You’re targeting the Tampa Bay area for your new custom Florida home, and you’d like to get to know the area a bit better.
You may know two major interstates intersect it, and that splendid beaches lie just to its west. You also might know that local professional, collegiate and amateur sports teams are yours for adopting.
But, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Where will you take those friends and family members destined to camp out in your new guest room? Perhaps the pool you’re planning or envisioning isn’t enticing enough.
You could drive an hour northeast to Orlando, the attractions capital of the world. Maybe someday. The good news is Tampa is loaded with its own roster of top-shelf attractions. Depending where you buy or build your new home, those attractions may be only a few minutes away. So, let’s have a look at three of Tampa’s biggest and best-known.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
This is the area’s granddaddy-of-them-all theme park. Busch Gardens is a whopping, three-pronged destination north of downtown Tampa that offers daredevil rides, a wild animal park (hundreds of species, tens of thousands of animals), plus ice-skating shows, concerts and other family-friendly entertainment.
Little ones can enjoy playgrounds, elevated netted trails and splash parks. There also are live shows and rides that are more their style (no super-loud sound effects or vertigo-inducing plunges).
For older kids and adults, it’s a roller-coaster connoisseur’s paradise. Busch Gardens’ coasters are legendary for their fear-conquering loops, thrilling drops and severe angles. You can scream all day. There also are water rides and a milder cable car ride if you need an adrenaline break.
The Florida Aquarium
Parents’ organizations cite this Tampa attraction as one of the nation’s top aquariums for kids. Its location in the popular Channelside District, near Amalie Arena, cruise-ship docks and the Hillsborough River, make the Florida Aquarium a day-long destination.
Its soaring interior exhibits feature Florida and Gulf Coast sea creatures in amazing habitats. Expect sharks, turtles, sting rays and hundreds more. Even African penguins — some of the Florida Aquarium’s most popular residents — have a home here.
Gawking at and swimming with (there are separately-purchased experiences for the latter) the aquarium’s marine life can absorb you for hours, but don’t miss the 4-D theatre, daily wild dolphin cruises, behind-the-scenes experiences or the Splash Pad fun zone outside.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park
If you’re noticing a theme here, wildlife and animals are very popular attractions in Tampa!
The city’s namesake zoo delivers with more than 1,300 animals — almost every four-legged, furry and finned creature imaginable. At ZooTampa, however, the location is as much an attraction as its animal stars. The zoo is set among a lovely subtropical park, with year-round blooms and landscaping.
ZooTampa also is the proud home of a manatee hospital, whose staff care for those big, gentle marine mammals in need, returning them to the wild after a recovery or rehabilitation period.
Yes, there are special experiences — feed a giraffe, anyone? — and the requisite rides, shows and splash zones that are Florida attraction must-haves.
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