direct flights from Tampa Great Wolf Lodge in Charlotte, North Carolina

Let’s Fly Away! Amazing Cities with Direct Flights from Tampa

Summer break is on the horizon which means it’s also the perfect time for a family vacation. While we’re lucky enough to be close to beaches and theme parks, it’s always fun to explore outside the sunshine state.

If you haven’t planned your family’s summer getaway yet, it’s not too late! There are some awesome places to visit with a direct flight from Tampa International Airport. In fact, there are 96 direct flight options from TPA! We’re sharing a few of our team favorites to inspire your own family’s summer adventure.

*Pictured at top: Great Wolf Lodge in Charlotte, North Carolina. Keep scrolling for more!

Take a Historic Trip to Washington D.C.

How to get there: There are two airport options – Reagan National Airport (5 miles from D.C.) on Southwest and American Airlines and Dulles International Airport (26 miles from D.C.) on United. Both routes are about 2.5 hours from TPA.

Where to stay: There are tons of hotels around D.C. and most are a quick rideshare or Metro ride to the monuments and museums. If you prefer to stay in Virginia, Alexandria and Arlington have stops just off the Metro and there are plenty of places to explore.

What to do: Museums and monuments!

The Smithsonian Institution is home to 21 museums and the National Zoo and almost all are free to visit. We love the National Museum of American History, Museum of Natural History, Air & Space Museums, National Zoo, and National Archive Museum. The International Spy Museum is an interactive museum where each guest is assigned a spy identity and Ford’s Theater will take you back in time to Lincoln’s life up until his assassination.

Let's Fly Away! Amazing Cities with Direct Flights from Tampa
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum includes interactive activities for kids

Visiting the national monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial is also a must-do. It’s easy to walk to and from most of them, especially if you are near the Smithsonian museums. All of them are open to the public however, the Washington Monument requires a (free) ticket to climb to the top. If you’re not up for walking, there are bus tours that will take you around sites.

If you want to take a tour of The White House, requests must be made by emailing your local Member of Congress no less than 21 days prior to your trip. You will receive an email confirmation with your tour date and time if you’re selected.


  • Entry into most of the Smithsonian museums and zoo are free but some require a timed entry ticket. Be sure to check their websites a few days prior to your visit.
  • If you are selected for a White House tour, you may not bring bags of any size, strollers, or carriers and there are no storage areas to hold them on-site.
  • Watching the Disney movie, National Treasure, before your trip will be super fun for kids to recognize what they’re seeing at the National Archives Museum!

Explore Atlanta and Stone Mountain Georgia

How to get there: Atlanta is about a six-hour drive or an hour and half flight from Tampa with a choice of 4 different airlines: Delta, Frontier, Southwest, and Spirit. Stone Mountain will take closer to seven hours if you’re driving, or a 30-minute drive from the Atlanta airport.

Where to stay: Downtown Atlanta has plenty of hotels and AirBnbs and is centrally located to most attractions. Stone Mountain has several lots with campsites for RVs or tents as well as The Inn at Stone Mountain Park.

What to do: Explore the city and enjoy nature – the best of both worlds!

Atlanta is home to the largest aquarium in the U.S. – The Georgia Aquarium. It’s easy to spend a good part of your day here checking out the beluga whale, sea lions, dolphins, sharks, and array of interactive activities and shows. Right across the street you’ll find The World of Coca Cola, a museum dedicated to the history of the popular soda, and Centennial Olympic Park, which is dedicated to the 1996 Olympics. Zoo Atlanta and The Center for Puppetry Arts are also excellent kid-friendly outings.

Let's Fly Away! Amazing Cities with Direct Flights from Tampa
Interact with scuba divers at Georgia Aquarium

Piedmont Park has over 200 acres of green space and has everything from trails to splash pads, playgrounds, dog parks, and botanical gardens. They also host regular markets and festivals throughout the summer.

Stone Mountain is filled with tons of trails to bike or walk. You can also check out the Summit Skyride, Dinosaur Explore, Historic Square, farmyard, scenic railroad, mini golf, and their nightly Laser Spectacular Show. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb the one-mile hike to the top of the mountain for some incredible views as far as 60 miles out!


  • We love the RV camping (or, “glamping”) option at Stone Mountain. If you’re not able to trail an RV yourself, rental sites such as RV Share has options for owners to park and set the RV up for you at the camp site.
Let's Fly Away! Amazing Cities with Direct Flights from Tampa
Hike to the top of Stone Mountain

Make a Splash at a Family-Friendly Resort in Charlotte, North Carolina

How to get there: Charlotte is a nine-hour drive from Tampa or just under two hours by plane via American Airlines into Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.

Where to stay: Great Wolf Lodge – one of our top picks for families!

What to do: Great Wolf Lodge is the ULTIMATE family-friendly resort! The huge lobby features brightly colored umbrellas hanging from the ceiling and a giant clock tower with friendly animatronic characters. Throughout the day, guests can enjoy shows, games, crafts, character meet and greets, and a nightly story time for all ages followed by a pajama dance party. Upon check-in, all guests will receive their very own set of wolf ears!

