Think of Florida’s Tampa Bay area, which includes the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, as a crescent moon-shaped stretch of land connected by a web of coastal bridges. Serene shorelines and rustic fishermen’s shacks and restaurants coexist alongside slick art museums and funky boutiques. From sandy beaches to swanky bistros, it’s all here within a short drive.

Tampa is the “big city” here, and because it covers a wide area, it can be difficult to find its heart. Near downtown, you find million-dollar homes overlooking the bay. From the waterside sidewalks, you can shade your eyes to look for stingrays, manatees and the occasional hammerhead shark offshore.

The cosmopolitan city of St. Petersburg sits to the southwest, facing Tampa Bay. Grassy waterfront parks, cafes and museums are all within walking distance. Feeling more bohemian? Check in with St. Petersburg’s crazy next-door neighbour, the happy hippie waterfront city of Gulfport. Used bookstores, art walks, drum circles and tie-dye T-shirts can all be found here. 

West of the mainland lies a 40-km stretch of beaches spread out over 10 barrier islands. From Clearwater Beach’s see-and-be-seen vibe in the north to the undiscovered country of St. Pete’s Pass-a-Grille Beach in the south, there’s a beach to suit any mood.

Some of the beaches, like Shell Key State Park and Caladesi Island State Park, require a boat to access and can provide complete seclusion.

Fishing piers, golf courses, endless hiking trails and bike paths sprinkled between the beaches ensure there’s plenty to do on dry ground, as well. Along the way, you can find 100 fun reasons to stop the car and stretchmom-and-pop ice cream shops, seashell stores, shacks offering smoked fish and boardwalk piers offering lookout points for spotting dolphins.

Plus there’s Cuban food, traditional fishing helmets used by sea-sponge divers and Philadelphia cheese-steak sandwiches from cold-weather refugees stateside. People from all over have brought the best of their former homes and transplanted it here.

After spending some time around Tampa Bay, you’ll realize what long-time residents already knowyou can’t go wrong when every road leads to a place that’s right.

Tampa is a fantastic destination for:

  • golf
  • beaches
  • outdoor adventure

Airport served by: TPA

Destination basics

With afternoon temperatures averaging 32 C, summers can be downright hot. However, they are easily manageable, if you think like a local. Save your jogs and more active pursuits for the cooler hours of the morning.

In the afternoon, stay close to a body of water (not hard to find here), and take frequent dips to cool off. Stock up on juice and bottled water to stay hydrated in the heat. Slather on the sunscreen, especially between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sunlight is most intense.

Or spend the hottest parts of the day browsing the malls, or catching a matinee.

By evening, the temperature drops, so you can enjoy dinner and drinks on an outdoor patio.

July and August are known for the daily four o’clock storm showers. The storms churn for half an hour, then the sun returns. It’s very rare for storms to last all day, regardless of the season.

In winter, lows average around 11 C. Come prepared with a warm jacket or sweatshirt for those rare chilly days.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Tampa

Two waves of immigrants made Tampa Bay the tropical crossroads of culture it is today. The first wave came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was made up of Cuban, Italian, Spanish and Greek migrants.

The second wave came from elsewhere within the U.S. after the Second World Warnortherners from Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and the like, looking to escape the cold.

Old-time Florida natives (people who go back four or five generations in Florida) are rare. They’re more often found in the farm country, away from the coast.

The beaches here are mostly barrier islands, and locals take the island attitude to heart. Sandals or flip-flips are standard issue. T-shirts are fine in all but the priciest of restaurants.

With so many bays, rivers and miles of coastline, and with so many warm weather days to enjoy it, it seems every resident either boats or has a friend who does. Weekends and holidays are spent fishing or cruising on the bay or in the gulf.

The Ybor City neighbourhood of Tampa remains the old homestead of Hispanic and Italian labourers who manned the tobacco factories of what was dubbed “Cigar City” early in the last century. They pioneered the Cuban sandwich found throughout the Bay area. The traditional version begins with baguette-style Cuban bread. Thin layers of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles are stacked on top. Then the whole thing is toasted in a sandwich press. Tampa’s sandwiches, owing to the influence of Italian immigrants, also use Genoa salami.

Driving through Clearwater, and especially further north, you start to see three- and four-syllable Greek names on businesses and restaurants. This is en route to Tarpon Springs, a community with the highest percentage of Greek citizens of any U.S. city. It has been populated since 1890 when Greek immigrants came to harvest sea sponges from the Gulf of Mexico.

Along the docks, the smells of grilled lamb and the ocean, mingled with the languages spoken by the shopkeepers, feels wonderfully exotic.

The Greeks have their own strong coffee, thick as oil and sickly sweet. But more often than not locals start their day Cuban-style, with day-old Cuban bread buttered and dunked into steaming mugs of café con leche. Heavy on the milk and sugar, it’s a bit like having a buttery mocha dessert for breakfast. Try it. You will find it’s easy to get used to.

When visiting Tampa, you’ll want to have some U.S. funds for general expenses and transit. For entertainment and shopping, your credit card will give you the exchange rate at the time of purchase. There are also numerous ATMs inside banks and public spaces where you can withdraw funds at your convenience. Just be aware that transaction fees vary by ATM.

