Our family recently took a weekend getaway to Tampa Bay, Florida from Dallas, Texas after Spirit Airlines added a direct route there. Traveling with my 19-year-old daughter and lively 16-year-old son, we ended up having a memorable escapade that combined relaxation, adventure, and culinary delights.

Day 1: Arrival and Exploration

Morning: Check-in at Marriott Water StreetMarriott Water Street Tampa Bay

Our adventure began at the Marriott Water Street, a prime choice for families with teenagers. The sleek design and vibrant atmosphere of the hotel instantly captivated us. The highlight for the teens was undoubtedly the rooftop pool, a perfect hangout spot, complete with games and a stunning view of the city. It’s a little oasis where they could chill and socialize. Check current rates on Marriott and here’s a little video I made of the hotel.

Lunch: Sparkman WharfSparkman Wharf Tamp Bay

My kids were starving of course, because teens are always starving from what I can tell. For lunch, we headed to Sparkman Wharf. This bustling outdoor food hall offers a variety of cuisines that cater to all tastes, making it a hit with the teens.Lunch at Splitsville

When we happened to go it was raining badly and many eateries were closed, so we decided to eat inside at Splitsville. We feasted on everything from artisanal pizza, salads, to Asian fusion Afterwards we spent some time bowling. They offer regular bowling, feather bowling, ping pong, billiards, foosball, darts, and shuffleboard. It’s the perfect spot for rainy day activities!Splitsville Tampa Bay

After bowling, we decided to grab a treat at the Hampton Chocolate Factory where they make insanely good ice cream concoctions. They are huge, so two people could easily split one. Ask for a little tray that way when you do not eat it fast enough it’s not dripping all over and instead it’s dripping in a tray. How do I know this? Well, I won’t say who, but one of us made a huge mess! (cough, eden, cough)

Hampton Chocolate Factory

Lucky for use, the weather cleared up and that meant we could puch forward doing some fun activities. 

Afternoon: Tampa Riverwalk and the Attraction PassFlorida Aquarium

Post-lunch, we went to check out a couple of attractions. The Riverwalk Attraction Pass is a must-have, granting access to multiple attractions. We visited the Florida Aquarium and the American Victory Ship & Museum, both offering engaging experiences that even my screen-obsessed teens found captivating. I had hoped to make it over to Tampa Bay History Center but we ran out of time.

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American Victory Ship & Museum

After a few activities and despite eating a massive lunch and massive ice cream, once again they were starving. so off to dinner we went. 

Dinner: Anchor and Brine at the Marriott Water StreetAnchor and Brine at the Marriott Water Street

Tonight go easy on yourself and enjoy dinner at Anchor and Brine inside your hotel. They’ve got an extensive seafood menu as well as some great non-seafood options too. I don’t eat seafood and I loved their steak option. The views are great and on a nice evening, it’s delightful to sit out on the large patio.

Day 2: Adrenaline and Leisure

Breakfast: Oxford ExchangeOxford Exchange

We started our day at Oxford Exchange. The trendy, book-lined café with its artisan coffee and wholesome breakfast options was a great hit. The teens loved the Instagram-worthy décor and atmosphere.

Daytime: Busch GardensBusch Gardens safari

The highlight of our trip was Busch Gardens, an African-themed amusement park known for its thrilling roller coasters, exotic animal encounters, and entertaining shows. The teens were ecstatic, diving into the adrenaline-pumping rides while I enjoyed the serene wildlife exhibits.

Here are ten electrifying highlights that are sure to make any teen’s visit unforgettable:

  1. SheiKra: Dive into excitement on SheiKra, North America’s first dive coaster, offering a 200-foot drop straight down at a 90-degree angle. It’s a heart-pounding experience that provides an adrenaline rush like no other.
  2. Cheetah Hunt: Feel the speed on Cheetah Hunt, a triple-launch coaster that mimics the agile predator’s high-speed chases. It’s a fast-paced thrill ride that zips and zooms through the park, making it a must-ride for speed demons. No joke, this thing is so fast. You’ve been warned!
  3. Falcon’s Fury: Experience the thrill of free fall on Falcon’s Fury, North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower. Brace yourself for a 335-foot plunge that will have your heart racing and your spirit soaring. (I refused to ride this.)
  4. Serengeti Safari: Take a break from the thrills and embark on a Serengeti Safari. This open-air touring vehicle takes you up close to African wildlife, where you can hand-feed giraffes and observe fascinating animals in their naturalistic habitats. (This particular experience does cost extra. I felt like it was 100% worth it.)
  5. Montu: Test your courage on Montu, one of the tallest and longest inverted roller coasters in the world. With seven inversions, high speeds, and intense G-forces, it’s a whirlwind adventure that thrill-seekers won’t want to miss.
  6. Kumba: Hear the roar of Kumba, a coaster that features one of the world’s largest vertical loops. The ride’s intense spirals, drops, and turns will leave you breathless and exhilarated.
  7. Tigris: Brace yourself for Tigris, Florida’s tallest launch coaster, offering a thrilling experience with forward and backward launches, dramatic twists, and an inverted heartline roll at over 60 miles per hour.
  8. Cobra’s Curse: Take on Cobra’s Curse, a unique spin coaster that puts you face-to-fang with an 80-foot snake icon, then sends you spinning through twists and turns. It’s an innovative ride that combines storytelling with thrilling action. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
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Lunch: Inside Busch Gardens

