If you’re going to Downtown Tampa, then you are in for a good time. The Downtown neighborhood of Tampa is one and a third square miles crammed full of fantastic things to do. Downtown Tampa is fronted on two sides by water, the Hillsborough River on the west and Tampa Bay to the south, and even has an island as a sub-district.
Ride a classic streetcar, stroll the busy riverwalk or take a dinner cruise under the stars, the choice of things to do in Downtown Tampa is almost endless. There are museums and art galleries to browse, interesting historical landmarks to photograph, plus some great theaters, bars, and restaurants to socialize in and several sophisticated nightclubs too.
However long you’re in Downtown Tampa for, be prepared for a fun-filled stay. Plan ahead and check out which of these fifteen best things to do in Downtown Tampa are the ones you just can’t miss doing when you’re there.
1. Starship Yacht Dinner Cruise
Step aboard the Starship Cruise for a magical evening of food and music as the sun sets on Downtown Tampa. Moored at Tampa Docks on Channel Drive, the luxury yacht sets sail as dinner is served.
Expect a first class, three or four-course menu accompanied by fantastic views of DT Tampa’s skyline from your table by the window. After the meal, head up to the promenade deck for champagne and dancing.
The cruise lasts for around two and a half hours and has full onboard bar services.
2. TECO Streetcar
Ride through Downtown Tampa on the TECO Streetcar. The bright yellow, electrically operated vintage streetcars run from the Whitney Station, located between Franklin and Whitney Street in Downtown Tampa, through to Centennial Park in the Ybor City District.
Initially operating from the early 1890’s until decommissioned in the mid-1940’s, the beautifully renovated streetcars are now back in action on their two and a half-mile track.
There are eleven stops in total, two of which are in Downtown, and the cars pass through at frequent, fifteen-minute intervals. Just listen for the unmistakable clang to know when it’s coming.
3. Tampa Bay History Center
Visit the Tampa Bay History Center on Downtown Tampa’s Old Water Street to find out all about the city and surrounding area from the time of the Spanish conquests to the present day.
The museum has over twenty-five thousand square feet of exhibition space and displays which cover over twelve thousand years worth of history.
Unmissable are the reconstructed tobacco store, Florida’s First People and the Cowman and Crackers exhibits. They’re all fascinating insights into the lives of past Tampa residents.
4. W XYZ Lounge
Chill out in the rooftop bar at the W XYZ Lounge on the top floor of the Aloft Hotel on West Kennedy Boulevard.
This classy, if somewhat eclectically furnished, establishment with a swimming pool in Downtown Tampa, is the perfect place to have sundowners or cocktails and to see the DT skyline and riverfront at night.
The W XYZ Lounge has a small food menu offering a range of snacks and a cozy fire pit for chilly nights.
5. Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park
The four and a half acre Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park is the ideal place for a sedate ramble in Downtown Tampa. Located alongside DT’s Old Water Street, the park faces onto the river.
The park offers various landscaped areas with seating facing the waterfront, paved walking trails and a small pier which juts out into the river for fish or alligator spotting.
There is also a memorial dedicated to the Seminole Indians and the battles which were held in defense of their native home.
6. Tampa Museum Of Art
The Tampa Art Museum is an ultra-modern building in Gasparilla Plaza in Downtown Tampa. The museum is a subdued square box by day but at night a kaleidoscope of colors when the fiber optic lighting on its walls is lit.
The museum showcases many different genres of artworks including contemporary, modern, decorative arts and artifacts from the classical Greek and Roman antiquities periods as well as paintings.
There is an on-site cafe for drinks and snacks plus a small gift shop for art-related souvenirs.
7. Straz Center
The Straz Center or to give its full name, the David A Straz Jr Center for Performing Arts, is in MacInnes Place in Downtown Tampa and offers first class shows and performances in multiple genres.
The facility covers over nine acres and incorporates five individual theaters with seating capacities ranging from one hundred and thirty to over two-thousand.
Attend diverse shows ranging from Hello Dolly to symphonic orchestral performances of classical music to a special Live and Local series featuring as yet unknown local artists.
8. Columbia Cafe
Almost as historic as Downtown Tampa itself, the Columbia Cafe has been operating in the Downtown district since 1905.
