I have four kids under my roof at home this summer, but I am more excited than the kids, and am really looking forward to all the possibilities that await. Yes, this mom of four said she can’t wait to have all of her kids home for the summer.
We’ve all just completed 10 months of carpooling, tight schedules, school project deadlines, after school sports and activities, weekend tournaments and homework. I’m feeling I deserve this break more than they do.
What will I do with them, you ask? For starters, we are not overscheduling. We will embrace slowing down and enjoying our time off.
With only a limited number of days of summer break, I am hoping for as many endless summer nights as I can squeeze in before the school year starts all over again.
Related: Summer FUN in Tampa Bay and Beyond | Inside Looks, Day Trips, and more!
Here are my top picks of 50+ things to do this summer in Tampa Bay with the kids:
- Cool off. Take advantage of places like the YMCA Tampa pools (try it out for a day for free), City of Tampa Parks and Recreation pools (free with a REC card) or free splash pads like the ones at Curtis Hixon Park, Anderson Park in South Tampa or Water Works Park.
- Find a new beach this summer. Florida has about 700 miles of coastline, so find your new fave from our list of top picks for families. Hunt for seashells, bring a net for dip netting and learn about the ocean biome.
- Read! Learn something new. Your neighborhood library has free events, reading contests and book lists that tie in to school-time literacy events.
- Take in a flick. Not only are there a ton of new movies coming to a theater near you, but many theaters offer summer deals. Regal Cinemas offers $1 summer movies every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. You can see where else you can catch free and cheap movies here.
- Take your family out to a ball game. Head to a Tampa Bay Rays game and sign up for Rays Rookies membership. Kids can also sign up for the Tiny Tarps program with the Tampa Tarpons.
- Find a NEW park. Ask around and I am sure you will find a park that you and the kids haven’t visited. Have you hiked through Lettuce Lake Park or explored among the tree roots at Edward Medard Park? Gone fishing at Ballast Point Park? Searched for wildlife at the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve? Enjoy the parks we have in our area.
- Have a lemonade stand. Make a poster. Make the lemonade yourself. Invite a friend over to help you build your stand. Then, take the money you made and save it up to do something fun.
- Visit Pier 60 in Clearwater for a nightly Sunset Festival. Every night, artisans, crafters and street performers will make this a perfect place to head to as the sun goes down. Bring your swimsuit, play in the sand and watch the amazing sunset from Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach. BONUS: Free movies at Pier 60 Fridays and Saturdays are always a fun time.
- Learn a new sport. Learn to golf through the First Tee of Tampa Bay through the YMCA or play with the entire family at Top Golf for some friendly competition.
- Make a summer journal. Keep a diary of your adventures. Use brochures to make a collage of places you’ve been. Add in pictures you took and write about all the places you’ve been.
- Plant a garden. Take some time to plant a garden in the beginning of the summer. Herbs, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes are really easy to grow in the summer in Florida. Decorate your garden with painted rocks, gnomes and fun signs. Visit Little Red Wagon Native Plant Nursery in Tampa to learn more about native plants and creating a pollinator garden.
- Summer-clean your room. Move things around or get rid of the things you don’t use any more. It’s always fun to switch things around. If you’re feeling really adventurous, paint it a new color or redecorate after a visit to Ikea when they have free lunch for kids on a Tuesday.
- Take a tour of Tampa Bay via the Pirate Water Taxi. What a fun day to explore and see Tampa from a new point of view. BONUS: Hop on and off to take advantage of the museums and parks in Tampa’s downtown.
- Eat ice cream and popsicles. We love Hyppo Popsicles in Ybor City or South Tampa, Whatever Pops in Seminole Heights and Revolution Ice Cream in Seminole Heights.
- Go Tubing in Tampa Bay! Whether it’s renting a tube and floating down on of Florida’s natural spring rivers or simply taking a relaxing ride down the lazy river at a local water park, tubing is the ultimate summer adventure to cool off. Here are our top spots to go tubing.
- Take in an outdoor concert at Curtis Hixon Park. Rock the Park is a free concert that happens every first Thursday of the month. Bring some blankets, pack a picnic and invite some friends.
- Head to Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park and get some ideas from the animals on how to beat the heat! Upgrade your day with an animal encounter like feeding a giraffe!
- Take your camera and head to Downtown Tampa to be a photographer for the day. Pop into the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and even sign up to take a class to brush up on your skills.
- Ride your bike on Bayshore Boulevard. Grab your helmet and enjoy one of the most scenic rides in Tampa. If you don’t have your own bike, check out Coast Bike Share bikes.
- Bring your sports stuff and hit up Kate Jackson Park in Hyde Park Village. They have basketball courts, a playground and a splash pad for the babies. BONUS: Have lunch at Hyde Park Village. We love Bar Taco.
- Write a letter and mail it to someone. Make sure to tell them to write back too. CATCH: Go to the post office to drop in the mailbox.
- Take an art class at Ybor City Art Studio, paint some pottery at Color Me Mine in Hyde Park Village or opt for an “Art Spot” class at the Tampa Museum of Art (free every Saturday from 11am-2pm).
- Go to a Farmers Market. Tampa Bay Markets have wonderful outdoor markets located all over Tampa Bay. BONUS: Shop for fruits and vegetables that you can use to cook dinner together.
