by Suzanne Bair
Whether you are visiting Tampa for a few days or looking for accessible port of call activities, Tampa has a wide range of accessible activities for all budgets and interests. Visitors can take a wild ride at Busch Gardens, get up close and personal with marine life at The Florida Aquarium, take a stroll along the Tampa River Walk, check out the nightlife in Ybor City, or listen to the calls of Tigers, Cougars, and other cats at the Big Cat Rescue.
Here are our top 6 accessible activities in Tampa, Florida.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Whether you are looking to spend a few hours or a few days in Tampa, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has plenty to keep you busy. From food and wine festivals, concerts in the park, stage shows, amusement rides, or animal encounters this is a great place to start your Tampa adventure. Guest Relations at the Adventure Outpost can help visitors with all of their access needs. For guests requiring additional accommodations such as sign language interpreters or other special needs, two weeks advance notice advised when possible to insure accommodation requests can be met. Check the event calendar for a full list of current activities throughout the park.
Ybor City, a historically Cuban and immigrant neighborhood in Tampa established in the 1880s, offers a lively and eclectic mix of old world meets new. With funky little boutique shops, tattoo parlors, historic buildings, and a great nightlife scene there is a little something for everyone. Check out the cigar museum and learn more about the areas Cuban, Spanish, and Italian influences. And don’t forget to say hello to the wild chickens that wander throughout the streets, descendants of backyard chickens from over 100 years ago.
Due to the historic nature of the area some shops may not be accessible with high threshold steps, narrow doorways and paths throughout the store. Even so, many of the restaurants are accessible or offer accessible outside seating areas. Be sure to ask about wheelchair accessible restrooms however. These can be narrow and difficult to navigate for some wheelchair users. The Colubmbia Restaurant, one of Florida’s oldest restaurants, established in 1905 is a perfect choice with both great Cuban food and great accessibility. The Teco Line Streetcar is a fast, easy, cheap, and accessible way to get from downtown Tampa to Ybor City.
Dive right in at The Florida Aquarium. Get up close and personal with stingrays and other sea life at the touch tank. Go behind the scenes on a semi private tour, interact with penguins, swim with the fishes or test your bravery by swimming with sharks. Still haven’t gotten enough marine -wildlife time? Take a 75-minute dolphin tour out on the bay. While the aquarium is fully accessible, the Dolphin tours are only semi-accessible. Visitors must be able to navigate several small stairs and be able to self-transfer to the boat. Dolphin tours are not accessible for electric wheelchair, large manual wheelchairs, or scooter users. Be sure to call ahead for adaptive interactive programs. A limited number of wheelchairs, scooters, and strollers are available to rent on a first come, first serve basis.
The Tampa Riverwalk offers a beautiful, urban 2.5mile pedestrian path winding through some of Tampa’s best attractions. Enjoy one of the six parks along the path, grab a drink and people watch at The Sail, visit the Tampa Museum of Art, catch a Broadway show at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, or watch a hockey game at the Amalie Arena. The wide paved path allows visitors to move with ease despite how busy it can be during the day and there are plenty of seating areas to rest and enjoy the everchanging scenery. There is only one permanent accessible public restroom currently along this path, located near the Tampa Convention Center and The Sail restaurant. Additional portable toilets are available at several locations along the Riverwalk.
Check out the Riverwalk Map Tour Here.
Pirate Water Taxi
The Pirate Water Taxi is a great way to get out on the water and learn more about Tampa’s waterfront. Stay on the boat for an approximate 90-minute narrated tour where you may be treated to additional wildlife sightings along the way. Although this water taxi can be used for a hop-on/hop-off transportation option not all stops are accessible and the water taxi does not always run on a regular schedule. Be sure to ask the captain which stops are currently accessible (can be tide dependent).
Big Cat Rescue
Looking for a way to get up and personal with some BIG cats and help make a difference at the same time? Big Cat Rescue is home to over 65 cats rescued and rehabilitated from breeders, private owners, circuses and other sources. Visitors can take a 60-90 minute educational small group tour, private, photography and other tours are offered year round. The facility is wheelchair accessible and golf carts are available to rent during the tour for guests with limited mobility. The grounds are extensive and there are few designated seating areas. The sanctuary is all outdoors and can get quite hot and humid. Water is permitted inside. Children under 10, pets, and food are not permitted. For the safety of all animals and guests, service animals must remain outside of the sanctuary for the duration of the tour but are welcome throughout the rest of the facility. Reservations are required.
Although we rate Tampa as one of our top ten U.S. cities for a variety of accessible activities, it scores low for public transportation. For longer stays we recommend renting an accessible vehicle or prearranging accessible transportation.
This trip was partially hosted by: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, and Big Cat Rescue.