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Friday, July 1, 2022

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Taking Toddlers Out in Tampa

Things to do with toddlers in Tampa Bay!

As the mom of a young toddler, I’m constantly looking for fun, safe, and enriching things to do with her in the Tampa Bay area. In the warmer months, that often means finding something with AC or at least a healthy amount of shade – and in the “cooler” (i.e. not sweltering) months, I love to take advantage of our beautiful weather and get her outside. Whether you’re new to the Tampa Bay area or just looking for some new ideas, here is a round up of my favorite activities to do with a toddler:

Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa This. Museum. Is. Amazing. My little girl is still not walking steadily and I first brought her here when she was still 100% a crawler – and there was a TON of stuff for her to do and enjoy. While admission for the whole family might seem a bit steep (adults are $15 and children ages 1-12 are $13) they often run deals (make sure to follow them on Facebook) and offer season passes which can save quite a bit of money if you plan to go more than once (and you will). They also offer reciprocity for members of the Aquarium, Zoo, and others and offer discounted admission. We actually asked my in-laws for a family pass for Elle’s Christmas gift (because truly, no one needs more stuff around here). There is something to do for every age child, but way more than I expected for toddler aged kids. The ground floor has  a toddler/baby area separated from the other kids, which we brought her to first, but she actually ended up enjoying the activities on the main floor more. The main floor has areas like a pretend vet station, fire house (with an awesome pole and firetruck with virtual screen), a Publix shopping center with miniature carts and play food, a couch fort area (big hit!), kaleidoscopes, “farm,” an area with trains and paper air planes, and so much more. My little girl’s favorite though was the “dance party” area where you can dance with them on a lighted dance floor to music you select from their “juke box.” We came up on her nap time so we exited before we hit every station, and I can’t wait to take her back and let her explore even more! This is also going to be a weekly attraction for us come summertime because hello air conditioning!

Kidz World of Play in Tarpon Springs  This place is amazing.  We even had my son’s 3rd birthday.  It is exceptionally clean (even the ball pits- they clean them every night).  They have a great play area for children 2 and under.  They even have a cafe that not only has the normal kid food of pizza and hot dogs, but they also have healthy options and organic baby food!  The cost is $7 for children ages 1-4 and $8.50 for children 5-9.     They have a baby play area to that is sectioned off from the rest of the areas and a toddler play area.   Lots of climbing areas and a large slide that 4 children can slide down together at once are just part of the fun activities for toddlers to partake in.   There is also a play kitchen, play car area.   You can also bring your lunch or purchase from the cafe.   Great highchairs for little ones and they even have plastic plates, cups and cutlery for toddlers.   They really thought about their clientele when they were planning this place.  Check their Facebook for daily activities, many times they have costumed characters leading activities or crafts.

Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park  is one of the best zoos I have ever been too (including the Bronx Zoo).  It is clean, the animals are well kept and the accommodations for children are great.  It is one of the pricer activities on my list.  If you live in the TB area, I suggest getting a family pass.  If not, check their website and facebook, because they run specials as well.  I know that teachers get in free for a month over the summer and sometimes they will do a free day (these days get very packed).   The cost of a zoo ticket is $27.95 for an adult ticket, $22.95 for children 3-11 and children 2 and under or free (this is another reason why it is great to take your toddler here).   When we only had one child, my husband and I bought the dual annual pass for $105 (sometimes they do a discount rate- check FB) and we would take our 1-2 year old for free.   They have a great children’s area in the zoo complete with spray park (so bring their suit and towel!), petting zoo, adorable train ride, restaurant, and other rides.   If you have a little one, plan on spending most of your day here.  It is a great place to cool off before going to other places in the zoo.   Everything in the children’s section is included in admission prices.   When we had the pass, sometimes we would just come for the spray park and see a few animals on the way.   Staff is super friendly and they will do shows and lessons throughout the day.

