Summer is here, and that means it's time to conquer Florida's Most exciting place for summer -- Tampa Bay. Here's how to do it.
Scream on Cobra’s Curse
Put your courage to the test with a ride on Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s newest ride. Located in the park’s Egypt section, near Montu, Cobra’s Curse opens June 17. It lifts each eight-person car nearly 80 feet in the air before sending your group zipping along nearly a half-mile of track. The first third of the ride, you’ll face forward. Then you’ll face backward. The final third of the ride, you’ll spin freely in a frenzy of fun.
Take in the Tampa Riverwalk
Downtown’s latest urban icon wraps up construction on its final segment just north of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts on June 11, creating an unbroken 2.4-mile waterfront venue for walking, strolling and riding a bike. Discover the best that downtown has to offer as you explore the trove of restaurants, hotels, public art, and cultural experiences strung like gems along this linear park. Buy a special cup at participating restaurants, and you can do your strolling with an adult beverage in hand.
Have Fun at Fourth Friday
Downtown’s newest party brings thousands of people out as the sun goes down to soak up Tampa Bay’s cultural attractions. A special wristband gets visitors free or discounted admission to the Tampa Museum of Art, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and Tampa Bay History Center. Hop the Pirate Water Taxi for rides along the waterfront. Take a tour of the historic Tampa Theatre and stick around as twilight grows for a show at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Along the way, you’ll find plenty to eat and even a drink or two at the Plank Bar, which pops up on the Tampa Riverwalk for each Fourth Friday festival.
Go out After Dark
Tampa Bay is part of the Sunshine State, but sometimes the best way to enjoy summer after the sun to goes down. Summer Nights at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (and Island Nights at nearby Adventure Island) let you chill out with DJs joining the parks’ thrills well into the night. Ybor City’s clubs and cafes come to life after twilight, turning Seventh Avenue into a parade of see-and-be-seen. Downtown, the daytime bustle yields to a mellow city where lighted art installations make the night welcoming. Pause on the Tampa Riverwalk to watch “Agua Luces” paint the bridges over the Hillsborough River a rainbow of rotating colors. The Riverwalk itself is light in shifting colors. At the heart of the Riverwalk, the Tampa Museum of Art becomes a work of art itself, with Leo Villareal’s “Sky: Tampa” washing across its façade.
Make a Splash
Tampa Bay may be the sweatiest city in America, but we also know how to keep our cool when the mercury rises. Rent a paddleboard or a water bike and hit the sparkling Hillsborough River downtown for a way to stay cool and enjoy the sites at the same time. Downtown parks have splash pads and play fountains to cool you from your toes to your nose. Start your day at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with a white-knuckle ride down the Congo River Rapids, which will keep you cool for hours after. Down the road, Adventure Island water park’s Colossal Curl and lazy river make a splash of another kind. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo offers Wallaroo Station, an Australian Outback-themed water zone for the kids. If you want to chill out without getting soaked, spend some time pondering the cool blue deep of the Florida Aquarium’s Coral Reef – all those fish will lower your temperature and your blood pressure at the same time.
Feel the Icy Chill
Believe me, here in Tampa Bay, we have long known the benefit of a cool drink on a hot day. Start with an iced coffee at one of our home-grown coffee shops. You’ll find just the cold jolt you need at Kahwa and Caffeine (both downtown), Oxford Exchange (near University of Tampa), or Buddy Brew (just west of downtown on Kennedy Boulevard). When the sun is high, beat the heat with a true piece of Tampa Bay history: a cold beer. Florida’s first commercial brewery opened here in 1897, and beer has been written into our DNA ever since. Take a tour of the Yuengling bottling plant just around the corner from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, which itself started as a biergarten in the 1950s. Or indulge your taste buds with suds in Florida’s hub for craft brewing. With 26 brewers spread from from Apollo Beach to Odessa to Ybor City, you’ll find one nearby. Most offer tours and free samples. Or hop on Brew Bus for guided ride among them. After hours, try cider and mead or cocktails made with locally distilled spirits.
Sing Along at a Summer Concert
With several major venues and loads of local bands, Tampa Bay has no shortage of great music during the summer. Let’s consider a sampling:
At Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre: Keith Urban (June 17); Sublime (July 3); Modest Mouse (July 9); Counting Crows & Rob Thomas (July 23); Gwen Stefani (July 26)
At Amalie Arena: WWE Raw (June 27); Pit Bull (July 30); Drake & Future (August 27)
At Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Summer Nights includes live music and fireworks each night.
Looking for something on a smaller scale? Downtown’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park hosts Rock the Park concerts on the first Thursday of each month. The shows are free at start at 6:30 p.m.
Dine Around the Town
Tampa Bay is a food-lovers dream destination with plenty of chances for dining al fresco, even in summer. Settle in to watch the sun set over the Hillsborough River at Ulele at the Tampa Riverwalk's northern terminus. Catch a breeze off the river at Sono Cafe, part of the Tampa Museum of Art. People-watch from patio of legendary pirate bar Gaspar's Grotto or another restaurant along Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. Or sample a true taste of Tampa Bay's past with the reborn Goody Goody hamburger joint in Hyde Park Village west of downtown.. A piece of Goody Goody's butterscotch pie is a perfect way to wrap up a summer day in Tampa Bay.
Hide Out Inside
Turns out air-conditioning was invented here in Florida (naturally). Celebrate by dropping into downtown's historic Tampa Theatre to catch a classic or indie flick in the coolness of Tampa Bay's coolest building. Yes, those are clouds moving across the ceiling of the ornate 1926 movie palace -- the first building in Tampa to have air-conditioning. You can keep the kids entertained with a trip to the Glazer Children's Museum or MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry. They'll also find plenty to do and learn during their summer break at the Tampa Bay History Center.