5 Hidden Experiences in the Tampa Bay Area

Maybe you’re the kind of person who likes to find the hidden gems and experiences that aren’t typical tourist attractions. Whether bizarre, historical, or unique–you love discovering what isn’t often listed in travel brochures that only the locals know about…or do they? If you’re traveling to the Tampa Bay area for a getaway or vacation, here are five lesser known experiences that are all within driving distance of Tampa, make fun day trips, and are a blast from the past!

Parque Amigos de Jose Marti

Photo credit: https://www.visittampabay.com

Tampa is known for its Cuban influence.  Before the communist revolution, this small piece of land was donated by America to the Estado Cubano (Republic of Cuba) and, despite complicated political tensions, continues to remain property of Cuba.  That means that whenever you enter Parque Amigos de Jose Marti (Friends of Jose Marti Park), you are momentarily stepping outside of the United States and onto Cuban land.  This small park contains soil from each of Cuba’s provinces, and also boasts the statues of Jose Julian Marti Perez, and Jose Antonio de la Caridad Maceo y Grajales who fought for Cuban independence.  This park is normally open Monday to Friday from 8:00am-1:30pm.

Henry B. Plant Museum

Photo credit: https://www.visittampabay.com

Home now to the University of Tampa, it’s hard to miss the beautiful Moorish Revival style building overlooking the Hillsborough River that was constructed by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant back in 1891.  Originally built as a luxury hotel to attract well-traveled holiday makers of the age with its lavish extravagances, it had electricity, telephones, extensive gardens, a golf course, tennis courts, hunting and fishing facilities, a heated swimming pool, a spa, a bowling alley, stables, a race track, and a 2000-seat casino.  The hotel eventually closed down in 1930, but a portion of the property is kept preserved as a museum to tour and see many of the artifacts left from the glory days of the original hotel. 

Pinecraft (Amish Community)

Photo credit: Eddie Kirsch / Visit Sarasota County

Heading south to Sarasota, you might be surprised to stumble upon the Pinecraft community where the Amish and Mennonites have established as a Florida hub. The community is known for its crafts, furniture, and of course food. If you’re hungry you better head on over to Yoder’s Restaurant for genuine Amish dishes and desserts.  Did someone say homemade pie? Oh yeah, almost all our posts mention pie somehow!

Tarpon Springs Epiphany Celebration

Photo credit: https://www.baynews9.com/

Florida is often a popular destination during the winter months, and especially during Christmas.  But after December 25th, what is there to do? Up the coast you’ll find the lovely community of Tarpon Springs–a very popular tourist destination where Greek residents have been diving for sea sponges for generations.  Because of the strong Greek Orthodox population, the celebration of Epiphany (Theophany) on January 6th is huge, and the entire city joins in the festivities.  One of these traditions even includes a priest tossing a cross into the waters for a group of young divers to compete to fetch out of the chilly waters. The winner receives a yearlong maritime blessing.  So if you’re in the area on January 6th, this may be something you don’t want to miss!

The Hacienda Hotel

Photo credit: https://www.cityofnewportrichey.org/gallery/the-hacienda/

In the once sleepy city of New Port Richey, there is all new buzz about the reopening of Hacienda Hotel–the onetime destination for celebrities of the early 1920’s to stay and enjoy the exotic beauty of Florida.  Some of these celebrities included Irving Berlin, Ed Wynn, and many others from the silent film era.  The refurbishments and renovations should be complete for the hotel to open as early as Fall 2021! 

Want to discover more of what Tampa Bay has to offer? SerVacations offers exciting single-day and multi-day vacations for families, couples, groups of all ages, and seniors! We offer custom volunteer vacations where you serve at local non-profits in the morning and see all the sights in the afternoon. If you are interested in visiting the Plant Museum, it will be featured on our upcoming 2021 Christmas Serve & Stroll Itinerary!

Group Size
12 to 50

Homeschool Multi-Day SerVacations

Let us provide your homeschool group’s families with the opportunity to bring learning to life by discovering history, literature, science, and engineering in the places they actually happened! Mom’s and Dad’s can relax and leave the driving to us. With deluxe transportation provided, you can focus on having fun as a family and see more in the same amount of time. Below are some tour itineraries that are pre-designed with homeschool groups in mind, but we can also customize a tour to the destination of your choice. We will be adding new tours on a weekly basis, so keep checking back for new ideas!

Group leaders, we can help make the planning seamless for you whether your are looking to fly or bus from your area, or if you wish to let everyone make their own travel arrangements and meet in destination at the group hotel. Give us a call or contact us by filling out the inquiry form to the right telling us what trips you might be interested in and a possible timeframe, and we’ll be back in touch shortly with a sample itinerary to help you plan a vacation that’s sure to please all your families!

8 days
Group Size
24 to 40

Father's Day Baseball Lovers Tour of the Heartland! June 12-19, 2024

Make it the best Father's Day ever by traveling the Midwest with dad, enjoying sightseeing, shows, watching baseball, volunteering, and experiencing the best of American hospitality! Families will experience all the best sightseeing in “The Windy City” of Chicago, take a behind-the-scenes tour at historic Wrigley Field, and enjoy a Cubs game! Then you will head to Des Moines, IA for a Volunteer Service Opportunity and a AAA Iowa Cubs game, stopping at the World’s Largest Truck Stop and going to a show! Take a day trip to visit Omaha, Nebraska and the College World Series, home to legendary investor Warren Buffett and the largest city in Nebraska! We’ll then head on to Dyersville, IA to play ball on the Field of Dreams and tour the famous movie site before doing some sightseeing in Galena and Rockford, IL (to learn about the Rockford Peaches made famous in the movie “A League of their Own,”) while heading back to Chicago for the flight home!

* The itinerary below is based on last year’s schedule. Games and theater shows will be selected based on scheduling and availability.

Group Size
10 to 50

Homeschool Family Day Trips in Central Florida

Are you looking for meaningful , curriculum-based travel experiences with hands-on learning opportunities? Desire to show your children the importance of giving back? Our homeschool day trips combine volunteering and vacation into one, and are a unique and engaging way to supplement their classroom learning. By participating in volunteer vacations with SerVacations you are not only providing your children with unforgettable travels, but you are also instilling valuable lessons about community-building and service. And it’s not just a vacation for the kids! Parents and grandparents love the opportunity to relax for the day, meet other homeschool families, and experience new things through their children’s’ eyes.

Group Leaders, please check out some of our sample tour destinations below. Tell us what you’re interested in by clicking “Ask A Question” to the right and we’ll be in touch with pricing, details, and availability, or call us at 813-498-2229 to get started planning your group’s tour. We provide you with a private URL for your tour, and take care of all the registration and payment for your group. We are adding new itineraries every week. If you have a location in mind, please let us know!