Tampa with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day
Start your day with an early morning stroll through pristine nature trails, salt marshes, mangrove stands and tide pools. You can do all of this without leaving your hotel if you stay at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay (2900 Bayport Drive, (813) 874-1234). Situated along 35 acres of wildlife preserve, this hotel has even been commended by the Audubon Society. The hotel takes care of the environment and it pampers its guests – a great combination. Even if your tweens aren't big on nature, they're sure to love the tennis courts and the pool. Tampa family travel can even include fishing, as the facility boasts its own fishing pier. Rooms run from $164 to $249 a night. In addition to standard rooms, the Hyatt also offers guest suites with an additional sleeping loft. The Hyatt is about 15 minutes from Tampa International Airport.
You're bound to be hungry after an outdoor adventure in Tampa with your tweens. The Brunchery (3225 McDill Avenue, (813) 831-4694) is a family favorite whenever we're in Tampa. The restaurant offers something for everyone, including pancakes, waffles, made-to-order omelets and eggs Benedict with your choice of mushrooms, spinach or even crab. Smothered in fruit, nuts and whipped cream, their French toast is a real treat, as well. One meal here, and it will become a favorite in your family, too.
Hours: Mon-Sun 8AM-2PM
Museum of Science and Industry (4801 East Fowler Avenue, (813) 987-6000). MOSI is the largest science museum in the Southeast and features over 400,000 square feet of exhibit space. Here, the tweens can strap onto a bike and ride across a high wire 30 feet above the ground, test their crime busting skills in a CSI-like crime lab, and wander through an outdoor butterfly exhibit designed to show how to attract the fragile creatures to your own home.
Or, they can let loose at Kids in Charge, a 40,000-square-foot permanent exhibit that is designed for visitors 12 and under. Here, tweens can investigate physics, biology, and team building and learn what it takes to become an astronaut, all in the name of fun. MOSI also has the only IMAX dome theater in Florida. With first-run films and specialty IMAX productions, the theater always has something interesting showing.
Hours: Mon-Fri 9AM-5PM, Sat-Sun 9AM-6PM
Admission: Children 12 and under are $21.95, adults are $25.95. Tickets include access to the entire museum, the planetarium and an IMAX showing.
After so much mental stimulation, you'll be ready for some food. So, head over the causeway to Clearwater Beach for lunch. Turn right where the road dead-ends at the ocean, and you will find Frenchy's (41 Baymont Street, (727) 446-3607). It is no coincidence that "fresh" and "Frenchy's" sound so similar. Frenchy's is proud of the fact that their seafood is fresh, never frozen, and comes directly from the Gulf. Known for their fried grouper sandwich, Frenchy's offers a full line of seafood delicacies, including seafood gumbo, Baja tacos, fresh or raw oysters and buffalo shrimp. For guests that aren't seafood lovers, Frenchy's offers chicken and turkey sandwiches, as well as hamburgers. Sandwiches run from $6.50 to $12.50. And, don't even think about leaving without trying Fenchy's fried Oreos. These little beauties are dipped in batter, deep fat fried and melt in your mouth delicious. You deserve a treat after traipsing about Tampa with the tweens!
Hours: Daily 11AM-11PM
Tampa family vacations simply must include some pirate lore, and you'll get plenty from Captain Memo, formerly known as Bill Wozencraft. After years of selling insurance, he decided he wanted something more out of life. So, he and his wife built a boat and sailed through the Panama Canal. They finally landed in Clearwater Beach, where they decided to help others explore the pirate side of their personality, even if it's only for an afternoon. Their Pirate Cruise (Clearwater Marina, (727) 446-2587) is a two-hour cruise aboard a bright red, authentic-looking pirate ship. As you sail through both Tampa Bay and the Gulf, you'll see dolphins, take a pirate pledge and watch as the cannon is fired to ward off unfriendly pirates. Younger pirates can enjoy face painting, dancing and water games on the lower decks, while parental pirates can sit at the bar and watch the scenery slide by. Complimentary drinks are provided. The bright red ship is hard to miss -- just drive down Causeway Blvd and it will be on your right after the roundabout. Tickets can be purchased at the ship or in advance online, which saves $2 per ticket.
Hours: Daytime cruises depart at 10AM and 2PM all year
Admission: Adults are $36.00 and kids ages 3 to 12 are $26. Junior tickets for passengers 13 to 17 are $31.
A Devil Rays (Tropicana Field, (888) FAN-RAYS) baseball game is another must during Tampa family vacations. Bring your love of the game and a hearty appetite to Tropicana Field, the home field of the Rays, as it offers a lot more than just hot dogs. Try their homemade Cuban sandwiches or another Tampa favorite, the fried grouper sandwich. The stadium even offers a buffet in The Batter's Eye, a restaurant that over looks center field.
The stadium itself is an engineering marvel. Tropicana Field has four new video screens to give every seat an up close and personal view. The stadium is protected from the elements by the second largest cable supported roof in the world. There are interactive games for younger fans in Right Field Street that include making their own baseball card or playing carnival games. Center Field Street houses the Ted Williams Museum and several restaurants, as well. Tickets are designed to fit every budget. Single game tickets for seating in the upper deck can cost as little as $13 while seats behind home plate can be up to $210. Parking passes are $10 to $20.
After the game, hop back onto I-275 and head back toward the airport. Within fifteen minutes, depending on post-game traffic, you will be back at the Hyatt to rest after a fun-filled day in Tampa with your tweens. Family travel has never been so easy!
- Overview:Tampa Travel Guide