Tampa Bay, one of the world's great secluded harbors, is a vast body of water separated from the Gulf of Mexico by a peninsula that stretches from Clearwater on the north to St. Petersburg in the south. In the center of the huge bay is a peninsula with MacDill Air Force Base at its southern tip. North of that is the city of Tampa, which got its name from a Native American word meaning "sticks of fire," a reference to the region as a campsite.

Downtown Tampa
Tampa's Hillsborough River winds its way through the Busch Gardens/University of South Florida section of the city and through downtown Tampa, bisecting the city as it makes its way to the sea. On the east side of the river, you will find a number of attractive hotels in the city's downtown core, such as the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.

Points of interest in this part of town include the Tampa Museum of Art, the Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Performing Arts Center.

Ybor City
On the southern edge of downtown Tampa lies tiny Ybor City, the center of the cigar industry; cigarmakers moved here after a fire destroyed the industry in Key West. There are only 10 streets in either direction, but the area carries a wealth of history.

Solid brick warehouses that once served as cigar factories now house offices and shops. Thanks to a strong restoration effort, Ybor City is the liveliest spot in town on weekends. Restaurants like the Columbia, dance clubs like Prana, cigar stores and specialty shops line Ybor City's narrow streets. Exhibits in the Ybor City Museum chronicle the city's colorful history.

Seminole Heights
One of Tampa's most quaint neighborhoods, Seminole Heights is a bohemian enclave that is home to an entreating variety of vintage shops, restored bungalows and established culinary gems serving gourmet eats. To the north of downtown Tampa, the neighborhood seems worlds apart from the frantic bustle of the city. The Second Sunday Morning Markets are a great place to get in touch with the community and shop for fresh produce while you're at it, while the Phoenix Glass Studio hosts live glass-blowing demonstrations. For a quick and delicious bite, head to the Taco Bus or slurp creamy ice-cream Bo's, a stalwart of Tampa's dining scene.

SoHo/Hyde Park
SoHo is Tampa's contemporary, cosmopolitan neighborhood, favored by young professionals who live in the locale's stylish loft apartments. Nearby, Hyde Park is a green oasis with plenty of room for leisurely strolls and invigorating runs. At its core lies a babbling fountain surrounded by movie theaters, restaurants and boutiques that make for a lively after-work hangout infused with a hip, welcoming vibe.

Busch Gardens/University of South Florida
A major north-south interstate highway, I-75, streaks up the east side of the bay, while I-275 branches off from I-75 north of Sarasota and travels through St. Petersburg, crossing the Howard Frankland and heading north from downtown. Those two interstate highways meet just north of town and create a triangle known as the Busch Gardens/University of South Florida region.

This is where you will find Tampa's famed Busch Gardens. Other attractions in the vicinity include the Tampa Greyhound Track, the Museum of Science & Industry, Adventure Island water park and the D. G. Yuengling Brewery.

Tampa Airport/Westshore
The award-winning Tampa International Airport sits on the city's west side, in the Airport/Westshore region. With a passenger volume of about 14 million annually, Tampa International Airport ranks among the top 10 airports in the nation for on-time departures. Here you will find some of the city's most impressive hotels, like the Embassy Suites Tampa, as well as the WestShore Plaza shopping area and the Raymond James Stadium.

Plant City
Traveling east of Tampa on I-4, built to connect Tampa to Daytona through Orlando, will bring you to Plant City, a farming community renowned for its annual Strawberry Festival and an array of related special events. There are also several interesting shops and restaurants here.

Downtown St. Petersburg
Downtown St. Petersburg is the heart of this city, across the bay from Tampa. The historic neighborhood is a hub of activity, a commercial and cultural center replete with restaurants, shops, parks, museums, waterfront promenades and so much more. This vibrant neighborhood is one of the urbanest in Tampa and hosts annual celebrations like the 4th of July fireworks with much pomp and show. Popular downtown attractions include the Salvador Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Mahaffey Theatre, the Sunken Gardens and the Sundial St. Pete amongst several others.

Historic Kenwood
Just west of downtown St. Petersburg, Historic Kenwood is a menagerie of 1920s bungalows. In fact, the neighborhood is home to one of Florida's largest collections of this kind of architecture. Each year in November, the neighborhood hosts the BungalowFest, a two-day celebration of the neighborhood's heritage featuring guided tours of Historic Kenwood's beautifully preserved homes and gardens.

Tampa and St. Petersburg's entertainment empire offers a good laugh, great dining, an impressive nightlife and plenty of sports activities tossed in for good measure. Together, these twin cities add a whole lot of sparkle to the Tampa Bay region.

Amusement Parks, Zoos and Aquariums
Busch Gardens is the undisputed king of the Tampa entertainment scene. More than 3,000 animals dwell on a Serengeti veldt in this African-themed park. Visitors can observe wildlife in natural habitats across an area of over 300 acres (81 hectares), as well as enjoy a number of amusement rides, animal shows and nature exhibits.

