Tampa - St. Petersburg - AttractionGuide

Tampa - St. Petersburg

Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of Tampa - St. Petersburg-area attractions. The Greater Tampa - St. Petersburg area is full of attractions for all ages. Tampa Bay, a vibrant waterfront pocket on Florida's west coast, yields urban excitement within natural surroundings, making it possible to catch a ball game from bleachers and sun on nearby beaches, roar down roller coasters in the morning and row down the Hillsborough River in the afternoon. Originally keyed to a body of water, Tampa Bay has come to represent the metropolitan region composed of assorted distinct communities from Clearwater to St. Petersburg and beyond, connected by bay waters and laced with bridges and freeways. Historically, Tampa was little more than a village when Spanish-born Vicente Martinez Ybor arrived in 1886 to make cigars. Only two years before, Henry Bradley Plant had extended railroad connections to Tampa and set about upgrading port facilities. Plant's raiI and shipping lines would allow the Spaniard to import high quality tobacco leaf from Cuba, then manufacture and ship cigars to all points. Springing up was Ybor City (pronounced E-bore), soon to be the "Cigar Capital of the World," with nearly 12,000 tabaqueros (cigar-makers) employed in 200 factories, producing some 700 million cigars a year at the industry's peak. Culturally, Ybor City also hosted theaters presenting opera, vaudeville, ethnic comedy and drama. In the early 1900's when rail was Florida's primary means of transport, brick warehouses were built in Tampa's Channel District near Union Station, yet by the early nineties, it had fallen into blight. In 1993, Tampa moved to clean up the area with the Channel District Plan. Valuable waterfront was reclaimed for The Florida Aquarium, Seaport Street Terminal, Ice Palace, the new Tampa Port Authority Headquarters, and the Marriott Waterside Hotel. Garrison Channel land was dedicated for a public park. Artists and entrepreneurs transformed aging warehouses into elegant lofts and live-work spaces. Movie theaters, restaurants, and retail shopping at Channelside opened while the Tampa Historic Streetcar System was upgraded to link the Channel District to Ybor City, Harbour Island and the Convention Center. The result has provided easier access to attractions than ever before.

Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the Tampa - St. Petersburg Metropolitan Area, with links to more details when available.

Adventure Island
Thatched roof huts and swaying palms contribute to the tropical island paradise mood at Tampa's 30-acre Adventure Island, adjacent to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. High-speed rides include Runaway Rapids, Key West Rapids, Gulfscream, Wahoo Run, Splash Attack, Water Moccasin and Caribbean Corkscrew. More tranquil is Paradise Lagoon, with cliff diving platforms, crystal pools and rope walks, or the Rambling Bayou, a half-mile of smooth currents surrounded by luxuriant landscaping and refreshing waterfalls. Other amenities include beach-style restaurants, picnic areas, volleyball courts, sunbathing areas and video arcades.
4500 Bougainvillea Avenue. (813) 987-5600
American Victory Mariners Memorial & Museum Ship
Docked adjacent to The Florida Aquarium, is the SS American Victory -- the half-century-old merchant ship served during WWII, and the Korean and Vietnam wars as a military cargo carrier -- being transformed into a museum, mariners memorial and cruising ship. Onlookers are invited to witness history in the remaking on daily self-guided Restoration Tours, showcasing progress on the engine room, cargo holds, wheelhouse, radio room, flying bridge, charthouse, sickbay, mess rooms, crew quarters and more. On the horizon, slated to launch by the end of 2003: ”ReLive History” cruises on Tampa Bay providing noontime chow, dancing to big band music, and memorial ceremonies. As the SS American Victory heads back to her berth, the ship will be attacked by enemy aircraft and defended by re-enactors in authentic WWII Navy Armed Guard uniforms, using modified ship's weapons.
