Tips + Trends

Surprise Yourself with 6 Unexpected Tampa Adventures

Less famous than Miami and Orlando, Tampa Bay surprises visitors at every turn — from the skyline views at its downtown Riverwalk to the natural wonders that await in this city surrounded by water. And when you’re in the mood for a little rush of adrenaline, Tampa Bay’s got that, too.

Herewith, find six unexpected adventures to add to your Tampa Bay itinerary.

iFLY Indoor Skydiving

Skydiving is one of the biggest rushes there is, but conditions have to be just right to make the jump from a real plane into the real sky. Take the unknowns out of the equation at iFLY Indoor Skydiving, where you can experience the thrills of skydiving with no aircraft required.

During this indoor experience, you hover atop a column of air generated by powerful wind tunnels for a sensation that feels very much like flying and simulates the free-fall sensation. The program takes about two hours and includes preflight training as well as all gear (suit, helmet and goggles) to keep you safe during the time you spend flying, which happens to be the equivalent of 1.5 real sky dives.

Vanish Point at Adventure Island

Right near Busch Gardens© Tampa Bay, Adventure Island’s newest water attraction debuted in Spring 2018 — and it’s not for the faint of heart. At Vanish Point, a piped-in heartbeat is the soundtrack as you stand inside a tube, waiting for the floor to fall out from under you. Gulp.

Next, you plummet some 20 feet down into a 425-foot-long tube washed with hundreds of gallons of water. The buildup is just as thrilling as the slide itself, and there’s a good chance you’ll want to experience Vanish Point® more than once, so addictive is that feeling of free fall.

For a milder option, there’s a more conventional version of Vanish Point®, too, whereby you avoid the falling floor and launch yourself through the cork-screwing tube when you’re ready.

ZooTampa at Lowry Park

tampa adventures
Kids can make friends with gentle manatees at the zoo. (Photo: Getty Images)

Beloved for its pretty, natural habitats, shaded boardwalks and all around good vibe, ZooTampa at Lowry Park is a favorite with local families and is home to more than 1,000 animals, a kiddie rollercoaster and even a giraffe-feeding station. The zoo’s special backstage encounters include feeding rhinos and waddling alongside penguins.

Be sure to check out the Florida Wildlife habitat for up-close views of some of the state’s more unique and rare denizens, including manatees and the Florida panther.

Splash Pad and 4-D Theater at the Florida Aquarium

Ranked among the best aquariums in the U.S., The Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa offers unique add-on experiences such as boating onto the bay to spot wild dolphins and scuba diving with the aquarium’s resident sharks (additional fees apply for both).

But many cool activities are included with general admission. Kids should pack their bathing suits for a romp at the Splash Pad, where they can dodge dump buckets and frolic within a zero-depth zone (toddlers can avoid the craziness in a special area designated just for them).

Once you’ve dried off, hit the aquarium’s 4-D Theater, where animated and documentary-style films brought to life with cool effects might have your seat vibrating, real bubbles flying through the air, or even a light snowfall accompanying the 3-D visuals.

Tampa Bay Water Bike Company

tampa adventures
Get out on the water … on wheels! (Photo: Getty Images)

Downtown has more going on than ever thanks to the revitalized Tampa Riverwalk area, a pedestrian zone along the Hillsborough River. Still, there’s nothing like actually getting out onto the water for the city’s most dazzling skyline views.

Take it all in at a relaxing pace when you rent a water bike with Tampa Bay Water Bike Company. The bikes have two, ten-foot-long pontoons that make it virtually impossible to tip over. And the vantage point you get on the water is much the same as from a standup paddleboard, only you’re comfortably seated to enjoy the ride.

After a self-guided cruise, return the water bikes where you rented them and sit for something cold to drink right nearby at Sail Pavilion, a 360-degree open-air bar on the river.

Empower Adventures

Who said zip lining only happens in mountainous places? Tampa Bay is as flat as a pancake, for the most part, but you can still feel the rush of flying as you zip line through the sky with Empower Adventures.

The thrilling course covers five zip lines that send you catapulting over water and across woodland preserves within the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, located 16 miles from downtown on the north end of the bay.

At the course’s highest point, you climb a 60-foot-high tower before stepping off into the air. There are other challenges to look forward to here, too, including cable traverses, log swings and rope bridges that are part of a separate aerial obstacle course.

Explore more Tampa treasures at Visit Tampa Bay