I love to explore new places with my family and we have the advantage of living in Florida where weekend adventures are easy and fun. We were excited to finally check out Tampa Bay in March and we had the best time. My daughter even declared that she now wants to live in Tampa when she grows up! (I’m cool with that because it’s only four hours away from Jacksonville. You go, girl!)
We woke up early and drove to Tampa to start our weekend at MOSI, a hands-on family science museum. It happened to be Albert Einstein’s birthday and MOSI was having a special celebration of “Pi” which included a “Pi(e)” eating contest and a “Recite Pi” contest. Annabel rocked that whipped cream and Daniel won second place for reciting 17 numbers past 3.14 and was crowned “Prince of Pi!”
We spent two hours exploring the museum’s exhibits. We walked on the moon, felt a tornado’s wind speed, and discovered the power of magnets. There’s a giant free play area and an on-site cafe so you can take that much needed food break.
We left around 3pm to check into our hotel, the Embassy Suites Convention Center in downtown Tampa. I love the Embassy Suites because the rooms are always large enough for a family of four and there is a complimentary breakfast buffet each morning. And this Tampa location was right next to a street car stop so, after we unpacked and took a break, we left to discover the historic neighborhood Ybor City.
Ybor City is filled with funky and eclectic buildings and some really beautiful Spanish architecture. It has a cool, old-school vibe. We had dinner at the charming italian restaurant Carmine’s and stuffed ourselves with pasta while we watched the start of YBor City’s annual St. Parick’s Day parade. The kids loved the table by the window: People watching to an extreme.
We then walked one block to La Creperia Cafe to experience their famous sweet crepes. We shared a Nutella, banana and fresh strawberry crepe and the apple pie a la mode special. They tasted even better than they looked!
We began our next day at Pinky’s Diner. Annabel has a stuffed dog named “Pinky” and she was obsessed with finally going to Pinky’s namesake diner. One of the coolest parts about having breakfast at Pinky’s is you get to pick out your own unique mug for coffee. Or orange juice.
After we fueled up with eggs and pancakes and bacon (Oh, my!), we were ready to spend a fun day at Busch Gardens! It was a quick 20-minute drive from downtown Tampa and we were blessed with gorgeous weather. I booked the Serengeti Safari experience ahead of time so we checked in and were ready to see some animals up close and personal.
This was definitely one of my favorite animal encounters ever. It was the highlight of my whole Tampa trip and it rivals Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safari Tour in Disney World. We had a small group in a jeep and the tour guide was very knowledgable about all the animals and their habitats. My favorite moment was feeding the giraffes. It almost took my breath away to be that close to my favorite animal. Hi there, gorgeous!
The safari tour is definitely worth the extra money so be sure to book it ahead of time. We loved all the rides and the Iceploration show too. Daniel and Annabel give two thumbs up to the Cheetah Hunt coaster and my favorite ride was the Congo River Rapids. I also appreciated the healthy lunch choices at the food courts and the park is easy to navigate. There is so much to do and Busch Gardens Tampa is really the perfect combination of rides, entertainment, and animal encounters. We had a blast and can’t wait to go back.
When everyone was officially exhausted, we drove back to the hotel for a quick break before heading out to dinner. We picked Jackson’s Bistro because it was a short walk from our hotel and had waterfront dining. The menu has everything under the sun and Hubby and I enjoyed some sushi while the kids had burgers and pasta. But the best part was my glass of wine while enjoying the Harbor view. We then discovered an adorable gelato stand right next door and walked back to our hotel with our sweet treats. It was the perfect ending to a fun family weekend. We can’t wait to come back and see you again soon, Tampa Bay! Thanks for the memories!
Also check out:
Things to do in Washington, DC with Kids
Things to do in Charleston with Kids