The Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa Bay has over 450 hands-on activities and is the largest science center in the southeast. Older kids can learn about their bodies, visit butterfly gardens, ride a bike while dangling over 30 feet in the air, create a tornado with a touch of a finger or simply lay back and view the stars in the planetarium. The museum would be suitable for an older toddler or child but a baby will be enthralled by some of the exhibits also.
The Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has roller coasters, animal adventures and amazing theatre shows. Plan on spending a full day here to take it all in. There are some attractions for toddlers also and there are plenty of restaurants and changing facilities within the park. Adventure Island is next to Busch Gardens and is a water park with plenty of suitable spots for babies and toddlers. The park is full of beautiful palm trees so there is plenty of shade. You can also bring your own food and drink if you prefer.
The Lowry Park Zoo has won the Parents Magazine award as the number 1 zoo in the US. It is perfect for toddlers as it is on a smaller scale and not difficult to get around. The main attractions right now are the Manatees and the baby Pygmy Hippo and the baby African Elephant. Dino Quest, which is inside the park has dinosaurs that move, blink and roar.
The Florida Aquarium is also worth a visit. It is home to sharks, otters and penguins. Prices range $16-$20 per person. There is a petting pool with Stingrays and Starfish. The Gasparilla Pirate Invasion is the world’s only fully-rigged pirate ship and will appeal to older toddlers and young children. The ship departs from Clearwater Marina 4 times a day and its crew leads passengers on treasure hunts, limbo dances, and water games. There’s face painting, stories and dancing. Everyone gets a pirate’s hat, water gun and hula-hoop, and is then asked to recite a pirate’s pledge.
There are a number of beaches in the Tampa Bay area that are worth visiting. Fort DeSoto’s North Beach is loved by families for its large lagoon that doesn’t get above 3 feet deep, creating a kids pool with very clean water. It also has lots of playgrounds, the park’s Gulf Pier for dolphin-watching and the fort and cannon built for the Spanish-American War. There is also an abundance of nature trails. Anna Maria Island is also a firm favorite (see Orlando). Siesta Key has a playground, volleyball court, fitness trail, and white sandy beaches. This area is popular with families. National and State Parks are found throughout Tampa also. There are also forests and wetlands complete with panthers, bears and alligators. Clearwater Beach is about a 40-minute drive from Tampa on the Gulf Coast. This wide, white beach boasts some of the softest sand in the country. You can set sail from Clearwater Marina with a rowdy crew of buccaneers and wenches aboard Captain Memo‘s pirate ship.