The resort also features an incredible year-round indoor water park featuring a four-story water fort treehouse, a zero-entry pool, and multiple water slides.

Let's Fly Away! Amazing Cities with Direct Flights from Tampa
The indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge is open year-round

There is also a mini-bowling alley along with an arcade, laser tag, miniature golf, and the Howly Wood XD Theater. During the summer, guests can climb through the Howlers Peak Ropes Course. For those wanting to add a bit of magic to their trip, they can immerse themselves in a MagiQuest adventure throughout the lodge (magic wands are available for an additional fee).


  • The water park, story time, dance party, and other select attractions are included with the resort fee. Other attractions will require the purchase of an add-on option: a Wolf Pass, Paw Pass, or Pup Pass.
  • If staying at the resort is not an option but you still want to enjoy the water park and daily events, you can purchase a full or half day pass.

Looking for local water parks? Check out The BEST Water Parks in Tampa Bay: Keep cool and have FUN! 

Visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in Tennessee

How to get there: It will take about 10-11 hours to drive to Gatlinburg from Tampa. They do have a small airport however, flights are very limited. The easiest way is to fly into Knoxville and drive just over an hour to Gatlinburg.

Where to stay: There are plenty of hotel options in both areas, but we loved the cozy KOA Cabins in Pigeon Forge.

What to do: Go for a hike and ride the coasters at Dollywood!

Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge is a fantastic place to spend the day with the family. From thrilling coasters to toddler-friendly rides, shows, and amazing eats, Dollywood checks all the boxes. We were also blown away by the friendliness of the staff and how clean the park was.

Gatlinburg has a lot of family-friendly touristy options. We loved the hiking trails at Great Smokey Mountain National Park, the views from the top of Anakeesta Mountain, riding the Gatlinburg coasters, and taking the scenic Cades Cove drive. You can also visit Ripley’s Aquarium, cross the glass-bottom Gatlinburg SkyBridge, and go white water rafting.

Let's Fly Away! Amazing Cities with Direct Flights from Tampa
View from the top of Anakeesta


  • Anakeesta requires tickets and it fills up fast so get there when they open. There is also a restaurant and brewery at the top.

Head out west to Park City, Utah for mountain moments

How to Get There: It’s about a 5-hour flight from TPA on Delta Airlines to Salt Lake City International Airport. From there, you can rent a car or book a transportation service to get to Park City in about 30 minutes.

Where to Stay: We like to book a condo in Deer Valley Resort, since a full kitchen and extra bedrooms are a bonus when traveling with kids. There are also several hotel options for all budgets. Depending on where you stay, you’ll be steps away from popular summer mountain activities like mountain biking and hiking.

Utah Olympic Park Park City
Spend the day at Utah Olympic Park in Park City for some mountain ropes courses, zip-lining, and more.

What to Do: Park City’s claim to fame may be its ski resorts, but we think it’s equally as fun in the summertime. Over at Park City Mountain’s Adventure Park, you can go on the Alpine Slide or Mountain Coaster. Utah Olympic Park is also close by for sky ropes, zip lines, extreme tubing, bobsledding, and more! We also love strolling along Main Street and stopping for lunch and then perusing Dolly’s Bookstore for a new book.

There is an amazing free public transportation system in Park City, so you could easily get away with not renting a car.

Pro Tip:

  • Consider a day trip to Heber Valley to go for a swim in Homestead Crater, a geothermal hot spring and tour Heber Valley Artisan Cheese.
  • The nearby Jordanalle State Park is on the International Dark Sky Registry for spectacular views of the stars and Milky Way.

Go International! Fly to London!

How to Get There: You can get to London from TPA by flying into London-Gatwick on British Airways or London-Heathrow on Virgin Atlantic. It’s a nearly nine-hour flight, so you can book a later flight for the kids to sleep and arrive in the morning London time.

Where to Stay: There are so many amazing hotels in London. Your best bet is to book somewhere close to the activities your family plans on participating in.

What to Do: There is so much history to experience in London. It’s impossible to include everything here, but we have a few highlights. The Tower of London is a must-do and they have tours designed for families. London is also home to world-famous museums like the Museum of Natural History and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Both offer free admission. Other fun stops for families include a visit to Harrod’s, the Diana Memorial Playground at Kensington Gardens, Hamley’s, a multi-level toy store, and KidZania, an interactive indoor city for kids. Since you are in London, afternoon tea is a must. Tampa mom Angi to says kids will love the Jurassic Afternoon Tea at the Ampersand Hotel like her son did!

Jurassic Tea in London
Jurassic Tea

Older kids will love The Making of Harry Potter studio tour where they can step inside authentic sets like the Great Hall.


  • A hop-on hop-off bus tour is the easiest way to get around London and the most cost-effective.
  • A few more worthy day adventures: LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park, Stonehenge , and Bath.

For more direct flight options from TPA, visit:


Originally published in the May 2023 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

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