Family fun in Tampa via the Tampa Bay CityPASS

Family fun in Tampa via the Tampa Bay CityPASS

For my son’s first birthday, we got a Tampa Bay CityPASS, and took him to ZooTampa as well as Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and Tampa’s Museum of Science & Industry for half the price.

The adult CityPASS cost $122 each and children under 3 are free. That’s a steal considering a Busch Gardens ticket alone costs up to $115. Thankfully, CityPASS gave us one pass for free, to make it a little less expensive for us to review the experience for you.

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How it works

You buy the CityPass. The confirmation email will have a QR code. You present that when your arrive at the entrance of the attractions. The pass is valid for nine days, starting from when you first use it. It allows you to skip the lines to enter.

Busch Gardens

I was surprised by the amount of activities the amusement park had for small children. There’s lots of animals to see from alligators to flamingos. There’s an entire children’s section called, “Sesame Street Safari of Fun.” There’s several kiddie rides inside this area for the little ones to ride on. Kyler and I’s favorite was “Elmo’s Safari Go-Round.” There’s also a show called, “Let’s Play Together,” which was really cute and the characters even taught the kids Spanish during the show.

For this show, you’ll want to have a baby carrier if you have an infant because they don’t allow you to bring strollers inside the theater. Also, bring a change of clothes if your kids plan to have fun in the splash zone and shoes, as many of the rides require them, even for the babies. You’ll also want to have a fan for your stroller because it is hot in the summer. Frequent stops inside the gift shops will cool everyone down.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

We really enjoyed learning about dolphins and whales at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We loved seeing the dolphins. One of them came up to the glass and did some tricks as if it were saying, “Hi,” to us. The new “Walking with Whales,” exhibit had life-size model whales and lots of information about whales from around the world. There’s also a virtual reality dive that allows you to dive under water to see whales and other underwater wildlife. If you want to see dolphins in the wild, there’s also a boat tour that takes off from the aquarium.

The Museum of Science and Industry

My husband really enjoyed the video game revolution exhibit. It was just one of the 100 hands-on activities. We also enjoyed learning about space through the museum’s NASA-funded Mission: Moonbase lunar colony. For the big kids, the museum also has a ropes course. I can see us visiting this museum often for years to come.

The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium has ranked in recent years as one of the top aquariums in the country. Sharks, alligators, otters, sea turtles and lemurs are just some of the sea creatures living inside. To make it even more fun, there’s a splash pad outside for kids.

ZooTampa at Lowry Park

ZooTampa at Lowry Park is one of the most popular zoos in the Southeast so we knew we had to go. It has more than one million visitors annually. I like that it focuses on endangered, threatened and vulnerable species such as the Florida Panther, the Bornean Orangutan, the Southern White Rhinocerus, and the African Penguin. The zoo has more than 1,100 animals in its care, with park areas dedicated to Asia, Africa, Australia and Florida.

Other things to do

Some other things to do in the Tampa Bay area are taking a trip to Clearwater Beach. I’d also recommend stopping by the food hall, Armature Works. If you’re looking for lodging, I’d recommend staying in downtown Tampa, that way you’re near the highways and bridges to access the beaches and not far from the airport and malls. You’ll need a rental car to get around.

CityPASS is also available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Seattle, and Southern California.