Any other suggestions on what to do in Tampa will be appreciated too.
So, in my opinion as someone who goes to both AK and BGT often, BGT is a far superior animal park. Disney does the entertainment shows much better but BGT has better excitement rides. They both have many activities for the low-excitement type of patron. Each park is basically a one day park if you go from opening to closing. Also, on July 3 and 4, BGT has concerts by Survivor (3rd) and The Guess Who (4th) followed by fireworks.
AK, however, does have two of the best "animal walks" I have ever been on plus three extremly good shows. Seriously, you can't say enough about the shows, one with animals, at AK. They are worth the price to go!
BGT, on the other hand, have the best roller coasters and variety in FL, period. If you are looking for quality roller coasters, BGT does it the best.
So I would say both, but it looks like BGT will be more convient. Also, AK only takes one day to really see so both would not be overkill.
To break it down (the pros)
BGT: Great Rides, Great Animals
AK: Great Shows, Great Theming
I always try to allocate time to go to BGT when I'm in Central Florida - even when it is a trip to Orlando. Unlike many of the Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks - it is beautiful, well shaded park full of flora, fauna, animals and coasters. I do like coasters (and Montu is probably my favorite inverted coaster) but I spend as much time enjoying the non-coasters including the animal exhibits as I do with coasters at BGT. I personally can't recommend BGT enough.
To swim in the Gulf of Mexico, you have to leave Tampa. I live in Pinellas (30 miles to the west), which has great beaches. I would suggest Ft. Desoto, which is at the south end of Pinellas. It has won several awards, including "America's Top Beach" two years in a row by TripAdvisor and has an old fort to explore and campgrounds. Currently, it's free to get in,(something that may be changed in the near future) but there are a few toll bridges along the way. It should cost around $1 per car.
At the other end of Pinellas is Clearwater Beach. There are no tolls to get there, but the parking is metered. Where Ft. Desoto is quite remote, Clearwater Beach gets very crowded and has lots of things to do at night, which makes it popular during spring break.
There are many beaches in between these two, but these are the most popular. You can pretty much drive anywhere along the coast between them and find beach access, but you will almost always have to pay a meter.
You'll also find beaches to the south of Tampa in Manatee county.
Since you're going in July, that means be prepared for RAIN and HEAT! BGT has relaxed a bit in their security check so you can bring in snacks so freeze bottled water (Don't let the food prices kill you). Don't try and "pack light"-- BRING A BAGPACK and pack umbrellas and extra clothes. The lockers are one-time use 50 cent lockers. Because of the lockers location, even if you go on every ride once, you'll probably use only 3.00 in locker rental. WORTH IT!!!
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for things to do around Tampa. I can be your e-mail tour guide!
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney California Adventure
Universal Studios Florida
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Hollywood