Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read October 2019 With almost 1,000 people moving into Florida every day, the appeal of the state is quite apparent. From our favorable tax climate to ideal weather and everything in between, Florida is the hotspot in the southeast. The Tampa Bay region has been a beneficiary of this population boom, as represented in the more than 51,000 people that moved into the region last year. One of the major appeals for Florida, and more specifically the Tampa Bay MSA, is the welcoming, family-friendly environment that has been cultivated throughout the state. Supporting this are the multitude of family-friendly activities and destinations available throughout the region. With so much choice, Invest: thought it would be fun to narrow it down. Here are five of the best family-friendly destinations in the Tampa Bay region.

Florida State Fairgrounds

Known for their title event, the Florida State Fair, the Fairgrounds are also a destination for festivals, trade shows, conventions and outdoor shows. The 12-day Florida State Fair is the premier family-oriented event in the Tampa Bay region. The emphasis on family fun is cultivated in the Fair’s various offerings like rides, animal interactions, fair food, and activities and shows for children. Cheryl Flood, executive director for the Florida State Fair, spoke to Invest: about just how significant this family-friendly event is to the region. “We are known for our 12 days of family fun during the annual state fair festivities, when families from across the state gather to celebrate agriculture, education and community. Annually, we boast 500,000 visitors who generate over $152 million dollars in sales throughout the state of Florida. The Florida State Fair is the first state fair of the year throughout the entire country. As a result, we set the trends of what the fair industry and fairgoers can expect nationally. We think of ourselves as a catalyst for innovation within this niche industry.”

For more information on the next Florida State Fair & the Fairgrounds visit: https://www.floridastatefair.com/

Museum of Science and Industry

Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is not the typical museum destination that some may be accustomed to. Instead of taking a more traditional approach to teaching principles of STEM and STEAM, this museum prides itself on being a scientific playground that offers more than 100 different hands-on activities for parents and children alike. The museum was not always known for its innovative approach, but after a restructuring and renovation in November 2017, they have been working to change that narrative. Julian Mackenzie, president and CEO of MOSI, elaborated on this deliberate effort, “In our second year of ‘new MOSI,’ after the completion of our restructuring and renovation in November of 2017, our reputation in the community was re-established. Prior to our reopening, the venue had a reputation for outdated exhibits that in some cases just simply didn’t work as they should. Our main focus for MOSI since then has been to re-engage the community with expanded participation in popular public events. In this fashion, it put our No. 1 asset in full view, that being our staff and the passion they have for making science real for all ages and demographics. Also, it has been about the exhibit path experience. Guests can now count on a dynamic experience at MOSI with hands-on activities and exhibits that not only function as they should, they also entertain, educate and inspire.”

To see all of MOSI’s offerings visit: https://www.mosi.org/

Glazer Children’s Museum 

The Glazer Children’s Museum is a prime example of a family-friendly destination that is using innovation and inclusivity to rise above the variety of options in the region. The museum, which saw its third-busiest year on record in 2018, understands the importance of being a viable option for all different types of families and children. Sarah Cole, the president and CEO of Glazer Children’s Museum, expounded upon this to Invest:. “At the Glazer Children’s Museum, we believe that all children deserve the opportunity to play with purpose. We strive to provide accessible and inclusive programs, events, and exhibits to serve the diverse needs of our guests. For families with special needs, we offer programs like our monthly Sensory-Friendly Sunshine Sundays and Autism-Friendly Camps. When families visit the museum, they have access tools, from an experience book to plan their visit to sound-blocking headphones, sensory kits, accessibility chairs, and more. We are proud to be designated an Autism-Friendly business for eight years running through the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and we were recently named Employer of the Year by the Mayor’s Alliance for People With Disabilities.”

For more on Glazer Children’s Museum visit: https://glazermuseum.org/

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

In the case of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, being a family-fun destination is only part of who they are. The Aquarium, which was the backdrop for the films Dolphin Tale 1 & 2, serves as both a family-friendly destination to observe marine life in an interactive and educational manner as well as a marine research and rehabilitation sanctuary. They are currently under major construction as they work to not only improve their facilities for guests but also for their marine rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Frank Dame, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Clearwater Marine Aquarium, spoke to Invest: about what could be expected from the new facilities, “When we open the doors to our new facility, sometime next year, we are going to have almost four times the guest space we have now. We are also building five new dolphin pools. Currently, between all our facilities we have about 985,000 gallons of water, and these five new dolphin pools will add another million and a half gallons. We are really ramping up our ability to rescue more animals and provide a better living environment for our dolphins, as well as drastically improve the guest experience.”

To read more about Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s aquatic initiatives visit: https://www.seewinter.com/

Clearwater Beach

To be named the No. 1 beach in the country is no small accomplishment, so the significance of Clearwater Beach being dubbed this title two years in a row by TripAdvisor cannot be understated. From in-water activities to fun festivals to simply sunbathing on the white sands, this family-friendly destination has something for everyone to enjoy. Sights are now set on retaining this title for the foreseeable future, and Frank Dame of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium weighed in on how to best accomplish this. “We need to focus on maintaining our recognition as the No. 1 beach in the nation, and we can’t accomplish this by just promoting ourselves as No. 1. The mission now is to make us the No. 1 beach because we are ocean-friendly. We can do this by eliminating trash and doing things like stopping the use of single-use plastics,” he told Invest:. 

For more on the #1 Beach in the nation visit: https://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/communities/clearwater-beach