Tampa

Tampa

Tampa Bay, Florida, has much to recommend it: Busch Gardens (which predates Disney World), impressive museums, winning sports teams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Lightning), fishing charters and one of the country’s largest ports, rocking nightlife and a wealth of tourist attractions.

Tampa has sharks and rays at the Florida Aquarium and the more lovable manatees at the zoo. At Busch Gardens, you can ride across re-created African plains in a safari truck, stopping to hand-feed roaming giraffes. Or you can go to sea on a fishing charter and try to catch your own wildlife.

In Ybor City, the historic Cuban neighborhood, you can amble down brick streets, following your nose to bakeries to buy fragrant loaves of Cuban bread or to shops where tabaqueros hand-roll fine cigars. Lively Spanish conversation might lead you to an old-fashioned domino parlor where grandfathers with gnarled hands gather to play in friendly neighborhood matches. Antiques shops, boutiques and art galleries beckon. After dark, the nightclubs throw open their doors, and Ybor City metamorphoses into the Tampa hot spot. Stylish young party animals go out to prowl the area’s many hip bars.

St. Pete (the local name for St. Petersburg, Florida) is only a 30-minute drive away, and the gorgeous Gulf Coast beaches are about a 45-minute drive. The theme parks of Orlando, Florida, are about 90 minutes to the east.

Geography

Greater Tampa, a major port city, sprawls around the northern end of Tampa Bay. The beaches of the Gulf of Mexico are west across Old Tampa Bay, and the city of St. Petersburg is south across the bay. Bridges and long causeways (with signs warning you to check your gas gauge) link the city to St. Petersburg and the popular beachfront communities of Clearwater, St. Pete Beach and other smaller resort towns.

North of downtown are Busch Gardens and the University of South Florida.

The Hillsborough River, the main source of Tampa’s drinking water, weaves through the city from the northeast.

Tampa’s streets are basically laid out in a grid. The east-west divider is Florida Avenue. Kennedy Boulevard divides north from south. Interstate 75, just east of town, and Interstate 275, running through town, are major north-south routes. Interstate 4 runs from Tampa to Daytona Beach and is the preferred route to Walt Disney World and the other Orlando-area attractions. I-275 continues west across the water to connect with St. Petersburg.