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Where to Go in the Tampa Bay Area for A Staycation (or any Type of Vacation)?

Updated on March 13, 2014

The Tampa Bay Area is home to a wealth of great attractions. This region is notable for its Busch Gardens and its top-notch rides. It is also home to one of the best family zoos in the nation. And it's worth mentioning that some of the best beaches around are nearby.

Floridians know how to take a staycation because most of what their state or even their area in the state are right in their own backyards. And folks in Tampa and its vicinity know about this all too well - some even drive less than 2 hours to Walt Disney World and other Central Florida locations.

But let's discuss some area venues for now.

Whether you are a resident who is trying to save money by hanging about in the region instead of traveling to even the nearby Orlando area or an out-of-state family looking for something different, Tampa Bay has a lot to offer. Here, I'm mentioning just a few.

Tampa is noted for its Busch Gardens, but locals know we have a lot more...
Tampa is noted for its Busch Gardens, but locals know we have a lot more...

The Florida Aquarium

One of the ideas finance experts and travel agents alike give you when planning a staycation is to go to an aquarium, and the Florida Aquarium is no exception. Like virtually all of its kind in the United States, it has exhibits for sea-life and freshwater animal species. Don't forget to check out the wetlands exhibit, where you can not only learn about its inhabitants but also learn about threats to the ecosystems.

For the kids who want to cool off in hot days, there's a nice little waterpark/splash pad called Explore a Shore. It includes geysers, jets, a huge pirate ship, and waterslides. And toddlers have their own area called Shipwreck Shore.

The aquarium also offers a Wild Dolphin Cruise, where you not only see views of the city but also spot some dolphins.

Not only the aquarium is ideal for the local who decides to take a vacation at his or her hometown, but it's also a good venue for the family to do at, say, the day after the cruise from the Port of Tampa and the day before they fly home.

Sunken Gardens

For the escape artist eloping from the hustle and bustle of city life, Sunken Gardens is the perfect place for that person. Billed as St. Petersburg's oldest museum, this over 100 year-old venue houses some of the area's tropical plants. Take a walk through winding paths and marvel at the waterfalls and flowers in full bloom. It's also a marvelous venue for area couples tying the knot.

Lithia Springs Regional Park

If you love the beaches, then you'll love some of our swimming holes. Lithia Springs Regional Park in Lithia has one.

If you want something different than just a public swimming pool, you'll love the clear, pristine waters of the natural spring that feeds the Alafia River. The temperature of the water is about 72 degrees year-round, so you can stop by the spring even after the summer crowds dissipate when area schools go in session in mid-August.

And for the staycationer, camping is also provided. You'll be crazy to have to travel even an hour from the Bay Area for a good camping spot.

Lowry Park Zoo

Staycationers agree that the zoo is another place that their region already has if their travel accommodations are at their very own homes. Lowry Park Zoo fits this description. Kids can ooh and ahh at various animal exhibits and ride on ponies. But that's not all it offers.

It also offers a log flume, a kiddie roller coaster, a train ride, bumper boats, a banana ride for the kids, and a carousel. Does all of this spell out a great place to take the kids?

Lowry Park is perfect for kids who are neither brave nor tall enough to ride the hot-ticket rides of nearby Busch Gardens and for those who are pinching pennies.

The Beaches

What's a Florida vacation or staycation without days at the beach? The Bay Area has lots of them!

One of the recommended beaches is Fort De Soto Park. Besides clean beaches, nature trails, fishing piers, and campsites (Here's another camping place for travelers who want to stay local!), the park has a historical site. Did you know that it was used for test runs for bombs by the bomber who bombed Hiroshima during World War II?

Here's a tip: go to the beaches early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Better yet, enjoy them in the fall so you can face less of them.

And Didn't We Mention Busch Gardens?

We can't forget this nearby diversion, right? We have top-tier rides like Kumba, Cheetah Hunt, Montu, and Falcon's Fury. And kids would go bananas for Sesame Street Safari of Fun.

But locals can take advantage of events in their own backyard theme park. Those traveling in the fall can scare themselves silly during Howl-O-Scream, or celebrate the spirit of the holiday season with Christmas Town.

And they can get a lot of perks when they buy a Fun Card, their quasi-annual pass that includes all-year admission. They can add unlimited visits to Adventure Island, the nearby water park, for their summer getaways without traveling far. What's more - they can go in less busy seasons, like the fall and the Monday after New Year's week.

Though I know Tampa is more than this, I can't sincerly forget about our Busch Gardens. It's another staycation destination almost every Bay Area resident knows by heart.
Though I know Tampa is more than this, I can't sincerly forget about our Busch Gardens. It's another staycation destination almost every Bay Area resident knows by heart.

Are you considering Tampa Bay as a staycation/vacation destination for some of your travels?

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