- Make something to sell at The Tampa Kids Market. Spark entrepreneurship by creating something and selling it. The Village Square allows kids to have their own pop up shop at Westshore Mall once a month.
- Visit the Glazer Children’s Museum. Pack a picnic lunch for a day in downtown at Curtis Hixon Park.
- Explore Sunken Gardens and Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Petersburg.
- Visit the Florida Aquarium and splash in the splash pad.
- Jump around at SkyZone or play indoors in the a/c. Some of our favorite spots are PK’s Fun Zone in Tampa and Main Event in Wesley Chapel.
- Visit Busch Gardens or Adventure Island for a day. Busch Gardens’ Summer Nights includes fireworks every night, live entertainment and so much more!
- Stay in a hotel for a night. CATCH: You only go to the hotel. We love to visit the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee for a one night get away. We get there early and take advantage of having two full days at their water park and just love to explore their hotel.
- Hit the Drive-In movies at Funland. Do an old-school movie night at the drive in. Kids will think this is the coolest way to see a movie. Here are some other Drive-In theaters in the Tampa Bay Area to check out.
- Take a backstage tour of Tampa Theatre and learn about one of the oldest theaters in America. Stay for a classic summer movie on a Sunday afternoon with their Summer Classic Movie Series.
- Visit a National Park and earn a Junior Ranger Badge. Did you know that Fort DeSoto is a National Memorial.
- Take a yoga class. There’s free yoga each Sunday at Curtis Hixon Park.
- Go kayaking! Get Up and Go Kayaking is offering a NEW kayaking tour just for kids and their parents called Paddle Pals. They kayak out of Tierre Verde to explore the mangroves and then Shell Key Preserve.
- Volunteer at Feeding America Tampa Bay with the whole family. Teach your kids about hunger and how they can help. Sign up at FeedingTampaBay.org.
- Visit LEGOLAND and/ or their water park. TIP for Teachers: LEGOLAND Florida Resort, The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE Aquarium offer Florida teachers one year of free admission with a Teach Pass.
- Visit the Tampa Bay History Center and get a lesson on how Tampa Bay became the city it is today. BONUS: Eat lunch at the Columbia Restaurant.
- Start a fundraiser and write letters to people who you think could help you with your cause. Feeding Tampa Bay and Metropolitan Ministries are wonderful beneficiaries.
- Go fishing. Grab a reel and have some fun the old fashioned way. So many docks and places to fish in Tampa Bay. Maggie Rodriguez recently shared a story about kids and fishing in Tampa Bay. You can also learn more at TakeMeFishing.org.
- Throw a party. CATCH: You have to plan it, write invitations, figure out what to do, what you will eat and be the host. (That means you are in charge of clean up too.)
- Visit MOSI and give the ropes course a try after you explore the Video Game Revolution exhibit.
- Have arts and crafts day at home. You don’t always have to be on the go. BONUS: Use recycled materials to create works of art.
- Try a new type of food. Have a fancy lunch at the Columbia Restaurant and watch the flamenco dancers. Try traditional Spanish or Cuban food like paella. You can also plan a sunset dinner at one of these 20 Kid-Friendly Waterfront Restaurants in Tampa Bay.
- Head over to TradeWinds Island Resorts on St.Pete Beach and stay overnight for a STAYCATION. It’s a fun way to play all day in the hotel pools, unlimited rides on the High Tide Slide, mini-golf, paddleboats, beach cabanas and more.
- Start a blog. They are free at blogspot.com and will help you with writing and you might learn a little coding too. Always ask your parents’ permission before you post.
- Turn off all electronics for one FULL day. Can you really do it? (You too, mom and dad!)
- Fire up the grill and invite some friends over for an old fashioned BBQ. BONUS: Have the kids help decide the menu and prep the food.
- Go scalloping in Crystal River. It’s like an Easter egg hunt while swimming. All you need is a bag, mask, fins and a snorkel. You’ve love this new family tradition once you start.
- Go bowling. Sign up at KidsBowlFree.com for two free games of bowling all summer long.
- Volunteer at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Kids can also participate in the Paws for Literacy program to practice their reading skills while reading to the animals.
- Visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and see Winter. Have a movie night with Dolphin Tale 1 or 2 before visiting. BONUS: Pair this with a dolphin-watching excursion for an even more exciting and educational day.
- Spend the day at the historic Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs.
- Meet a few real mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs and splash and swim in Buccaneer Bay
- Go back in time and explore Dinosaur World in Plant City or check out the Tusks to Tails Fossil Exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center.
- Go for a bike ride—but add a local twist by biking on the water with Tampa Bay Water Bikes. Kids must be 8 or older to participate.
- Buy tickets to see a live show at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater or the Mahaffey in St Pete.
- Ride the miniature train at the Largo Central Railroad at Largo Central Park. Trains run the first weekend of every month.
- Cruise on a pirate ship with Captain Memo’s Original Pirate Cruise located at Clearwater Beach or the Lost Pearl in Tampa.
- Go see a rocket launch. You can either view online via live streaming at home OR you can make the short drive over the Kennedy Space Center to check out a rocket launch from miles away! Tampa Bay Parenting’s editor Laura Byrne recently went to a launch with her kids and shared details here.
*Originally published in the June 2017 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine. Updated in July 2021.
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