The city of Tampa is the county seat of Hillsborough County and the largest city in West Central Florida. It is situated on the north shore of Tampa Bay. But here’s a fun fact: there’s no such city as “Tampa Bay”. Misuse of the name has been popularized over the years by tourists to collectively promote the various cities (Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and other places) around the bay. Tampa Bay is a body of water, but the city is called Tampa - and it’s modern and welcoming! With all the attractions to choose from, you’re probably wondering what should be on your “must do” list when visiting. Suffice to say, there’s a lot going on in Tampa, Florida. With so many attractions, great weather, close proximity to beaches, and the chance to enjoy all kinds of outdoor fun.
Tampa is divided into five main districts fanning out from Downtown in the south-center between the Hillsborough River and Ybor Channel. There’s the West Tampa (once a separate city) that lies across the Hillsborough River to the west of Downtown. The South Tampa (a large residential area) extends south along the Interbay Peninsula. The Historic Ybor City (sometimes considered as part of downtown) lies on the northeast side of downtown. East Tampa, is the historically African-American side of the city that lies north of Ybor City. And North Tampa forms the urban/suburban sprawl north of Busch Boulevard. A significant suburban area often considered a part of “Tampa”, extends many miles to the northwest, north and east of the city. Within the Tampa proper, there are six official “historical districts”: Hampton Terrace, Hyde Park, Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights, Historic West Tampa, Ybor City, and at least 86 named neighborhoods.
WHERE TO STAY
From luxurious vacation homes with outdoor patios and pools, or waterfront houses featuring multiple rooms, customize your Tampa getaway with a rental home that best suits your holiday. I mean, why stay in a hotel when you can stay in an actual house, right? Especially for larger parties, and renting guarantees to stun you with backyard views as well as breathtaking interior decorating - don’t settle for less.
Choose one of Owner Direct Vacation Rental homes that has everything you need to have a fantastic time while enjoying the sunshine destination. An actual home is a great place to relax and has all the modern amenities you would expect along with a great pool area with plenty of sunbathing space or a covered patio with an overhead fan to keep you cool while you grill up some steaks or burgers. Inside, there’s a living area with a couch perfect for curling up with a book, a TV for movie marathons, or just to gather up and bond while planning for where to go next. Hungry? There’s a breakfast table, kitchen bar and a dining table. Whatever’s on the menu, the huge well-equipped kitchen has everything you need to create tasty vacation meals. There’s also bathrooms, laundry facilities and parking space. Speaking of space, from 2 to 5 bedrooms, the rentals can comfortably accommodate couples, small or big families, and even large groups. Who could say no to high-end interiors complemented by phenomenal amenities?! Did I mention that some rentals are pet-friendly? Let’s not forget that some even have game or entertainment rooms and the near range attractions.
WHAT TO DO
With its beaches, amusement parks, sporting attractions and endless array of shopping venues, the “Big Guava” has it all.
Tailor-made for families, take your pick from the Florida Aquarium, Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center, Big Cat Rescue, to Tampa’s Lowry Zoo. When you’re not getting history lessons at the Henry B. Plant Museum, sun and fun is within reach. Some of Tampa’s most popular shorelines, including Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island State Park and Treasure Island are just less than an hour from downtown Tampa. Even if you’re not in town for a film screening or performance, it’s a must to stop at the beautifully ornate Tampa Theatre. Make the most of Tampa’s coastal location with a boat tour around its bay.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Tampa has an incredibly varied dining scene. Take a bite into culinary diversity and discover fine dining to farm-to-table restaurants where you’ll enjoy fresh seafood and authentic dishes.
Oystercatchers is very much recommended by recent visitors and locals for its enviable waterfront seat (it’s part of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay) and for having the freshest seafood in town. For a more casual setting, take a jaunt to Harbour Island for Cafe Dufrain’s locally sourced plates. For Cuban food, head to Ybor City and take a seat at Columbia Restaurant to enjoy Spanish, Caribbean, and Cuban plates with a side of flamenco dancing. La Teresita Restaurant is another local favorite that also features live music every night. Bern’s Steak House is a Tampa dining staple that travelers say is well-suited for special occasions. Rooster & Till features the farm-to-table twist on modern American tapas.
What comes to mind when you think of vacations in Florida? Sipping a fruity cocktail as the sun sets over the ocean, of course. That’s exactly what you’ll get at Jackson’s Bistro. For a rowdy night, head to Skipper’s where you can rock out to live music and try fried gator tail. Fly Bar’s buzzy rooftop is adorned with vibrant art and features live music - not to mention marvelous views of the sunset over downtown Tampa. Enjoy Tampa’s mild climate on weekends with a live band outside or a dance-inducing DJ on a huge patio at Franklin Manor. You can never have too many rooftop bars, especially in a forever-summer city like this. The Edge in Hyde Park is filled with lounge-y furniture and cozy lamps, perfect for a romantic cocktail date.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Being one of America’s sunshine capitals, there’s no single time to visit. After all, with 361 days of sunshine every year, it really is a year round destination. Just time your visit ‘because even though Tampa is a nice place to visit no matter the season, it does get hot during summer. So the best time to visit is in Fall (September to December) where the weather is just right for enjoying Tampa’s outdoor attractions and tourists thin out.
HOW TO GET HERE
Tampa International Airport (TPA/KTPA) is the most popular entry point for visitors, and it’s very easy to get into town after your plane touches down. Another alternative is Saint Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) which is only 15 miles away. By road, the best route to take is 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.
Whatever your vacation dream is, Tampa will welcome and entertain you like no other American city. So make it the destination for your next sunshine getaway.