Mother Nature lovers will be delighted to know that Tampa is actually surrounded with natural springs, flowing fresh rivers and trails galore; so much so, most locals don’t even hit them all. What’s the hands down best way to take advantage? Tubing.
Aside from being one of the closest locations for tubing from the city, Manatee River is also home to -- you guessed it -- tons of manatees! In the Summer months, when the rainfall fills up the estuaries even more, the river reaches high enough levels for a two-hour tube run, during which you’re almost guaranteed to spot several of these sea cows while drifting downstream. And if not, there’s always the rope swing.
Bike the World’s Longest Sidewalk
Fun fact: Bayshore Boulevard, which runs along Tampa Bay, is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. The best way to take in the entire 4.5 mile span is to nab a two-wheeler at one end (by the famous Gasparilla Invasion Boat) and pedal all the way to the other. Now, you won't be able to go entirely to the end since Bayshore quite literally dead ends into MacDill Air Force Base -- and, well, there are thankfully pretty strict rules about civilians getting in there. But the path will loop you through Ballast Point, which, with massive Spanish moss-lined streets and stilt-style houses, is old Florida at its best. While you’re down there, do yourself a favor and grab the best grouper sandwich in the state from Big Ray’s Fish Camp.
Putting on a jacket and going to an ice rink is probably not what you had in mind for a visit to Florida, but in a beautifully ironic twist of fate, NHL hockey is probably Tampa’s most popular sport. And whether you follow them or not, Tampa Bay Lightning games are undoubtedly a blast. Amalie Arena is also located in the thick of Downtown and Channelside, making it accessible to plenty of bars and restaurants to pre- and post-game. And the city seriously rallies around this team -- as in the crowds, live music, and subsequent carrying on in the streets will continue all day (and night!) long.
Ybor City is one of those neighborhoods almost too incredible to explain, you just have to experience it. The original “Cigar City” of Tampa, this is about as rich as history gets. From cigar bars to roosters roaming its brick roads, including the world-famous 7th Avenue, the best way to soak it all in is on foot. Whatever you do, don’t miss a stop over at La Segunda Central Bakery, a century-old bread factory that provides Cuban bread all over the country, not to mention its iconic Ybor neighbor Columbia Restaurant. Another must-see: the J.C. Newman Cigar Factory (home of Cuesta Rey Cigars), the last family-run cigar factory still operating in the country.
Sure, going out on a Sunday night can seem aggressive, but your Monday morning eye circles will be well worth it. One of the more legendary venues for live music in the city, Crowbar has been housing -- and launching the careers of -- the best acts in the games for years. And every Sunday the indoor / outdoor underground spot hosts one of the best live DJ rotating hip hop nights ever. Think “Steps” from Save the Last Dance, only with far less Malakai drama.
South Tampa / Hyde Park
This may seem like an odd way to cap off the list, but it’s cupcakes INSIDE AN ATM. And Sprinkles just so happens to be located smack dab in one of Tampa’s most historic neighborhoods, filled with homes so beautifully antique there are entire tours dedicated to it. So yeah, don’t ask questions.