705 Channelside Drive, Berth 271. (813) 228-8766
Beach Options
Soft sandy beachfront abounds around Tampa Bay. Options include Anna Maria Bayfront Park on Anna Maria Island (316 N. Bay Boulevard); Ben T. Davis Beach (7740 Courtney Campbell Causeway); Caladesi Island State Park (One Causeway Boulevard, Dunedin); Clearwater Beach (west end of State Road 60, Clearwater Beach); Davis Island Beach (900 Martinique Avenue); Fort DeSoto Park (3500 Pinellas Bayway Street, Tierra Verde); Fred Howard Park (1700 Sunset Drive, Tarpon Springs); Honeymoon Island State Park (One Causeway Boulevard, Dunedin); Indian Rocks Beach (1700 Gulf Boulevard, Indian Rocks Beach); Madeira Beach (143700 Gulf Boulevard, Madeira Beach); Pass-A-Grille Beach (off Gulf Way from 1st Avenue to 22nd Avenue, Pass-A-Grille Beach); Picnic Island (7404 Picnic Island Boulevard); Sand Key Park (1060 Gulf Boulevard, Clearwater), St. Pete Beach (Gulf Boulevard, St. Petersburg); and many more.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
As a family adventure park, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has an array of fascinating attractions based on exotic encounters within the African continent. A blend of thrilling rides, one of the nation's premier zoos with more than 2,700 animals, live shows, restaurants, shops and games, provides plenty of excitement.
Corner of Busch Boulevard and 40th Street. (813) 987-5082
Canoe Escape
All trips are downstream with Canoe Escape's seven different self-guided, day-trip combos along the Hillsborough River through two diverse ecosystems. Participants are encouraged to take extra time for picnics, photography, or fishing. Whether renting canoes or kayaks, or if Canoe Escape is only providing shuttling service, all paddling adventures start at Canoe Escape on Fowler Avenue. Provided are river maps and river condition reports, along with paddling pointers for first-timers or review of basic strokes in case it's been a while.
9335 East Fowler Avenue. (813) 986-2067
Culinary Coups
Tampa Bay overflows with restaurants of regional and national note, providing gustatory pleasure with local flavor. The landmark Bern's Steak House, owned and operated by the Laxer family for more than 40 years, consistently rates accolades with its gilded red-wallpaper décor, likened to a bordello, and it buys only U.S. Prime, organically grows its own vegetables and salad greens, and has among the world's largest wine lists. Offspring Sidebern's/Bern's Fine Wine & Spirits also sizzles, with a more eclectic menu with African, Asian, French and Latin influences. Ybor City's Columbia Restaurant, Florida's oldest restaurant (founded in 1905 ) has been run by the same family for four generations, and seats 1,660 in eleven rooms extending one city block. Oystercatchers, with a dressy bayfront setting in a nature preserve behind the Hyatt Regency Westshore, has fish so fresh that customers pick their own. Skipper's Smokehouse, (“We Smoke Everything”), a ramshackle cracker-style eatery and concert venue featuring touring bands like Southern Culture on the Skids and Trout Fishing in America, has a feel for Old Florida seafood specialties along with spicy conch chowder, grilled smoked gator ribs, and Black Bean Gator Chili. Although Tampa is more business-oriented than other area communities, few restaurants require jacket and tie, and most nightspots are decidedly casual.
Bern's Steak House, 1208 South Howard Avenue. (813) 251-2421
Columbia Restaurant, East 7th Street at 21st Street. (813) 248-4961
Oystercatchers (behind the Hyatt Regency Westshore), 6200 West Courtney Campbell Causeway. (813) 281-9116
Sidebern's/Bern's Fine Wine & Spirits, 2208 West Morrison Avenue. (813) 258-2233
Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road. (813) 287-8844
Daisy Mae Fishing Company
Anglers can bottom fish for grouper and snapper, sport fish for kingfish and mackerel, barracuda and jack, or go offshore fishing for tuna ,dolphin, wahoo, sailfish and marlin.
2293 Beverly Lane, Clearwater. (727) 442-1502
Dinosaur World
As an outdoor museum, Dinosaur World covers more than prehistoric animals, offering an outdoor classroom, playground, a video theater, picnic areas, and hands-on activities including “cave” exploration a fossil dig. Dogs on leashes are welcome.
