Teen-Tested, Parent-Approved: The Ultimate Tampa Itinerary for Teen-Friendly Adventures
After my sister moved to Tampa and made it her home, I found the city to be a Florida gem that shouldn’t be overlooked — especially for families with teens. Tampa boasts an array of attractions that cater to all interests: stunning beaches, thrilling theme parks, unique outdoor adventures and a vibrant culture. In this guide, I’ll share the must-do activities that have been teen-tested and parent-approved to make your family vaca unforgettable. So hop in your rental car (preferably a convertible for that true Floridian vibe) and join me as we dive into the best of Tampa with teens.
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Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay
A sleek resort with two pools and a large waterfront.
Sleek property in the Ybor City Historic District with vibrant rooms and suites.
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Day 1: Exploring the Gems of Ybor City
After arriving in Tampa mid-afternoon, pick up your rental car and check into your hotel. If you're staying in the Water Street Tampa neighborhood, hop aboard the free streetcar trolley to start exploring and make your way into Ybor City, Tampa’s Cuban neighborhood and one-time cigar capital of the world.
Step off the trolley on 7th Avenue and find yourself in the heart of Ybor City, where cobblestone streets lead you to boutiques and vintage shops. Take a leisurely stroll and let the teens lead the way. My teens found their fun at GameTime Tampa, an arcade and sports bar. Don't miss the chance to visit Cuba without a passport, make sure to stop at one of the only two parcels of Cuban-owned land within the United States. If your teens want to delve into the history of the neighborhood’s past, make your way to the Ybor City Museum State Park, housed in the historic Ferlita Bakery building.
As the evening sets in and you’re ready for a bite of dinner, Ybor City hosts a rich culinary scene with a diverse selection of flavors to choose from such as Cuban, Italian, Spanish and Greek. You might check out a few local favorites like Columbia Restaurant or Carmine’s Ybor, which features a delectable deviled crab specialty. My teens landed on the Acropolis Greek Taverna. We highly recommend the dolmades and hummus for appetizers and the falafel wraps for the main course.
What better way to end your day than on a sweet note with a visit to Chill Brother's Scoop Shop? Their small-batch, all-natural ice cream is sure to leave you craving for more.
Day 2: Kayaking at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Set your alarms early for a day of kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Approximately an hour’s drive north of the city, this 12,000-acre preserve and park is renowned for its captivating mermaid underwater performances and the pristine, crystal-clear waters of the Weeki Wachee Springs. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and embark on a relaxed 2.8-mile downstream paddle, enjoying the beauty of the surroundings. Even beginners can complete the journey in under two hours at a relaxed pace and the park provides transportation back up the river, ensuring a hassle-free experience. Trust me, even hesitant teens will find themselves converted into avid paddlers after this memorable adventure!
Pro Tips: To make the most of your kayaking experience, remember to book your kayak in advance online. The park limits the number of launches on the Springs to prevent overcrowding. Also, don't forget to pack essentials such as sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and plenty of snacks in reusable containers.
After your kayaking adventure, make your way back to Tampa and freshen up before heading out for dinner at Sparkman Wharf. This vibrant waterfront area boasts a wide range of enticing restaurants and street food stands. You'll be spoiled for choice. Tacos, burgers, barbeque, sushi – there's something to satisfy even the pickiest of teens! And if you're still in the mood for something sweet (no judgment here - you’re on vacation), indulge in artisanal ice cream or refreshing ice pops as the perfect end to your day.
If they absolutely loved Weeki Wachee, there are tons of other springs and parks in the area. We loved our trip to Silver Springs last year.
Day 3: Topsy, Turvy Adventures at Busch Gardens
Get ready for an action-packed day of adventure at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. This theme park seamlessly combines heart-pounding roller coasters and rides with wildlife exhibits and lush gardens. Arrive early to secure the closest parking spots and make the most of the cooler morning hours in the park. With a variety of exhilarating rides and attractions, such as SheiKra, Montu and Cheetah Hunt, adventure-seeking teens will have a blast testing their limits and satisfying their adrenaline cravings.
Pro Tip: To ensure a hassle-free day, consider purchasing all-day dining with your tickets. This allows your teens to explore the park independently, while ensuring they take breaks to refuel throughout the day.
After an exhilarating day at Busch Gardens, keep it simple and head to Armature Works for dinner. Situated in the heart of the Heights District along the Hillsborough River, this casual food court offers an array of food vendors. Let your teens roam free and choose the meal that tickles their taste buds and reconvene at the picnic tables on the outdoor terrace with stunning riverfront views. Finally, wind down your evening and cool off with a refreshing dip in the pool at your hotel.
Day 4: Coastal delights & artistic exploration in St. Petersburg
Start your day with a scenic 30-minute drive to the charming coastal city of St. Petersburg. Spend the morning soaking up the sun and enjoying the pristine sandy beaches of St. Petersburg. We found a cozy spot near the iconic pink-hued Don Cesar hotel, where we lounged, built sandcastles and dipped our toes in the waves.
As the afternoon heat intensifies, it's the perfect time to seek indoor entertainment at the very Instagrammable Fairgrounds St. Pete. This interactive and immersive art museum presents a fun mystery to solve and a cool story to unravel. We spent a little under two hours playing and exploring at the museum, uncovering its secrets and embracing our inner detectives.
After your artistic adventure, take a leisurely stroll down Central Avenue, an arts and entertainment district with a charming neighborhood feel. Check out the eclectic mix of galleries, boutiques and cafes that line the streets for a blend of creativity and culture. When hunger strikes, satisfy your cravings at the vibrant bistro, Wild Child. Every dish we ordered was a mouth-watering delight, but my teens raved over the Oaxaca Frita, which they deemed as the "best cheese sticks" they’ve ever had.
We all know that traveling with teens can be finicky. Tampa has such an abundance of fun, unforgettable experiences that they’ll have fun no matter what mood they wake up in that day. So pack your bags, embrace your inner Floridian and embark on your Tampa adventure. Your teens will thank you for it!
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, 3-Day Family-Friendly Itinerary in Charleston, South Carolina.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Florida.