There are a few things most of us can agree on: Sunsets are great, soggy sandwiches aren’t, and two-week vacations are an absolute blessing! Even if you like your job, it’s just nice to be able to spend some time off relaxing with friends and family.

Now if you’re like most people, you know that planning the perfect vacation isn’t an easy thing to do, especially if you have kids of varying ages. It’s hard to get everyone to agree on a destination that has activities everyone will enjoy, from the littlest to the oldest.

Well I’ve got good news for you: I’m about to make your life easier by sharing a destination that is ideal for family vacations. And the best part is… it’s sunny, warm, and right here in the United States!

Okay, I’ll give you a hint… you’ll be heading to Tampa Bay, Florida. And while you’re there, you’ll have an opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with dolphins!

Why Visit Tampa Bay?

There is so much to love about Tampa Bay, Florida! To start, there is a beautiful mix of historic architecture and modern landmarks as well. The local culture is infused with Cuban and Spanish influences, and the waterways are a pretty place to enjoy an afternoon of peoplewatching.

There are also a lot of things to do in Tampa. The downtown area is alive with bars, restaurants and urban parks. There is also the very pretty Tampa Riverwalk, an ideal location to stroll at sunset.

Nearby Hyde Park is a mecca for upscale shopping with plenty of boutique stores as well as national chain stores. Outdoor enthusiasts will be thrilled at the many opportunities to play in the surf and sun. You can hike, bike, fish, kayak, paddleboard or bird-watch in the surrounding state parks.

But perhaps the best part about visiting Tampa is that it is so close to other great destinations, making it easy to plan exciting day trips. And speaking of, just about an hour and a half away is Orlando, Florida, also with astounding attractions. But while you may think of Orlando as home to various theme parks, it is also home to Discovery Cove, and that’s where we’re headed next…

Enjoy Swimming with Dolphins!

Discovery Cove is a unique all-inclusive day resort where you and your family can enjoy interacting with all kinds of animals is a lush, tropical setting. But perhaps the biggest thrills come from the swimming with dolphins in Orlando near Tampa Bay Florida.

Discovery Cove’s Signature Dolphin Experience

Have you ever wanted to get up-close-and-personal with a dolphin? It’s been the lifelong dream of many people. Well Discovery Cove gives you a chance to make your dream come true. This encounter is an absolute thrill and I highly recommend you and your family make sure to leave enough time in your schedule to head to Discovery Cove.

The Dolphin experience will begin with one of the animal care specialists teaching you all about dolphin habits and behaviors. You’ll learn about their diet, how they communicate with one another, and just how social these creatures are. Everyone in your group will get the chance to ask any questions they may have.

When all questions have been answered, it’s time to slip into one of the crystal clear swimming lagoons to meet the dolphins! You’ll never forget the moment when one of the dolphins comes rushing up to meet you! If you’re like I was when I first swam with dolphins, you’ll giggle like a little kid and those giggles will continue for the entire half hour while you splash around in the water, enjoying the tricks and antics of your new best friend.

I assure you, you’ll never forget your time with the dolphins! But also know that Discovery Cove offers a lot of other exciting activities!

Book Your Dolphin Swim

 

Orlando Dolphin Swim

Discovery Cove – Make Memories That Will Last a Lifetime

While I definitely think swimming with dolphins should be your priority for this day trip, you should definitely make time for other fun. And boy does Discovery Cove offer a LOT of fun!

Here are just some of the other wonderful activities you and your family can enjoy at Discovery Cove:

Explorers Aviary

Sure, there are a lot of wonderful things that live in the sea. But the same can be true of the skies. If you have always had a fascination with birds, then you’ll want to head to the Explorer’s Aviary and watch as hundreds of vibrantly-colored birds soar above and around you. Some may even eat out of your hand!

Fresh Water Oasis

This exciting program allows you to get up close to wonderful marmosets, which are incredibly curious and playful creatures! This oasis is truly astounding, and you’ll swear you’re in the middle of a rainforest!

The Grand Reef

If you love the idea if snorkeling while schools of brightly-colored tropical fish swim around you, then you’ll want to experience the Grand Reef. This stunning coral reef habitat is the perfect backdrop for snorkeling adventures!

