Krewe and the Bay Area Pelicans. The Tampa Krewe are the professional team and complete in Division I and III of USA Rugby. The Krewe play their home games at Cuscaden Park in historic Ybor City. If you’re looking for an exciting new sports experience make your way to Tampa and check out Rugby Union today.

Paolo Bona / Shutterstock.com
Paolo Bona / Shutterstock.com

7. Soccer

While the popularity of soccer in North America may still be relatively new, The Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League (NASL) have been playing for decades already. Originally established in 1975, the Rowdies were actually the first professional sports franchise in the Tampa Area. To catch an exciting home game, head to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg but plan ahead because games are always packed!

Keith Sherwood / Shutterstock.com
Keith Sherwood / Shutterstock.com

8. Arena Football

While NFL is always exciting, the Buccaneers aren’t the only Football team in town; the Tampa Bay Storm play in the Arena Football League which was formed in 1987. The Storm are the only remaining original franchise in the league which offers a more accessible option for football fans without sacrificing any action. The Tampa Bay Storm share their recently renovated Amalie Arena with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

Photo by: Tampa Bay Storm
Photo by: Tampa Bay Storm

9. College Sports

In America, college sports are more than a big deal, sometimes even having a stronger fan base than professional teams and the Tampa Area is no exception. Home to the University of South Florida, the schools USF Bulls compete in the NCAA Division I level and the school’s football team play their home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, also home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Aspen Photo / Shutterstock.com
Aspen Photo / Shutterstock.com

Gulf Island Getaway: Sheraton Sand Key Resort

Widely regarded as one of the best beaches in the country and recently named the Best Beach in Florida by USA Today, Clearwater Beach is the perfect tropical escape right in your own backyard. Located on 10 acres of pristine beachfront on the Gulf of Mexico, the Sheraton Sand Key Resort is the perfect place for relaxation, family fun, or even a romantic getaway.

Escape to the Island

One of the unique features setting this resort apart from others in the area is the location on Sand Key, which despite being connected by an elevated roadway is actually its own island. It’s this location that greatly contributes to a sense of rest and relaxation at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort as you enjoy the private beachfront away from the noise and crowds of the main beach area.

Sheraton beach view

Amenities

The Sheraton Sand Key offers all the amenities you need to enjoy a great time on the Gulf coast. In addition to the 10 acres of private beach front property, the resort also has an outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi with amazing ocean views so it’s possible to watch one of the famous Gulf Coast sunsets without leaving the pool. For even more relaxation, the resorts on-site spa offers services including deep tissue massage, aromatherapy, salt treatments and facials. Fitness is important to many, even while on vacation and the resort offers many options for exercise including beach runs/walks, a state of the art fitness center with modern equipment and ocean views, outdoor tennis courts and the exciting new sport of beach tennis. Don’t worry if you forget a few things when packing; SeaGrapes Apparel and BlueWater Provisions located near the resort lobby have everything you need including drinks, snacks, clothing, toiletries and distinctive gifts and souvenirs.

Sheraton Pool

Rooms

You won’t find the typical faded beach hotel rooms here. This resort features 390 smoke free rooms, many with views of the Gulf of Mexico and Intracoastal Waterway. All rooms are clean, spacious and inviting with new modern furniture and ultra-comfortable beds and linens. Each room has its own private balcony to enjoy warm sunny days or the beautiful coastal sunsets from the comfort of your own room. Guestrooms also include all the amenities you would expect of the Sheraton brand like flat screen tv’s with cable and in-room movies, deluxe bath amenities, wired and wireless internet and coffee making facilities featuring Starbucks coffee and Tazo teas. After long days on the beach or by the pool it’s nice to know you have a comfortable place to relax and unwind.

sheraton-rooms-1

Hospitality

From the moment you arrive at the doors of the Sheraton Sand Key Resort you’ll feel welcomed by their world-class hospitality. The staff here are friendly, kind and willing to go above and beyond to make your stay here memorable. Even just passing in the hallway, they always take the opportunity to greet guests with a smile. From the General Manager to the housekeeping crew, many staff have been a part of this organization for years and enjoy forming relationships with the repeat guests they see return year after year. The result is an atmosphere where you not only feel welcomed but valued as a guest.

