I spent my first year in Florida living in Tampa and love its many outstanding restaurants, theaters, museums and sporting venues. With its perfect mix of historic architecture and modern landmarks, Cuban and Spanish culture-infused flavor, vibrant business districts and beautiful waterways, Tampa is a wonderful place to work, play and unwind.
Its downtown has come alive in recent years with more urban parks, including the gorgeous Tampa Riverwalk, more hip bars and innovative restaurants and amazing restorations to turn-of-the-century buildings.
For residents and visitors alike, there’s no shortage of things to do in Tampa, whether it’s paddling along the Hillsborough River, sampling tequila at a margarita festival, enjoying a pro football or hockey game, riding a thrill-coaster at Busch Gardens or attending an opera at the Straz Center.
Tampa is known for being a great city for all ages and tastes, offering hotel accommodations that fit any budget and catering to everyone from the families to outdoor adventure seekers to foodies and wine connoisseurs. Once known as a melting pot for all cultures and settlers, Tampa remains a welcoming place for those seeking fun, opportunity and a chance to try new things.
While it’s only a short, 30-minute drive to the beaches, Tampa’s real strengths lie in its city life.
Ybor City, which was created around the Cuba cigar-rolling industry in the late 1800s, is now world renowned as a hot nightlife spot, its old red brick buildings now filled with lively music, cocktails and late-night dancing.
Downtown is now packed with young condo residents, and with them came a crop of new fusion-cuisine dining options, craft cocktail and beer bars and regular festivals, concerts and events hosted in the well-kept Curtis Hixon Park.
Nearby Hyde Park, an upscale shopping and dining district, there are boutique stores and national brands, as well as excellent restaurants and bars. But one of the great things about Tampa is you can venture outside of the urban, metro centers to find plenty to do off the beaten path.
If you’re into hiking, biking, paddling or bird-watching, hit one of the Tampa area’s many parks and preserves, such as Hillsborough River State Park in Thonotosassa or Lettuce Lake Park in north Tampa.
Rent a kayak or stroll the trails among serene surroundings, encountering beautiful Florida birds, pop-up turtles, lazy gators and the occasional manatee. Bring your fishing gear and a picnic lunch for the whole family, or spend a romantic afternoon in a canoe for two.
For an interesting glimpse at one of the Tampa Bay area’s iconic endangered animals, check out the TECO Manatee Viewing Center from late fall through early spring to see a manatee sanctuary filled with dozens upon dozens of the gentle giants huddled in the warmer waters of the habitat.
There’s also plenty of adventures to be had in Tampa’s museums and theme parks, well known to visitors from across the country.
Busch Gardens has plenty of rides, shows and attractions to fill up a whole weekend and the nearby Adventure Island water park offers daring drops and relaxing wading pools.
The impressive Tampa Museum of Art is directly next to the Glazer Children’s Museum which makes for great outing for the entire family.
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