The Florida Aquarium
downtown Tampa's waterfront, the distinctive glass-domed Florida Aquarium
showcases more than 4,300 animals and plants in natural fresh- and saltwater
habitats. Walking through the aquarium's huge galleries, visitors can
explore Florida wetlands, bays, beaches, coral reefs and offshore depths.
For the ultimate hands-on aquatic adventure, visit the new "Explore
A Shore" exhibit, where children of all ages can climb among mangrove
tree roots, dig for buried shells, crawl through coral caves and touch
live sea creatures in a pool teeming with everything from sea stars and
anemones to horseshoe crabs and angelfish.
The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)
Families will experience wonders of a different kind at the Museum of
Science and Industry (MOSI). At this scientific playground filled with
more than 450 "minds-on" activities, visitors learn by doing.
Encounter the gale-force winds of a Gulf Coast hurricane, explore the
universe in space simulators or wander through a free-flight butterfly
garden. And at Florida's first IMAX Dome, a 350-seat, 85-foot domed theater,
viewers can experience the thrill of various films up-close.At the Children's
Museum of Tampa, kids can roam through a miniature outdoor city built
to scale and chock-full of educational and entertaining activities.
Tampa Bay Piers
Two Pinellas-area piers provide additional diversions. Jetting out into Tampa
Bay, the quarter-mile-long St. Petersburg Pier features an inverted five-story
pyramid housing a festival marketplace of shops, numerous eating establishments,
an aquarium and large observation area. Plus, families can rent electric
boats, visit the H.M.S. Bounty exhibit in the winter months, play miniature
golf, or celebrate the end of a beautiful Gulf Coast day at Pier 60 in
Clearwater Beach. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Pier 60 offers a sunset
celebration patterned after Key West's popular Mallory Square festival,
but with a decidedly family-friendly atmosphere. Craftsmen, artists and
entertainers perform nightly, two hours before and after sunset.
In addition, some of Tampa's most popular attractions, such as Busch
Gardens, the Florida Aquarium and MOSI, offer an average of 10 percent
off admissions to senior citizens and students. For quick, affordable
transportation to many of the area's cultural and historical attractions,
families can take advantage of the Tampa-Ybor Trolley's 25-cent fare..
Fort DeSoto Park
At the mouth of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Fort DeSoto Park attracts
record numbers of visitors wishing to sample some of Florida's most picturesque
beaches, picnicking grounds and camping spots. The park consists of five
connected barrier islands south of St. Petersburg. Mullet Key is the largest
and is the site of Fort DeSoto, a Spanish American War-era artillery installation
with unusual weaponry. The island also offers beautiful waterside camping,
four miles of bicycle and in-line skating trails, ample saltwater fishing
spots and a large playground for kids.
Aboard airboats, visitors can explore Manatee County's inland bays where
porpoises play and sea turtles paddle by or glide through narrow mangrove
hammocks where sandhill cranes and wood storks nest. Adventurous paddlers
can hop in a canoe and follow the Manatee River into Florida's interior,
where white sandbars suddenly appear around bends in the waterway and
rich subtropical vegetation lines the riverbanks. Nature lovers can visit
15 manatee watch areas throughout the Bradenton area for glimpses of the
Hyde Park and Ybor City
Just beyond Tampa's downtown business district are the historic communities
of Hyde Park and Ybor City, adding a nostalgic, romantic flair to the city's
bustling, modern-day pace. Nestled in the shadows of the grand Henry B.
Plant Museum lies Hyde Park, one of Tampa's oldest neighborhoods.