A gazebo under the clear blue sky in MacFarlane Park, one of the best parks in Tampa Florida

17 Best Parks in Tampa in 2023 (A Local’s Guide)

Tampa is a major metropolitan area that has many pockets of nature and greenery sprinkled throughout. The best parks in Tampa serve as a quick escape from rush hour traffic and waiting in line at the store. 

I’m a Tampa local and I’m going to go over Tampa’s most popular parks … as well as some hidden local gems! Keep reading because there is sure to be a Tampa park that sparks your interest.

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17 Best Parks in Tampa

Julian B. Lane Park

A 25-acre park near Downtown Tampa filled with beautiful greenery, sports courts, and waterfront views of Tampa’s skyline.

The author's dog wandering in Julian B. Lane Park
My dog Athena prancing around at the dog park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Julian B. Lane Website 

Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park is located on the Hillsborough River. It sits right across the water from the Stratz Center for the Performing Arts, which is one of the best things to do in Tampa

This family-friendly park has it all. For the family, there’s an epic playground and splash pad designed for children between the ages of 2 and 12 years old. For art lovers, there are beautiful murals, sculptures, and artwork. For those looking for a workout, there are various courts and athletic facilities. 

But, my favorite feature of this Tampa park is the dog park! There are two nicely maintained parks– one for small dogs and one for large dogs. It’s turf, so you don’t have to worry about mud or dirt patches which can be a common issue after Florida rainstorms. 

Hillsborough River State Park

Pack a picnic and enjoy Florida nature at this State Park located 30 minutes from Tampa.

View of a suspension bridge found in Hillsborough River State Park
A suspension bridge leading to the trailhead

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Hillsborough River State Park 

Hillsborough River State Park is located in Thonotosassa, Florida, about a 15-30 minute drive from Tampa. It’s been one of the most versatile Florida State Parks since it opened in 1938 and makes for an easy day trip from Tampa.

This oasis is open daily from 8 AM to sundown, 365 days a year. The $6 entry fee (per car) contributes to the park’s maintenance and preservation. 

Here you’ll be able to bike, hike, camp, kayak, and more. I’ve found that this particular park is a great place to spend the day with a group of friends or family because it’s spacious and there’s such a variety of amenities. There’s also plenty of parking.

Florida isn’t home to too many hiking trails, but Hillsborough River State Park definitely showcases some of the best trails that the Tampa Bay area has to offer. There are four hiking trails that total a distance of 7.3 miles. There’s a good chance that you’ll spot some animals while hiking, too!

Lettuce Lake Park

Birdwatch atop a wildlife observation tower in this North Tampa park.

A boardwalk found in Lettuce Lake Park
Florida greenery surrounds the trails

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Lettuce Lake

Lettuce Lake Park is located in North Tampa, close to the University of South Florida campus. The $2 (per car) entry fee allows you to have access to all the park’s amenities. They include hiking trails, a playground, a boardwalk, and more. 

Many waterfront parks have canoe and kayak launches but require you to bring your own boat. Lettuce Lake has canoes and kayaks for rent! Grab a friend and come kayak on the Hillsborough River. And, be sure to check out the observation tower while you’re there! It allows you to see nature from a whole new perspective.  

Upper Tampa Bay Park

A protected conservation area west of Tampa provides the opportunity to glimpse wildlife in their natural habitats. 

View of a canal that runs through Upper Tampa Bay Park
A canal that runs through the park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Upper Tampa Bay Park

Upper Tampa Bay Park is a protected conservation area located about a 30-minute drive west of Tampa. If you’re looking for a park where you have a good chance of glimpsing animals, this would be the place. 

There are three walking trails that all provide the potential to see Florida wildlife like bobcats and tortoises. All of the walking trails are less than a mile and provide easy terrain. So, if you want to bring the entire family hiking, this park definitely offers trails that can accommodate people of all ages. 

This area is also great for getting out on the water in a canoe. Many manatees and bottlenose dolphins frequent these waters. Spotting one will add some excitement to your excursion!

Al Lopez Park

A large City of Tampa park that is great for picnics, exercising, playing on the playground, and more.

View of a foot path surrounded by greenery in Al Lopez Park
A footpath in front of one of Al Lopez Park’s grassy fields

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Al Lopez Park

Al Lopez Park is a 132-acre city park located right off Himes Ave, next to Raymond James Stadium. The park features large grassy fields with tall trees scattered throughout that provide shade from the hot Florida sun. 

