Take a boat ride alongside playful dolphins at the Florida Aquarium.
Photo: courtesy Visit St. Pete Clearwater
Photo: courtesy Visit St. Pete Clearwater

5 things to do in Tampa Bay with the family

TripAdvisor released its 2016 Travelers' Choice Awards for top American Beaches and three Tampa Bay beaches rank ranked in the top 5, even beating out Hawaii's beaches. Clearwater Beach came in first, Siesta Beach was third and St. Petersburg Beach at fourth place. Nearly 105 million visitors made the trip to those Florida beaches in 2015, and the appeal is its affordable and casual environment. But beyond your sandy days in the sun, here's five more ideas on how to entertain your family while in the Tampa Bay area.

Busch Gardens

There's a reason why Busch Gardens is world famous. With live entertainment, roller coasters and one of the nation's greatest zoos with 12,000 creatures, this place is more than an ordinary amusement park. It's also home to North America's tallest freestanding drop tower, Hawk's Fury. The newest addition to the park is the Egyptian-themed Cobra's Curse Spin Coaster.

Busch Gardens, 10165 McKinley Drive, Tampa. 888-800-5447

Lowry Park Zoo

If you're looking for a less crowded park, check out Lowry Park Zoo. Rated as one of the top zoos in North America, about 2,000 animals live there -- from African elephants to Queensland koala bears and Florida panthers to Bornean orangutans. Live shows and educational programs make it a special way to experience the animals.

Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. 813-935-8552

Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium is also considered one of the best in the country. Experience sharks, lemurs, penguins and other animals up close with interactive tanks. To boost your adventure, you can dive with the sharks and take a boat ride alongside playful dolphins on the Wild Dolphin Tour.

Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. 813-273-4000

Glazer Children's Museum

Glazer Children's Museum is perfect for the younger children, with 17 themed areas that will keep them entertained for hours. Kids 10 and under will have so much fun playing in its 170 interactive exhibitions – which include a fire truck, flight simulator, TV studio and veterinary clinic. The best part for parents it that they will be learning while they play.

Glazer Children's Museum, 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. 813-443-3861

Coast Bike Share

There are rumors that Atlanta plans to launch a bike share program in 2016, but for families who want to give the idea a try, go for the Coast Bikes in Tampa. Sign up with an app on your cellphone to book a bike, walk up to the rack and start riding. There's 300 bikes available across 30 locations, including Downtown, Ybor City and Hyde Park. Take the bikes along the Tampa Riverwalk or follow the banks of the Hillsborough River, which connect museums and picturesque parks.

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