Feeding Stingrays

Stingrays are very unique and cool sea creatures, and you’ll have the opportunity to hang out with them. If you arrive early enough at the park, you could help feed these creatures. You’ll also get to help feed thousands of tropical fish and other smaller animals in the park. If you have big animal lovers in your group, this is a great experience for them!

Swim with Sharks

Now, if you’re someone that is an adrenaline junkie, then you’ve GOT to check out the swim with sharks program. It’s sure to get your heart beating fast.

This is a deep-water free swim alongside nurse, zebra, blacktip reef sharks and other species. But don’t worry, these sharks are harmless so you’ll have a safe time interacting with them.

Seaventure

Remember the Grand Reef I mentioned? Well, instead of just snorkeling around the Grand Reef, you can put on a dive helmet and walk round on the bottom of the reef for a Seaventure. During this aquatic adventure you’ll get to encounter all kinds of unique animals from schools of tropical fish to stingrays and sharks. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime and memorable experience.

Awesome Packages

I also want to mention that Discovery Cover offers some pretty amazing packages as well. For instance, there is a package that allows you to visit Discovery Cove along with some other cool area theme parks. One of those theme parks is Bush Gardens, which just happens to be in Tampa Bay! Very convenient if you are staying there.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is an African themed park that allows visitors to feel like they are on a true African Safari. Along with some terrific exotic animal encounters, there are also a plethora of white-knuckle thrill rides!

One of those thrill rides is new and called Tigris. It is actually Florida’s tallest launch coaster and it catapults riders through a series of incredible looping twists and turns. You’ll start 150 feet up in the air and find yourself going 60 miles-an-hour in no time!

The park also has some older favorite rides such as the Congo River Rapids, Cobras Cruise, Sheikra, Kumba, Falcon’s Fury and Cheetah Hunt!

There are also some pretty excellent world-class live shows and entertainment. So if you are staying in Tampa Bay but would like to swim with dolphins, then check out Discovery Cove’s packages to find the ones that offer admission to other parks in Tampa and the surrounding area.

Book Your Dolphin Swim

Relax and rest at the Orlando swim with dolphins

Getting to Discovery Cove

As I mentioned, Discovery Cove is in Orlando, which is about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on traffic) from Tampa Bay. You have a few options for getting to the facility:

Rent a Car

If you are flying into Florida,consider renting a car at the airport. Driving to the facility will be relatively easy, depending on time of day and how much traffic you experience.

Bus

If you don’t want to rent a car, you can always take the bus. Greyhound offers trips between Tampa Bay and Orlando throughout the day with fares typically at around $8 average per trip.

Uber/Lyft

Not everyone likes renting cars or sharing transportation with a lot of other people. If you can relate, then I suggest looking into hiring an Uber or Lyft car/van for your group. Fares should be reasonable and if you’re traveling with a big group, everyone could chip in so you could have your own air conditioned ride.

SeaWorld Orlando

Accommodations in Tampa Bay

When it comes to comfortable and affordable accommodations, Tampa Bay has no shortage of options. Here are a few, I recommend based on personal knowledge. I have chosen a low- mid- and high-priced option.

Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay

This resort style hotel is a mid-priced option that is located conveniently next to the airport and downtown Tampa. Guests can enjoy 35 waterfront acres that have been thoughtfully designed to inspire complete relaxation.

During your down time, you and your family can enjoy plenty of nature without ever having to leave the grounds. Birdwatch, look for manatees near the boat dock, or ride bikes along the scenic 9.5 mile bayside trail.

Many rooms have terrific views of the bay, and the décor is modern and airy. For seafood lovers, you’ll also enjoy the hotel’s award winning restaurant called Oystercatchers. This place has actually been named one of Tampa’s 25 most iconic restaurants and if you eat here, you’ll know why!

2900 Bayport Dr, Tampa, FL 33607
(813) 874-1234

La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Tampa Bay Airport

Here is a lower-priced option that is also near the airport, making it very convenient to get to. The place has been newly renovated and each room now has flat-panel TVs with 30 channels of HD programming.

