Cigar City Brewing is one of Tampa's favorite breweries. This craft brewery regularly concocts different varieties of its regular beers, ranging from IPA's to Espresso Brown Ale. The brewery also always features a good amount of special and seasonal brews. Cigar City offers tours of its 15 barrel brewery. The tasting room features all of the brewery's own beers as well as other local craft favorites. Special events also occur here, including weekly food truck nights.
Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is sprawled over 56 acres (22.7 hectares). It boasts of a dual distinction of being Tampa's oldest zoo as well as one of the most kid-friendly attractions in the city. Its fauna are sheltered in eight habitat zones that recreate the natural environment of the wildlife. These include the Wallaroo Station for Australian species, the Asian Gardens and Sulawesi Aviary for giant cats, and the Florida Boardwalk for native animals. Its rehabilitation and preservation programs extend well beyond the efforts of a typical zoo. Its most notable initiative is the hospital, Manatee and Aquatic Center. After an engaging day with animals, kids can delight in safari tours, bumper boats, roller coasters and pony rides. Its traveling exhibits and talk shows educate the public on environmental conservation. This venue is also ideal for camps and sleepovers. Celebrate a birthday party, business event or a wedding in style amidst wildlife.
Big Cat Rescue is the largest accredited sanctuary in the world dedicated entirely to abused and abandoned big cats. They are home to over 100 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars and other species, most of whom have been abandoned, abused, orphaned, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts. Their dual mission is to provide the best home they can for the cats in their care and educate the public about the plight of these majestic animals, both in captivity and in the wild, to end abuse and avoid extinction.
The Florida Aquarium gives visitors an all-access pass to the mysteries of the deep. Observe seahorses, lobsters, colorful fish, moray eels, gators, river otters, Australian sea dragons and many more. If you're feeling truly adventurous, take advantage of the “Swim with the Fishes” or “Dive with the Sharks” programs (advance reservations required). Kids will love the wide range of colorful and fun-filled interactive displays. The aquarium also sponsors ecotours aboard a 64-foot catamaran, affording patrons an opportunity to get even more up-close-and-personal with the sea. See website for complete list of attractions, calendar of events and more.
Croc Encounters Reptile Park and Wildlife Center shelters rescued crocodiles, snakes, lizards, amphibians, tortises and turtles. Children and adults alike are spellbound by the diversity in the textures and colors of the retrieved species. Its most popular animal is Amos, an American Alligator, who even lent his name to the owner's son. Other animals include the Broad-snouted Caiman, Nile Crocodile, Black and White Tegu, Cane Toad and Cuban Tree Frog. Each exhibit is accompanied by fun facts about the corresponding species. This park also runs manifold outreach and educational programs, including Crocodilian Biology, Wetland Wonders and Amazing Australia. The hallmark of this center is the Alligator Wrestling Show, replete with exhilarating stunts. Hire this venue for a picnic, business function or birthday with a reptilian theme.
Seeking the refuge of the warm canal waters near the old Big Bend Power Station, manatees were seen flocking to this area. From this, the Manatee Viewing Center was born and has since been designated a habitat sanctuary for these peaceful creatures. The onsite educational center features colorful displays and exhibits along with a hurricane simulator. A butterfly garden encapsulating the centers solar panels rounds out this ecologically and environmentally friendly tourist attraction.
For a fun-filled sightseeing excursion around town, hop on a Segway at Magic Carpet Glide located in Channelside near Ybor City and downtown Tampa. Included in the tour is a 20-minute training class to instruct riders on how to maneuver the Segway and safety policies. The one and a half hour or two hour tour touches on all the interesting points of interest including Harbour Island, Davis Island, Channelside, and the long expanse of the scenic Bayshore Boulevard with its beautiful homes overlooking the bay. Tours can be reserved for two to more guests at a time and take place three times a day at 10:30am, 12:30pm, and 5:30pm. Riders must be 12 years of age or older. - Vickie Ferguson
Oldsmar Library is located in the heart of the city and is a public treasure. The library, in its current location, was opened in the year 2008 and offers a large collection of books, magazines, newspapers, reference materials, public documents, and much more. They also have a decent audio selection, movies, e-books, free Wi-Fi, access to computers, printers, fax machines, and a designated kids area. The library often conducts classes, workshops, book sales, exhibitions, and other local events that are extremely popular.
Kayaking is one of the best ways to see the Florida landscape up close. At Kayak Nature Adventures, rent a single, double kayak or stand up paddleboard for a half or full day and leisurely explore the waterways. Bring a picnic lunch and stop at Clam Bayou Nature Preserve for a break. Find a perfect location and go snorkeling. Kayak Nature Adventures also offers a two-hour guided tour through the preserve during which you can learn about the area and its inhabitants. The tour is perfect for children, nature lovers, and photographers looking for the perfect picture of Florida's diverse environment. Hours of departure and locations for launching vary. Call for reservations. -Vickie Ferguson