SheratonSandKey_Lobby_Dec2014

Dining

Prepare for a delicious dining experience without even having to leave the property. Sheraton Sand Key Resort has several options to suit all your dining needs. While enjoying time at the pool visit Slo Joe’s Turtle Bar for refreshing tropical cocktails or the Poolside Café for snacks and refreshments. For casual American fare, visit Island Grill offering a casual family friendly menu daily from 11am-5pm. If you’re looking for sports, a full bar and some great pub snacks and small plates, the Mainstay Tavern is the perfect place to enjoy some casual pints or a relaxing glass of wine in the evenings. For an exquisite meal prepared by one of the area’s most reputable chefs, Rusty’s Bistro in the lobby offers a full buffet breakfast each morning which includes creative specials like apple stuffed pancakes. For dinner, the Bistro also serves some of the best and most creative Floridian cuisine in the area including seafood offerings like a unique take on calamari and fresh local fish. Everything at Rusty’s Bistro is innovative, flavorful and prepared with finesse.

Photo 2014-10-17, 12 04 40

Nearby

While the resort itself has lots of activities to offer, there are tons of great activities nearby. If you want to check out all the action and excitement of Clearwater’s main beach area, it’s only a short trolley or cab ride away. At the main beach you’ll find Pier 60; THE destination to enjoy sunset parties on the beach, bars and restaurants, beach shops and many fishing charters and dolphin watching cruises. Animal lovers won’t want to miss visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, located only a 10 minute drive from the Sheraton Sand Key Resort. This is not your typical aquarium as the focus here is on marine life rescue and rehabilitation but you may recognize the aquarium’s famous dolphin; Winter from Disney’s Dolphin Tale movies.

ClearwaterMarineAquarium

Get Away Today

From picture perfect sunsets to exciting animal encounters, Clearwater Beach is your premier destination for fun on Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Sheraton Sand Key resort provides the ideal accommodation for a perfect vacation. Come visit the Sheraton to experience world-class hospitality, idyllic ocean views and vibrant local cuisine and you’ll soon see why after one visit, guest just keep coming back for more.

 

 

Clearwater sunset

The 10 Best Family Activities in Clearwater/St. Pete Beach

The Gulf Coast of Florida offers spectacular beaches along with warm turquoise waters, sunshine and so much more all in a setting that’s perfect for an amazing family vacation. The Clearwater and St. Petersburg Beach areas combine all the perfect elements for a good time: food, fun, nature, history and of course lots of that Florida sunshine. It’s a place that caters to families of all sizes so to get the most of your visit here are some of the best family activities to check out while you’re in the area:

10. Tarpon Springs

Located just a short drive north of Clearwater lies the city of Tarpon Springs, home of the historic Sponge Docks and the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the U.S. Tarpon Springs claim to fame was once being the natural sea sponge capital of the world, the jobs in the sponge industry lead to the large population of Greek Americans that settled here in the early 1900’s. Today the town is still home to a small active sponge industry and is still a great place to pick up a natural sea sponge of your own and also the best spot for authentic Greek cuisine on the Gulf. Tarpon Springs also has some great beaches nearby like Sunset Beach and Howard Park making it a great family day trip from the Clearwater and St. Petersburg areas.

Tarpon Springs

9. Great Explorations

Remember when you were young and playing make believe was the highlight of your day? Well at Great Explorations in St. Petersburg, children get the chance to do that and more while exploring this fun interactive place for play. There’s no ‘do not touch’ signs in this facility as children are encouraged to touch, move, pretend and create all in an environment that encourages learning and creativity. Among some of the favorite exhibits are the grocery store and make your own pretend pizza in the pizza parlor. There’s also live animals and science exhibits designed to teach kids about nature and sciences. Great Explorations also has a section just for toddlers with age appropriate activities and toys, so there’s no age too young to enjoy this fun and creative attraction.

Great Explorations
Photo by: Great Explorations Children’s Museum

8. Sunsets at Pier 60

Florida’s Gulf Coast Beaches are renowned for offering world class sunsets and the best place to catch all the colors and beauty is at Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach. 7 nights a week, Pier 60 comes to life with a festival celebrating the beautiful sunsets that can be seen here on clear evenings. The free family friendly event features artisans, craft stalls, performers and live music and both parents and children are sure to have a great time. Don’t forget about the main attraction amidst all the performances and music! The sunsets here are incredible and on clear evenings you’ll see dazzling colors or red, orange, pink and blue as the sun fades beyond the horizon. It’s something you don’t want to miss while on the gulf coast!

