With numerous waterfront locales, including the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa offers a way to stay in the city without missing any of the fun of the great outdoors. Families will want to start with the 132-acre Al Lopez Park, a little more than a mile from Raymond James Stadium and free to enjoy. Highlights include trails, playgrounds, a pond for fishing and dog parks. Budget-minded beachgoers also have their pick of four beaches managed by the City of Tampa, including Ben T. Davis Beach, Cypress Point Park, Davis Islands Seaplane Basin and Picnic Island Park. Some, such as the Ben T. Davis Beach, a narrow strip of land off the Courtney Campbell Causeway toward Clearwater, can get crowded, so it’s best to arrive early.
If you want to explore the wilder side of Tampa, you’ll want to head north on I-75 (or I-275 from downtown) toward Lettuce Lake Park on Fletcher Avenue. You’ll pay a small entry fee and be able to picnic, go to the playground and enjoy the boardwalks overlooking the swampland and “lake,” which is a portion of the Hillsborough River. (Keep going until you reach the observation tower.) Naturally, canoeing and kayaking are very popular recreational activities in Tampa; moderately priced rentals are available from the park or nearby Canoe Escape
. (Do not approach or feed alligators if you see them. It’s illegal and dangerous.)