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Thursday, August 18, 2022

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Best Spring Break Ever! 10+ Ways to Explore Tampa Bay with the Kids

Spring Break 2021 is a time to make NEW memories after 2020 left us all a bit shook. Okay, a lot. While we can’t quite let our guards down yet, as COVID is still present in our community, we can still safely explore the area with some amazing options that fit the criteria for every family…because we know we’re all in a different place of comfort and that is absolutely okay!

Related: Spring Break Camps in Tampa Bay

We have a huge library of things to do in Tampa Bay with the kids, so we’re sharing some of our favorite ideas for those of you who are planning a STAYcation this year. You’ll also spot some fun adventures from our media partners at TampaBayDateNightGuide.com!


Head to the Beach

spring break in Tampa Bay

Photo taken at the TradeWinds Island Resort in St. Pete Beach. 

This is sort of the no-brainer since we have some of the country and world’s top beaches right here in our own backyards. There is no doubt the beaches will be crowded with spring breakers, some more than others, so it’ll take some planning ahead. You’ll want to leave early and pack plenty of extras like water and snacks. TIP: Baby powder is a must-stash in your beach bag. It helps remove sticky sand from feet and everywhere else! We’ve tried it and in totally works!

Here are some our favorite stories focused on Tampa Bay Area beaches:

Cool tidbit: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater has a cool safety program, Spring to Safety, during Spring Break and they’ll be unleashing the Sunshine Stewards! The Sunshine Stewards will be roaming popular destinations to find people being Covid safe (wearing a face mask, social distancing, and so on). If you get caught being ‘safe’, you just might get rewarded with a gift card to use at a local business! You can learn more about the safety protocols here and even tips on quieter beaches here.

Sunshine Steward


Explore Florida’s Natural Springs

Outdoor Adventures in Tampa Bay with the Outdoorsy Diva

Lauren Gay from the OutdoorsyDiva.com

Visiting of the many natural springs in the Tampa Bay Area is must, especially on a hot day as the crystal clear spring water always stays at a cool 72 degrees. You can rent a kayak and explore or bring your own!


Visit a Tampa Bay Theme Park

Animal Encounters in Tampa Bay

Aldabra Tortoise Inside Tour at Busch Gardens (photo taken pre-COVID)

Since a visit to Disney World is out of the question this spring break since reservations are fully booked this week, consider sticking around town instead and exploring Busch Gardens Tampa Bay! And don’t worry–it’s not all roller coasters if you’ve never been. The Food & Wine Festival is happening right now and there are so many things going on for the entire family to enjoy. Mix it up a bit and upgrade your day with a Safari Tour or Animal Insider Tour! We’ve fed the Aldabra Tortoise and it was such a cool experience! Masks are required for everyone 2 and older.

LEGOLAND Florida is also a really cool park for kids! There’s even a really cool water park and Cypress Gardens to explore. If you decide to stay overnight, the new Pirate Island Hotel is super cool for kids and there are two other themed resorts on site too: LEGOLAND Hotel and the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat. There’s a new Watersports stunt show too! Masks are encouraged when outdoors and required when indoors.


Speaking of Theme Parks…Visit a Water Park!

Solar Vortex Adventure Island

The NEW Solar Vortex Waterslide at Adventure Island in Tampa.

While the beach is nature’s water park, human creativity has conjured up some pretty spectacular water parks and waterslides!

Adventure Island is right here in Tampa Bay and boasts 8 waterslides including the NEW Solar Vortex, America’s first dual tail spin waterslide. There’s an area just for little ones, an awesome lazy river and so much more! WATCH to see what it’s like to make your way down the Solar Vortex waterslide-it’s COOL!

Not too far from Tampa is Disney’s Blizzard Beach. It just re-opened and is a really cool park for kids of all ages. It has Florida’s only ski lift to take you to the top of its most thrilling waterslide, several smaller slides for little kids, and one of the longest lazy rivers.

Keep in mind that you’ll need a reservation AND ticket/annual pass to gain access to both water parks. Masks are required when not in the water and on water rides, so make sure to pack your face masks.