Sunset Pier 60 Clearwater

7. Fishing Charter

One of the most popular activities on the gulf, fishing is a favorite pastime of tourists and Clearwater locals alike and the waters of the gulf coast offer a chance to catch snapper, sea bass, mahi mahi, or the local favorite: grouper. To try your own hand at catching something big, consider taking a fishing charter. There are many operators available out of both the Clearwater and St. Pete Beach areas. Many offer kids fishing for free so the whole family can go and enjoy some time on the beautiful gulf coast waters and hopefully get the thrill of the catch. Most operators offer both half day and full day tours which are usually about 4 and 8 hours each. Tours include all your gear, bait and sometimes even offer food on board for those longer trips. If you do happen to catch something worth keeping, the crew will keep it on ice for you and clean it upon return for a small fee, then it’s all yours to cook up and enjoy!

Fishing Charter Florida

6. Mini Golf

Everyone knows that Florida is a golfer’s paradise with world class courses all around the state, but golf isn’t just a pastime for the retirees. At Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf the whole family can enjoy the fun of mini golfing on courses that have been rated ‘Florida’s Best Mini Golf’ by Florida Monthly Magazine Readers. With rushing water features, dark caves, and lush tropical terrain, the whole family will enjoy playing these fun courses. You can also check out the live gators at Sumgglers Cove and kids can even feed them if they’re feeling brave! Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf has 2 locations in the Clearwater area; Madeira Beach and Indian Shores.

Photo by: Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf
Photo by: Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf

5. Indoor Surfing

Florida’s Gulf Beaches have a lot to offer but world class waves aren’t one of them. That doesn’t mean you have no chance of catching a wave, because at FlowRider Indoor Surfing in Clearwater you can get the awesome thrill of riding a wave without the crowds or waiting for that perfect wave to roll in. It’s always a great time to try this sport out and indoor surfing is especially great if you’re a beginner looking to get some experience up on a board. There’s no need to master the ‘pop-up’ here because at FlowRider, you start standing up already so you’re guaranteed a great wave-riding experience. You’ll find the FlowRider experience located in the Surf Style store on Gulfview Blvd.

FlowRider

4. Caladesi Island State Park

Beach lovers and nature enthusiasts, Caladasi Island is the place for you! This state park located in the north end of Clearwater Beach is only accessible by boat or ferry shuttle. The park is one of the few completely natural islands along Florida’s Gulf Coast, so you won’t find any of the brightly colored beach shops, restaurants or even cars that you find along the main beach. If you’re looking to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the gulf coast without the noise and crowds of the popular tourist areas, consider taking the 20 minute ferry over to enjoy some swimming, exploring, sun-bathing, picnicking and snorkeling in Florida this beautiful unspoilt paradise. The Caladesi Ferry is available year round and runs every half hour during high season and hourly in low season. Fees are $14 round trip for adults, $7 for children age 6-12, and little ones age 5 and under are free!

Caladesi Island State Park Florida

3. Glazer Children’s Museum

While not technically located in the Beaches, this children’s museum is worth the trip across the bay and into Tampa so it’s captivating and educational exhibits of all kinds. The museum features over 170 interactive exhibits and activities grouped into a number of categories split onto 2 levels of the facility. Kids will enjoy designing and flying airplanes in the ‘Engineers Workshop’, mucking about in the huge water table at ‘Kidsport’, and creating their own kaleidoscopes in the ‘Art Smart’ exhibit. For your admission of $10 for kids age 1-12 and $15 for adults you’ll get a full day’s worth of activities and you don’t even have to leave when those tummy’s start to rumble because there’s a Subway restaurant on site. The Glazer Children’s Museum is a perfect activity if you get a rainy day on the beaches or if you’ve had enough sun.

