Who doesn't love a park? All that room to run around, lots of great shade trees, and plenty of places to enjoy a relaxing picnic. Visitors and locals with children especially enjoy trips to the park, so it's nice to know that Tampa and the County of Hillsborough offer lots of parkland for individuals of all ages to explore.
In all of Hillsborough County, there are more than 80 regional parks offering a wide variety of amenities, from ball fields to childrens' playgrounds to boat ramps. In the city of Tampa alone, visitors will find about three dozen of those regional parks, and the city's recreation department operates several dozen as well, including those with pools and community centers.
The parks, overseen by either the city or the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department, vary quite a bit. Some are quite small with just a few pieces of playground equipment suitable for little ones while others boast extensive facilities like tennis and basketball courts, picnic shelters, and more. The use of all regional and city parks is free with the possible exception of classes and other events held at recreation department community centers.
City Parks of Note
If you're searching for a park with a particular amenity, here's a good reference list of some of the area's most notable green spaces.
- Al Lopez Park – This lovely 126-acre park offers tons of things to do and lots of pretty scenery, including two ponds, one of which is suitable for fishing. You'll also find trails, ball fields, a dog park, picnic area with grills, and the Hunt Community Center, which offers classes and activities for all ages.
- Ballast Point Park – Kids love this park's "space age" playground equipment, but adults enjoy the opportunity to walk along the water or enjoy a picnic or a snack from the concession stand. There's also a boat ramp at this park, and the onsite Joe Abrahams Fitness and Wellness Center offers a variety of classes on weekdays.
- Copeland Park Recreation Complex – This complex offers just about everything you'd want in a park, including trails that traverse beautiful Florida landscape, tennis courts, playgrounds, ball fields, and even a pool.
- Gadsden Park – Considered one of Tampa's major parks, Gadsden Park is home to one of the city's "Greenway Trails" – the 1.47 acre MacDill Trail – great for joggers or those just out for a stroll. There's also a separate dog park and plenty of picnic shelters.
- Lowry Park – Across from the Lowry Park Zoo, this pretty city park is home to the .9 mile paved Lowry Park Trail, which carries hikers, joggers, skaters, or walkers along the riverfront and through beautiful groves of oak trees. Other amenities include fishing docks and a canoe and boat launch.
- Picnic Island Beach – Though not technically a park, this beach is part of the parks system. If offers 7.8 acres of beach access and visitors can fish from the pier or explore the Picnic Island Bayou.
- Rowlett Park – This city park lists the most amenities of any of the area parks, including a street hockey area, tennis courts, 2 miles of asphalt trails, several nature trails, fitness stations, a playground, and a canoe launch.
Regional Parks of Note
Not far from the city of Tampa, visitors will find a number of additional county parks that provide plenty of outdoor entertainment. They include:
- E.G. Simmons Park – Located on Tampa Bay in nearby Ruskin, this popular park features 469 acres and provides a public beach, boat launch, and fishing piers. The surrounding mangrove swamps are also an ideal place for birdwatching.
- Edward Medard Park – Located in Plant City, this park sits on a reservoir that has become a favorite freshwater fishing spot for locals. You can also camp here or enjoy the equestrian trails. There's also a boardwalk that leads to a small but fun observation tower situated on a small island within the reservoir.
- Lake Park – It's easy to see how this park, located in the town of Lutz, gets its name. Within this 600-acre park are five lakes, all suitable for fishing. This park also offers a number of unusual amenities, including a BMX track, a radio-controlled car track, and an archery range. In addition, there's a large equestrian facility onsite and rodeos are often staged at Lake Park.
- Trout Creek Park – Locals and visitors who enjoy off-road biking should head to Trout Creek for its picturesque and sometimes challenging off-road trails. Park guests can also go fishing or canoeing or walk along one of the park's many nature trails. Located in Thonotosassa.
- Wilderness Park – Also in Thonotosassa, Wilderness Park offers bike and inline skating paths, a boat ramp and canoe launch, hiking/nature trails, and picnic areas.