The hotel has an outdoor heated pool, meeting facilities, and free breakfasts every morning. There is also free transportation each day to Seaport. The rooms aren’t fancy, but they are spacious, clean and comfy. All-in-all, if you are on a budget and looking for someplace nice to lay your head down at night, this is a great option!

4730 W Spruce St, Tampa, FL 33607
(813) 287-0440

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa

Okay, this is a higher priced option but you get a lot of bang for your buck. You’ll definitely need to book in advance if you want to stay here because this place is very popular!

This is a AAA Four-Diamond rated hotel offering stylish and modern accommodations. The place is posh for sure! Rooms are ultra-plush and come with everything you could possibly need to have an amazing and comfy stay. High def flat screens, free Wifi, fuzzy bathrobes, and high end amenities… yep, this place has all that!

If you want some excitement at night, then this is definitely the hotel for you as there is also 245,000 square feet of gaming space for your personal entertainment. Try your hand at blackjack, poker, or slot machines. Live entertainment plus great pieces of Hard Rock music memorabilia makes this place incredibly fun and special.

5223 Orient Rd, Tampa, FL 33610
(866) 388-4263

Things to Do in and Around Tampa

While I definitely think you should make it a point to go to Discovery Cove and swim with the dolphins, there are some other pretty awesome activities right in Tampa Bay:

Historic Ybor City Food and Drink Walking Tour

If you love trying out the food and alcoholic beverages of a local area, then this walk is right up your alley! Enjoy the historic neighborhood of Ybor City in Tampa on this guided walking tour. This area of the city boasts a rich Latin culture and is home to the state’s oldest cigar-making families. On your walk, which lasts about 3 hours, you’ll get to enjoy trying tapas, flan, mojitos and Cuban sandwiches and more!

600 E. 7th Avenue, Tampa Bay, FL
(813) 610-1063

St. Petersburg Speed Boat Adventure

Sometimes you just want to be out on the open water, speeding around on a boat. Well, you can rent and drive your own speedboat across Tampa Bay and you don’t even have to have previous experience to do this. After a short safety orientation, you’ll climb aboard an F-13 mini speedboat and follow your guide’s vessel that’s equipped with a two-way communication device.

(727) 744-3218

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay

Who doesn’t love spending the day at an aquarium? This is a great place to head to if you do happen to get rain one day as it will keep the kiddies busy! This celebrated aquarium is home to over 9,000 awesome sea creatures. View fish, stingrays and even alligators and much more!

701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 273-4000

Weather

At the beginning of this article I mentioned just how hard it can be to plan a family vacation. One of the reasons it can be hard is because you never know what the weather is going to do while you’re on vacation. No one wants to deal with rain, but rain happens, even in the sunshine state.

Here is a good general rule of thumb when visiting Florida: If you can help it, avoid going in summer (it’s crowded, humid and everything costs more) and fall (peak season for hurricanes is August to October). So that means going in the winter and spring is ideal.

Weather is one of the reasons you want to plan your trip as early as possible. You’re not the only one trying to plan the perfect family vacation and trying to head to Florida during just the right months. So be sure to select your dates and book your plane fares, hotel accommodations, and theme park tickets as soon as you can!

Festivals& More!

Well, I’ve already shared so many cool things you can do in and around Tampa Bay. And yet, I’ve barely scratched the surface. There is always something fun and exciting going on in the area, from sporting events to festivals, concerts and other outdoor festivities.

If you want to plan your vacation around any kind of big event or festival that may be going on, you can visit this link to view the activities calendar and get an idea of the fun waiting for you and your family.

Helpful Travel Links

To help you plan your vacation, please visit the following websites, which may offer you information that can help you plan better.

Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce

Busch Gardens

Vacations only come around once a year, so you want to be sure you plan properly. I have traveled around Florida extensively, and I can say for certain that Tampa Bay has never let me or my family down. There are so many great activities, and it’s so close to other cool places like Orlando, that you will never run out of things to do. Just be sure to head to Discovery Cove and swim with the dolphins. I promise you it is an experience that you and your family will talk about for years to come!

 

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