Heading on a cruise from Tampa? Ready to hit the high seas for four, five, or seven days and nights in the tropics? Looking for things to do before or after a cruise from the Port of Tampa Bay? You've come to the right place! Our goal is to show you some of the sights, sounds, and smells close to where you'll embark or return from your ocean journey. We'll keep you close to the Channel District docks, as everything here is within walking distance for anyone before or after their cruise from Tampa.

Maybe you've arrived in Tampa a day early and decided to stay a night at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. Check the NHL schedule and take in a Tampa Bay Lightning game at Amalie Arena if they're in town. The Bolts have become a part of the fabric of the city, which is incredible considering the nearest annual snow is generally hundreds of miles away. Stop by The Patio on the west side of the stadium pregame, and suck up the atmosphere even if you don't have a game ticket. There are bands and brews out there before most events in the arena, including concerts.

Looking for a little culture and education before a week of sipping Pina Coladas and taking selfies from pool cabanas? Check out the Tampa Bay History Center or the Tampa Museum of Art, both within a short walking distance from the Port. The History Center is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate and rotates temporary exhibitions alongside their permanent display with a focus on 12,000 years of Florida history. The Museum of Art opened their new facility in 2010, which brings the finest in the visual arts via touring exhibitions, as well as an impressive standing collection.

Be sure to stop by Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park next door as well, it's one of the gems of the city with an unsurpassed view of the Hillsborough River and the famous minarets at the University of Tampa. You very well might see a manatee swim by next to a rowing team, and with a huge grass open space it's the site of concerts and events all year round (thanks to Tampa's year-round excellent weather!).

If nature is your thing, the Florida Aquarium is right next to where your ship will park, and is not to be missed. One of the best aquariums in the country, their on-site habitats include a natural wetlands environment as well as a coral reef ecosystem with 500,000 gallons of natural seawater. As a bonus, the Aquarium will hold luggage for passengers scheduled to leave for or returning from a cruise at no charge! You can have your kids write down all the sea life they see at the aquarium, then see if they can recognize any of them in a more natural habitat when you take a boat ride across the river on the Pirate Water Taxi.

Up for a different look at the Tampa Bay area? Hop on the TECO Line Streetcar System to Ybor City and enjoy a Cuban sandwich and 1905 Salad from the legendary Columbia Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Florida. The paella is as legendary as their Flamenco Dancers that appear on weekend nights. La Columbia is an integral part of the history of Tampa, with tuxedo-wearing waiters bringing you the finest in Spanish cuisine. 

While you're in Ybor, grab some suds from one of the local breweries such Rock Brothers Brewing Company or Tampa Bay Brewing Company, and enjoy a fresh-rolled stogie from Tabanero Cigars or anyone of the other smoke shops here in Cigar City. This was a town built on immigrants from across the world coming to work in the tobacco industry, and it remains a treasured part of the culture beloved by Tampanians.

Need more Ybor adventures? Try to conquer the challenge of Mouse Trap Escape Rooms, and then eat at Cheezy's Bistro and Speakeasy as a reward. Cheezy's is part fantastic Italian dining, part game room for adults, and part speakeasy, making it as eclectic and fun as the neighborhood it calls home.

If you brought the kids for a family vacation, there's also plenty of things to do downtown. A field trip to the Glazer Children's Museum gives the little ones a massive play space that's both interactive and educational. They can become a drop of water as it journeys from a puddle to the ocean, or even be a worker or shopper in their own supermarket. 

And sometimes the party can't wait for the ship to set sail, so enjoy an early happy hour at The Sail Pavilion on Old Water Blvd. The outdoor bar overlooks the river, which makes for glorious sunsets under flawless Florida weather. And their specialty drinks will get you ready for the real party to begin.

Bon voyage, and don't forget to send us a postcard!

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Photo from Wikimedia of the Carnival Inspiration. Corey Long was a contributor to this article.