I never truly appreciated the parks in Tampa Bay prior to having a kid. Post motherhood, the parks system in Tampa Bay is an intricate map of destinations that I can use to tire out a toddler and guarantee a nice, long nap. The parks in our cities are outstanding for families. Exploring the city parks has been an activity my son and I have been doing since he was born. And there’s no shortage of great outdoor play spaces and nature trails to keep us both busy. Check out these best Tampa Bay parks for kids and families.

Ballast Point Park

You can see the entire skyline of Downtown Tampa from the pier at Ballast Point Park, located off of Bayshore Boulevard in South Tampa. This park has been a staple of families for generations. The park appeals to the kids because of the splash pad and large playground, and the pier for families that enjoy fishing (or running up and down, like my wild kid). After playing in the toddler section of the playground, he usually leads me towards the restaurant located in the park, where he knows they sell ice cream. There is a bait shop conveniently located at the pier as well.

Curtis Hixon Park 

Curtis Hixon Park is just one park on the 2.4-mile-long pedestrian walkway called Tampa Riverwalk, located in Downtown Tampa. The park features a sprawling lawn with a view of The University of Tampa and is host to many family events and concerts throughout the year. The waterfront portion of the park has a playground as well as a splash pad, while the street side of the park has another fountain to splash in. There is also a water taxi station that connects with various locations off of the Hillsborough River. A short walk down the Riverwalk will take you to Waterworks Park, a large splash park for kids of all ages.

Al Lopez Park

With 132 acres of beautiful Florida wildlife and nature, Al Lopez Park in West Tampa is the best place to take the kids to get out ALL of their energy. Families can enjoy the multiple playgrounds spread throughout the park, as well as a freshwater pond, dog park, and bike trails. My family loves to walk the Greenways Trail which features a shaded boardwalk with rest stops and picnic benches along the route.

Kate Jackson Park

Located in Hyde Park, Kate Jackson Park features both a large playground and a splash pad fountain.  What makes this park such a gem is its proximity to Old Hyde Park Village. I usually use street parking alongside the park, but there is a free parking garage located a short walk away. After we are done at the park, we can walk over to Old Hyde Park village for cupcakes or a cold drink. It is also the home of Reliquary. A public art installation collaboration by Lorraine Genovar, Richard Penza Jr, and Wayne Fernandez.

Rivercrest Park 

A favorite South Tampa park located just south of Hyde Park Village. So much fun to venture down to this park and bring a lunch, bathing suits and a bike or scooter for the kids. They have so many things to do for kids. Basketball court, a splash pad, playground and a recreation center that often has classes for kids too! A place to eat is nearby and Hyde Park Village is such a fun place to walk around as well!

Lowry Park 

Located in Seminole Heights and not too well known. Bring your bike as the bike path is my favorite part of this park! (It is where all my kids learned to ride!) The path will take you down by the Hillsborough River and the playground is always fun for everyone! This park is located right across the street from Lowry Park Zoo. This park is just off the Hillsborough River and is within walking distance to the zoo. There are a few playgrounds and lots of shelters for parties and gatherings. The park has nature paths that are super fun to walk through.

It’s no wonder that Tampa Parks and Recreation has recently been named a finalist for the 2018 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management by the American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration. Do yourself and your sanity a favor by taking advantage of all of the free outdoor activities for kids and families that the parks in Tampa Bay have to offer.

Share with us what you think are the best Tampa Bay parks for kids and families!

Rose is constantly exploring the world with her son, Vincent, and partner of twenty years, Melissa. After moving to the Tampa Bay area to attend The University of Tampa where she graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Music, she worked various financial jobs until one fateful trip to Hawaii where she decided that she wanted to change courses and pursue her passions in life. She has since completed her first published work of fiction, The Skin Underneath. Continuing to travel and write despite the lifestyle adjustment that is parenthood, you can follow her exploits as the full-time caregiver of her three-year-old prince as Rosiethewrecker on Instagram. You can find her published work at