5145 Harvey Tew Road. (813) 717-9865
Florida Aquarium
Daily behind-the-scenes tours, dive shows, eco-tours of the bay aboard a catamaran, and a pair of touch shark tanks are part of the action at this 152,000 square foot air-conditioned facility with more than 10,000 aquatic plants and animals displayed.
701 Channelside Drive. (813) 273-4000
Eat, drink and play at GameWorks, a high-tech entertainment emporium with more than a dozen venues in the U.S. and Guam. Menus include grilled favorites, home-made pastas, fresh salads, pizza and desserts for two. Fun favorites include the Indy 500 where six players can race head to head. The Big Win Zone lets guests try retro games and win tickets redeemable for take-home prizes. Classics include Centipede, PacMan and Asteroids.
1600 East 8th Avenue. (813) 241-9675
Henry B. Plant Museum
In the heart of downtown, this circa 1891 National Historic Landmark was built by transportation magnate Henry Bradley Plant as home to the Tampa Bay Hotel. Exhibits in the Victorian palace with Moorish revival architecture feature original opulent resort furnishings, early years of the city, lifestyles of the Gilded Age tourists.
401 West Kennedy Boulevard. (813) 254-1891
The Ice Palace
The National Hockey League hosts more than 170 events a year at the Ice Palace, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The $160 million Palace, also has 20,500 seats for basketball games, and up to 21,500 seats for center-stage events. Between two levels of 71 luxury suites is a private level known as the Palace Club. Available on five, seven and 10-year leases, Lower Level suites, 19 rows up from the event floor, range from $90 to $100,000, while Upper Level suites, a few rows higher, are from $55,000 to $85,000. Other levels are event floor, mezzanine, upper concourse and press box.
401 Channelside Drive. (813) 223-6100
J.B. Starkey's Flatwoods Adventures
Eco-tours during a 1.5 hour ride on a safari buggy at Anclote River Ranch start with the Starkey family history, dating to the 1899 arrival in Pinellas County when J.B. Starkey Sr.'s love for the cowboy lifestyle led to ranch ownership, a legacy continuing with his son J.B. Starkey Jr. Tours include history of the cow hunters (or "crackers" as they were called) and about modern cattle operations, along with insight on ecosystems found on the ranch and how native plants were used by the Native Americans and early settlers to survive. Osceola Turkey and White Tailed Deer, and the Gopher Tortoise call the ranch home. A 450-foot elevated boardwalk into a cypress swamp provides a look at alligators in the gator hole.
12959 State Road 54. (813) 926-1133
Legend Fields Complex
Legend Fields Complex is where the New York Yankees train while avoiding cold winter months up north. The minor league Tampa Yankees also train here. The 31-acre complex seats 10,000.
3802 West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (813) 875-7753
Lowry Park Zoo
Lowry Park Zoo stretches over several acres of lush, natural habitats comprising five main exhibit areas: The Florida Manatee and Aquatic Center, Native Florida Wildlife Center, Asian Domain, Primate World and Children's Petting Zoo. Two free-flight aviaries are also on site, and the Harrell Discovery Center is a 1,500 square foot interactive area with hands-on displays and a small insect zoo. Celebrating its 15th birthday in 2003, Lowry Park Zoo ranks among the nation's top three mid-sized zoos. Tampa's first zoo, established in the late 1930s on the banks of the Hillsborough River, consisted of a small collection of raccoons, alligators and an aviary. Eventually, a move was made to the more centrally located Lowry Park. In 1961, Gen. Sumter L. Lowry, Jr. gave the zoo its most prominent exotic animal, Sheena, an 18-month-old Asian Elephant.
1101 West Sligh Avenue. (813) 935-8552
Malibu Grand Prix
Indy-style formula race cars allow guests to travel up to 60 m.p.h. around a three-quarter mile track. For younger racers, a Mini-Grand Prix provides challenges. Batting cages, a miniature golf course, and a game room are also on site.
