Mar 11, 2023 - Things to Do

How to play tourist in Tampa Bay

It seems like only yesterday that the rebuilt, award-winning $92 million St. Pete Pier opened. It was summer 2020. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios

We asked where you take family and friends when they arrive from out of town and received so many great ideas.

Why it matters: Not only do we want to entertain our visitors, but it's always fun to be a tourist in your own city.

What to know: Here are some of the most popular activities you recommended.

Get outside

Go boating or kayaking: Cruise along the Hillsborough River and soak up views of downtown Tampa. Or travel back in time and learn all about the city's evolution on a history boat tour.

Take a stroll: Wander among the botanical beauties at Selby Gardens in Sarasota. Walk along Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard. At 4.5 miles, it is known for being one of the longest continuous sidewalks in the U.S. Or visit St. Pete Pier for a picturesque view of the water, plus art, shops and restaurants.

Plan a bike ride: Tackle the Pinellas Trail, extending from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, or the trails at Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde.

Observe wildlife: Spot birds, turtles and alligators on airboat ride adventures, or watch for jumping mullet and other aquatic species at the Robinson Preserve in Bradenton. Go manatee watching at Apollo Beach.

Shop farmers markets: Buy from family farms at the Saturday Morning Market in St. Pete and the Dunedin Downtown Market.

Hit the beach: Reader favorites include Sand Key in Clearwater; Indian Rocks Beach; Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island in Dunedin; and Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs.

  • As red tide enters its fifth month in Southwest Florida, check on beach conditions. One source is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's frequent updates.

The great indoors

Admire art: The Dalí in St. Pete is dedicated to the life and works of the late Salvador Dalí, an acclaimed mid-20th century surrealist artist. Contemporary art lovers may enjoy the Sarasota Art Museum.

Explore animal habitats: Head to The Florida Aquarium along the coast of the Ybor Channel, which also has a 4-D theater and a kids outdoor water play zone. Or say hello to the more than 1,000 animals at ZooTampa.

Grab a bite

Side-by-side images of a crowded wine cellar and meat locker at Bern's Steakhouse.
The wine cellar and meat locker at Bern's Steakhouse. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

We've rounded up some of your picks for places to eat and drink.

The classics:

  • Columbia, considered Florida's oldest restaurant, serves sandwiches, tapas, and Cuban-inspired entrees. The restaurant has several locations, but a lot of you recommended the original in Ybor City.
  • Bern's Steakhouse serves everything from filet mignon to wagyu strip. There's also plenty of seafood if you're not in the mood for steak, but we can't stop thinking about the dessert room.

By the water:

  • Doc Ford's at St. Pete Pier serves baked oysters, seafood paella and deep water mahi-mahi.
  • Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores has something for everyone — seafood, pasta, burgers, pork chops and steak.
  • At Dry Dock Waterfront Grill on Longboat Key, feast on locally caught grouper and red snapper, Maine lobster tail and North Atlantic scallops.

Vegan:

  • Vegan International Co. for your comfort food fix. The menu includes vegan drumsticks, nuggets, chopped-cheese sandwiches, gyros and mac and cheese.

Plus: Four places to get lunch under $12 and five places to get deviled crab, a Tampa Bay staple.

Where to drink

Four colorful cocktails, with the focus a coup glass with a thinly sliced cucumber garnish,
Mangosteen in St. Pete. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios

Rooftop bars: M.Bird, Santo's Drinkeria Rooftop, Hurricane.

Breweries: Gulfport, Dunedin, Cage.

  • Pro tip: Download the free Gulp Coast Craft Beer Trail passport and get exclusive offers or discounts at dozens of Tampa Bay craft breweries.

Restaurant bars: On Swann, Mangosteen, Meat Market.

Sweet tooth spot: Haze Ice Cream at Madeira Beach offers alcohol-infused ice cream flavors like Rum Raisin, with dark rum, and Luck of the Irish, with Baileys.

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