There are many great things to do in Tampa but the city also makes a great jumping-off point for exploring the surrounding area.
The classic Florida day trip usually involves some time at the beach, and there's no shortage of options to choose from, including the secluded Cabbage Key, the shell-speckled sand on Sanibel Island, and the bustling boardwalk at Clearwater Beach. However, there are plenty of other things to do as well; consider exploring the untouched wilderness of the Everglades, visiting the unique Dali Museum, or catching a live mermaid show in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
1. Clearwater Beach
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Known for its soft white sand and its inviting blue water, Clearwater Beach is widely recognized as one of the best beaches in the United States. The warm, shallow water is perfect for swimming, and plenty of private cabanas, beach chairs, and umbrellas are available for rent.
Many beachgoers also take advantage of the opportunity to get out on the water and jet ski, parasail, or stand-up paddleboard.
The boardwalk that runs along the beach is lined with excellent restaurants and shops, but if you'd like more selection, you can head inland to the charming town of Clearwater Beach. Tampa beaches are free to visit. Clearwater Beach Map
Fondly referred to as the "River City by the Sea", Jacksonville boasts an excellent location right next to both the Atlantic Ocean and the beautiful St. Johns River.
The city's young population gives it a fun, energetic atmosphere and a vibrant nightlife scene, and even if you're only here for the day, you can still appreciate the city's trendy craft breweries and the views from its waterfront rooftop bars. There are also more than 20 miles of beach in the city, but before you head down to the water, make sure to spend some time wandering the streets to admire the street art. Jacksonville Map
One of the best-known cities on the Gulf Coast, Sarasota offers excellent beaches, shopping, dining, and cultural experiences. The city was famously the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus, and although circus performances no longer take place, visitors can see old costumes and learn about the circus's fascinating history at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.
These days, you might be able to catch a Broadway show or a ballet performance at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, but there's also a good chance you'll be too busy relaxing on the city's beautiful beaches to have time for a show. Sarasota Map
4. Bok Tower Gardens
Nestled amidst the rolling hills covered with citrus trees just outside Tampa, the Bok Tower Gardens are set on a stunning 250-acre property that offers plenty of things to see and do. The heart of the property is a 50-acre contemplative garden designed by the well-known landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., but other garden areas include an endangered plant garden, a wetland area with a boardwalk, and a 2.5-acre children's garden. Another highlight of the property is the Singing Tower, a unique instrument known as a Carillon.
Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853, Phone: 863-676-1408
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5. Cabbage Key
Sitting just off the Gulf Coast, Cabbage Key is a tiny but welcoming island that perfectly embodies the feel of Old Florida. There's not much to do here, but that's a big part of the island's appeal; most visitors come here simply to soak up the atmosphere, relax on the beautiful, pristine beaches, and explore the nature trails that crisscross the island. If you're here for lunch, make sure to stop by the famous Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant to try the hamburger that some people believe inspired the Jimmy Buffet song "Cheeseburger in Paradise".
6. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1983 to protect the Florida Manatee, the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is home to approximately 600 manatees when they migrate here during the winter. There are several different places throughout the park where visitors can see the manatees, but the most popular is the Three Sisters boardwalk, which can be reached by taking a shuttle from the Three Sisters Springs Center. Once here, visitors can admire the manatees from the boardwalk, rent a kayak to paddle around on the river, or even join a guided tour to snorkel among the gentle giants. Browse our things to do in Florida guide for more ideas.
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
, 1502 SE Kings Bay Dr, Crystal River, FL 34429, Phone: 352-563-2088
7. Dali Museum
Located in St. Petersburg, the Dali Museum boasts one of the world's largest collections of Salvador Dali's artwork.
More than 300 oil and watercolor paintings are on display, but the exhibits also contain a wide range of other Dali works, including sculptures, photographs, textiles, and posters. Outside the museum is a beautiful garden, which features a labyrinth, a peaceful grotto, and a drooping ficus tree reminiscent of a Dali work. A public guided tour is included in the price of admission, but audio guides are available as well if you'd prefer to explore the museum at your own pace. Read about the best Florida weekend getaways for an extended stay.