Photo by: Glazer Children's Museum
Photo by: Glazer Children’s Museum

2. Dolphin Watching Tour

If Winter’s story wasn’t enough, take the opportunity to view some dolphins in the wild with one of the many popular dolphin watching boat tours offered in the Clearwater/St. Pete areas. The Gulf of Mexico is home to many species of marine mammals, most notable are the large populations of dolphins that call these warm waters home. There are many tour operators that offer boat cruises varying in length from 1 hour up to half day cruises with the chance to spot some of these playful creatures in their natural habitat. Children won’t be able to contain their excitement when the captain calls out the first sighting and parents will enjoy the calm and serenity of cruising the gulf waterways on a beautiful sunny day. Check out a few different operators before choosing your cruise and shop around for best prices and value.

Dolphins

1. Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure –Clearwater

Meet the stars of Disney’s popular movies Dolphin Tale and now Dolphin Tale 2; Winter and Hope. Chances are your kids are already familiar with the movie and will love meeting Winter and Hope in real life as well as seeing recognizable scenes from the movies. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a marine life rescue and rehabilitation center that has been elevated to its current tourism mega-status after the success of the Disney movie depicting the real life story of Winter, a dolphin rescued by the aquarium who was successfully fitted and rehabilitated with a prosthetic tail after losing her own when she became tangled in a crab net. Your admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium also gets you into the popular Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure in Downtown Clearwater. This new facility gives children and their families the chance to go behind-the-scenes of the heart-warming movies and view real movie props, exhibits and also offers a huge gift shop full of all your favorite Dolphin Tale souvenirs and gifts.

Photo by: Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Photo by: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The Best Tampa Area Attractions

Tampa, Florida’s city on the Bay has long been a favorite vacation destination for snowbirds and families alike -and with so many fantastic area attractions, who wouldn’t want to visit?! The greater Tampa area is located on the Gulf coast of central Florida and encompasses the cities of Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Brandon, and many other small towns along the coast. The first attraction that probably comes to mind when thinking of Florida is a beach…and there’s no shortage of these in the Tampa area, but there’s a whole lot more. With something for everyone from sports fans to families with small children to those just looking for a good time, you’ll find in all around Tampa. Here’s a quick look at 14 of the top attractions to check out on your trip:

1. Sports

There’s no shortage of professional sports teams in the Tampa Bay Area. This area is fortunate enough to have an NFL, NHL and MLB team, not to mention the many ‘Grapefruit League’ games you can catch during the spring with the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies all calling the area their spring training home.

FLorida Auto Exchange Stadium

2. International Plaza

Some of the best shopping in Tampa is conveniently found right beside the Tampa International Airport at the International Plaza and Bay Street shopping center. This upscale shopping destination features designer names like Gucci, Burberry and Tiffany as well as a slew of dining options ranging from quick service eateries to swanky steak houses.

Female shopping

3. Beaches

The attraction that draws people back to the Gulf coast of Florida time after time is of course the beaches! Around Tampa you have your choice of top beach destinations like Clearwater Beach with its fine powder white sand or St. Pete’s beach to the south. You can basically just head west of the city and you’re sure to find a great spot to enjoy some sun and sand.

Clearwater Beach Florida

4. Fishing

Florida’s Gulf coast is known for its amazing fishing and one of the best spots to head out from is John’s Pass; a quaint fishing village on the coast south of Clearwater Beach. Here you’ll find many tour operators ready to take you out on a deep sea fishing adventure where you can catch sea bass, snapper or those famous Florida groupers.

Fishing Charter Florida

5. Dolphin Watching

There’s nothing quite like the magical experience of seeing a dolphin at play in the wild and in Tampa this experience is entirely possible. Many Bottlenose dolphins call Tampa Bay and the surrounding Gulf waters home and can be spotted by taking a dolphin watching tour from one of many spots on the coast.

Dolphins

6. Fort De Soto Park

Pinellas County is home to many beautiful parks and Fort De Soto is the largest of them all. Here you can enjoy many activities like kayaking, nature walks, fishing or enjoying the beautiful 3 mile stretch of beach. There’s also camping in the park so you can really immerse yourself in the gorgeous natural surroundings.

Fort De Soto Park Florida

7. Golf

With year-round golfing weather and literally hundreds of courses to choose from in the Tampa area it’s no wonder so many people come to the Gulf Coast of Florida for their golfing holidays. Whether you’re an amateur who gets out when they can or a scratch golfer looking to try out some new courses you’ll find courses of all skill levels here…including some that have hosted the PGA Tour Championships.