This Downtown Tampa, Spanish-style, institution is on Old Water Street and has amazing river views from its outdoor patio. Don’t miss trying the Columbia Cafe’s signature dishes of Spanish Bean Soup, Deviled Crab Croquettes or their original recipe, 1905 salad.
The Columbia Cafe has live music at the weekends, and some exciting Flamenco dance shows too.
9. Tampa Riverwalk
The Tampa Riverwalk in Downtown Tampa is much more than a riverside trail. Join the two and a half mile long promenade at Cotanchobee Park and find incredible murals, a collage of five-hundred photographs of the Riverwalk, a Native American Cenotaph and the Heroes Plaza honoring service veterans.
There is a public dock on the Riverwalk from where a water shuttle service operates, a wharf with terraced cafes and restaurants and a convention center as well as many other amenities.
There are various festivals hosted on the Tampa Riverwalk throughout the year including the Riverfest, Taste of the Riverwalk and Taco Fest. Make sure you check out what’s going on during the dates you’re in Downtown Tampa so you don’t miss out on the festivities.
10. Tampa Bay SUP & Kayaking
When the weather is as good as it is in Downtown Tampa, there’s no excuse for not getting out on the water. Located on the waterfront by the Tampa Marriott Hotel on Florida Avenue, the Tampa Bay SUP Company is the place to go to test your balance on a SUP paddleboard on the calm waters of the Hillsborough River.
If paddleboarding isn’t your thing, then take a kayak out for two hours, and keep your eyes peeled because dolphins are a frequent sighting in the bay.
Still not convinced? Then hire a paddle boat for an hour or more on the water. It’s hard on the legs, but a fun way to see the Downtown Tampa skyline.
11. Amalie Arena
Catch a game of NHL ice hockey at the Amalie Arena on Channelside Drive in Downtown Tampa. The twenty-thousand seater stadium is home base to the Tampa Bay Lightning team.
The arena has tiered seating distributed over seven individual levels plus sixty-nine private suites. There is an eleven-thousand square foot beer garden and numerous concessions on every floor plus a store selling Tampa Bay Lightning sportswear.
The Amalie Arena also hosts major concerts featuring sell-out global stars like Elton John and Barry Manilow.
12. Tampa Theater
Watch a movie in one of Downtown Tampa’s most historic settings, the iconic Tampa Theater which has been operating as a cinema since 1926.
Pass through the foyer, a Mediterranean-style courtyard with gargoyles and spurting fountains, into the ornate, Renaissance-style, auditorium complete with stage and Wurlitzer organ.
The Tamper Theater also hosts frequent live events from musicians to bingo. If you’d like to get close up to the organ or find out more about the theater’s history, you can on the one and a half hour Balcony to Backstage Tour.
13. Agua Luces
Downtown Tampa’s architecture becomes a spectacle of light at night. Five of the district’s nine bridges are illuminated every day from sunset to sunrise and are an amazing sight.
Take an evening walk along the riverfront at dusk to get the best views or hire an e-boat, read more about e-boats below, and sail under the bridges as they change color flashing on and off every thirty seconds.
14. Ferg’s Live
Food, sport, and live music are what Ferg’s Live on Channelside Drive in Downtown Tampa boast, and that’s what they deliver. Big style.
This Downtown social hub has an outdoor dance floor, a stage, countless bars, and more TV screens than there are glasses behind the bar. The bar offers a pub grub-style menu featuring unusually flavored fries, think sweet potato chips with white chocolate and raspberry sauce, burgers and sandwiches.
Ferg’s Live is the venue to go to rock the weekend under Downtown Tampa’s star-studded sky with music from top local bands and DJ’s.
15. e-Boat Tampa
You don’t need a captain’s license to take an e-boat out on the Hillsborough River. Hire one from the e-Boat Tampa company and make an afternoon and night of it exploring the waterways of Downtown Tampa.
Pick up a twelve-seater e-boat from the moorings on South Franklin Street and sail away at your own pace. Pack a picnic and drinks or stop off for a rest break at any of several points along the river’s banks where there are eateries and cafes.
Taking an e-boat out in Downtown Tampa comes highly recommended as an evening adventure. Sailing under the bridges when they’ve been illuminated for the night is stunning – just like Downtown Tampa.