The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Tampa Weekend Getaway

Sunset in Tampa with beautiful sky filled with pinks, oranges, and yellows, and the ocean and sandy beach.

Winter in Wisconsin (or any cold-weather state) leaves many residents dreaming of warmer weather and beaches. A three-day weekend and affordable flights allow for the perfect weekend getaway. While a weekend may not seem like nearly enough time, a little planning and a ‘go with the flow’ mentality provides for a great break.

There is so much to do, see, and enjoy in the Tampa-area, making it one of my top Florida cities for a weekend getaway. This post will help you plan your next getaway!

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Where to Stay in Tampa:

With a population of over 375,000 and over 23 million visitors in 2018, Tampa has a plethora of hotel and lodging options to suit every traveler. For a full list of hotels in Tampa, consider searching or VRBO and Airbnb are excellent options for private rentals, especially if you would like a kitchen or a whole rental to yourself.

Rental Cars in Tampa?

I’d recommend getting a rental car for your weekend adventure to Tampa. There’s so much to do and Tampa is a big city, not even considering the surrounding areas. If you want to go to multiple beaches or check out the local state parks, some of those are a bit of a drive and ride share costs would add up quickly.

If you plan on staying at a resort/hotel that is on the beach with food and other amenities in the area, you may be able to consider skipping the rental – assuming you won’t be leaving to check out other activities.

Packing Must-Haves:

  • Sunglasses – I love Goodr sunglasses since they are affordable and fit very well. They offer both regular and polarized options. Great for the beach and activities!
  • Sunscreen – You’ll like be in the ocean so please make sure it is reef-safe. Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen is one of my favorites. It’s especially great for the face since it goes on clear.
  • Towel
  • Swimsuit – I’m all for the Target swim section!
  • Sandals – I do not travel without my Birkenstocks. They are so easy to slip on, but I can also walk miles in them.
  • Tennis Shoes
  • Shorts
  • T-Shirts/Tank Tops

What to Do in Tampa:

There are so many activities in Tampa that it’s tough to fit them all into a single weekend getaway – always a reason to go back, right? However, the nice thing about Tampa is that it’s perfect for a short trip with a mix of beach and city activities. Below are a few must-dos in Tampa if you just have a few days.

Tampa Riverwalk: 

If you’re looking for beautiful river views and perhaps a snack and beverage, consider a stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk. This is a well-designed 2.6-mile-long pedestrian trail that follows the Hillsborough River. Many locals utilize the trail and you will find yourself passing runners, bikers and dog walkers.

There are also several dog parks along the walk if you have a furry friend with you. The trail provides plenty of benches to relax and watch boaters, people enjoying a pedal pub, or the water taxi making its rounds. You may even spot a wedding taking place at the beautiful Tampa River Center.

Tampa Riverwalk

At the north end of the Riverwalk is the old Armature Works building. Once used to store the Tampa Electric’s (TECO) Streetcars, Armature Works now houses Heights Public Market, event spaces, and many restaurants and bars. There is seating both inside and out, with four-legged friends allowed in the outside portion. Grab a drink and a bite to eat, and enjoy the waterfront view!

Additional Tampa Riverwalk restaurants include American Social, Columbia Cafe, and Malio’s Prime Steakhouse.

Armature Works

There are even several beautiful hotels located along the Tampa Riverwalk. For a room with a beautiful view, consider book a night or two at The Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk or Hotel Tampa Riverwalk.

Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail: 

Another wonderful option for running, walking or biking is the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail which extends from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs. The trail was built along an abandoned railroad corridor and travels approximately 38 miles. The trail provides plenty of water fountains and benches as it twists its way through parks and towns. Dogs are also allowed on the trail, but must be leashed. Motorized vehicle, excluding electric bikes, electric wheelchairs and emergency vehicles, are prohibited on the trail.

Clearwater Beach: 

The Tampa Area has numerous parks and beaches to explore. First up is one of the more popular areas – Clearwater Beach! The beach is beautiful with white sand, many hotels and condos, and Pier 60. Both locals and visitors will enjoy spending a day at the beach suntanning, swimming, parasailing, stand-up paddle-boarding, and more. Plenty of restaurants are located around the beach providing the perfect snack or meal-break from the sun.

