8 Ways to Relax and Recharge on a Trip to Tampa Bay

| © Derek Abella
Culture Trip Travel Team

The Gulf Coast of Florida may be best known for having a glittering nightlife, but it’s also a place to chill. In Tampa Bay, there are the urban delights of historic Ybor City and the glorious calm of the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve. Add to that peaceful journeys along the Bayshore Boulevard and the timeless grandeur of the old neighborhoods and you’ll see why this is the perfect spot to unwind. Here’s our favorite ways to recharge in Tampa Bay.

Cycle down Bayshore Boulevard

Bayshore Boulevard hugs the Hillsborough Bay coast for more than 4.5mi (7.2km), creating one of the longest unbroken sidewalks in the US. From Platt St in the north to Gandy Boulevard, it offers incredible views of the water – you might see diving pelicans, playful dolphins and, if you’re really lucky, a West Indian manatee. The route takes you past the historic neighborhood of Hyde Park, which has gorgeous Victorian houses and high-end shopping. There’s often public art on view – recent installations include a sculpture by Latin American artist Fernando Botero.

Ride a Pirate Water Taxi

The rich history of Tampa Bay includes the story of infamous pirate José Gaspar. Despite no evidence he actually existed, the locals have taken pirates to heart, naming their football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and running a piratical water taxi through the bay, the Pirate Water Taxi. The hop-on, hop-off service has 14 stops, starting at the Florida Aquarium and ending at Rick’s on the River pub. An onboard tour guide also offers fascinating insights into the local area.

Board the hop-on, hop-off Pirate Water Taxi to drift past some of the must-see attractions in Tampa

Grab a Tampa Riverwalk Attraction Pass

A three-day Tampa Riverwalk pass saves you up to 50 percent on admission to eight attractions, including three museums, two galleries and the Florida Aquarium, which has sea turtles and stingrays. Art lovers will be entranced by the expertly curated antiquities and modern pieces at the Tampa Museum of Art, as well as the permanent collection at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. History buffs are spoilt for choice with the opulent Henry B. Plant Museum and the Tampa Bay History Center, the latter offering incredible insights into Florida’s past.

Explore the Hillsborough River by canoe

The Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve is a 16,000-acre (6,475ha) paradise for nature lovers, just outside the Tampa city limits. For the best views of the abundant wildlife, take a canoe onto the Hillsborough River: families of wild pigs charge about the river bank, American alligators lurk in the shallows and turtles sun themselves on floating logs. In fall, thousands of white ibis migrate here; in spring, expect your visit to be soundtracked by a symphony of songbirds.

Paddle through paradise at the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, just outside the Tampa city limits

Stroll around a farmer’s market at Hyde Park Village

Cafe tables spill onto sidewalks and locals do open-air yoga at Hyde Park Village, the most beguiling lifestyle destination in Tampa. It’s a great year-round spot for strolling, shopping, or catching a movie at the handsome theater. But the highlight is the monthly market, in which local farmers sell some of the finest produce the state has to offer. Vendors also flog original handicrafts and there’s live music, which gives the whole thing a festival vibe.

Ride the open-air streetcar

Tampa’s first electric streetcar opened way back in 1892 and since then the cars have become a key part of the city’s identity. Today, the network is far smaller than in its 1920s heyday, but the iconic yellow cars still run from Downtown Tampa up to Centennial Park Station in Ybor City, stopping 11 times and warning pedestrians with their signature bell. The heritage streetcars, which run every 15 minutes, offer a brilliant perspective on the bustling city streets.

To ride a Tampa open-air streetcar is to a ride a piece of city history

Sip a ‘cafe con leche’ in Ybor City

Ybor City was founded in the 1880s and quickly became the cigar capital of the world. These days, this historic Latin quarter is better known for having independent boutiques and incredible restaurants that center on 7th Avenue, widely regarded as one of the greatest streets in the US. At night, enjoy upscale Spanish cuisine at the celebrated Columbia Restaurant – still owned by the family who founded it in 1905. During the day, get your hands on their signature Tampa Cuban sandwich and follow it up with a cafe con leche and some unrivalled people-watching.

Do yoga on the lawn

With so many wonderful outdoor spaces – from Hyde Park Village to Julian B Lane Riverfront – it’s little wonder inhabitants of the Sunshine State make good use of their year-round gorgeous weather by taking things outside as much as possible. Kodawari, a yoga studio in the Palma Ceia neigborhood, hosts free all-levels-welcome yoga classes on the front lawn of Armature Works – they run fortnightly on Sunday mornings at 9.30am. The lawn looks out on the Hillsborough River and, after class, students roll up their mats and head inside the ultra-hip Heights Public Market, which has a vast array of street-food stalls selling everything from empanadas to sushi.

Make the most of the sunny outdoor spaces in Tampa with an al fresco yoga class

Learn more about Tampa Bay and start planning your own trip at visittampabay.com

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