Family Life in South Tampa: Top Schools, Parks, and Attractions

Family Life in South Tampa: Top Schools, Parks, and Attractions

  • The Sails Team
  • 03/14/24

Among the many great neighborhoods that populate the Tampa region, South Tampa on the Interbay Peninsula is among the most unique and culturally rich areas to call homes. Extending south from Kennedy Boulevard to MacDill Air Force Base and flanked by Hillsborough Bay to the east and Old Tampa Bay to the west, South Tampa is renowned for its eclectic mix of neighborhoods, sprawling estates, and meticulously landscaped boulevards.

It's an especially great find for families searching for a luxury lifestyle with the perfect blend of education and outdoor recreation, including verdant parks, more than 15 miles of coastline, and captivating attractions. Whatever amenities you and your family require, you'll find everything you need in South Tampa.

Below, we explore family life in South Tampa, showcasing the top schools, parks, and attractions and why it's one of the region's most south-after communities.

Top schools in South Tampa

Education is central to South Tampa's family-friendly lifestyle. Even those without children will appreciate the community's strong commitment to education, its impact on home values, and the attractiveness of the area's neighborhoods. The community is home to an array of private and public institutions that engage curious minds and foster academic excellence and holistic development.

Public schools

Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) serves the entirety of the City of Tampa, including the neighborhoods in South Tampa. More than 375 schools comprise the district across all grade levels, with the South Tampa community featuring many of HCPS's most outstanding schools.
Elementary schools
There are 12 HCPS elementary schools located throughout South Tampa, each providing the area's youngest students a fully formed, foundational education. The most notable among these schools include:

  • Grady Elementary School
  • Mitchell Elementary School
  • Mabry Elementary School
  • Roosevelt Elementary School
  • Ballast Point Elementary School
Middle schools
Similarly, the HCPS middle schools in South Tampa are outstanding institutions that help students navigate their early teens while preparing for the challenges of high school. Five middle schools serve grades 6th through 8th, with a sixth school on MacDill Air Force Base, which includes grades K through 8th. The most sought-after among these include:

  • Wilson Middle School
  • Coleman Middle School
  • Tinker K-8 School
High schools
There are 33 HCPS high schools, and South Tampa is fortunate enough to possess what are widely considered the two best 9th through 12th-grade institutions in the district.
Plant High School
Considered the top high school in the HCPS district and among the top two in the entire region, including Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Plant High School is lauded for its robust Advanced Placement program and many extracurricular activities catering to various interests. Its commitment to fostering a well-rounded education has repeatedly made it a top choice for families. Plant High's 31-acre campus is in South Tampa's Palma Ceia neighborhood.
Robinson High School
Robinson High School is five miles south of Plant High School in the Gandy-Sun Bay South neighborhood. It is also a top-ten high school in the Tampa-St. Petersburg region and is widely known for its excellent, award-winning International Baccalaureate program.

Private Schools

South Tampa is home to multiple private institutions, all of which are easily accessible by the entirety of the community.
Tampa Preparatory
Notable as Tampa's only college prep school for both middle and high school students, grades 6 through 12, Tampa Preparatory School is also among Florida's most innovative. The school's state-of-the-art campus and diverse programs make it a pinnacle of private education, with its newly built BOLD Building (Building of Learning & Discovery) set to open in September 2024. Technically not in South Tampa, it's west of downtown Tampa location at 727 W Cass Street. It places the Tampa Prep campus a short, 10-minute drive from several South Tampa communities, including Historic Hyde Park, Bayshore Gardens, and Palma Ceia.
St. Mary's Episcopal Day School
Located along the shared border of two of South Tampa's most popular neighborhoods—Sunset Park and Culbreath Heights—St. Mary's Episcopal Day School serves a vibrant community of 450 students from Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade. Established in 1953, the school's 8-acre campus features state-of-the-art spaces for science, art, and music, a media center with over 15,000 volumes, recreational and athletic facilities, and St. Mary's Hall and St. Mary's Church.
Academy of the Holy Names
Founded in 1881, the Academy of the Holy Names sits on 19 picturesque acres along Bayshore Boulevard overlooking Hillsborough Bay. The private Catholic institution caters to boys and girls from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade and offers a rigorous college preparatory program at its all-girls high school. The latter is among the top three best Catholic high schools of any kind in Florida and the best among the schools in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater.

South Tampa parks and recreation

South Tampa parks—nearly three dozen in total—are more than just green spaces but community hubs where families gather, play, and connect with nature. The community's desirable location between Hillsborough Bay and Old Tampa Bay means plenty of waterfront parks with stunning views and additional recreational opportunities. Five of South Tampa's best outdoor spots include:

Bayshore Boulevard

A genuine recreational centerpiece for the entire region, Bayshore Boulevard is the longest continuous sidewalk in the U.S. Ten feet wide and stretching for 4.5 uninterrupted miles, 3.75 of which are in South Tampa, the paved path offers breathtaking views of Hillsborough Bay. Fitness stations, green spaces, and several fun diversions dot the way, making it a family favorite for leisure and exercise.

Ballast Point Park

A 6.5-acre gem in South Tampa, looking out over Hillsborough Bay, this park boasts a splendid 600-foot pier, playgrounds, shaded areas for family outings, and a boat ramp and dock. Its proximity to the Tampa Bay Yacht & Country Club makes it an ideal spot for boating enthusiasts who enjoy the bay's serene beauty.

Gadsden Park

At 79 acres, Gadsden Park is South Tampa's largest park, anchored by Lake Gadsden. The area includes a mile-long loop walking path, a fenced-in dog park, baseball and softball fields, and a playground.

Anderson Park

Though small, covering just 3 acres in the Historic Hyde Park North neighborhood, Anderson Park is a youth favorite with basketball courts, a playground, a nature area splash pad, and the Kate Jackson Recreation Center.

Picnic Island Park

Situated along the shores of Old Tampa Bay in far southwestern South Tampa, the 72-acre Picnic Island Park is the definition of a family (and family dog) friendly waterfront park. Amenities include walking trails, picnic areas, beach volleyball courts, disc golf, and playgrounds. The showcase, however, is a nearly half-mile-long beach for humans and a separate fenced, off-leash beach for canine family members.

Attractions for the entire family

Beyond the educational and natural offerings, South Tampa is accessible to attractions that provide both entertainment and learning opportunities for families with a variety of interests.

Glazer Children's Museum

A 10-minute drive from South Tampa, the award-winning Glazer Children's Museum in downtown Tampa is where interactive play meets education. The museum offers countless exhibits and areas for creative endeavors and imaginative play that spark curiosity in young minds and make learning an adventure.

Tampa Bay History Center

Also located downtown, the Tampa Bay History Center showcases the rich tapestry of Tampa's past. Families can explore the area's history through engaging exhibits and educational programs. The History Center also hosts numerous week-long summer camps for children.

Hyde Park Village

Closer to home in South Tampa, the Hyde Park Village open-air shopping district blends retail therapy with culinary delights, offering families a charming locale for weekend outings. Its seasonal events and family-friendly atmosphere make it a community favorite for shopping, dining, and entertainment.

Ready to discover even more about South Tampa?

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*Header image courtesy of Tampa Bay History Center

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