There are many picnic pavilions, public restrooms, and a children’s playground. A large dog park offers a sweet escape for your pup to run around in nature. But, my favorite feature of this west Tampa park is the 5-kilometer walking trail that lines its perimeter. It’s a nicely paved footpath that winds through trees and past both of the park’s lakes. It’s a great way to get some fresh air!

Water Works Park

Spend the afternoon playing in the splash pad and picnicking in this Tampa Heights park.

View from the Water Works Park in Tampa, Florida

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Water Works Park

Water Works Park is a waterfront park located in Tampa Heights. Sitting right next to Armature Works, this park is very accessible to those strolling along the Tampa Riverwalk. There’s a playground, a grassy field, and plenty of trees and greenery. 

I would consider the park’s main attraction to be the children’s splash pad. There are fountains, overhead buckets that dump water, and more. Grab a bathing suit and the family and come play in the water! 

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Sit on a grassy field in the heart of Downtown Tampa and have a picnic or watch boats float by on the river.

A water fountain found in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
A fountain at the front of Curtis Hixon Park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is a Downtown Tampa park that is centrally located to many great attractions. In fact, with its walkability and proximity to many fun things to do, if you’re planning a trip, you should definitely consider Downtown when deciding where to stay in Tampa

Sitting right next to the Tampa Museum of Art and Glazer’s Children Museum, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park provides a large, grassy field that directly overlooks the Hillsborough River. There’s also a dog park, so be sure to bring your puppy along. 

My favorite feature of this park is its urban scenery. It’s tucked between some of Tampa’s tallest buildings and it feels cool to be sitting on grass and be able to look up and see building architecture towering above you.

Lowry Park

Take a stroll or go fishing in this shady park.

The author with her dog taking a selfie during their hike in Lowry Park
Me and Athena on a hike

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Lowry Park

Lowry Park is a family-friendly park located in the Lowry Park neighborhood of Tampa. The picnic tables, public restrooms, and fishing docks all make this a great place to spend an afternoon with family or friends. 

There’s an asphalt footpath that meanders through the park. It’s shaded by large oak trees that make for a relaxing place to take an afternoon stroll. This park is also next to the Lowry Park Zoo, which is another great way to spend a day.

MacDill Park on the Riverwalk

Walk through this park and learn about military history while paying respects to military members lost in combat operations. 

View of a sign at the MacDill Park on the Riverwalk

📍 Google Maps  

MacDill Park on the Riverwalk is a small park dedicated to honoring past and present military members in Tampa Bay. There’s also a Gold Star Memorial, created to honor families that have lost a loved one in combat operations. 

While there aren’t playgrounds or beaches, I included this park on the list because it’s a good place to learn about local Tampa military history. 

MacFarlane Park

A family-friendly park in West Tampa with a fun playground. 

A gazebo under the clear blue sky in MacFarlane Park, one of the parks in Tampa
A gazebo in MacFarlane Park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 MacFarlane Park

MacFarlane Park is located in the suburbs of West Tampa. Tucked in between streets of houses, this park is great for spending an afternoon in nature with the family. 

There’s a nice walking trail with exercise equipment along its route. The trail winds its way through open grassy spaces, which are great for a picnic. There’s also an extensive children’s playground that will be sure to entertain the kids. 

Cypress Point Park

A West Tampa park with its very own beach and disc golf course!

View from the Cypress Point Park under the clear blue sky
Mangroves in front of the water

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Cypress Point Park

Cypress Point Park is the perfect place for someone looking to get out and get active! Located in West Tampa, this park has waterfront views of Tampa Bay and many fun amenities. 

Amenities include a disc golf course, a sand volleyball court, walking trails, and a playground. Spend the morning playing disc golf then lounge on the beach as you watch the sunset! 

Cypress Point Park’s parking lot can be hectic, so if you don’t like heavy traffic, I would recommend coming here during non peak hours, like early morning.

Rivercrest Park

A nice park in Seminole Heights where you can go jogging, visit the water’s edge to fish, and more. 

Two people canoeing in Rivercrest Park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Rivercrest Park

Rivercrest Park is in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. Its location right next to the Hillsborough River and its convenient canoe and kayak launch makes it an ideal place to go canoeing. Other amenities include a fitness station, a playground, and fishing docks. 