Book a Super Cool Animal Encounter at ZooTampa and Discover What’s NEW!

zootampa feed giraffe

ZooTampa is operating at limited capacity. Since it’s mostly all outdoors, this is a great place to get outside while practicing social distancing, especially on a weekday. We love upgrading our day with animal encounters like the Indian Rhino Feeding or Giraffe Feeding. There’s also a new safari experience, Expedition Wild Africa where you’ll be playing the role of a research intern at Africa’s Pampu Preserve. It’s an interactive experience where you’ll love clues, see animals up close and more! See more here.

During Spring Break week, the Zoo is also introducing a new Music in the Wild Event. There will be live music, drink and food specials and the Zoo will open for extended hours. You’ll even be among the first to see ZooTampa’s new masco, Manny T the Florida Manatee! Learn more and book your tickets/annual pass here. Face masks are encouraged outdoors and required indoors and during animal encounters.

Also NEW this spring: The Shoebill Storks Aviary will be found this spring in the Africa realm of the zoo and the Binturongs Habitat is relocating to the Asia real–they are also known as Asian Bearcats.


Go ‘Under the Sea’ at a Local Aquarium

Florida Aquarium

The Moon Bay Jellies touch tank at Florida Aquarium.

The Florida Aquarium and Clearwater Marine Aquarium also both allowing a limited the number of guests who attend at a time, like most attractions. In fact, the Florida Aquarium is by reservation only.

The Splash Pad at the Florida Aquarium is reopening in time for spring break, so be sure to pack a bathing suit and towel for the little ones! Reserve your time slot to splash and play once you arrive since they’re working to keep capacity low inside the splash pad too.

If you haven’t been to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in awhile, this is a great time to go since it’s basically brand new after undergoing a huge expansion and renovation. Winter and his pals have a new home too with huge, beautiful viewing windows.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

One of the new viewing windows at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

If you want a more socially distant experience, hop in the car and make your way over to Safari Wilderness in Lakeland which offers a customized vehicle safari and even a kayak safari. Learn more here!


Connect with Nature at a Local Natural Park or Nature Preserve

Edward Medard Park

Go for a hike on a nature trail! Nature preserves in Pinellas county like Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg remained open during the Safer at Home order as a way to seek respite from sitting at home. Some local family favorites in Pinellas: Weedon Island Preserve, Brooker Creek Preserve and Shell Creek Preserve. Here are other kid-approved nature trails to try: Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg and Boca Ciega Millennium Park in Pinellas. Fort De Soto State Park is another family favorite.

Hillsborough County has some pretty spectacular parks, too! One of our favorites is Edward Medard Conservation Park in Plant City (pictured above) with it’s almost dreamlike hikes through giant trees with exposed roots and hills from an old phosphate mine that has eroded away over the decades. It’s been a kid favorite for generations.

Lettuce Lake Conservation Park in Tampa is one of the county’s most visited parks with a 3,500 foot long boardwalk and 1.25 paved walking trail. We also really like Eureka Springs Conservation Parkbecause it’s so picturesque-it was originally established as a botanical garden in 1938.

Here’s a great resource for hiking trails in Tampa Bay!

When it comes to state parks, we’ve already mentioned Fort De Soto since it’s in Pinellas County. It has one of the top beaches in the country, North Beach at Fort De Soto which is a family favorite, but the park also features many trails, bike trails, kayaking, and more! Discover state parks to explore here. If your kids like the challenge of mountain biking or climbing, they might like the Alafia River State Park in Lithia which is on a former phosphate mine and has ‘radical’ changes in elevation as a result.

Bring snacks and plenty of water for an all day adventure among nature and in the shade of beautiful trees!

Related: 5 National Parks Just a Day Away from Tampa Bay


Go Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal River

swimming with the manatees

March is when ‘manatee season’ starts to come to close and a great opportunity to book a manatee tour with a professional tour company like the Adventure Center on Plantation on Crystal River. Even little kids can take part in this unique adventure, passively observing manatees in the water. You will want to make sure they are strong swimmers, or they can stay on the boat with an adult while the rest of the family swims.

We went on the tour a few months ago and shared our experience here! It was pretty amazing! 


