As every parent or grandparent can attest, young kids are fun loving, curious and full of boundless energy. Keeping them busy requires a creative and resourceful mind. Instead of relying on video games to keep them happy, why not try one of the many attractions that Tampa has to offer young children? Get outdoors, try a craft, but above all, remember to have fun! — Steve Hartsoe
Pump It Up Of Westchase
12878 Commodity Place
Tampa, FL 33626
Just because it has “party” in the name, doesn’t mean you have to wait for a special occasion to go! Pump It Up is Tampa’s “Inflatable Party Zone,” featuring giant inflatable jump houses and play zones for kids of all ages. Special events at Pump It Up Of Westchase include Family Jump Times, where, for only $8 per child, families can experience the fun of “getting physical” in Pump It Up’s interactive inflatables. Two zones, one for children aged two through six and another for children aged seven to 10, ensure that play is age-appropriate and safe. Other events include Jump-N-Art, a drop-in program promoting art and structured play. The cost is $30 for the first child and $25 for siblings. If you really have your heart set on a party, this is the place to go. Party packages vary depending on features, number of children and upgrades, and can be tailored to fit your group. Hours: Vary.
The Florida Aquarium of Tampa
701 Channelside Drive
Tampa, FL 33602
Spanning more than 200,000 square feet, The Florida Aquarium of Tampa is a veritable underwater feast for the senses. Children can swim with the fish, search for dolphins on a Wild Dolphin Ecotour or check out a shark feeding. Children of all ages will find something to love at The Florida Aquarium. With more than 20,000 water plants and animals from all over the world, there is literally something new to see and do around every corner. In the popular “Swim with the Fishes,” children and adults alike spend 30 minutes getting up-close-and-personal with the inhabitants of the waters of the Florida Keys. Children must be six years or older and comfortable swimmers, and children under age nine must have a paying parent participating. Cost is $85 per person and includes entrance to the museum. Other programs include “Explore a Shore,” “Penguins: Backstage Pass,” and behind-the-scenes tours (prices vary depending on the program). Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Lowry Park Zoo
1101 West Sligh Avenue
Tampa, FL 33604
How good is Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo? For starters, both Parents magazine and Child magazine have named it the number one zoo in the country. Youngsters and adults alike will love the roughly 2,000 animals that dwell on 60 acres of natural habitats at the zoo. Among the popular attractions is the Manatee and Aquatic Center. The David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital offers a glimpse into the world of critical care for manatees that are sick, injured and even orphaned. The Lowry Park Zoo puts education and conservation among its priorities and is dedicated to providing a nature-based entertainment for families, individuals, schools, and organizations. Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What parent wouldn’t want their child to have increased confidence and have fun while building it? KidzArt fits that bill, and then some. Held at various schools throughout the Tampa area, this franchise program helps children from age two to teens learn to express themselves through a variety of artistic mediums. Kids learn drawing skills and use high quality materials and supplies for their projects. KidzArt also facilitates camps, track-out programs, fundraisers and birthday parties. Hours: Class offerings and locations vary; check the website for availability.