, 1 Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, Phone: 727-823-3767
8. Devil's Den
Florida has no shortage of springs, but few are as unique and exciting as the prehistoric Devil's Den. Hidden away inside an underground karst cavern decorated with ancient rock formations, this refreshing spring is one of the best places in the state to scuba dive. If you don't have a diving license, snorkeling is an option as well, but the spring isn't open to swimmers or anyone who would like to look without getting in the water. Snorkel and scuba equipment can be rented for an additional fee if needed, and there is usually a food truck set up outside on the weekends.
, 5390 NE 180 Ave, Williston, FL 32696, Phone: 352-528-3344
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Encompassing an incredible 1.5 million acres of land in southern Florida, the Everglades is a protected region of tropical wetlands that serves as a habitat for hundreds of animal species, including the endangered Florida panther and the leatherback turtle. It's a fantastic place to wildlife watch and there are endless opportunities to do so; alligators can be spotted by the dozen along Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve, while visitors who take an airboat ride across the water will have the opportunity to spot manatees, dolphins, and crocodiles. There are also several hiking trails in the park, including some that have boardwalks. Everglades Map
Browse our best places to visit in Florida guide for more ideas.
10. Fort Drum Crystal Mine
Formerly known as Ruck’s Pit, the Fort Drum Crystal Mine was originally created to be a mining site for rock used to build roadbeds. However, this all changed when the miners discovered something truly special here: Fossilized clam shells filled with glittering golden calcite crystals. This is the only place in the world where fossils like this have been discovered, and visitors today have the rare opportunity to mine for these treasures and bring them home by the bucketful. Visitors must bring their own buckets and their own tools, and it's also a good idea to bring plenty of water and snacks.
Fort Drum Crystal Mine, 28320 NE 55th Ave, Okeechobee, FL 34972, Phone: 863-634-4579
11. Honeymoon Island State Park
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Honeymoon Island State Park is only a short drive away from Tampa, but it's a peaceful place that feels entirely removed from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. The island boasts more than four miles of sandy white beaches, so it's not surprising that the most popular activities here are swimming, fishing, and strolling along the sand. Some visitors also come here specifically to kayak around the island or out to the Gulf, but if you'd rather stay on dry land, there's also a three-mile nature trail that winds through the island's lovely pine forests.
Honeymoon Island State Park, 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698, Phone: 727-241-6106
Check out our list of free things to do in Tampa on vacation.
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Thanks to the bustling streets of Little Havana and the trendy South Beach District, Miami has an energy like no other.
The city's gorgeous beaches are one of its biggest draws, but even if swimming and sunbathing weren't an option, there would still be plenty of reasons to visit this incredibly vibrant metropolis. The pastel 1930s art deco hotels that line the streets are among the most beautiful buildings in the world, and the city's love for art and design spills over into the present as well; the galleries and graffiti murals in the Wynwood Arts District create a true paradise for any art lover. Miami Map
Set right on the Gulf of Mexico, the city of Naples is best known for its beaches, sophisticated shopping opportunities, its high-end restaurants, and its excellent golf courses.
It's easy to spend a lot of money on a day trip here, but that doesn't mean you have to; many of the city's best attractions are affordable or free of charge. Head down to the historic Naples Pier to try your luck fishing or dolphin watching, lounge on the spectacular white sand of Naples Beach, or visit the Naples Botanical Garden to admire the gorgeous manicured gardens. Naples Map
As the home of the famous Walt Disney World, Orlando has a reputation for being a bit of a magical city to visit, and it rarely disappoints. It's easy to spend the entire day in the world of Disney, but don't make the mistake of thinking this is all the city has to offer.
Universal Orlando is another big draw for many visitors, but those who take some time to get away from the theme parks and explore the downtown streets will be rewarded with funky art galleries, beautiful parks, and hip craft breweries serving gourmet food. Orlando Map
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15. Palm Harbor
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Most people know Palm Harbor as simply the home of the Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club, and while it's true that the championship golf course here is one of the biggest attractions in the area, there are all sorts of other things to do as well. The historic downtown streets are full of wonderful local shops and restaurants, and visitors can also bathe in one of the warm mineral springs, relax on the beach, or cycle along the car-free Pinellas Trail.
If you're here in April, you might also be lucky enough to catch the Annual Palm Harbor Citrus Festival held downtown. Palm Harbor Map
More ideas: Things to do in Stuart
16. Pine Island
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The largest island in Florida, Pine Island also happens to be one of the state's last remaining authentic fishing villages. It's also known for having a bit of an artistic flair, particularly in the tiny but colorful village of Matlacha, which is dotted with unique boutique shops and art galleries. Of course, the water off the island also boasts some of the best fishing in Florida, and it's not reserved solely for the fishermen; visitors are welcome to fish from the pier in Bokeelia or charter a boat to get out on the Gulf of Mexico.