Golf course Florida

8. Gasparilla Festival

You’ve probably heard of the legendary parties of Mardi Gras but Florida has its own giant party, and Tampa residents will tell you it’s even bigger! Every year since 1904, mock pirates ‘invade’ Tampa Bay and take over the city for the biggest pirate party ever celebrating the dubious buccaneer past of Tampa. It’s worth planning your vacation around this colorful celebration which takes place in late January or early February.

aceshot1 / Shutterstock.com
aceshot1 / Shutterstock.com

9. Dali Museum

Learn all about Spanish artist Salvador Dali at this museum dedicated to his artistic creations in St. Petersburg Florida. The museum building its self is as visually intriguing as the works it houses and with its close proximity to Tampa, you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to see some of the most famous Surrealist paintings in the world.

Dali Museum Florida
Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock.com

10. Busch Gardens

Open 365 days a year, thrill seekers and families looking for fun won’t want to miss Tampa’s Busch Gardens amusement park. Not only does this park have exciting rides and attractions but they are also home to more than 12,000 animals making it one of the largest zoos in North America. For animal lovers Busch Gardens is a must visit during your stay in Tampa.

Lions Bush Gardens Florida

11. Tampa Museum of Art

Newly re-opened in 2010, the Tampa Museum of Art is the region’s largest museum embracing contemporary photography and new media. Before even entering you’ll be wowed by the stunning Sky (Tampa), a 14,000 LED light installation on the building façade by artist Leo Villareal. The convenient location in downtown Tampa makes this museum easy to fit into your travel literary.

Photo by: Richard Barnes/Tampa Museum of Art
Photo by: Richard Barnes/Tampa Museum of Art

12. MOSI Museum of Science and Industry

The Tampa Museum of Science and Industry’s core goal is to ‘make a difference in people’s lives by making science real for people of all ages’. One visit to MOSI and you’ll soon realize science is real and it’s all around us. The museum has many interactive exhibits as well as children’s programs and even an IMAX dome theater showing interesting documentaries and big blockbuster films…often before they hit regular theaters.

Photo by: Museum of Science and Industry
Photo by: Museum of Science and Industry

13. Tampa Bay History Center

To gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Tampa area, visit the Tampa Bay History Center located downtown. Here you’ll find interesting exhibits of history and culture including Tampa’s buccaneer past and the First People of Florida. The center also hosts monthly events and children’s activities that are usually free with admission.

Photo by: Tampa Bay History Center
Photo by: Tampa Bay History Center

14. The Florida Aquarium

What’s a trip to Tampa without seeing some of Florida’s famous aquatic life? Visit the Florida Aquarium, a 250,000 square foot facility showcasing amazing aquatic plants and animals from the area and the rest of the world. From beautiful coral reef displays to murky swamps where alligators lay, the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa is a must visit.

Photo by: The Florida Aquarium
Photo by: The Florida Aquarium

10 Things to See and Do in Florida

Known for its sunny skies, lively beaches, swampy rivers, wildlife and interesting people; the state of Florida is overflowing with things to see and do. From the 2nd largest National Park in the country to the African Plains whether you are looking for alligators or giraffes you can find them here. Dive into the Potter World with the incredible Wizarding World of Harry Potter located at the Universal Parks. Scuba dive or snorkel into the waters to view manatees, fish and perhaps try your luck at spending the night underwater at a once-in-a-lifetime hotel. Walk along the beach collecting shells, eat at a trendy restaurant in South Beach and discover a world beyond the Walt Disney World side of Florida. Our top ten things to see and do in this state will leave you excited to explore even more of this wonderful place.

1. Spend a Night at the Underwater Hotel

The only underwater hotel in North America is located in the lagoon at Key Largo Undersea Park. Once an underwater research habitat it has been transformed into Jules Undersea Lodge; a comfortable, spacious, overnight accommodation for divers. You will need to be SCUBA certified to get here and the park offers certification on-site. Visitors can choose to spend three hours or an entire night in this underwater hotel that can sleep up to six guests at a time.