Spray Parks (all over Tampa Bay).   Every so often we take our kids to a spray park.   We have been to a couple of them (some you have to pay for parking, others are free).  One of the nicest one we have been to is the new one in Tarpon Springs on Live Oak Street.  There are a lot of shaded areas for parents to sit.  The park is very clean and there are a ton of places for kids to play.  It is also fenced in, which is super important.  Parking at Tarpon Spray Park is free.   My children have also been to the spray park in Oldsmar called “Cypress Forest Spray Park” on Pine Ave.  There is a $5 parking fee and a nice picnic area.  It is pretty spread out though, so I found myself leaving my bag a lot to chase after little ones.   Although we haven’t been, people love the one in Dunedin.  It is called the Kawanis Sprayground and is located on Eckert Drive in Dunedin.  Any spray park that you may find in the area is probably a good one.  I would love your feedback on the ones that you and your family have checked out.

Largo Central Railroad & Largo Central Park  Located at 101 Central Park Drive, this place has one of the most beautiful playgrounds that I have ever seen.   They have huge areas for kids of all ages to explore and climb.  Many sections have AstroTurf so that kids don’t get dirty.   Everything was kept incredibly well and it was so big that kids were not climbing all over each other.   Again, there are different age appropriate areas for children to play and it is fenced in so your older child can play in one section and you can keep a closer eye on your toddler near the entrance.  The best part about this place is that the first full weekend of the month they have free train rides.   They have a mile long track and miniature train.   We went this past December and as we traveled around the back of the track, the train stopped and they had Santa & Mrs. Claus giving out candy canes to the children.  Everything was free and my 2 year old.

Fred Howard Beach (Tarpon Springs) Taking a toddler to a beach can be scary.  We were able to make several trips to the beach this summer and we always went to Fred Howard in Tarpon.  There is a $5 parking fee (sometimes a good soul will give you their parking ticket if they are finished – don’t be afraid to ask, just pay it forward when you are through).   Beach is not far at all from the parking lot and the best thing about this beach is that there are little to no waves.  Your toddler can play at the edge (or even a little further) of the water and not get knocked down.    They have umbrellas and chairs for rent (but we never purchased, we always brought our own).  There is also a food truck with ice cream and wraps.   This is close to the Tarpon Spray park (see above), so you could do both in one day if you are making the trip out there.  Then head over to downtown Tarpon and see the Sponge boats and get some yummy Greek food.  I have taken my children to a few other beaches and it always makes me stressed out and I am exhausted when we leave.  With this beach, I feel like I am getting a moment to enjoy the outdoors and the salt water. 

Sparkman Wharf
If you have a toddler, I don’t need to tell you how a lunch or dinner “out” can be a less than relaxing experience. Their little minds and bodies don’t want to sit still so the typical restaurant outing normally ends up being more stress than it’s worth. This is why I LOVE Sparkman Wharf. There are easily 10+ food options and a biergarten, all seating is outside, and they often have live entertainment. But here’s the real reason it’s so perfect for the littles: in the center of it all is a huge area of astroturf where they can run/ toddle/ crawl to their heart’s content. Plus the ample food options mean you’re likely to find something even your pickiest little eater will eat. We love taking friends and family from out of town here as well when they come to visit as we know it’s a place we can all enjoy without the dreaded “get me out of this highchair” meltdown. The one caveat: this is definitely a weather-dependent activity as it’s all outdoors, and there isn’t a ton of shade, so summertime tends to be way too hot for little ones in the middle of the day, and it won’t be your go-to when it rains.

A Whole Lot More!  There are tons of activities to do in Tampa Bay. Having a toddler doesn’t mean that you have to sit home and watch Sesame Street all day.   Check out all the amazing parks, aquariums and boardwalks.  There are quite a few nature preserves and tons of playgrounds. If you are visiting in the area, google gymnastic places, and music classes because a lot of these facilities have open play or classes that you can sign up for one session. There are several bounce house and activity places around too that are air conditioned and are sure to wear out some of that toddler energy.

Visit for more tips on travel, food, and fun.

More Family Friendly Fun in Tampa Bay:

Let’s Play! Our Favorite Family Friendly Parks and Playgrounds in Tampa Bay

Let’s Eat! 16 Places Where Kids Eat for Free in South Tampa

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