Welcome to Tampa!
In the past, Tampa, Florida, has had a bit of a bad reputation. Undeniably gritty in parts, the last few years, however, have seen a serious renaissance in the city, with a real explosion of exciting, adventurous restaurants (not just the Hard Rock Tampa!) and slick, stylish bars, giving it a real aura of cool. With some great museums and picturesque parks, complimenting the natural beauty of its location, Tampa is a real treat for the visitor and remains a bit of an undiscovered treasure.
Tourists arriving at Tampa Airport might follow the crowd, but a worldwide local goes off the beaten track to find the most interesting and exciting sights, attractions, and experiences, wherever they go. This is an insider guide to the best attractions of Tampa.
Getting Your Footing
One of the best things about Tampa is its setting. While the center of town overlooks Tampa Bay, the city spreads out to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Tampa weather makes beach days a year-long phenomenon. One of the most popular stretches of sand is Clearwater Beach, both for a day of sun-lounging and a night at one of its many elegant clubs, bars, or restaurants.
Worldwide Local Tip: For something a little more peaceful, Honeymoon Island State Park is a gorgeous little spot, just to the north of the city.
Cuba in Tampa
One fascinating aspect of Tampa is its Cuban heritage and culture. Cuban cigars were made in Tampa for many years, and the Cuban sandwich was even invented here! One of the best places to soak up the sights and sounds of Cuban expat culture is Ybor City. The historic downtown neighborhood was founded by cigar makers. Check out the Cigar Museum, one of the classiest things to do in Tampa, and then stroll down 7th Avenue to one of the “Great Streets of America” (according to the American Planning Association).
Worldwide Local Tip: Did you know you can actually officially visit Cuba without leaving Tampa? The 0.14 acres (560 square meters) of Jose Marti Park in Ybor City is officially part of Cuba, given as a gift in 1956. It’s a lovely little historical oddity, and the elegant, Art Deco Cuban Club just a few blocks away, completes the experience.
For the Animal Lover
Tampa is also a remarkable hotspot for amazing zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. Busch Gardens is one of America’s most visited theme parks, and although the rollercoasters now dominate, it started life as an animal park and is still one of the largest zoos in the country. Lowry Park Zoo and the Big Cat Center are amazing, eye-opening conservation centers, with some of the most amazing species of big cats housed sensitively and appropriately here.
Worldwide Local Tip: The Manatee Viewing Center, off Apollo Beach, is a one-of-a-kind experience that makes the most of Tampa’s gulf location. When Tampa Bay gets chilly, manatees flock to the warmer waters below the Tampa Electric Company’s plant, and the viewing center allows visitors to get up close to these extraordinary marine mammals.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Tampa can be a truly beautiful and exciting place to visit, and really makes the most of its gifts. As a worldwide local, you will find the charming sights and amazing experiences that hide beneath its sometimes rough exterior.