17. Plant City
Named after the wealthy railroad developer Henry B. Plant, Plant City
is a wonderfully family-friendly destination conveniently located between Lakeland and Tampa. Check out the trains at the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum, tour the local award-winning fruit winery, or bring your kids to Dinosaur World for a day of prehistoric fun. There are plenty of things to keep you entertained no matter what the time of year, but the best time to visit is during the annual Florida Strawberry Festival at the beginning of March, which features live entertainment, midway rides, and an incredible array of strawberry-containing foods.
18. Punta Gorda
There are many great things to do in Punta Gorda, a lovely town surrounded by beautiful parks, including the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. One of the town's main highlights is its beautifully restored historic district, whose streets are lined with Old Florida-style homes and waving palm trees. If you want to peek inside an authentic Victorian home while you’re here, you can do so at the A.C. Freeman House Museum. Just outside the historic district is the charming Fishermen's Village, a waterfront shopping complex with a marina, a handful of restaurants, and an interesting museum that has a focus on military history. Explore Punta Gorda beaches on vacation. Punta Gorda Map
19. Sanibel Island
If you're looking for a beautiful beach destination, Sanibel Island fits the bill.
The gorgeous sandy beaches are perfectly suited to standard beach activities like swimming and sunbathing, but they also offer incredible shell collecting opportunities, and visitors flock from near and far to find conches and cockles to bring home. Many of these shells can also be found for sale in the local boutique shops alongside locally-made jewelry and artwork, but if you'd like to see some truly impressive shells, you can visit the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum to see a collection of some of the largest shells in the world. Sanibel Island Map
Tallahassee is the state capital of Florida, but despite its large size, it embodies true Southern hospitality and charm.
The downtown historic district is filled with ten blocks of excellent restaurants and historic homes, including the beautiful 1843 Knott House Museum, but visitors can also head to the Tallahassee Museum just outside downtown to see a restored plantation home and a working 1880s-style farm. If you want to see the city's peaceful oak-canopied streets from above, you can climb up to the 22nd floor of the New Capitol building to admire the view from the observation platform. Tallahassee Map
21. The Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park
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Hidden away inside a bowl-shaped sinkhole that extends 120 into the ground, Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park is a unique little rain forest full of lush vegetation. A half-mile trail around the rim of the sinkhole provides spectacular views of the terrain below, and there's also a wooden boardwalk with a series of stairs that lead down to a viewing platform inside the sinkhole. The Visitor Center is full of exhibits explaining the history of the sinkhole, including why fossilized remains of extinct animals have been found at the site, and guided tours are offered to the public every Saturday morning.
The Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park, 4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653, Phone: 352-955-2008
22. Venetian Pool
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Built in 1923 inside a former coral rock quarry, the Venetian Pool is a marvelous public swimming pool in the City of Coral Gables. It's much more than a standard swimming pool, and some of its special features include two scenic waterfalls, a grotto made up of a cave system that stretches twelve feet into a hillside, and two lookout towers that provide a spectacular view of the city. The pool is filled with fresh spring water from an underground aquifer, and during the spring and summer months, it's drained and refilled on a daily basis.
, 2701 De Soto Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33134, Phone: 305-460-5306
23. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Best known for the iconic live mermaid shows that have been held here since the 1950s, the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is a magical aquatic playground near the Gulf Coast.
The mermaids perform in the underground limestone theater every day of the year, and although the show might be the highlight of your visit, they're not the only attraction in the park.
Visitors can also splash around in the beautiful blue-green water of the spring, take a leisurely boat cruise down the Weeki Wachee River, or get up close and personal with alligators and exotic birds at one of the Wildlife Animal Encounter Shows.
24. Day Trips Near Me: Zephyrhills
You might be familiar with the Zephyrhills
brand of bottled spring water, but if you've never been to the city before, you'll be pleasantly surprised by what you find here. Families can spend some time in one of the city's twelve beautiful parks or visit the interactive water park, while history buffs will appreciate the train museum and the museum of military history. The area's beautiful countryside also makes it a popular skydiving destination, and if you're feeling exceptionally daring, you can get your blood pumping by booking a tandem skydive at the city's world-renowned skydiving facility.
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