Stocked with hot showers, a full kitchen including a refrigerator and microwave, books, music, movies and comfortable beds there is no place quite like this anywhere on the planet. The large 42inch round windows provide guests plenty of opportunities to curl up in bed and watch the fish glide by.  Enjoy a pizza dinner that is hand delivered right to the hotel as well as unlimited juice, soft drinks and bottled water; there is no alcohol here for obvious reasons. Guests can dive unlimitedly from the hotel and equipment is included in the overnight price. Living underwater for a night is something everyone should have the chance to experience and Jules Undersea Lodge is the perfect place to do so.

Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com
Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com

2. Visit the Kennedy Space Center

Heading to Florida without planning a stop at the greatest space adventure on earth would truly be a travesty. The Kennedy Space Center allows visitors to walk underneath the largest rocket ever flown, have lunch with an astronaut, touch an actual moon rock, experience a shuttle launch simulation and so much more. Whether you’re an adult, child or grandparent this will be an experience you never forget.

Come face to face with the space shuttle Atlantis which is one of the most complicated and sophisticated pieces of equipment ever built that allowed for NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program. See the space shuttle as only astronauts have seen her before. Explore the interactive exhibits that tell the story of the building on the space station and the engineering behind this incredible shuttle. Watch actual footage of space during one of two 3D IMAX films that take you aboard the International Space Station. Head over to the Apollo center and relive the moments when man walked on the moon for the first time. Visit this magical place to be inspired and excited about the future of space travel.

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

3. Swim with the Manatees

During the winter about 20% of Florida’s Gulf Coast manatee population migrates to the spring-fed waters of Kings Bay. The bay is protected by the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and allows visitors the chance to get into the water with these gentle and playful animals that are currently on the endangered list. With over 40 tour operators offering the chance to see these creatures in action, it may be overwhelming to choose one.

River Ventures Manatee Tour Center stands alone as the best tour operator for this area and offers fun and educational experiences to swim with the manatees. The captains are knowledgeable and fun, the tours are kept small in size and the appreciation for these gentle creatures shines through in the way the staff interacts with them. Wetsuits and snorkel gear are provided as well as hot chocolate and coffee when you return. Be aware the water is chilly at this time of the year and it will be a shock when you first get in.  There is controversy surrounding the touching of the manatees although research shows no harm is done by this; but this is one experience you should do now before it potentially becomes prohibited.

Manatee in Florida

4. Visit Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas

Choose to venture out to the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson one of two ways; either by seaplane or high-speed catamaran ferry. Located almost 70 miles west of Key West are seven remote islands that are nestled amongst coral reefs and white sandy beaches. The magnificent Fort Jefferson stands tall as the largest masonry structure in America and is housed on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas. This fort is full of history and architecture with impressive drops offs. It also houses the largest collection of Rodman guns in the world with many still on display.

Spend some time on the gorgeous beach that surrounds the fort and snorkel in the crystal clear water or take a moat tour. For the more adventurous traveler choose to spend a couple days camping in the Dry Tortugas National Park. Be prepared to bring all your own camping gear, food and water.  The payoff is awe-inspiring views of the stars, beautiful sunsets and a chance to escape reality for just a couple days. Most visitors who only spend one day wish they could stay longer as the incredible sites deserve more than a day to be discovered.

Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas

5. Discover Harry Potter

Dive deep into the world of wizards and muggles at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that is stretched out between the two Universal Parks in Florida. Whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not; the intricate details, the rides and the butter beer will make your visit worth it. The Hogwarts Express connects the two parks and as you walk through the famous wall at Kings Cross you will literally feel like you are living the movie.

Discover Hogwarts Castle and the charming village of Hogsmeade where you can shop for school supplies or take a thrilling ride on the forbidden journey; all located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park.  Universal Studios Florida offers visitors a chance to explore the hustle and bustle of Diagon Alley where Gringotts bank, the Leaky Cauldron and the wand shops are all amazingly replicated. This magical place does tend to be very busy so be prepared to wait in line for the ride and attractions; but as you feast your eyes on the place that so closely resembles the movie it will all be worth it. Try to visit in the day and at night for both unique experiences.

Hattanas Kumchai / Shutterstock.com
Hattanas Kumchai / Shutterstock.com

6. Visit Little Havana

Heading south to Miami, our next stop is Little Havana with its old-world charm, interesting architecture and carefree lifestyle that residents have adopted from their neighbors to the south. From the authentic Cuban food restaurants to the coffee window shops for the best Cuban coffee in town the food isn’t the only real thing about this neighborhood. Walk the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame where famous artists and Latin personalities are honored.

