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Beyond Busch Gardens: Free and Kid-Friendly in Tampa

busch gardens tampaAll the kiddos love Busch Gardens and Legoland; that’s a given. However, there are plenty of entertaining low-key family activities in Tampa that don’t gobble up the weekly paycheck. Hearkening back to simpler days, these three places are pure delight. They also happen to be a bit educational; just don’t tell the little ones.

 

Manatee Viewing Center

To most kids, manatees are goofy, lumbersome, whiskered and just perfect for little imaginations. But they’re also highly intelligent gentle giants protected by state and federal statutes, making it hard to see one up close and personal – unless you take a trip to the free Manatee Viewing Center at Apollo Beach. The manatees cuddle there at the Big Bend Power Station where warm Tampa Bay saltwater flows from the discharge canal. Kids can watch them playing in their natural habitat, and then explore the other attractions, including a butterfly garden and mangrove exhibit.

 

Tiny Trains

Train rides have never been more fun for little legs, with the ability to straddle genuine but miniature one-eighth scale locomotives that cruise the tracks with all the bells and whistles. Hop aboard at Largo Central Park for free one-mile journeys through the 70-acre park, passing through a tunnel and over a manmade lake and waterfall. Check for opening times, as hours are not always consistent. This helps keep the crowds down, so it’s a perfect stress-free, lazy-day activity for kids ages one and up. Family-friendly Fun Run events take place at the park several times per year as well.

 

Vintage Water Ski Shows

Operating in a time warp from earlier decades, the famous Cypress Gardens water skiers put on a family-friendly throwback water show every third Saturday at Lake Silver. Once the world-famous stars of extravagant water acrobatics during the glory days of Cypress Gardens (now the home of Legoland), these ski artists keep the fire burning starting at 3:30 pm in the winter, and 5 pm March through October. Bring a blanket or lawn chair, and save an appetite for grilled hot dogs, burgers and snacks from local vendors.

 

Tampa is proud of its all-ages approach to attractions and entertainment, making it a great place to call home. Check out one of Pinnacle’s Tampa apartment communities today; call for move-in specials and a tour!