A quick Google search of “Things to do in Tampa Bay” will bring up rightfully popular attractions like Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Museum of Art or ZooTampa at Lowry Park. However, as Tampa Bay continues to flourish, it’s becoming easier to overlook adventures, sites and experiences that are some of Tampa Bay’s best-kept secrets. Let this be your guide to uncovering some of the best hidden treasures of the Bay.
Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple
Established in 1981, the Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple provides a place of residence for monks, religious activities and a space that serves as a pillar for the Thai community. The Temple, a peaceful area for mindfulness and meditation, is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, with respect for the monks’ schedule from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., 11 a.m. to noon, and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.. On Sundays, visitors flock to the Temple for the weekly charity market with vendors selling food like empanadas, crab rangoon and pork noodle soup, as well as fresh Thai fruits and vegetables.
5306 Palm River Road, Tampa
Timberline Glamping at Hillsborough River
Hillsborough River State Park is a haven for hiking, biking, strolling along the river rapids, kayaking and more, but it’s also an idyllic spot for glamping – a concept that combines luxury accommodations with the tranquility of the great outdoors. Forget the sleeping bag, Timberline Glamping provides guests with an actual bed, air conditioners in the summer and heaters in the winter, and even a coffee maker.
Hillsborough River State Park
The Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum, is a botanical escape from city life. Composed of some of the oldest tropical plants in the region, the gardens invite guests to wander around the curved pathways and floral canopies, absorbing the scenery of colorful plants, rehomed exotic birds and a pretty in pink flock of flamingos. Other treasures within the lush landscape include an arched bridge over a koi pond, waterfall, succulent garden and orchid arbor.
1825 4th St. N, St. Petersburg
Largo Central Railroad
All aboard! Explore Largo Central Park by train, well, a model train that is, with the Largo Central Railroad Club. Pioneered by a group of volunteers, the Largo Central Railroad invites the public to enjoy a free, 15-minute 1-mile trek around the beautiful park on the first full weekend of every month. Hop on at the station and circle the track past the park’s pond, sprawling trees and even through a tunnel.
101 Central Park Drive, Largo
Founded by Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda, Whimzeyland was initially the pair’s home and Whimzey Wire Creations studio before becoming a local landmark that now attracts visitors from all over the world. Scheduled tours of the structure, once referred to as “The Bowling Ball House,” give guests an inside look at the property that its creators note has been a work in progress for over 20 years. After applying a vibrant coat of paint to the home’s exterior, plexiglass sculptures, paintings, bottle trees and bowling balls were added to evoke the feeling of stepping inside of a kaleidoscope.
1206 3rd St. N., Safety Harbor
Berlin Wall at the Morean Center for Clay
The Morean Arts Center is noted for displaying blown glass masterpieces within its Chihuly Collection, but the center is also tied to a significant piece of international history. Outside the Morean Center for Clay, housed in the 1926 Seaboard Freight Train Depot and where the Art Center’s ceramics programs are held, stand three stacked sections of the Berlin Wall.
420 22nd Street South, St. Petersburg
Mazzaro’s Italian Market
Curb your cravings for authentic Italian at Mazzaro’s Italian Market. Hundreds of varieties of handmade pasta, a bakery with fresh breads and pastries made on site daily, an old-fashioned butcher shop and seafood market, deli, over 300 varieties of cheeses from across the globe and coffee roasted daily, and more can be found in St. Petersburg’s one-of-a-kind culinary destinations.
2909 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg
Lithia Springs Park
Noted for its beautifully blue natural spring, which stays at a temperate 72-degrees year-round, Lithia Springs Park is a 160-acre oasis with cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, wooded trails, camping opportunities and, of course, swimming.
3932 Lithia Springs Road, Lithia
Seaside Seabird Sanctuary
The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is a wildlife rehabilitation facility dedicated to the care and release of injured or sick native birds—and it’s open to the public. Visitors can explore the 1.7-acre property that’s home to nearly 100 permanent bird residents. Birders and amateur nature lovers alike can witness the Sanctuary’s aviary collection of eastern brown pelicans, gulls, oystercatchers and sandhill cranes, among others, take in the view of the Gulf of Mexico from the observation tower, or attend one of the daily, weekly or monthly presentations like pelican feeding or public beachside bird releases.
18328 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores