In winter, Tampa’s sugary white sand beaches attract tourists in droves, quite like a moth to a flame. But lying in sun loungers can get boring, no matter how relaxing they are.
Fortunately, you can add spice to your vacation with a day trip. Below, we’ll mention three – all of which are within easy reach. And with plenty of cheap car rentals in Tampa, they don’t have to cost a lot, either.
Here what’s reachable within a two-hour drive.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Mermaids are real, despite what your rational adult mind may think. But don’t take our word for it – make the hour-long drive north from Tampa to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
Here, you’ll be treated to live mermaid shows three times daily. So sit back as these talented performers treat you to their production of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid – all of it underwater!
After the show, take to the crystal clear waters of the Weeki Wachee River in a kayak, canoe, or on a stand-up paddleboard. With luck, you may see a manatee or two!
Just across Tampa Bay, you’ll find St. Petersburg. And while this place is best known for its beautiful beaches, this destination has plenty to offer art lovers.
The Dali Museum should top your list. Here, you’ll find the largest collection of works by world-renowned artist Salvador Dali outside Europe. Never heard of the guy? Don’t worry – his bizarre and mind-bending masterpieces will surely entertain you, no matter your interest in art.
Next, check out the Chihuly Collection, a vibrant collection of artistic glass crafted by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. From colorful and vibrant sculptures to intricate blown-glass chandeliers, this place will dazzle even the most jaded critic.
Did you know the Tampa area has strong cultural ties to Greece? It’s true – about an hour northwest of Downtown Tampa, you’ll find the seaside community of Tarpon Springs.
Starting in the early 20th century, Greeks settled the area, making their living by diving for natural sponges offshore.
Today, synthetic sponges dominate, but Tarpon Springs remains one of the Greek-intensive places in America, with over one in ten residents reporting Greek lineage. Around the Sponge Docks, shops sell natural sponges and Greek handicrafts, and restaurants offer traditional Greek food like Gyros and Baklava.
Before leaving, also check out St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, a Neo-Byzantine church modeled after Istanbul’s Haga Sophia.
Florida’s Gulf Coast is Full of Surprises
There’s more to a Tampa vacation than just the beach. Even on Florida’s Gulf Coast, you can indulge in art, culture…. and even a spot of mermaid hunting! But don’t let these suggestions limit you – behind the wheel of your rental car, so much is within reach. Just follow your intuition and go!