North Tampa

Pick your own action in North Tampa, site of the University of South Florida and the city's biggest and fastest attractions. Many of the city's unexpected amusements delight traveling families, too.


Rollercoaster and waterslide-riding thrill-seekers, science geeks, and Animal Planet junkies thrive within a five-mile radius. Extending more than 335 acres, Busch Gardens® Tampa boasts more than 12,000 animals and dozens of rides that include the brand new drop tower, Falcon's Fury, and eight intense roller coasters that ranked high in Amusement Today's Top 50 list. Neighboring waterpark Adventure Island features giant slides, riptides and bikini- and boardshort-clad masses. The largest science center in the Southeast, the Museum of Science and Industry, has 450 science exhibits and a colossal IMAX® dome movie theater with an 82-foot hemispherical movie screen. Florida wildlife is the primary focus of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, though it's also home to plenty of non-native fauna.

By Day

Outdoor activities are a given in North Tampa. Old McMicky's Farm is an interactive educational experience focused on farm living with hands-on introductions to farm animals along with tractor-drawn hayrides. The country's largest accredited animal sanctuary devoted exclusively to abandoned exotic felines, Big Cat Rescue operates with support from guided tours of its 70-acre facility that include hour-long feeding tours where you can watch the cats have lunch close-up. If you want to watch live horse racing, Tampa Bay Downs is the only thoroughbred race track on Florida's west coast.

By Night

A live music institution, Skipper's Smokehouse hosts shows nearly every day of the week while serving up fried Florida fare (gator included). Regular reggae and Grateful Dead nights take place amid concerts by nationally known musicians. A much bigger venue and centerpiece to the USF campus, the USF Sun Dome hosts hundreds of events each year. A huge range of restaurants surround the campus. Cigar City Brew Pub corners the market on small-batch craft beers and upscale pub grub. Tampa-spawned GrillSmith is a popular lunch and dinner destination for its creatively imagined new American cuisine.