For lunch, we took advantage of the various eateries inside Busch Gardens. With options ranging from quick snacks to sit-down meals, there was something to satisfy everyone’s appetite amidst the excitement of the park. If you are still not done in the park by dinner time, just have dinner there.

Dinner: Columbia Restaurant

In the evening, we ventured to the historic Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. The Spanish and Cuban cuisines, along with the flamenco dance performance, offered a culturally rich dining experience. The teens were captivated by the vibrant history and lively atmosphere.

Day3: Become a Chocolatier & Dance the Night Away

Breakfast: The BruncheryThe Brunchery

The Brunchery is a local favorite known for its cozy ambiance and classic breakfast offerings. Their pancakes, in particular, were a hit with the teenagers.

Mid-morning: Chocolate Making!Peterbrooke Chocolatier Tampa Bay

My kids LOVED making their own chocolate and so did I. Not only did we learn a ton but we all went home with our own giant candy bar creations. I highly recommend this as an activity for tweens or teens. The owner is super nice too! Oh, and the have ice cream. 

Lunch: Bavaro’s PizzaBavaro's Pizza

I’ve thought a lot about what I am about to type. And after thinking about this for months I am ready to say that Bavaro’s Pizza is the best pizza I have ever had. Considering the ages of my kids you can only imagine how much pizza we have eaten in the last 17 – 23 years! I had the pizza with buratta and it slapped as did that meatball appetizer. Jonah and his friend got a more basic pizza which they anihilated so I am assuming it was quite good as well. 

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Dinner: Yacht Starship Dinner CruiseYacht Starship Dinner Cruise

Cruise around Tampa Bay on the. they serve a nice dinner and when you are done you can head up top for some dancing. There’s a DJ up there spinning some great tunes. 

Day 4: Relaxation and Departure

Breakfast: Café WatersideCafé Waterside

Our final day began with breakfast at the hotel at Cafe Waterside. You can order a la carte or they have a breakfast buffet. I got the Cuban benedict as seen above. 

Morning: Marriott Water StreetThe pool area at Marriott Water Street Tampa Bay

After breakfast, we spent the morning relaxing at the Marriott’s rooftop pool. This provided the teens with a final chance to enjoy the games and the Florida sun before our departure. The rooftop area is so great that you definitely want to make time to spend up here. I wish we could have had a bit more pool time but we got busy doing so much other stuff.

Lunch: Armature WorksArmature Works

We grabbed lunch at Armature Works. This modern food hall offered a diverse range of culinary options, from gourmet sandwiches to Asian delicacies, perfectly adding to our culinary adventures in Tampa. Everyone can order what they want and then meet back up. The outside area is nice too, so it would be a good place to sit if it’s not too hot. Plus, it’s a super cool-looking place. 

Afternoon: Shopping and Ice CreamHyde Park Village

Head over to the super cute shopping area called Hye Park Village. They’ve got lots of adorable shops here including the largest Francescas I’ve ever been in. Some of the shops were $$$$. We went to the restrooms here and we discovered that red telephone booth which is a book swap. 

Oddfellows Ice Cream Shop

There is a tasty ice cream shop here, Oddfellows. They have some interesting flavors like wasabi infused ice cream with chocolate chunks or sweet cream ices cream with swirls of coffee caramel and chocolate cookie dirt. 

Ulele

If you have time for dinner before you fly out head to Ulele, a native-inspired restaurant and brewery. The unique menu, featuring items like alligator hush puppies, was adventurous yet appealing to the teens. The rustic, yet chic ambiance added to the experience.

Conclusion

Our weekend in Tampa Bay, with its perfect mix of thrills, culture, and relaxation, was a hit with the teenagers. From the exhilarating rides at Busch Gardens to the diverse culinary delights, every moment was filled with something new and exciting. As we boarded our flight home, discussions of our next adventure were already in the air, a testament to the unforgettable experiences we shared in Tampa Bay.

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