There’s not a weekend that goes by in the Tampa Bay area without something fun to do at the weekend with various food and music festivals and many pet friendly events. Just some of the many annual events visitors and residents enjoy are Gasparilla, Ybor City Cigar Festival, the Florida State Fair and the Renaissance Festival.
Attractions in Tampa Bay are varied and plentiful. Just a few of our many attractions are Busch Gardens, MOSI, The Florida Aquarium, The Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Lowry Park Zoo.
Annual Events in Tampa Bay
Gasparilla is held in Tampa in January/February of each year celebrating the legend of Jose Gaspar, a fictional spanish pirate captain who is rumored to have operated in Southwest Florida. The theme and focus of Gasparilla is the friendly invasion of the mythical pirate Jose Gaspar and his crew. There is a ‘pirate ship’ specially built for Gasparilla and it sails down the bayshore and downtown area of Tampa with a fleet of smaller boats. when the ship lands, the pirate captain demands the Mayor hand over the keys to the city and the Mayor will decide if he surrenders or not. A victory parade is held through the streets of Tampa.
Besides the main parade, two smaller parades are held in he weeks before and after. The Children’s Parade is a more family-friendly event and is usually held along Bayshore Boulevard. The Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade is more adult-oriented and is usually held in Ybor City.
The events of Gasparilla also include the Gasparilla Distance Series – a 5k, 8k, 15k, half-marathon and challenge series.
Ybor City Cigar Festival
Ybor City Cigar Festival is a family-oriented park festival not only to highlight the history of the cigar industry in the area, but also to celebrate the cultural heritage and history of the area. The festival is held in November each year and carries some of the best cigars from around the world as well as some boutique cigars. The cigar industry played a pivotal role in the growth of early Tampa. Many of the early settlers were of Italian, Cuban and Spanish descent who came to Tampa largely to roll cigars.
For November 2016 Adults are $5 and children are free to attend.
Florida State Fair
Florida State Fair is held around February each year at the Fairgrounds in Tampa. Along with the many rides, the fair hosts many food vendors and generates local news coverage with unusual food offerings such as the Ramen Noodle burger. Wristbands are available most days and prices vary according to the time and day you visit. The purpose of the fair is to showcase the area’s agricultural industry and includes competitions in casts and fine arts where entries are judged and ribbons awarded. Besides the rides and exhibits, other venues include the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center, which hosts horse races and other equestrian events and exhibitions from most counties in Florida.
Bay Area Renaissance Festival
The Bay Area Renaissance Festival is usually held in March each year and plays host to over 100 merchants and the setting is that of a 16th century village. The festival features jousting, and theme weekends that have included fairies and highland games in the past. There are jugglers, belly dancers and even mermaids in attendance. Watch traditional craft techniques such as glass blowing and don’t worry if you don’t have a costume – they have some for hire!
Early Bird ticket prices for 2017 are $18.95 for adults and $10.95 for children. There are season passes available and in previous years there have been discounts closer to the event sold locally.
The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is located in the Channelside area of Tampa and features, attractions, exhibits and add on adventures.
The aquarium is home to more than 20,000 aquatic animals and plants and interactive exhibits include touching a bamboo shark in Stingray Beach or a sea star in the No Bone Zone. The Coral Reef Gallery simulates a 60-foot dive in shallow water reefs and descends in to deeper
waters. For something more exotic, check out Journey to Madagascar where you will see leaping lemurs and hissing cockroaches.
The Splash Pad at the aquarium is a 2-acre outdoor water play area with a bar and grill for parents to relax while the kids play.
If you want to add on an adventure to your visit The Dolphin Adventure cruise departs daily to view some of the 500 wild dolphins and includes and entertaining tour. For something more interactive, guests over the age of 6 can swim with the sharks in the aquariums larges exhibit.
Admission: Adults $24.95, Seniors $22.95, Children 3-11 $19.95, Children 2 and under are free (discounts are available online)
Combo tickets Dolphin Cruise Adults $49.90, Seniors $44.90, Children 3-11 $40.90
Swim with the Sharks $150
Home to the famous Winter and Hope the dolphins from Disney’s Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is more of a rehabilitation aquarium. The animals here are either being rehabilitated to be released or are in captivity because they wouldn’t survive on their own. Winter lost her tale in a boating accident and poor Hope was too little to learn to survive on her own. Nicholas makes friends with his food, so no natural predatory instincts there. Make sure to visit Cooper the otter who was injured in a boating accident that left his back legs paralyzed.
Admission (pre-purchased online): Adults $21.95, Seniors $19.95, Children $16.95
The Museum of Science and Industry has more that 450 interactive exhibits on gaming, robotics, astronomy and technology this is a true ‘hands-on’ experience that will please kids of all ages! As an add on experience you can experience the Sky Trail Ropes Course and zip line. The course features 35 elements on a 12 – 36 ft. high, multilevel structure. The course is designed with challenging high-energy feats ideal for all ages.
MOSI also has a 3D IMAX theatre dome with regularly scheduled nature and science documentaries.
Admission: Adults $26.95, Seniors $25.95, Children $20.95
Sky Trail and Zip Line add on: $20 (with general admission)
IMAX Theatre: Adults $8.95, Seniors $7.95, Children $6.95
Busch Gardens Tampa is a 335 acre theme park with animals and thrill rides as well as Iceploration, a 30 minute ice show featuring larger-than-life puppets as well as live animal stars.
Currently there are 6 high speed thrill coaster rides including Cobra’s Curse – the newest spin coaster that opened earlier this year.
Smaller child friendly attractions are located mainly in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun and includes Elmo’s safari go-around, a tribal inspired carousel, and Big Bird’s Whirlie Birdie ferris wheel.
Busch Gardens many annual events including the Real Music Series, Food & Wine Festival, Summer Nights, Christmas Town and Howl-O-Scream.
Admission: $79.99 (savings can be found online for multi-parks and annual passes)
Lowry Park Zoo
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is a 63-acre nonprofit zoo featuring more than 1300 animals including penguins, giraffes and Okapis which are naturally very shy and look like they have a zebra’s legs and a horses body and a giraffe’s head.
The attractions at the zoo include the Jungle Carousel and the African guided safari as well as bumper boats and the Overland Express Train.
Seasonal events here include Creatures of the Night in October and Christmas in the Wild in December.
Admission: Adults $29.95, Children 3-11 $20.95, Children 2 and under are free (savings are available for multiple visits and online)
All of the attractions above are part of Tampa’s City Pass valid for 9 consecutive days $99 for adults $89 for children (online prices)
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**prices valid as of September 2016**