Did you know that Tampa was ranked as one of America’s best picnic spots by Travel + Leisure magazine? And it’s no wonder! Tampa parks are beautifully scenic and perfect for an afternoon picnic! And with July being National Picnic Month (yep, that’s a thing), now’s the perfect time to find a plot of shade to enjoy an open-air feast.
Tampa parks serve up huge helpings of year-round sunshine, sweeping waterfront views and beautiful flora. Drizzle in fascinating wildlife and captivating sunsets and you have the perfect recipe for a romantic picnic date. So grab your picnic basket filled with homemade or neighborhood bites and head for the park.
Here are our five favorite spots for the perfect picnic date in and around Tampa:
1. Lettuce Lake Park
Once a cattle-grazing pasture, Lettuce Lake Park is a pastoral oasis located on the scenic Hillsborough River. This pristine public park is home to 240 acres of breathtaking hues and views. Nature lovers can enjoy lush mangrove forests with sprawling foliage (a maple tree with crimson leaves on the trail is the favorite) and a 350-foot wooden boardwalk winding through the trees featuring observation tower for a birds-eye view of the water and a panoramic view of the flood plain forest. The park is packed with plenty of places to picnic—big lawn spaces, sheltered picnic areas, abundant tables and shady trees. Rent a canoe and have a picnic on the water! Wildlife spotted includes scarlet spoonbills, egrets, ibis, alligators and a barred owl that hangs in a tree at the north end of the boardwalk. $2 entrance fee.
2. Honeymoon Island State Park
The name says it all. Honeymoon Island State Park is a romantic undeveloped barrier island off the Dunedin Causeway right on the Gulf of Mexico. This glorious nature-inspired state park is home to 385 acres of raw natural beauty, including four miles of pristine white sands, stunning mangroves, tidal flats, a slash pine forest and a 2.5-mile Osprey trail ideal for bird watching. The beach is the perfect place to throw down a blanket for a romantic picnic, but there are plenty of other spaces to nosh if you don’t like the sand. Pick up a bottle of wine and fish and chips at the cafe which also rents kayaks, bikes and beach chairs. You’ll love walking hand-in-hand along the warm Gulf waters with someone special. A perfect day! Parking is $8.
3. Vinoy Park
Situated on the downtown waterfront in St. Pete, Vinoy Park boasts 11.6 acres of beautifully manicured open green spaces. You’ll see bayside trails, jogging paths, and romantic nooks sprinkled throughout the park. This lovely park features year-round music festivals, art shows, and sporting events. But the bottlenose dolphins and pelicans by the sea wall are the real showstoppers. Sit on the wall in the afternoon and watch the dolphins swim up to you and frolic beneath your feet. If you stay until sunset, gaze at the brilliant hues in the sky that carve through gorgeous Tampa Bay and admire the St. Pete skyline. It will be a day worth remembering.
4. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
With sweeping views of the waterfront and steps from the Tampa River Walk, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park offers abundant open-air breezes for your romantic picnic. Peppered with towering palms and rushing fountains, this picturesque public park draws many couples to its beautiful green-filled space. Claim your spot near the water and view the enormous cruise ships in the bay. Currently, the park offers free yoga on Sundays at 6pm and hosts several weekend events. Take a romantic stroll on the Riverwalk and pick up a decadent dessert to share at Cold Stone Creamery. A great time for romantics guaranteed.
5. North Straub Park
Located on the downtown waterfront in St. Pete, this grassy refuge boasts glorious bay views. North Straub Park hosts music festivals and events year round, but the real stars are two fairytale-like Banyan trees that are right out of the Wizard of Oz. Open-air dining enthusiasts can be spotted picnicking on the grass, benches, and snuggling under shady trees. Watch the boats sail into the marina and dolphins play in the bay. After you eat, rent bicycles and work off your lunch on the bike path. You can avoid weekend parking and take the trolley for only 50 cents.
Feature image credit: Matthew Paulson
Location: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park