With its beaches, amusement parks, sporting attractions and an endless array of shopping venues, the "Big Guava" has it all.
If all you want to do is ride the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens and dine on BBQ meat and tacos, get stuck straight into it. If you want to laze around on beaches like Clearwater, there's no better place to roll out your towel. If you love golf, Tampa's got your back - with superb courses like Pebble Creek within the city limits. And if culture is your passion, you can dive into the Tampa Museum of Art, which holds works from ancient Greece to the latest contemporary art.
Whatever your vacation dreams, Tampa will welcome and entertain you like no other American city. So make it the destination for your next sunshine getaway.
Tampa is one of America's sunshine capitals, enjoying 361 days of sunshine every year. Average highs are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit every month of the year, making it a year-round destination.
Tampa may only have 350,000 residents, but it has three elite sports teams. Check out the Buccaneers in the NFL, the Rays in Major League Baseball or the Lightning in the NHL.
Ybor City is a beautiful part of Tampa that has hardly changed since its construction in the late 19th century. Still home to a mainly Italian, Cuban and Spanish population, it's a great place to eat and purchase souvenirs like freshly rolled cigars.
Tampa has an incredibly varied dining scene. You can try Colombian cuisine at Cafe Don Jose, Brazilian beef at Fuego or German sausages at Mr. Dunderbak's. The craft ale scene is similarly vibrant, with well-known brands like Yuengling based in the city.
For many tourists, Tampa is mainly famous for Busch Gardens. Built by the Busch brewing company, this massive amusement park in northern Tampa will keep adults and kids entertained for days.
Take a trip to the vast Serengeti and -- enjoy a rollercoaster ride? Busch Gardens is an "African-themed" adventure and animal park sure to leave an impression of the entire continent on your experience. Begin in Morocco, with its majestic Moroccan Palace and the famous Gwazi, a 105-foot "duelling" rollercoaster. After hanging with the chimps and gorillas head to the Congo for the Congo River Rapids, which is a thrilling white water rapids experience. Finish the day off at Jungala, where you can get up close and personal with the animals, explore jungle life on rope bridges and fly through the forest on the "Jungle Fliers" zip-line.
You won't find a quarter quite as unique or historic as Ybor City in Tampa Bay. Located northeast of the downtown area, Ybor was once the only successful town entirely populated and owned by immigrants. Here, Cuban influences as well as Spanish and Italian generations have infused the area with the smells of their cuisine, their craft of cigar production and incredible music. Today, there are artists living aside business owners, and family dwellings stand alongside a thriving entertainment district. Beautifully restored shopping centers, restaurants and eclectic little bars with great live music make Ybor City one of the "10 Great Streets in America".
The Tampa Theatre is a true blast from the past as the historic venue hosts current day movies, old classics and other events such as independent film screenings and director-led Q&A's. To whisk viewers away to a simpler time, there's an antique concession stand and an old-school Wurlitzer organ for effect. The Tampa Theatre is not the typical cine-screen -- instead, prepare for a memorable viewing experience.
In all the hubbub of the urban city, it can be easy to forget that Florida's famed beautiful weather makes it a nature-filled haven. The lush greenery and trees are certainly an everyday treat but the wildlife and proximity to the sea are the main attraction. The Manatee Viewing Centre is a marine reserve built, among other things, to view manatees from atop a 50-foot observation deck. It also features gorgeous butterfly gardens that come alive in the spring, peaceful trails and a truly vibrant boardwalk with food, outdoor bikers and those simply taking a stroll in the sun.
Completely non-profit and 100% family-friendly, Lowry Park Zoo focuses on bringing the joy and wonder of the natural world to families and children in particular. A globally recognized and accredited zoological society, Lowry Park not only exists as a fun-filled memorable day at the zoo, with animals and theme park rides, but also exists as an important conservation center for endangered wildlife, both at home and from the world-round. The zoo is divided into parts of the world, such as the "Asian Gardens" or Safari Africa.
There's no single time to visit Tampa. After all, with 361 days of sunshine and a warm climate, the beaches are attractive almost all year round. You might want to time your visit to secure cheaper accommodation prices. Between September and December, crowds tend to thin out and the leading hotels dramatically lower their rates.
Tampa International Airport is the most popular entry point for visitors to Tampa, and it's very easy to get into town after your plane touches down. Just take local bus number 30 to Marion Transit Center, catch one of the shuttle buses to major resort hotels or pick up a rental vehicle from outlets like Avis, Enterprise, and Hertz.
