Guide: 48 hours in Tampa, Florida

If you only have 48 hours to spend in Tampa when you’re visiting this stunning part of the United States, you’re going to want to make sure that you make the most of your time there. One of the best ways to do this is to create an itinerary in advance to plan out what you’ll do throughout the duration of the visit.

Tampa is affectionately nicknamed “Cigar City” for the role it played in helping the cigar industry thrive in Florida. Cuban and Spanish immigrants helped form Tampa into the city it is today. If you have time, a tour of a cigar factory in Tampa is a must for history buffs. Or, stop in Cigar City Brewing Company for a beer (or two!). It’s a spot locals love.

Every tourist is different, and so you’re going to want to tweak our two day-itinerary to make it as relevant to your passions as possible. Still, to help to get you started, here’s what we’d suggest getting up to during your visit to Tampa in just 48 hours.

48 hours in Tampa

Day #1:

On your first day in Tampa, after you’ve checked into your hotel and dropped off your bags, you’ll want to head straight back out and start to see the city. Explore Ybor City’s breweries and shops. One of the best ways to see Tampa is by taking a guided tour, and depending upon how energetic you feel and what you most want to see, Tampa’s revitalized RiverWalk in downtown is a favorite for morning runs, an outdoor lunch, or a long bike ride. 

There are lots of electric bikes for adults so you can enjoy the trip regardless of your fitness level. Be warned though, you’ll probably love the freedom and find yourself lookin for cruiser bicycles for sale when you get home. Be sure to do a little research before heading out, there are lots of bike routes for you to choose from in the area.

One of the best things about Tampa is that it has some of the most beautiful waterways on the east coast, if not in the country. Neighboring St. Pete and Sarasota—just an hour south by car— boast some of Florida’s top-rated white sand beaches. A car ride across the incredible, scenic bridge of I-275 is an unforgettable drive with views of Old Tampa Bay.

If you’re into water sports, then you’d be crazy to pass up the chance to go snorkeling or paddleboarding, and if you’d prefer to stay on dry land then you can go for a walk along the shoreline.

Caladesi Island State Park is home to a stunning state park where you can kayak over or take a boat to access. Caladesi is a peaceful, naturally untouched state park where you can lie out on the beach or paddle through the mangroves. 

In the evening, you’ll want to head back into Tampa Bay to wander around different bars and restaurants the city has to offer. All sorts of different cultures and cuisines are on offer, and perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s also plenty of fresh seafood that’s gone from the sea to your plate in just a matter of hours. 

Columbia Restaurant is a Tampa institution for traditional Spanish fare. Located in Ybor City, it’s one of the oldest restaurants in the city. If you’re feeling peckish, head to Terra Gaucha—an all-you-can-eat Brazilian Steakhouse in Tampa. For dinner, there’s the rustic Ulele (make a reservation if you can), which is located within a historic monument in Tampa Heights and has beautiful outdoor dining atmosphere, plus plenty of craft beers to choose from. 

Day #2:

According to Lonely Planet, the top two attractions in Tampa are Florida Aquarium and Busch Gardens, a huge amusement park and zoo. In just 48 hours, you’re may have time for Busch Gardens, but be sure to plan a day at the park in detail so you’re not pressed for time. 

The Florida Aquarium is definitely worth a visit and you’ll have plenty of time to do a little bit of last minute shopping and sightseeing before you head out. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love the Lowry Park Zoo, which is well-regarded as one of the best zoos in all of Florida. Learn about the importance of wildlife preservation and get close to some of Florida’s famous species.

And at the end of your visit, why not keep the party going by hopping on an exciting Tampa Bay cruise? There are all sorts of different cruises on offer, from party cruises for bachelorette parties to slow, relaxed cruises for couples celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary. Be sure to shop around to see what’s available!

On your last evening out on the town, Centro Ybor has plenty of bars and clubs to dance the night away. If you’re craving something more relaxed, head to the Tampa Theatre to see an indie film or the Straz Center for the Performing Arts for a concert. For all you sports-lovers, see the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Buccaneers play in Raymond James Stadium.  

Now that you know what we’d suggest for your two days in Tampa, it’s over to you to customize this itinerary to better suit your needs. There’s so much out there for you to do that you could fill an itinerary for two years, and so it becomes a question of priority.

Author: SHABL

Rob has been traveling the world and living abroad for over a decade. The goal was to stop having a boring life and it turned into something far greater. He's worked with national tourism boards and been mentioned in National Geographic. These days he lives abroad and loves business, technology, the tropical lifestyle, good food and travel.

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