14320 North Nebraska Avenue. (813) 977-6272
MOSI – Museum of Science and Industry
Gulf Coast Hurricane, free-flying BioWorks Butterfly Garden (an engineered eco-system emulating natural wetlands), and Florida's only IMAX Dome Theatre are part of the adventure. Among permanent exhibits, the Amazing You provides tours of the human body in all its complexity from DNA to cells and organs. Back Woods provides the inside skinny on plant and animal communities. Born out of tragedy, the GTE Challenger Learning Center is a living memorial to the crew of the ill-fated shuttle orbiter allowing guests to assume roles of astronauts and engineers at 12 work stations. From Oct. 4 through Spring, 2004, the Titanic exhibit has recreations of the famous grand staircase and both first and third class cabins along with artifacts from the debris field of wreckage.
4801 East Fowler Avenue. (813) 932-4313
The Pink Lady
Casting a rouged glow over white powdery beaches, the ever-so-pink Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa stands as a monument to the Gatsby era when it was a playground for baseball's Lou Gehrig, defense attorney Clarence Darrow, gangster Al Capone, and others at the top of their game. Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, oft mentioning the property in his works, checked his wife Zelda in now and then to dry out. Built and opened in 1928 by Irishman Thomas Rowe who had made a killing in Florida real estate, his death along with war and depression brought this Pink Lady to her knees in less than two decades. When Rowe passed on without a will, she was handed over to his estranged wife and employees, and the slide was quick. In 1942, the U.S. Army bought her as a convalescent center for battle-weary WWII airmen. The Veterans Administration later stripped her for use as a regional office but, unwilling to spring for a facelift, left her in 1967. As the wrecking ball loomed, Tampa Bay preservationists cast about for a buyer sharing Rowe's vision, and the Pink Lady re-opened as a luxury resort in 1973. Listed on the National Register of historic Places, the ultra-luxe property continues to charm with a Moorish bell tower, imperial turrets, a clock tower, bougainvillea-laced balconies and row upon row of Palladian windows with French doors. The resort's namesake is the hero of Vincent Wallace's light opera "Maritana" -- chivalrous Don Ce-Sar -- who miraculously survived sure death when firing squad guns misfired.
3400 Gulf Shore Boulevard, St. Pete Beach. (727) 360-1881
Raymond James Stadium
The National Football League's Tampa Bay Buccaneers play at Raymond James Stadium, featuring a $3 million pirate ship at one end along with gift stores. A 65,657 seating capacity (65 percent along the sidelines) expands to 75,000 for events such as the first Super Bowl of the millennium, Super Bowl XXXV, which Tampa hosted in January 2001. (Tampa Bay also hosted Super Bowls XVIII ('84) and XXV ('91) - the 25th Anniversary Super Bowl. Fans enjoy theater-style seats with cup holders throughout, and festive end zone concourses accented by two large video scoreboards. It's easy in, easy out with escalators and ramps at all public gates, and elevators for disabled guests.
4201 North Dale Mabry Highway. (813) 350-6500
Rogers' Christmas House Village
As a retail shop for more than 40 years, Rogers' Christmas House has evolved into Rogers' Christmas House Village, a central Florida attraction atop one of the many hills in historic Brooksville. Five turn-of-the-century houses are filled with gifts, toys, lights, linens, crystal, lamps, mirrors, dolls and more for all occasions. Visitors are invited to stroll through gardens flourishing with azaleas, dogwoods, magnolias and (in spring) tulips.
103 South Saxon Avenue. Brooksville. (352) 796-2415.
St. Petersburg Museum of History
On permanent display is the Walk Through Time Gallery featuring a chronology of St. Petersburg history. Interactive exhibits include theatrical galleries such as an 1870 general store, a 1913 trolley, and the Try History On For Size where visitors can see themselves in vintage costumes through mirrors creating the illusion of wearing period clothing. Since 1920, the St. Petersburg Museum of History has operated on the waterfront Pier Approach in downtown St. Petersburg. Home to restaurants, shops, bars, and a dolphin cruise, the Pier has attracted residents from all over Florida, the nation, and the world.