Don’t forget to stop in at a cigar store for a traditional experience in Little Havana; step through the door to Little Havana Cigar Factory and be transported back in time to the 1950’s. One of the best places to buy cigars in Miami the store is incredibly well-kept, clean, organized and fairly priced along with knowledgeable and friendly staff. The décor is straight out of the 1950’s with over-sized leather couches, delicious Cuban coffee and great music playing throughout. Choose to smoke your cigar in the factory while you chat with staff or other customers or take a few to go; either way Little Havana Cigar Factory is the absolute best place to visit for the cigar lover.

Kamira / Shutterstock.com
Kamira / Shutterstock.com

7. Head to South Beach

One of the most popular tourist districts in Miami, South Beach encompasses the lower 23 blocks of the city with a combination of nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and beach front. Whether you are looking to sunbathe on the soft sand, frolic in the clear blue ocean or people watch this is the place to be. A word of warning; prepare yourself for traffic and construction; something the locals have just learned to live with as it never ceases.

Visit the art deco district where the world’s largest collection of streamline modern art deco architecture exists and the Art Deco Museum on Ocean Drive offers great walking tours. Lincoln Road Mall, an open-air pedestrian mall is located here and is home to many restaurants, shops, art galleries and retail outlets. Explore the museums, markets and shopping that are all nearby, grab a drink on a patio or relax on the sand. Party into the wee hours of the morning in high end clubs with famous DJ’s or attend one of many festivals that take place here. Whatever you are looking to do, South Beach is sure to offer it.

Ocean Drive Art Deco

8. Visit the Everglades

The Everglades National Park is the second largest in the country and the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. The important eco-system is home to species such as alligators, crocodiles, panthers, turtles, wading birds and many more. Visitors can choose to hike, boat, canoe and even camp in this wilderness. Airboat tours are a popular choice of transportation through the glades but it is important to note that most of the park is protected and it’s only in the northern area that airboats are permitted to tour.

Canoe trails on the other hand run throughout the park and range from a couple hours to some serious backcountry camping trails that can only be reached by canoe. Hiking is also a great option with a few paths leading straight from the main entrance with maps available; take note that no pets are allowed on the trails. Whether you explore just a piece of these 1.5 million protected acres, or you choose to spend a few days here; the wildlife, beauty and serenity will amaze you.

Florida Everglades

9. Sanibel Island

This island is serious about two things; shell collecting and conservation and is known around the world for its famous shelled beaches. Take a stroll along the beach and you won’t have to go further than one step before stooping to search for shells; a move that has been dubbed the “Sanibel Stoop”. Besides the incredible shells that can be collected; this island is known for its sunsets, lighthouses and luxury resorts.

More than half of this island is part of a dedicated wildlife refuge and it is worth visiting the J.N. (Ding) Darling National Wildlife Refuge and exploring the mangrove forests. One of the best places to see migrating and resident birds is here, and hop on one of their trolley tours for an informative and fun experience. Along with trolley tours they also offer kayaking, hiking and a wildlife drive through the area. Visiting at low tide is recommended and make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, water and walking shoes if you are planning to hike. Shells, birds, wildlife, trails, luxury hotels and restaurants; Sanibel Island is the perfect pit stop while in Florida.

Sanibel Island

10. Visit Busch Gardens

We cannot leave off this ever popular amusement theme park on our list of things to see and do in Florida. You don’t need to take the long plane ride to Africa to experience their amazing animals as Busch Gardens has done a wonderful job in bringing Africa to Florida. Along with being one of the top zoological facilities in the country and housing over 12,000 animals including 30 species which are endangered or threatened; this park is also full of thrilling roller coasters and entertainment.

From cheetahs to tigers to elephants to giraffes to orangutans; the endless variety of animals and opportunity to see them up close and personal beats any zoo in the state. The open area Serengeti Plain is a hit amongst visitors where animals roam freely and special experiences can be booked. Thrill seekers can head to North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower, Falcon’s Fury where you plunge down from the top at a whopping 60mph. The combination of animals, shows and rides makes Busch Gardens a hit amongst families and rounds out our top ten list of things to see and do in the Sunshine State.

Waddell Images / Shutterstock.com
Waddell Images / Shutterstock.com