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Courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Best Attractions in Tampa

In a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding exactly what to do. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”

Big Thrills and Animal Adventures

Tampa's top attractions fall into four fun-packed categories—theme parks, museums, outdoor activities and historic sites. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay , the area's only theme park and a AAA GEM attraction, predates Disney's earliest Orlando park by several years, making it something of a regional pioneer in family-friendly entertainment. Through exciting rides, live entertainment and natural animal habitats, Busch Gardens presents a grand tour of Africa. A Serengeti safari among free-roaming animals, a soaking raft ride on the Congo River and a lowland gorilla domain plus Egyptian tombs, a Moroccan bazaar and syncopated drumbeats re-create the sights and sounds of exotic places known only to world travelers. Four unique steel roller coasters punch up this park's thrill factor. Speak with your AAA Travel Agent to find group travel rates and vacation packages.

ZooTampa at Lowry Park features outstanding animal exhibit areas with lots of interaction, shows, safaris, rides and learning stations. Hop aboard the Treetop Skyfari for a round-trip aerial view of the park.

Arts and Culture Vacation

Of the art, history, science and nature museums that dot culturally chic Tampa, three attractions exude excellence. The Florida Aquarium , a AAA GEM attraction set under a shell-shaped, glass and steel canopy, offers a marine life roundup of more than 10,000 oceanic and freshwater creatures plus dive shows and personal interaction with sharks, rays and other species. You don't have to be a science geek to enjoy the fun things to do at MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) , where practical applications put scientific principals into perspective for all age groups. Feel the power of nature as you experience weather, including hurricanes. At the Tampa Museum of Art , see what a difference a few thousand years can make as you gaze in equal wonder at 4,000-year-old Greek marble sculptures as well as oil paintings, photographs, lithographs and sculpture from the 20th century; all can be found in a modern box-shaped aluminum building.

Nighttime Destination

If you like to paint the town red, you've got your pick of nightclubs in Ybor City ; once a cigar-making hub in the late 1800s, it's now the area's epicenter of entertainment. Brimming with dozens of nightclubs and restaurants, the district also appeals to shoppers (stop at the Ybor Chamber Visitor Information Center for some souvenirs—perhaps an Ybor City cookbook or cigars) or check out a cigar-rolling demonstration at a cigar shop.

Fun Places to Go with the Whole Family

Take your inner child on a trip to Sarasota (about 50 miles south on I-75), the former winter home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Steeped in its circus heritage, Sarasota also is rich with tangible treasures bequeathed to the state by John Ringling. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art , a AAA GEM attraction, holds a world-class collection of European masterworks amassed by the couple on their world travels in the early 1900s. Ca' d'Zan (or House of John), the palatial Ringling mansion, reflects the family's passion for all things Venetian. Costumes, posters and nostalgia-evoking displays at The Circus Museum preserve the Ringling legacy and even have the potential to trigger a few happy childhood memories of your day under the big top. Also on exhibit is the Ringling family's private 1905 rail car. And don't miss the Tibbals Learning Center , which illustrates the sights and sounds of circus history with interactive exhibits, a 3-D timeline, displays about circus music and a 3,800-square-foot handmade miniature replica of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that will have you dropping your jaw in awe.

In nearby Bradenton an important collection of American Indian artifacts unearthed in Florida during the 1930s and ‘40s forms the core of The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature . With cultural and natural history exhibits, a dome-style planetarium featuring digital astronomy shows and a habitat for manatees, this AAA GEM attraction captures Florida's life stages like a cherished family scrapbook. Hope you brought a camera.

See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.

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Tampa, FL

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

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4200 Jim Walter Blvd. Tampa, FL 33607

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Hilton Tampa Downtown

211 N Tampa St. Tampa, FL 33602

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Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk

200 N Ashley Dr. Tampa, FL 33602

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Travel Information

City Population

352,957

Elevation

27 ft.

Sales Tax

Sales tax is 8.5 percent in Hillsborough and 7 percent in Pasco County. An accommodations tax is 6 percent in Hillsborough County and 4 percent in Pasco County.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(813) 231-6130; Sheriff (813) 247-8200

Fire (non-emergency)

(813) 274-7011

Hospitals

AdventHealth Carrollwood, (813) 932-2222; AdventHealth Tampa, (813) 971-6000; Memorial Hospital of Tampa, (813) 873-6400; Tampa General, (813) 844-7000.

Visitor Information

201 N. Franklin St., Suite 102 Tampa, FL 33602. Phone:(813)226-2752 or (800)448-2672

Air Travel

Commercial domestic and international flights entering Tampa land at Tampa International Airport (TPA). Several commercial airlines and private planes use St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE). Private and corporate planes have access to Albert Whitted Airport (SPG) in St. Petersburg and Peter O. Knight Airport (TPF) in Tampa.

Rental Cars

Hertz, which offers discounts to AAA members, is at the car rental center at Tampa International Airport, (813) 874-3232; St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, (727) 532-4801; and at St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-1631; or phone (800) 654-3080.

Rail Service

Tampa's Amtrak station is at 601 N. Nebraska Ave. in downtown Tampa, behind historic Union Station. Daily service is offered; phone (813) 221-7600 or (800) 872-7245. Bus service to Union Station is available via HART routes 9, 12 and 400; phone (813) 254-4278.

Buses

Greyhound Lines Inc. is at 610 E. Polk St. in Tampa; phone (813) 229-2174.

Taxis

Major companies include United Cab Co., (813) 777-7777, and Yellow Cab Co., (813) 253-0121.

Public Transportation

HART serves Tampa and its immediate suburbs, including shopping malls and area attractions. Service also includes the TECO Line Streetcar System, which makes 11 stops along a 2.7-mile track between downtown Tampa and Ybor City. For HART bus and streetcar fares and schedules, phone (813) 254-4278.

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