335 2nd Avenue. (727) 894-1052
Salvadore Dali Museum
Spanning more than 60 years, this comprehensive collection of works by Spanish artist Salvador Dali boggles the mind with 95 oils, 100 watercolors, and more than 1,000 graphics by the master of Surrealism.
1000 Third Street, St. Petersburg. (727) 823-3767
Seminole Gaming Palace
The Seminole Gaming Palace, adjacent to Bobby's Seminole Indian Village, Museum and Gift Shop, has hundreds of video gaming machines paying huge jackpots, stud poker, Texas hold'em, and high stakes Bingo. The Casino is open 24 hours a day and is near hotels and restaurants including the Sheraton Four Points Inn and the Cypress Landing Restaurant.
5223 North Orient Road, off Interstate 4 at Exit 5. (813) 621-1302.
Tampa Bay History Center
Civil War activity, Cracker cattle trading, the cigar and citrus industries are all part of history covered at this museum dedicated to Tampa Bay's diverse culture.
225 South Franklin Street. (813) 228-0097
Tampa Greyhound Track
Opened in 1933, Tampa Greyhound Track is one of the oldest American greyhound tracks, each year running more than 3,000 races, entertaining more than a half-million fans and distributing some $100-million in winnings! Lucky's Card Room in the clubhouse provides card players with an ideal setting to enjoy their game while watching the races from monitors. The live racing schedule now runs six months from July 1 through Dec. 30.
8300 North Nebraska Avenue. (813) 932-4313
Tampa Museum of Art
From Greek sculpture to contemporary art, seven galleries offer a world-class collection.
600 North Ashley Drive. (813) 274-8130.
Tarpon Springs
Known as the “sponge capital of the world,” Tarpon Springs, first settled in 1882, is named for the tarpon, a fish found in abundance off the coast. Many Greek immigrants came here after 1905 to continue their traditional trade of sponge diving. In the 1930s, the thriving sponge industry of Tarpon Springs brought in fortunes, but bacteria contaminated sponge beds in the 1940s, which led to steep industry decline. In the 1980s, healthy beds were located, and now Tarpon Springs is back among the harvesting leaders. Weekly auctions for wholesalers take place at the Sponge Docks.
Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame
Memorabilia on permanent display from baseball great Ted Williams' career includes his Marine Corps military service in both WWII and the Korean War, along with hunting and fishing activities.
Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg. (727) 825-3137
Tropicana Field
Tropicana Field, the only domed sports stadium in Florida, is home to Major League Baseball's Tampa Devil Rays. Tropicana features include a high-tech, clear membrane, supported by a bicycle-wheel shaped structural system. Home plate end is higher than the center field's end, allowing more rows of upper deck seats.
1 Tropicana Drive. (727) 825-3120
University of South Florida Botanical Gardens
Animal and insect species from gopher tortoises to butterflies and some 60 species of birds accompany displays of orchids, begonias, mallows, bromeliads, gingers, ferns, aroids, fruit trees, palms, cycads, carnivorous plants, a butterfly garden, herb and scent gardens, and more. The Gardens maintain a living collection of more than 3,000 taxa of plants and natural habitats emphasizing the region's rich botanical diversity.
4202 East Fowler Avenue. (813) 974-2329
Weeki Wachee Springs Waterpark
An underwater mermaid show, wilderness river cruise, a natural sand beach, and volleyball courts are part of the fun here.
6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. (352) 596-2062
Yacht Starship Dining Cruises
StarShip's 180-foot, $7 million vessel is the only dining yacht of its kind in the South, offering floating comfort that is ideal for business, pleasure, or both.
223 South 12th Street. (813) 223-7999
Ybor City and Ybor City State Museum
Ybor City is the center of Tampa's nightlife with abundant entertainment, dining and shopping. Influences of Cuban, Italian, Spanish, and German immigrants are traced at the Ybor City State Museum. In 1886, Vícente Martinez Ybor shifted his cigar factory from Key West to Tampa, starting a labor community of cigar makers and factory owners to establish the "Cigar Capital of the World." Maps, posters, event calendars and attraction information are on tap at the visitor information center.
Museum, 1818 9th Avenue. (813) 247-6323

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