Kids keep couples on their toes. Spontaneous date nights become virtually impossible. Long, romantic dinners become increasingly expensive when childcare is tacked onto the bill. Let’s face it, for parents, dating our partner is a tall order. Luckily, there are plenty of kid-friendly Tampa Bay restaurants suitable for a day date with the kids in tow. Romance looks different when we parent and, with a side of modified expectations, the places we’ve listed below can help keep romance alive.
1413 S Howard Ave, Tampa | (813) 254-3355
Authentic Italian food and delicious vegan options make Bella’s a staple in South Tampa’s SoHo district. Having opened its doors in 1986, Bella’s is one of the longest standing eateries in the area. Outdoor seating is generally a good idea with kids, and Bella’s cooling misters help keep everyone refreshed (read, prevent temper tantrums from overheated kids).
Kids menus are offered, and they help keep sibling rivalry at bay since kids can color and play games. The spaghetti with butter and the pizza are surefire hits for young palettes, while parents can move their way through a full course meal—from antipasti to dolci. The vesuvio dessert is decadent enough for the table to share and a special reward for kids who behave throughout dinner. While kids will need to stay seated, there is opportunity for an after-dinner walk. Bern’s Park is located just across the street, and kids enjoy throwing coins into the statuesque fountain and making wishes.
1600 E 8th Ave, Tampa | (813) 241-9675
Before kids, it’s unlikely many found loud arcades to be date night hotspots—unless they lived in an eighties romantic comedy. After kids, expectations change. Located in Tampa’s historic Ybor City, GameTime offers a full restaurant and bar in addition to the arcade games. With smaller kids, eating before playing all the games might be wise; think leverage here. If kids are old enough to navigate GameTime independently, parents just might get to enjoy their meal alone. Play skeeball or place a fun family bet about who can actually win at the claw machine.
From great people watching to myriad opportunities for dessert, the fun and games don’t have to end at GameTime. The Drip, located nearby on Ybor’s famed 7th Avenue, offers kid friendly pottery painting, and parents may want to try their hands at creating pottery on the wheel. GameTime is a win-win for a family friendly date night because, beyond boundless options within its environment, there are unique offerings surrounding it. What a great location for an extended date!
209 W Bay to Bay Blvd, Tampa | (813) 570-8660
Sunday morning dates are some of my favorite. With weekend breakfast/brunch hours, Counter Culture is a great option for feeling adultish on a slow weekend morning—not quite Cracker Barrel and not so fancy parents feel on edge. Noted for a regularly updated menu, it’s a great spot for foodies who love trying new things. Breakfast staples, which tend to please kids, are always available. Kids and adults will love digging into the breakfast on Bayshore dish—organic eggs and bacon…absolutely!
Counter Culture’s location is also conducive to letting kids get their wiggles out after the meal. One block from Bayshore Blvd, Counter Culture is perfectly situated for a post-meal walk. Picture it: you and your partner, hand in hand, gazing at the water, maybe sighting a dolphin, and actually catching a few moments of uninterrupted conversation while the kids hop, skip, and jump ahead of you. Until you have to break up a sibling disagreement or remind a child of sidewalk courtesy, a romantic walk may actually span a few minutes.
13090 Gandy Blvd N. | St. Petersburg (727) 317-5751
Located just off the Gandy Bridge in St. Pete, The Getaway is ideal for an early summer dinner. Take the kids in their swimsuits and take the bag of beach toys. At the Getaway, kids can play in the sand and get in the water. Plenty of tables are waterside, making it possible (and safe) to watch the kids while the adults sip and taste. Everyone will be entertained by paddleboarders, boaters, Jenga, and plenty of people watching. Pups make appearances, too. A live DJ mixes tunes several times a week, so there’s an opportunity to burn off some of that fried seafood basket before heading home. The casual outdoor setting is perfect year-round. Open air makes kids’ natural tendency for loudness much more tolerable. The cocktail menu, especially the jalapeño tequila, help as well. Expect minimal interaction with servers, as the location has shifted to the TabUp app. Orders and bill payment occur through the app, which can be downloaded before visiting.
3038 Beach Blvd South, Gulfport | (727) 954-7960
Kids can make international travel tricky and costly. Fortunately, Gulfport’s Italian bistro by the beach, Tutto Bene, marries flavorful Italian food with a kid-friendly and intimate environment. Wednesdays are especially fantastic, as they offer buy one get one 50% off entrees. Live music is an especially enjoyable touch; a singing guitarist surely drowns out any potential temper tantrums. Sitting outside is casual, beachy, and romantic—even with children. The staff is great with kiddos, offering up activity sheets and cups with lids.
With kids in tow, a late afternoon at Gulfport’s beach is the perfect precursor to dinner. Gulfport’s beach has shelters, volleyball nets, and plenty of sand and water for the parents to try relaxing while the kids build up an appetite. Take a change of casual clothes, and Tutto Bene is a short and sweet walk from the beach.
Neither the kids nor dinner menu disappoint. The chicken parmigiana is on point, and kids will do just fine with Tutto Bene’s pizza. After dinner walks are a great idea in Gulfport, and you’re likely to catch sounds of live music and opportunities for exploring unique shops. You might even decide to stay for the sunset. With the kids well fed and tuckered out, parents might get a dreamy drive home (A.K.A. quiet).
5202 Thonotosassa Rd, Plant City | (813) 752-9100
When trying to make an experience with kids as romantic as possible, giving kids time to burn some energy off beforehand is smart. With year-round opportunities for u-pick and farm tours, Keel Famrs is golden. Let the kids get face to face with farm animals including chickens, sheep and a pig. Since there is an adjacent playground, as well as lawn games, parents can keep an eye on kids while waiting for food to arrive on the expansive outdoor dining area. Feast on fancy pub food paired with the farm’s very own wines and ciders. From food to beverage, discussing locally grown and sourced items makes a great dinner conversation starter for the kids.
Be sure to check out Keel Farms’ website when planning your date, as you’ll note that there are plenty of live music options and special events. If the kids did an exceptionally good job during this tasty, active date, you might consider a celebratory visit to nearby Dinosaur World. Rawr!
3460 Starkey Blvd | New Port Richey (727) 375-7606
There’s no reason why hay bales and wheelbarrows can’t be romantic! Enter Starkey Farms and Market. Food, drink, dirt, and plenty of gorgeous sky. For kids, or even parents, who want to test their agility, Starkey also has a cool log setup. With several live music offerings each week, Starkey’s is a welcome change of pace from chain restaurants. Most parents will enjoy sipping on a cold one while sitting on one of Starkey’s front porch rockers, with kids actually enjoying the outdoors to boot.
While Starkey does not offer a full menu, the market does have light fare and snacks that are enjoyable on the beautiful grounds. Imagine a good ol’ fashioned picnic. There’s also ice cream, so kids can get their own while parents share some scoops…two spoons, please! Simple, traditional environments are oh-so-sweet—especially when white lights and a windmill help set the scene. The website offers a detailed events section and, during certain times of year, various u-picks are available. Starkey checks all the boxes for a kid and adult-friendly date destination.
More kid-friendly Tampa Bay restaurants and locales:
- St. Pete Pier – The kids will love the splash pad and playground
- Sparkman Wharf – A large green space and complete outdoor setup make this a prime location for date night with kids of all ages
- For even more ideas, refer to this guide to kid-friendly restaurants from our sister publication, Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine
Adult only time is an important ingredient of a healthy relationship. Dating our partner while raising children is no easy endeavor. Considering ways to make kids a part of some dates is an effort well spent.
Feature image credit: Dani Meyering