Sandy beaches and fun in the sun are not the only reasons to visit Tampa Bay and the cities surrounding Tampa. A short afternoon drive will take visitors to places like Fort Myers, Anna Maria Island, Caladesi Island and Mount Dora. Shopping, swimming with manatees, spending the day at a day spa or hunting for sea shells are all great adventures awaiting visitors to Tampa and its surrounding cities.
Tampa

Although Tampa is well-known for the Busch Gardens amusement park, there are many other things to do in Tampa. The Seminole Hard Rock Casino is a great place to visit for a night of gambling. Or take a tour of the American Victory Museum, an authentic World War II ship. Visitors can also take a walking tour of downtown Tampa and see all of the beautiful architecture of many of the buildings.

For a nice, relaxing evening after sight-seeing, check out the Westin Harbour Island hotel. This luxurious hotel is more like a private waterfront retreat than a downtown hotel. Westin Harbour Island hotel is within walking distance of the Tampa Bay Times Forum and just minutes away from the Florida Aquarium. Just a short drive away are the beautiful beaches of Clearwater and the Tampa Airport. The Westin Harbour Island hotel has its own restaurant, outdoor heated pool, athletic club and workout fitness studio, and bar. This hotel is pet friendly and even has a covered parking area where guests can park their cars. Check out the website here.

Clearwater

Clearwater’s claim to fame is its beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear water. But there are other great things to see and do in Clearwater. The Sunset at Pier 60 is a celebration of fun that takes place every night as the sun prepares to set in the evening. This free event features artists, craft makers, live music and more. Visitors can also take a boat ride and tour the area, or climb aboard a pirate ship where visitors can go on a treasure hunt, line dance with the crew or take part in a water pistol fight. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a popular attraction for visitors to Clearwater. See the home of Winter, the dolphin, or have a “hands on” experience with the loggerhead sea turtles, river otters, sting rays and many other sea creatures.

After a fun-filled day at the beach or at the local attractions in Clearwater, it’s time to relax by the pool at a nice hotel. The Residence Inn by Marriott is located just a short drive away from the pristine beaches of Clearwater Beach. This fine hotel is easy on the budget while supplying many of the same amenities of similar hotels in the area. Residence Inn is close to Adventure Island, Tropicana Field and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. For more information on Residence Inn, click here.

Sarasota

Although Sarasota is an hour drive from downtown Tampa, it is worth the drive for all of the fun and adventures to be had in Sarasota. Visit the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens , the Ringling Brothers Circus Museum and Art Museum, Mote Aquarium, Sarasota Jungle Gardens and the many theatres and symphony halls around town. There are several beaches and islands in the Sarasota area to visit for swimming, fishing, snorkeling, boating or just lying on the beach for a nice suntan.

The Hyatt Regency Sarasota is a beachside hotel with a pool, a 32-slip marina and all of the amenities of the pricier hotels in the area. Some of the rooms at this lovely hotel are just steps away from the beach. There is also a restaurant right at the hotel, and a yacht that can be rented for private use. Click here for more information on booking a room at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota.

Related: Memorial Day Vacay: Best 3-Day Weekend Getaway Spots

Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island boasts swimming, sunbathing, hunting for sea shells and lots of beachfront for the little ones to build sand castles. There are also day spas on the island that can provide visitors with massages, yoga, waxing, nail care, acupuncture and more. Visitors to the island can rent a bike to ride around the island, rent a scooter or just hike along the hiking trails on the island. For the more adventurous, there is para-sailing, scuba diving and snorkeling.

No getaway would be complete without a nice hotel. The Blue Dolphin Inn is at the northern tip of Anna Maria Island. There is a heated pool, a tiki bar and a rooftop observation deck. Only one block from the ocean, the Blue Dolphin Inn can provide visitors with a nice, secluded hideaway on your fall getaway. Click here for more information on the Blue Dolphin Inn.

Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island is one of the few islands that can boast that it has its own state park right on the island. This is an all natural island, no man-made beaches here, that consists of 650 acres of mangroves, walking trails and wildlife. Visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, hike a three-mile trail, rent a kayak and explore the outer edges of the island, or go snorkeling. The park itself is only accessible by boat and has boat slips for visitors who bring their own boat. The Caldesi Island Ferry provides inexpensive transportation to and from Caldesi Island State Park.

Barefoot Bay Resort and Marina is a short three-minute walk to the beautiful Gulf waters near Caladesi Island. This hotel is close to shopping, attractions like the Clearwater Aquarium and local bars. A heated pool, a marina and boat or jet ski rentals are just a few of the special amenities offered at this hotel. Guests can also fish for their supper at the hotel’s marina, and then cook their catch on a grill at the hotel. For a map of the area and room rates, click here.

Related: Best Weekend Getaways In The Tampa Bay Area

Katherine Bostick is a freelance writer covering all things Tampa Bay. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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