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Holidays in Tampa Bay: Discover why this city deserves a spot on your Florida itinerary!

Located on Florida's Gulf Coast, Tampa Bay is a great destination for both families and couples, as well as active adventurers or those looking for a more laid-back holiday. In addition to the beautiful, sunny weather that Florida is famous for, Tampa Bay is a vibrant, historic city with a rich cultural offering.

If this is your first time hearing of Tampa Bay, don't worry, because we've got ample reasons why this city should make your must-visit list. Theme parks, nature parks, museums and a world-class culinary and bar scene are just some of the items on the menu when you visit. With daily direct flights from London, adding Tampa Bay to your Florida itinerary is an easy choice. Plus, we've got the deals to help get you there!

How to get there

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have daily, direct flights from London Gatwick and London Heathrow Airport to Tampa International Airport. The flight takes 9 hours and 30 minutes.

🏴‍☠️ Pirate tip: Be sure to snap a selfie with Phoebe the giant flamingo at Tampa International Airport for the perfect holiday shot to make your followers jealous!

Getting around

You won’t need to hire a car to get around Tampa Bay, which is a huge plus. Besides taxis (both on land and water) and car share services, the city has an excellent network of public transport; including buses, trolleys and a streetcar system. Bike hire is available, as well as electric scooters, waterbike, and boat hire. Of course, the city itself is also walkable and there are plenty of accessible walking paths, such as the Tampa Riverwalk.

🏴‍☠️ Pirate tip: Want to save money on transportation? You can ride the TECO Line Streetcar for free. The electric streetcar, which connects downtown Tampa, Channel District and Ybor City, operates seven days a week and has covered wheelchair-accessible stations.

Find direct flights to Tampa Bay

When to visit

Thanks to great year-round weather, there's no wrong time to visit Tampa Bay. You'll find warm and mild weather from October to March, which is a popular time to visit. Tampa Bay experiences an influx of tourists during the spring and summer break seasons. If you want to avoid the crowds (and get some good deals on accommodation), we recommend going sometime between January and March. March is particularly nice when the humidity is at an all-time low, but with temps still mild, averaging highs of 24 degrees.

Visa requirements

In order to enter the US, normal entry regulations apply. British citizens will need an ESTA, which you can apply for below. Please be aware that vaccination proof will be required for all travellers until 11, May 2023.

Our top 5 reasons for visiting Tampa Bay

Already have your sights set on Orlando? We get that, but here’s why you should add Tampa Bay to your itinerary!

  1. Warm weather, blue skies and year-round sunshine makes Tampa a haven for sunseekers.

  2. Thrilled for theme parks but not hyped for the large crowds? Tampa is home to several theme parks and other top attractions, of which are often less crowded than Orlando’s parks.

  3. Whether you’re on holiday as a couple or as a family, there’s plenty to keep both the adults and children occupied.

  4. Tampa Bay boasts some of Florida's best natural surroundings for outdoor activities. Kayaking, paddleboarding, and biking are just some of the things you could get up to. Plus, Tampa has Manatees - Florida’s sweet and loveable sea cow, need we say more?

  5. Tampa Bay is for food lovers, from waterfront bars and bistros to fine dining, Michelin star restaurants, they've got a world-class dining scene with tons of options for every palate.

Not-to-be-missed outdoor activities in Tampa Bay

Looking for a bit of nature with your city break? Tampa Bay is home to some of Florida’s best natural attractions. The bay is fed by three rivers, Alafia, Hillsborough and Little Manatee, which means plenty of water sport opportunities, as well as beautiful views. Here’s a list of our top must-do outdoor activities while in Tampa.

Go for a stroll on the Tampa Riverwalk

Running alongside the bay from the Hillsborough River to the Garrison Channel, the Tampa Riverwalk is a 2.6-mile walk that links together some of downtown Tampa’s top attractions, restaurants, parks and more. The Riverwalk Attraction Pass costs $55 and includes a 30-minute guided water taxi ride with a fully-equipped bar, entry to the aquarium and several museums, as well as many of the other waterfront attractions.

Visit the manatees

No trip to Tampa is complete without a visit to the local manatees that hang out at TECO power station. The warm water has drawn hundreds of manatees to the area and a viewing platform has been built, so visitors can enjoy these loveable creatures. If you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to spot rays and spinner sharks, as well. The best part? Admission is free!

Hop on a pirate-themed water taxi

Possibly the best way to get from A to B with views of the harbour is to jump on a water taxi. These aren’t just any ol’ taxis, they are pirate-themed, something we know all about! The taxis service 14 different stops along Tampa's Riverwalk, Channel District, downtown, and Davis Island. An all day pay costs $34 for adults and $24 for kids (aged 2-12).

