5 things to do with the kids outside in Tampa Bay on a sunny day
This is now the sweet spot in terms of Florida weather. We can still wear sweaters on some days, but it’s still not blistering before you’ve even had your coffee.
While there are plenty of enjoyable parks, preserves, and hiking trails, here are other ways to get the kids outside before it gets unbearably hot again.
Take a boat trip
In downtown Tampa, the Pirate water taxi allows cyclists to hop on and off all day as it cruises past the shops and restaurants that line the Hillsborough River. It’s $25 ($15 for kids) for a day pass, for a narrated trip with 14 stops. piratewatertaxi.com. On weekends, the same operator offers the lost pearl, a family-friendly pirate cruise with swashbuckling games and pirate entertainment – it even shoots a cannon. Pirate cruises are $30 for adults and $25 for children, which includes free sodas, local beer, house wine, and house spirits. tampaparateship.com.
The seasonal Ferry crossing the bay from Tampa to St. Petersburg is a double-hull aluminum catamaran that offers a stable and comfortable ride. It currently operates Wednesday through Sunday through April 30 for $10 per trip for adults ($20 round trip), $8 for children, and under 4s free. To verify thecrossbayferry.com for schedule and fares.
Pet some animals
Take the kids to John’s Pass Village in Madeira Beach to visit the Alligator and Wildlife Discovery Center, home to more than 180 animals. It hosts rescues of exotic animals including alligators, lizards, pigs, skunks, guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes, fish and frogs. There are also encounters, where you can pay a few dollars to feed an alligator, cuddle a sloth, or hold and take pictures with animals such as alligators, snakes, scorpions, and lizards. Admission is $15, $10 for seniors and military, $10 for ages 3-12. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. 12973 Village Blvd., Madeira Beach. 609-329-8751. kissagator.com.
The owners of Old McMickey Farm in Odessa say their mission is more than a petting zoo. They create hands-on experiences for people to learn what it’s like to care for animals on a farm such as pigs, goats, ponies and rabbits. You can milk a cow before going for a hay ride or having lunch overlooking Lake Crescent. Farm tours start at 9am and depart every 15 minutes, with the last tour departing at 1pm. Tours are $14, $13 for ages 2-12, and $12 for first responders, teachers, military, and seniors. 9612 Crescent Drive, Odessa. 813-920-1948. oldmcmickys.com.
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horse power for kids is an outdoor animal sanctuary and family farm in Northwest Tampa near Oldsmar and Westchase. It has a petting zoo, pony rides, a playground and a children’s train that circles the farm. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Thursday to Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Saturday to Sunday. Admission is $12 per person, 1 and under free. You can add a pony ride for $3 at 8005 Racetrack Road, Tampa. horsepowerforkids.com.
old fashioned story
AT land of crackers, located on the Florida State Fairgrounds, you can step inside a “living history museum” of 19th-century rural Florida. The grounds house a collection of 13 original buildings dating from 1870 to 1912, which have been moved from across the state. Here you’ll find a country store, train depot, and costumed interpreters depicting the daily lives of Florida’s pioneers. Cracker Country is open select days of the year, but you can also book private tours by reservation that cost between $9 and $14 per person. Find information on crackercountry.org.
the Florida Pioneer Village and Museum in Dade City welcomes families for self-guided tours of its many historic buildings and exhibits primarily depicting the years 1800 to 1945. During special events, such as Cracker Cowboy Day on March 5, docents in period clothing will give lectures and there will be demonstrations of traditional crafts. Self-guided tours are available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. There will be guided tours by appointment. Admission is $12, $10 for seniors, $6 for students, 5 and under free. 15602 Pioneer Museum Road, Dade City. 352-567-0262. pioneerfloridamuseum.org.
U-pick season is underway and it really starts in March when the berries arrive. One of our favorites is Upicktopia, 19125 Phillips Road, No. 6952, Masaryktown. As the name suggests, the 56-acre farm in Hernando County offers a variety of pick-your-own vegetables, as well as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and more throughout the growing season. Check out their Facebook page to see what’s available, as well as eggs and other farm-fresh produce available at their market.
To find a U-pick farm near you, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has a location map of U-pick farms statewide at fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Buy-Fresh-From-Florida/U-Pick-Farms.
Before spring break crowds begin to swarm the Tampa Bay area, try out some of the outdoor attractions.
For kids who love dinosaurs, Plant City’s world of dinosaurs features realistic replicas on its rides and a dinosaur-themed play area with slides and swings. He’s reopened his Bone Yard where kids can grab tools and start digging to uncover a skeleton 27ft under the sand. Due to COVID-19, the park’s Fossil Dig remains closed, but you can purchase bags of three fossils for $3. Coolers and pets are welcome, and there is a shaded picnic area. Admission is $19.95, $14.95 for ages 3-12. 5145 Harvey Tew Road, Plant City. 813-717-9865. dinosaurworld.com/florida.
adventure island, the water park located across from Busch Gardens in Tampa, reopens for the season on March 5. He’s adding two new slides and revamping his living room, though many of those upgrades won’t be completed until later in the spring. There is currently an offer that gives you a free Adventure Island Pass with the purchase of a Busch Gardens Leisure Card. And Busch Gardens and Adventure Island have brought back the Preschool Pass which offers free admission to children 5 and under. But you must register online and redeem the pass in the park before March 10. To see adventureisland.com/tickets/weekday-card-and-fun-card for more details.