While Orlando might win out in terms of drawing the big visitor crowd numbers, don’t be too quick to dismiss the Tampa area. “The Big Guava” has plenty to offer tourists to the west coast of Florida. There are theme parks, museums galore and even one of Florida’s most important nature preserves.
Sunset and palm trees frame the Downtown Tampa skyline
Visit Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens' Falcon Fury
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Nearby Orlando might have all the big name theme parks and a lock on mouse ears, but Tampa has its own theme park extravaganza that gives Orlando a run for its money. Busch Gardens Tampa is based around an African theme. As well as rides and roller coasters, the park has one of the largest (over 12,000 animals!) and most highly accredited zoo facilities in the U.S. Don’t miss out on a safari and tours for a true African (in Florida) experience.
Wheelchairs and electric convenience vehicles can be rented at stroller rental near the front gate of the park.
Scripts are available at guest relations for all shows and for the Serengeti Express Train.
Assistive listening devices are available at most theaters and at guest relations. A sign-language interpreter may be available. Email guest relations at least two weeks in advance.
Complementary TDD phones are located at Guest Relations in the Moroccan Village.
Guests who are blind or have low vision must have someone (a companion or park ambassador) read the ride restrictions to them prior to boarding.
Animal Relief Stations are located at the Pet Care Center and at the Nairobi Train Station. Read more about the service animal guidelines here.
Download the Accessibility Guide for full information about ride accessibility, including Falcon's Fury, as featured in photo.
Parking: Accessible car and van spaces are available in Lot A near the main entrance on a first-come, first-served basis for guests with a legal parking permit. The parking area is designated by blue-striped parking lanes.
Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry recently reopened after an extensive renovation that has this long-time favorite going at full STEAM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Mat). Among the 400 hands-on experiences at this self-described “scientific playground” is “Journey Through the Skies,” which features space- and weather-themed exhibits; “I Wonder,” which provides a core science experience and “A Look Inside,” which showcase nutrition and the human body.
MOSI is wheelchair accessible. There are automatic doors at the main entrance from the MOSI Entry Plaza and parking lot.
Wheelchairs are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis at the Ticket Office. Guests must leave a driver’s license or credit card at the ticket office until the wheelchair is returned.
Staff members are available to help with sign language interpretation.
Parking: Accessible parking spaces are available near the entrance to MOSI.
If you want to learn about Tampa in the Gilded Age, don’t miss out on a visit to the Henry B. Plant Museum. Housed in the Tampa Bay Hotel, which Plant built and furnished for the astronomical sum of $3 million in the 1880s, which is approximately $75 million in today’s money! The museum focuses on the development of Tampa in the late 19thcentury, the Cuban Campaign of the Spanish-American War and the vision of Henry Plant, a steamship and railroad magnate. The building, a National Historic Landmark, contains original furnishings and artifacts from the hotel’s heyday.
The museum is wheelchair accessible. Entrance is via ramps located at the north end and back of the building. A wheelchair is available on a first-come, first served basis at the front desk.
The museum offers a complimentary self-guided tour using a handheld device. The tour is available in English or Spanish. Transcripts of both languages are available in large print. Large print labels are also available for some exhibits upon request.
Closed captioning and Spanish, French or German subtitles are available on the 14-minute orientation movie The Tampa Bay Hotel: Florida’s First Magic Kingdom. To request closed captioning, ask the volunteer at the front desk upon arrival.
Transcripts of the theater performance are available for use during the performance. Requests for transcripts should be made at least two weeks in advance.
The museum offers “White Glove Tours” for visitors who are blind or have low vision. Reservations for this tour should be made at least two weeks in advance.
Email the museum’s accessibility coordinator Lindsay Huban or call 813-258-7302 with questions about accessibility.
Parking: Designated accessible spaces located next to ramps at the north end of Plant Hall and at the back of the building.
Public Transportation: Bus #30 to Kennedy Boulevard at Hyde Park Avenue (2-minute walk)
There’s no getting away from the water in Tampa, and really, why would you want to? At the Florida Aquarium (voted in the top 10 aquariums in the country by TripAdvisor) follow the journey of a drop of water from one of Florida’s many freshwater springs out to the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Explore a large stimulated wetland environment, shallow bays and beaches and a coral reef ecosystem housed in 500,000 gallons of natural seawater. If you want to get out onto the water to spot dolphins and other animals in the wild, a twice-daily, 75-minute cruise departs from the aquarium.
The aquarium is wheelchair accessible. A limited number of wheelchairs are available for rent on a first-come, first-served basis.
To experience the Wild Dolphin Cruise, participants must be able to cross the gangplank from the wharf to the boat (either alone or with assistance). With changing tides, the gangplank can require up to six steps to board and disembark. Wheelchairs can be brought on board the vessel after guests have boarded.
Parking: Accessible parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis in the onsite parking lot, located north of the Aquarium on the east side of Channelside Drive.
