It’s close to the beaches, within driving distance of Orlando and it’s not horribly far from Sarasota and other upscale destinations. Tampa , however, is a jewel in and of itself for tourists. In this city, visitors will find a rich Cuban history, beer on tap and pirate invasions each February.
Although Tampa once found itself living in the shadow of St. Petersburg, the tables seem to have changed in the past few decades. The small community know for its hand-rolled Cuban cigars and the now closed Anheuser Busch brewing factory has become much more. The attractions here are many and include:
* Ybor City. A region just off downtown Tampa that’s known for its Cuban, Spanish and Italian roots. This is where cigar factories once stood (and some still do). For the most part now, however, the Ybor district is a party location – Tampa’s own Bourbon Street, some say. Old Spanish influences are evident in the architecture and the dining and night club action can’t be beat.
* Busch Gardens. An amusement park on a grand scale, this destination has a number of roller coasters and other rides plus an African-based safari trek where visitors can see elephants, lions, gazelle and more.
* Lowry Park Zoo. A city-owned venture, the zoo is a crowing jewel in Tampa’s hat. It’s known for its species survival program participation and its focus on manatee, red foxes and other endangered animals.
* Old Hyde Park. Abutting some of Tampa’s oldest neighborhoods, this shopping district is known for its wide walkways, live entertainment and upscale stores.
* Bayshore Boulevard. Overlooking the water, this district boasts historic homes on a grand scale. The famous walk along Bayshore is a favorite for tourists and residents alike.
* Gasparilla. An annual event each February, Gasparilla includes a number of parades, parties and runs that center around the fictional invasion of Tampa by the pirate Jose Gaspar. Each year Gaspar’s ship makes its way into the city’s waterways to take over amid much revelry.
* Museum of Science & Industry. Great cities are known by their great museums. Tampa is no different. MOSI bustles with new exhibits all the time and its IMAX theater is a favorite of locals. The city is also home to a number of other cultural and artistic museums including the Tampa Museum of Art and the H.B. Plant Museum on the historic University of Tampa campus.
Much more than the home of Busch Gardens, the Tampa area offers a lot for tourists to do and see. It’s close to the beaches, near Orlando and has all of its own features that make it worth a trip for a day or several weeks. There’s a lot to see and do here.