Discover nature in Hillsborough River State Park

Located just a few minutes from downtown, Hillsborough River State Park is home to an oasis of natural beauty with tons of trails ripe for wildlife viewing. Here, you’ll find plenty of hiking, biking and paddling trails. Plus, the park boasts some of the only Class II rapids in Florida. The park is open from 8am until sundown, year-round. Entrance fee is $2 if coming by foot or bike, and $6 per car.

Family-friendly fun and adventure

Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay

Thrill seekers will want to carve out a full day in their itinerary to spend at Busch Gardens®. Not only is the park home to North America’s tallest, steepest, and fastest hybrid roller coaster, this theme park is also a zoo where you can go on a guided safari tour. Tickets start from $115 but prices are subject to change.

Gasparilla

Tampa Bay is home to The Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a pirate-themed party honouring local pirate legend José Gaspar. The party, which takes place every January since 1904, kicks off with Florida’s only fully functional pirate ship sailing into downtown Tampa. The entire Gaparilla season runs from January to April, and includes the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, the Gasparilla Film Festival, and the Gasparilla Music Festival.

Florida Aquarium

A great family-friendly attraction, the Florida Aquarium is home to over 8,000 animals. Entrance to the aquarium starts from $35 for adults and $29.70 for kids aged 3-11, but prices are subject to change.

ZooTampa

You'll be able to meet the animal stars of National Geographic's hit show, Secrets of the Zoo, which was filmed at ZooTampa at Lowry Park. African elephants, southern white rhinos, and Florida manatees who are being nursed back to health are just some of the animals you'll be able to see. Adult admission from $45.95 and kids (ages 3-11) from $35.95.

🏴‍☠️ Pirate tip: Grab a CityPASS ticket to save 54% on admission to Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park plus 3 more top attractions. An adult pass costs from $147, and from $132 for kids aged 3-9.

Ybor City

Fun for both families and couples alike, visiting Ybor City is like stepping into little Cuba. The neighbourhood is steeped in Cuban culture and is known for the cigar rolling factories. In fact, you can still see the skilled tabaqueros rolling cigars by hand. We recommend taking the Official Ybor City Walking Tour to get a sense of the history and culture that this district exudes. After your tour, be sure to grab a Cuban sandwich, which was originally invented for the Cigar rollers themselves. You can read more about where to eat one of these famous sandwiches in our section about cuisine in Tampa Bay.

Discover more activities to do in Tampa Bay

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Tampa Bay culinary highlights

Tampa Bay is the ideal place for foodies because the cuisine is unique and varied, with many different influences. Whether fine dining, food markets, rooftop bars or farm-to-table restaurants, there's something for every budget and taste. It's no wonder, then, that the first Michelin Guide for Florida was created here. These are our top picks for Tampa Bay.

Top 3 must-eat

  1. Cuban Sandwich - The Cuban has actually been Tampa's official signature sandwich since 2012, as it is a multicultural product of Cuban, Italian and Spanish immigrants from the 1900s. It consists of cooked ham, roasted pork (mojo), salami, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread. For the best Cuban sandwiches in Tampa, head to La Segunda Central Bakery, The Columbia Restaurant, West Tampa Sandwich Shop and Flan Factory.

  2. Strawberries - For a fruity-sweet start to spring, head to the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, the winter strawberry capital of the world. This festival has celebrated the region's bountiful strawberry harvest since 1930. Local farmers are on hand, plus you can sample the most delicious strawberry creations, from milkshakes and cheesecakes to other types of berries, such as the pineapple strawberry, which is white or light pink in colour.

  3. Farm-to-market cuisine at the food markets - In addition to countless fine-dining options, it's worth checking out the food markets in Tampa Bay. We recommend a visit to the Ybor City Saturday Market, where the neighbourhood shows its green thumb. At the market, you can get nutritious, fresh and local produce from the region at affordable prices. There's also an open-air farmers' market on the first Sunday of every month in Hyde Park Village, where you can enjoy local produce, handmade crafts and live music. Be sure to treat yourself to Meat Market Tampa or Goody Goody, here!

Michelin restaurants in Tampa

As mentioned, Tampa Bay is the first place in Florida to have its own Michelin Guide. These three restaurants all received Michelin recommendations:

  1. Noble Rice - A sushi restaurant with a modern take on classic Japanese dishes

  2. Rocca - An authentic Italian fine-dining restaurant.

  3. Rooster and the Till - Here you'll find carefully and artistically prepared dishes and ever-changing tasting menus.

Top 3 rooftop bars

No list of ours would be complete if we didn't tell you our top picks for the best bars. We're going one step further with our fave rooftop bars!

  1. Edge Rooftop Cocktail Lounge - A hot spot for locals and tourists alike located on the top of the Epicurean Hotel serving up unique handcrafted cocktails.

  2. M.Bird at Armature Works - This stylish rooftop bar features some of the best sunset views of downtown Tampa and the Hillsborough River.

  3. Sal Y Mar - With 360° views, this rooftop bar and restaurant exudes Riviera Maya-vibes while serving cool cocktails.

Find a great package deal for a holiday in Tampa Bay