Food, Fun, and Flights: Visit the Airport with TPA All Access

Tampa International Airport’s TPA All Access program lets you visit the airport without having to buy a plane ticket! Gather the family and go check out some airplanes!

Watching planes at Tampa International Airport
Let’s visit the airport and see some planes!

Growing up in Tampa, my brothers and I loved going to the airport when friends and family came to town. We’d wander the shops, ride the shuttle back and forth, and stare out the huge windows at the planes coming and going.

And then 9/11 happened. With heightened security efforts, simply enjoying the airport became a relic of our childhood.

But Tampa International Airport brought back those long-lost memories with TPA All Access, a free service that allows you to gain access to areas of the airport beyond security. But this time, we’re not traveling with the little ones – we’re just checking out all that our hometown airport has to offer!

Recently, my family took advantage of TPA All Access, so I’m here to help you get through it with flying colors. Essentially, all you need is a reservation, a photo ID and a sense of adventure to visit the airport again.

Planning to Visit the Airport

Before you get started, let’s talk about logistics. Tampa International Airport’s layout features a main terminal surrounded by “airsides” that house the airlines and gates. Passengers travel to each airside on a shuttle reminiscent of the Walt Disney World monorail. Normally, you need an airline ticket and boarding pass to get on the shuttle to the airsides. Now, TPA All Access basically serves as a substitute for your boarding pass so you can hop aboard the shuttle.

In addition to the airline gates, each airside also has its own unique shops and restaurants. So if you’d like to tip back an authentic Irish pint when you visit the airport, hit Four Green Fields at Airside E. Want to sample the sweet offerings at Tampa’s only location of the famous Dylan’s Candy Bar? Choose Airside A. Check out the list of what’s available at all the airsides before you visit the airport.

Cigar City Brewing at Tampa International Airport
Did you know that Tampa International Airport is home to North America’s only working brewpub in an airport? Check out Tampa’s own Cigar City Brewing at Airside C!

Reserve Your Spot and Go!

At the time of this writing, TPA All Access is only offered on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with 25 slots per airside available. In order to secure your spot, just go to the TPA All Access registration page on the airport website. From there, choose a date and the airside you’d like to visit, then enter the names of everyone in your party. Afterward, you’ll receive a confirmation, and you’re ready to visit the airport!

For our visit, my family decided to park in the new economy parking garage located near the airport post office. That way, we got to ride on the brand new SkyConnect train to the main terminal. It’s a quick and scenic ride, and arriving at the beautiful SkyConnect lobby was an amazing start to our visit to the airport.

SkyConnect train at Tampa International Airport
The SkyConnect trains whisk you from the economy parking garage to the main terminal. The kids will love this ride!

Once inside the main terminal, look for the information desk. That’s where you need to show your confirmation email and provide your photo ID. Each person in your party will receive a pass that you’ll show to get through security. Also, keep in mind that you must follow the same security procedures as ticketed passengers. For instance, that means no weapons of any kind, no liquids over 3.4 ounces, and you should be ready to slip off your shoes.

Information desk at Tampa International Airport
Bring your confirmation and your ID to the information desk to get your pass to the gates.

Eating, Shopping, and Planespotting at the Airsides

After passing through security, your adventure begins! This time, we chose Airside C for our visit to the airport. While there, we browsed the shops and enjoyed lunch at Rumfish Grill. Ever the social media maven, of course I tweeted about our “travels” (even though we weren’t actually going anywhere!).

Shuttle to Airside C at Tampa International Airport
Each airside has a letter designation. Look for the letter for the airside you’ve chosen, then hop aboard the shuttle to the gates.

But the best part? The planes! My son got a kick out of watching the planes coming and going, just like my brothers and I had when we were kids. Plus, we took a look at the arrivals and departures board and talked about where we might go one day.

TPA All Access - Plane Landing
TPA All Access - Arrivals Board
TPA All Access - Arriving at Main Terminal
TPA All Access - Turtle Art

All in all, TPA All Access is a fun way to visit the airport while staying firmly planted on the ground!

Kathy’s family moved to Tampa when she was 5, and aside from a few years at the University of Florida (Go Gators!), she’s never lived anywhere else. She’s Irish by heritage, Greek by marriage, and mom to one brilliant little boy. She’s an avid sports fan and lived her Disney-geek dream as a member of the 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel. A former TV producer and PR pro, Kathy now proudly sports the title of stay-at-home mom. Follow her sports-loving, Disneyfied, Tampa-centric antics on Twitter @kathyk671.