Stand on the pier and look for turtles, walk or go jogging on one of the three trails, or sit on a bench and enjoy being in nature. No matter what you do, this is one of the best places in Hillsborough County to unwind and relax.

Ballast Point Park

A peaceful place in South Tampa to fish and enjoy some fresh seafood.

A swing with a view in Ballast Point Park
A great place to watch a sunset

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Ballast Point Park

Ballast Point Park is a South Tampa park that features a fishing dock, boat ramp, and boat dock. This is one of the top parks for people looking to fish, as the fishing pier is very well-maintained. 

For families, there are playgrounds. One of which is a splash zone, so bring a bathing suit! There’s also a restaurant, Taste of Boston, where you can grab a New England-style seafood lunch. You won’t regret having visited Ballast Point.

Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park

Play with the whole family at this park located off the Tampa Riverwalk.

The author's dog resting in Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park
Athena taking a break in the shade of some trees

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park

Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park is an urban park located on Water St in the Downtown part of the city. It sits right next to the Tampa Bay History Center and is the last stop on the Tampa Riverwalk. 

While you probably won’t spot animals in nature here, you can go jogging along the river, pay respects to military service members at Heros Plaza, or go canoeing! There’s also a playground and splash pad, so definitely bring the kids along. 

There’s probably not enough to do here to make an entire day of it, but it is a noteworthy place to explore during a day spent Downtown. 

Perry Harvey Sr. Park

A beautiful Tampa park that showcases various art installations. 

View of one of the art installations in Perry Harvey Sr. Park
One of the art installations at the park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Perry Harvey Sr. Park 

Perry Harvey Sr. Park is located in the North Franklin Street Historic District, close to Downtown. This park pays homage to Perry Harvey Sr., a leader in Tampa’s civil rights movement who helped improve the lives of African Americans in Tampa in countless ways. This park is meant to honor his contributions. 

Art lovers will adore this park. Four extensive art installments depict an important story of Tampa’s history. There’s also a skate park and basketball court for those looking to get active. This park is one of my favorite places in the Tampa Bay area to sit and read. 

Picnic Island Park

Go canoeing or explore the beach with your dog in this waterfront park. 

View from the Picnic Island Park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Picnic Island Park

Picnic Island Park is a South Tampa park that has it all. There’s a boat ramp, fishing pier, and one of the top beaches in Tampa. For individuals looking to work out, there’s a disc golf course, volleyball court, canoe and kayak launch, and dog beach. 

If you are looking for a beach day without having to make the drive to St. Petersburg or Clearwater, then I would recommend taking a visit to Picnic Island Park.  

Flatwoods Park

A park just north of Tampa that is excellent for long-distance runners, bikers, and skaters.

A biking trail found in Flatwoods Park

📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Flatwoods Park

Flatwoods Park is located in Thonotosassa, about a 15-30 minute drive from the city. This nature park is most known for its 7-mile paved trail. It’s my favorite place in Tampa to ride my bike. This trail is also excellent for inline skaters!

Flatwoods Park also features a bird-watching site, public restrooms, and picnic areas. Dogs are welcome. The 7-mile trail is one large loop, so if you plan on running or walking on it, make sure you have ample water and supplies for yourself and any companions.  

👉 Pro Tip: Consider investing in a CamelBak if you’re going to try a long-distance hike. I personally use the CamelBak Arete 14.

FAQs About the Best Parks in Tampa

What are the best parks in Tampa for dogs?

Tampa has many dog-friendly parks. Julian B. Lane Park and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park both offer dog parks in Tampa’s Downtown area. Al Lopez Park provides a large, shady dog park that is centrally located in West Tampa. For dogs that love to swim, visit the dog beach at Picnic Island Park

What are the best parks in Tampa for children? 

Many parks in Tampa were designed with children in mind. Water Works Park features an elaborate splash park that is perfect for cooling off and having fun in the hot Florida sun. Julian B Lane Park also offers multiple playgrounds that are well-maintained. 


That’s it for this guide to the best parks in Tampa. When you’re in a bustling city, it’s important to take time to connect with nature. I hope you found a park or two on this list that you are eager to visit!

Next, check out my article on the best restaurants in Tampa.

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