Tampa's Amtrak station is centrally located at 601 Nebraska Avenue, so it's a good option if you want to arrive close to city center hotels. Union Station is on the Silver Star route, which connects Tampa to New York, Washington and Philadelphia to the north, and Miami to the southeast.
The best route to take if you are driving to Tampa will probably be I-75, which links the city to destinations in the north. I-4 also connects the city to I-95, the coastal road from New York, while those coming from Texas and the west can take I-10 and transfer to I-75 in northern Florida.
Greyhound is the major bus operator in town, running interstate services into their stop at 610 Polk Street. Their buses are a great way to travel from cities as diverse as Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and New York. However, Megabus offers an alternative, running buses from major northern cities, while New York's Chinatown service also connects the Big Apple and the Big Guava.
Most of the best hotels in Tampa are located on the waterfront, near the Downtown district or the many beaches. If you want to be near the coast, check out options in Beach Park like the Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore or the Grand Hyatt. In the center of town try the Meridien or the Embassy Suites, which offer spacious apartments that families will appreciate. For budget accommodation, have a look at Gram's Place or the Amerisuites Budget Hotel, both of which provide comfort and convenient locations at an affordable price.
Downtown – Downtown Tampa is where you'll find most of the tourist attractions, such as the Museum of Art, the Florida Aquarium, and the beautiful Tampa Theater - so it's the place to stay if you love culture. It's also home to the Amalie Arena, the home of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.
North Tampa – Slightly to the north of Downtown Tampa, you'll discover the city's center for family entertainment. Instead of art galleries, North Tampa hosts Busch Gardens, a massive amusement park and zoo - and the city's premier family attraction. Beer lovers will also be in their element, thanks to the presence of the popular Yuengling Beer Company brewery, with a trendy brewpub and tours that ale fans will enjoy.
Ybor City – Ybor City is Tampa's Cuban district, and it's completely unique. In the past, locals made their living by rolling cigars, and you can still buy high-quality products at stores like La Herencia. Nowadays, Ybor is the place to be for great food and nightlife. Try Latin-American eateries like El Puerto, the Italian food at Bernini and wash it down with cocktails at the Mist Martini Lounge.
The HART public transit system is a useful way to get around the center of Tampa and provides regular shuttles to Busch Gardens as well. Bus fares are $2, but be sure to find time to ride the city's streetcars as well. The TECO line covers Ybor City and the center and passes by the major sights. A single fare is $2.50. You can also purchase day passes for $5, and family tickets for $12.50 (3 children and 2 adults, all-day travel).
Generally, Tampa's taxi fleet charges a meter drop of $2.50, then $2.40 for every subsequent mile. However, Uber offers a cheaper alternative. Their UberX vehicles charge $1 for the initial meter drop, then $0.80 per mile after that.
Having a car makes a lot of sense in Tampa. It allows you to visit St Petersburg, Orlando and even Miami and the Everglades, and to reach out of the way beaches. Navigating the city shouldn't be hard, and there's plenty of city center parking available. There are thousands of metered spots, but you'll save money by parking at public garages maintained by the Tampa Downtown Partnership.
Tampa has several popular shopping neighborhoods. Just south of the center, SoHo is the place to head, where boutiques like Smack Apparel and Urban Body Clothing combine with some of the most stylish restaurants in the city. Slightly to the southeast, you can find Palma Ceia - a strip of clothing stores like Ship Chic and Kate McKenzie and accessory outlets like Zoey Bloom. There are also plenty of popular malls. Both the Westshore Plaza Mall and the International Plaza Mall are near the airport and worth checking out before you fly home.
Tampa is full of places to buy cheap groceries, including major supermarkets like Walmart, Publix and Whole Foods. So if you are self-catering during your stay, saving money should be simple. Grocery costs are quite low, with a gallon of milk likely to cost $3.90 and a pound of apples $2.
Food is one of the greatest attractions in Tampa, particularly if you love Latin American. Head to Cafe Don Jose to try Colombian cooking, or Fuego to dine on huge plates of Brazilian BBQ meat. You can order Delmonico steaks at Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City or grab a gourmet taco on the go from El Taconazo (the taco bus). SoHo is also full of great sushi restaurants, including Sushi Ninja, while there are excellent Caribbean eateries like the Jerk Hut and upscale European style restaurants like NoHo Bistro to explore as well. Expect to pay $15 or so for a medium-range meal.