Watching the cargo boats and cruise ships coming in and out of the Port of Tampa (1101 Channelside Dr.) had always been something of an area pastime. But up until the mid 1980s there was little in the area besides warehouses and shipping companies. Property owners, including the Tampa Port Authority, began promoting redevelopment of the area, and by the early ’90s the Channel District was created, combining attractions like the Florida Aquarium  with shopping, dining, and nightlife geared both toward locals and cruisers on day excursions.
It’s not the most organically attractive part of Tampa , but one could easily wrap up the remainder of a day spent at the Aquarium at any of the tourist-friendly bars or restaurants in Channelside Bay Plaza (615 Channelside Dr., www.channelsidetampa.com ).
In addition to its dining and drinking options, the complex also has a multiplex theater (with an IMAX screen) and Splitsville (813/514-2695, www.splitsvillelanes.com ), where you can eat, drink, shoot pool, and bowl. The area gets quite busy when a cruise ship pulls into port or there’s a sporting event or concert at the nearby St. Pete Times Forum.