Head to a U-Pick Farm in Tampa Bay

U-Pick Farms in Tampa Bay Strawberry U-Pick

It’s not quite u-pick season in Tampa Bay, but each week it seems, more farms are offering u-pick opportunities like Dooley Groves in Ruskin if you’re in the mood for citrus or Keel & Curley if you’re looking for lunch and a u-pick strawberry outing.

Before you go, make sure to pack your face mask because some do require you to wear a mask in some areas, but otherwise…the farm is the perfect place to social distance under the sun! Check each farm’s social pages or websites to ensure they are open as hours and dates change with weather and whether a crop is available for u-pick.


Go Prehistoric or Go Fossil Hunting!

Tusks to Tails at Tampa Bay History Center

The Tampa Bay Fossil Club is a great resource for fossil hunting in Tampa Bay. Popular spots include the Peace River and Venice Beach which has been deemed the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World“–both are a short drive from Tampa Bay.

Want to get up close with the dinosaurs! Head to Dinosaur World in Plant City–the hands on activities will be closed for now, but you can walk the winding trails and boardwalk to see hundreds of life-sized dinos.

The Tampa Bay History Center has a new fossil exhibit featuring fossils from Florida (Tusk to Tails: A Fossil History of Florida) that date back millions of years. It’s a really cool exhibit that walks you through the history of Florida and since face masks are required and it’s not overly crowded, it’s making our top picks list!


Try a New Restaurant in Tampa Bay or New to You

TheFunFoodieMama at Armature Works kid-friendly restaurants in Tampa Bay

@thefunfoodiemama and family at Armature Works in Tampa

Rather try something more outdoorsy? We have a couple of favorite spots to take the kids to eat an play outside. Our top pick is the St. Pete Pier because they have several dining options, including a pizza and ice-cream shop that’s completely outdoors. The Glazer Family Playground is so much fun and it’s really just a cool area to explore.

We also love Sparkman Wharf in Tampa. You can check out one of the restaurants in the dining garden like the new Murph’s Barbecue or The Corners for pizza. If you prefer a sit down, table service restaurant, Jotoro has a large outdoor seating area.

Armature Works is in Tampa is another spot–you can grab the food from inside and then enjoy it outside! Not far from Armature Works is Ulele which has a great outdoor area and even some fun statues from the former Fairyland like Humpty Dumpty and the Three Little Pigs. It’s a short walk to Water Works Park if you need some playground time.

Want more? We’re sharing some more of our favorite places to eat with the kids in Tampa Bay along with top picks from local foodie influencer, @thefunfoodiemama here.


Head to the Museum

Glazer Children's Museum reopens social distancing

The safety reminders at Glazer Children’s Museum. All of our local museums have policies in place to keep your family healthy and safe including mask mandates.

There are several really cool museums to explore with the kids in Tampa Bay like Glazer Children’s Museum, MOSI, and Tampa Bay History Center!

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the new Wild Kratts: Creature Power exhibit at Glazer Children’s Museum. It’s only there temporarily, so you don’t want to miss it especially if your kids love the Wild Kratts TV show! We’re giving you an INSIDE LOOK here. *Masks are required for everyone ages 2 and older though we have seen it more relaxed for little kids.

MOSI is another hands on museum where kids can get prehistoric in the Dinovations exhibit, head to the sky at Moonbase, and even test their balance on the ropes course outside. There’s so much to do at MOSI. Right now, they can head over to the IDEA ZONE to create their own Mars Lander and celebrate the landing at MARS: NEXT STOP. mosi.org *Masks required for all guests ages 5 and older.

We already mentioned the Tusks to Tails fossil exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center, but we also love the exhibit that’s all about pirates: Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates and Shipwrecks. There are also kid-friendly exhibits on the second floor of the museum as you explore Tampa Bay’s history. We also recommend making time to have lunch on the patio at the Columbia Cafe located at the History Center. tampabayhistorycenter.org *Masks required for all guests ages 2 and older.


Stay home and get some spring cleaning done.

clean up tips, organization

Photo provided by Kylie Ponton of Ponton Interiors.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with staying home and using the break to tackle the laundry list of chores we all have! We’ve partnered up with Kylie Ponton of Ponton Interiors and Laura Frasor of The Neat Method on a series of articles about revamping your space and getting organized.


More listings coming soon! 

Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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