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Tampa, Florida

Tampa

Great Destination:

4

Value for Money:

3.5

Total Stars:

7.5

Personality Types that Like it Best

Heavily favored by Authentics, Mid-Authentics and Centric-Authentics; less so by Venturer types

Did you know … ?

  • The term Florida cracker refers to the crack of the whip used by area cowmen.
  • The world’s first commercial flight operated from St. Petersburg to Tampa (1914).
  • The Cuban government owns the Parque Amigos de Marti in Ybor City.
  • Ninety percent of tropical fish in America’s aquariums were raised in Tampa.
  • More than three-fourths of the nation’s midwinter strawberries come from Plant City.

City on a bay

Tampa is the quintessential Florida city, offering in a single package sunny days, sandy beaches, a dreamy shoreline and lots of H2O for water sports, groomed golf courses, deep-sea fishing and boat trips to see dolphins and manatees. There also are rivers for canoeing and trails for cycling, running or just walking.

Sited on the eponymous bay, which opens onto the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa is a major U.S. seaport. Travelers board or disembark from cruise ships at a downtown entertainment hub called Channelside. St. Petersburg is 23 miles to the west on the opposite side of the bay.

In and around Tampa, there is something for everyone, from the spas, resorts and beaches for living the laid-back life to the Gulf of Mexico for daredevil sports and trendy or well-worn nightspots where the music is edgy or loud — or both.

The Ybor City neighborhood, now a National Historic Landmark District, was founded in 1885 by a Cuban exile, Don Vicente Martinez Ybor, who built cigar factories plus a village for his workers. Today Ybor City is an entertainment district with more than 60 restaurants, bars and nightclubs set against the backdrop of old cigar factories, wrought-iron balconies and brick-paved sidewalks.

The 400-square-mile Tampa Bay accommodates more than 200 species of fish, making for a rich fishing ground. Areas around the bay and nearby Hillsborough Bay are home to thousands of nesting birds. Guided tours highlight birds and other wildlife in the wetlands or in the rivers. For the less venturesome, the Florida Aquarium provides close-up access to aquatic animals, from sharks and otters to penguins.

The Tampa area also entertains with festivals, most notably the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival, which includes a dramatic “pirate” invasion, parades and the whole nine yards. Another thing: Locals are mad crazy over their sports teams, and the city occasionally hosts a Super Bowl.

The city boasts an annual average temperature of 72F and claims to have never officially recorded a temperature of 100F or higher. It also reports an average of 361 days a year with at least some sunshine.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go camping alongside the Hillsborough River. Paddle a canoe down the river.
  • Order a Cuban sandwich, made with Cuban bread and filled with Cuban-style ham and pork, Genoa salami, Emanthaler cheese, dill pickle and yellow mustard. The sandwich is warmed and flattened in a sandwich press to make it hot and crisp.
  • Be a zookeeper’s apprentice for part of a day at Big Cat Rescue, the world’s largest exotic cat sanctuary. Or, visit another of the area’s nonprofit animal sanctuaries or animal hospitals for a hands-on learning experience.
  • Make the rounds of the newest trendy night spots at Channelside or on International Plaza’s Bay Street. Or, head to Ybor’s Seventh Avenue for the weekend street-party atmosphere. Or, toss back a few at the Four Green Fields, America’s only thatched-roof Irish pub.
  • Test your skills at stand-up comedy on an open-mike night at the Tampa Improv Comedy Theater and Restaurant.
  • Dive with the sharks at the Florida Aquarium’s Shark Bay exhibit. Participants must be certified scuba divers age 15 or older. Advance reservations are required.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Have dinner in the world’s largest Spanish eatery, the Columbia Restaurant, which has 17 dining rooms and seats 1,700 diners.
  • Book the Swim With the Fishes adventure at the Florida Aquarium’s Coral Reefs Exhibit. You’ll have a scuba experience but need not be a certified scuba diver. Children age 6 and up can participate; advance reservations are required.  Also, take one of the behind-the-scenes tours at the aquarium.
  • Take up binoculars for some bird-watching around Tampa Bay, an area with 35,000 to 45,000 nesting pairs annually, at more than 20 sites.
  • Eat guava, a locally grown tropical fruit. Sample the delicacies — guava jelly, guava paste, guava turnovers and pickled guavas — then buy a favorite to take home.
  • Take swing dance lessons and dance the night away at the Centro Asturiano in Ybor City.
  • Join a day cruise aboard the SS American Victory, one of everal hundred Victory class ships built as support vessels to the Allied war effort during World War II and later used to move men and goods during the Korean and Vietnam wars as well as for numerous peacetime purposes.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Get into the mood for fun at the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival. Nearly 700 “pirates” arrive in Tampa Bay aboard a fully rigged pirate ship; they “invade” then turn the invasion into a parade.
  • Eat your way through the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City in March. Or, aim for the Ruskin Tomato and Heritage Festival in May or the Ruskin Seafood Festival in November.
  • Take a boat trip to watch dolphins at play. Also, see the gentle endangered Florida manatee at the TECO Viewing Center.
  • Look for the New York Yankees during spring training at Legends Field.
  • Bet at the races, in this case, greyhound racing at the Tampa Greyhound Track. Dine in the clubhouse.  Or, take your chances at the gaming tables at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
  • Book an adult hand drumming class Tuesday evening at the Museum of Science and Industry. The drumming is a stress reducer.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Visit Tampa Bay at www.visittampabay.com