Clearwater Beach - Lifeguard Stand

Pier 60 is a 1,080 foot long pier, perfect for its views and fishing. About half-way down is the Pier 60 Bait Shop for your fishing supplies and souvenirs. To go past the bait shop to the end of the pier you will need to pay a dollar.

Pier 60 Sign - Tampa

For a fun evening event at the beach, check out Sunsets at Pier 60. The event occurs year-round from two hours before until two hours after sunset and provides entertainment for people of all ages. The nightly event includes vendors, performers, and family-friendly events. Definitely something to add to the bucket list!

Sand Key Park: 

While Clearwater Beach has a slight tourist feel to it, Sand Key Park has the opposite feel. The Park is a Pinellas County Park separated from the more popular area of Clearwater by Clearwater Pass. Sand Key Park has a quiet, peaceful vibe and wonderful amenities. There is a parking lot available, but there is a $5 fee for the day. Enjoy the beach, let the kids explore the playground, or take a stroll on the nature trail. The park offers all that you’ll need for a fun, relaxing day, including restrooms and changing areas.

Sand Key Park Beach

John’s Pass:

If you’re looking for boardwalk shopping, fun restaurants, and beautiful views, check out John’s Pass, about 40 minutes outside of Tampa at Madeira Beach. This is a very touristy location, but it is quite a bit of fun. You can browse the numerous shops or walk along the Boardwalk. There are several bars and restaurants including Sculley’s and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Check out Saltwater Taffy & Boardwalk Sweets or Ice & Cream Creamery for a post-dinner treat.

John's Pass Boardwalk

For a delicious dinner near John’s Pass, try Caruso’s Italian Restaurant in Treasure Island. The staff provided exceptional service and the food is amazing! The Chicken Parmigiana & Vegetable Tortellini Soup were to die for. The restaurant itself is quite small with a bar and limited seating, but it is well worth the wait.

Honeymoon Island State Park: 

A wonderful Florida State Park is Honeymoon Island State Park. From Tampa/Clearwater, the drive to the park take you through Dunedin, which is the most surprising little town. The town has so many cute little shops, restaurants and breweries. If you’re in need of a quick bite to eat or a drink, there are plenty of options along the Pinellas Trail in Dunedin.

Honeymoon Island Bench

Honeymoon Island State Park is a beautiful park. Admission is $8 a car, but drops to $4 if you go one-hour prior to sunset. The park features over four miles of beach, a section of beach dedicated to dogs, and a 3-mile trail. There is also a ferry from the park that will take you to Caladesi Island. One of the highlights of the park are the beautiful sunsets which you can watch from a swinging chair on the beach.

Honeymoon Island Beach

Other Tampa Activities:

Tampa is a bustling city filled with indoor and outdoor activities. If you have more time or are looking for additional options, there is plenty for you.

Below are some ideas to help get you started with planning.


  • Tampa Bay History Center
  • Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
  • American Victory Ship Mariners Museum
  • Florida Air Museum


  • The Florida Aquarium
  • ZooTampa at Lowry Park
  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
  • Adventure Island
  • Dinosaur World


  • Dakin Dairy Farms
  • Empower Adventures Tampa Bay
  • Davis Islands Beach
  • Indian Rocks Beach
  • Kraken Cycleboats

If you’re a sports fanatic, consider checking out a game while you are in town. The city is home to the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB), Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL). The area also hosts MLB spring training each year – perfect for spring break trips.

For the shoppers out there, Hyde Park Village and International Plaza and Bay Street have you covered for all of your shopping needs. The latter is an indoor mall which is a great option if you happen to catch a rainy or cooler day during your visit.

Needless to say, Tampa really does have it all and everyone in your travel party will find an activity they love.

Visit Tampa

That’s a wrap on the Tampa Getaway. Do you have favorite parks, beaches or activities in Tampa or the surrounding area? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to post a comment or send me a message. If you’re looking for additional beach destinations, check out my posts on Pensacola, FL and Jekyll Island, GA!


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