Public Transportation: TECO Line Streetcar to Cumberland Avenue Station (2-minute walk)
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is set on 56 acres and has a special emphasis on endangered, threatened and vulnerable species from climates similar to that of the Tampa Bay region (read: hot and humid). The zoo cares for over 1,300 animals and exhibits the most comprehensive species of endangered Florida wildlife. One of the biggest draws at the zoo is the Manatee Critical Care Center where visitors can get an insight into the critical work carried out by zoo staff in caring for sick and injured manatees.
The zoo provides easy navigation. Wheelchairs and EVCs are available to rent on a first-come, first-served basis (photo ID required).
Family accessible restrooms are located next to the Garden Grille restaurant, Wallaroo Station and the Safari Africa Plaza.
All of the restaurants have accessible entrances.
Guests with service animals are encouraged to check with Guest Relations when they visit to determine if any zoo area is restricted on that day.
A sign language interpreter may be available. Emailor call Guest Services at 813-935-8552 x 0 at least two weeks in advance.
Parking: Accessible spaces, with ramp access to the main entrance, are available in the front lot. If all of the spaces are taken, parking lot security will assist guests who need accessible spots.
Public Transportation: Bus #45 to North Boulevard at Picnic Area North (4-minute walk).
Nighttime scene in downtown Tampa from Curtis Hixon Park.
Visit Tampa Bay
Say “cheese!” While the contents of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts are eye-catching, the building housing the museum – the six-story atrium known as the Cube – is worth a visit in its own right. Put yourself in the frame with a visit to this Waterfront District must-see and enjoy a diverse range of photographic arts and the museum’s collection of historic and contemporary works by nationally and internationally known photographic artists.
The museum is accessible via ramp and elevator.
Accessible restrooms are located on the first floor of the building.
Printed gallery guides are available at the front desk.
Contact the museum in advance with questions or concerns about accessibility at 813-221-2222.
Parking: Accessible spaces available in the parking garage of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts building complex (Rivergate Plaza).
Public Transportation: Bus #30 to Kennedy Boulevard at Ashley Drive (1-minute walk).
Sure, there’s plenty for kids to do in Tampa, but children’s’ museums are always a big hit. The Glazer Children’s Museum is suitable for little ones up to the age of 10 and aims to “create a learning laboratory where children play, discover and connect with the world around them.” What this translates to is a place where your kids can run around, explore, touch and create to their hearts content – without being told no! Exhibits include “Tugboat Tots,” where kids age three and under can captain a tugboat and fish off a dock; “KidsPort,” where water is key; a vet clinic, where budding vets can nurse an animal back to health and the “Gadget Garage,” where embryonic engineers can explore gadgets and robotics.
The museum and most exhibits are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs are available upon request at visitor services in the lobby.
Parking: Paid parking available at the adjacent Poe Parking Garage on the corner of Ashley Drive and Cass Street.
Public Transport: Pirate Water Taxi stop #12 and bus #7 to Cass Street at Gasparilla Plaza (2-minute walk).
Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center
Zoos, theme parks, and aquariums make for great days out, but sometimes you want to get up close with nature where it’s meant to be – in the wild. To escape the city, head out to Weedon Island Preserve, a 3,190-acre natural area on beautiful Tampa Bay. The preserve, one of Florida’s most important natural resources, provides habitats for a variety of animals including oysters, stingrays, and small sharks. Entry to the preserve is free. Boardwalks extend over tidal flats and mangrove forests.
The preserve has almost two miles of accessible boardwalks/paved trails.
Parking: Accessible parking is located close to the Natural History Center and by the fishing pier.
255 Beach Drive Northeast, St Petersburg, FL 33701
Tampa Museum of Art located at the heart of Downtown Tampa.
Visit Tampa Bay
The Museum of Fine Arts boasts the only comprehensive art collection of its kind on Florida’s west coast. Among the museum’s collection are paintings by Monet, O’Keeffe and De Kooning. The MFA also has objects from the ancient world, the Americas and an extensive photography collection.
Wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
ASL interpreted tours can be booked with at least three weeks’ notice.
For more information about accessibility at the museum, call the visitor services department at 727-896-2667.
Parking: Valet parking with Museum validation is available.
Public Transportation: Bus #38 to Beach Drive NE and 5thAvenue (4-minute walk).
Time just melts away at the Dali Museum! Located in neighboring “St Pete,” the museum houses over 2,100 works by the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali. The museum is spread over three floors, with a store (offering a cornucopia of Dali-themed items), a café and theater on the first floor, a library on the second and the galleries on the third floor.
The museum’s galleries are wheelchair accessible. The museum has four wheelchairs available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Audio guides are available in a range of languages, and can be downloaded to a personal device.
Parking: Designated accessible spaces located in the blacktop parking lots immediately next to the museum’s south and west sides.
Public Transportation: Bus #14 and #32 to 1stSt S + 5thAve SE (4-minute walk).
Top Tip: Visit on a Thursday evening after 5 pm to receive reduced price admission.