The park is home to five terrifying roller coasters, including the Montu and the Kumba, which were ranked among the top five steel roller coasters in the world by Amusement Today magazine. A third, Gwazi, is the Southeast's largest and one of the fastest dueling wooden roller coaster. Busch Gardens' Adventure Island offers 30 acres of water-themed amusements ranging from a bevy of corkscrew slides to a wave pool, waterfalls and a children's play area.

Two attractions devoted to injured animals make for a heartstring-tugging adventure here. In Tampa, Big Cat Rescue harbors a coterie of lions, tigers and other big cats without a home, and you can even sleep amid them in three rustic cabins. The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Rocks Beach offers a close-up look at the care and feeding of injured birds.

Other intriguing amusements in the Tampa Bay region include Lowry Park, an "open" zoo where 1,500 animals are separated from visitors by moats or other natural barriers; The Florida Aquarium, which offers a close-up look at 4,300 salt and freshwater dwellers, including an encounter with some toothy sharks and gentle stingrays; Dinosaur World, where you can go eye-to-ankle with 200 massive dinosaurs, including one 40 feet (12 meters) high and a Brachiosaurus that's 80 feet (24 meters) long, all dwelling in a cypress forest. Fantasy of Flight offers a look at 20 historic aircraft and lets you try your hand at a flight simulator.

Tampa Bay's museums cover a wide range of informative adventures.

Tampa's free-wheeling days of yore are chronicled at the Henry B. Plant Museum in the whimsical Tampa Bay Hotel, once one of the nation's most extravagantly elegant hostelries. The Tampa Bay History Center outlines the geography, history and multicultural influences that have affected Tampa Bay, while the St. Petersburg Museum of History does much the same for that city.

Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry is a playground for budding scientists, offering 450 hands-on activities and a Hurricane Chamber that offers you the dubious thrill of 74 mile-per-hour winds, plus an IMAX theater.

And talk about museums! How many cities can lay claim to a history museum that spans several blocks? Antique Ybor City over 10 blocks long and 10 blocks wide, its streets lined with antique buildings tied closely to the 200 cigar companies and 12,000 cigarmakers who once rolled the world's stogies here.

Tampa Museum of Art features a permanent collection of Greek and Roman classical pieces as well as contemporary art and sculpture. The University of South Florida's Contemporary Art Museum houses a 3,600-piece permanent collection that includes work by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist, as well as African art. Salvador Dali's Surrealist art is displayed in the largest collection of its kind at St. Petersburg's Salvador Dali Museum. St. Petersburg is also home to the impressive Chihuly Collection of glass art and the Morean Arts Center with its vast and varied cache of local, national and international artwork.

Performing Arts
As for performing arts, Tampa's Straz Center for the Performing Arts is one of the largest performing arts complexes south of Washington, D.C. It has four theaters for opera, cabaret, plays, dance, music, alternative and Broadway theater. The center is home to the Opera Tampa, the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra, and the Community Arts Ensemble. The legendary Tampa Theatre, established in 1926, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and hosts film series, concerts, special events and backstage tours. Other stalwarts of the performing arts in Tampa include the Amalie Arena; acclaimed Jobsite Theater Company housed in Shimberg Playhouse; and the Skipper's Smokehouse & Oyster Bar - a local hangout for live music.

St. Petersburg's performing arts scene is no less exciting, crowned by venues like the Mahaffey and Palladium Theaters. The city hosts performances by resident companies like the American Stage Theatre Company, A Simple Theatre, freeFall, the St. Petersburg City Theatre, the St. Pete Opera Company and the Florida Orchestra.

Tampa's nightlife is a variegated affair with something to suit every taste. From laid-back pubs and live music venues to classy cocktails bars and glitzy dance clubs, Tampa has it all and more. You'll find the best nightlife options clustered in Ybor City, SoHo, Westshore and Seminole Heights, although you'll find some stellar options away from these hotspots as well.

The city's original live music venue, Skipper's Smokehouse, is a good place to begin. This local hangout is a thriving nightspot that features both local and touring bands on a nightly basis. Take a break from the usual nightlife attractions and head to the Improv Club and Dinner Theater for uproariously hilarious stand-up comedy. This legendary venue has hosted performances by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler and David Spade to a name a few. Also in Tampa is the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, complete with several restaurants, bars and a sprawling casino. The Castle and Club Prana, on the other hand, are some of the city's most popular nightclubs while the Honey Pot tops the list of Tampa's gay bars. The Orpheum, Crowbar and New World Brewery are a few others stars of Tampa's booming nightlife.

St. Petersburg is no less enticing by night, with its rooftop lounges, beach bars and glamorous nightclubs. From celebrity hotspots and speakeasies like the Mandarine Hide, to pubs like MacDinton's and the Ale & the Witch, St. Pete's has it all. Tryst Gastro Lounge is another popular choice, as is Shephard's Tiki Bar. For live music, head to Jannus, while Frenchy's Rockaway Grill is one of the city's favorite beach bars.


Tampa Bay loves its sports. From the Tampa Bay Buccaneer football team to professional baseball and hockey teams, the city is high on sports and always has been—baseball legend, Babe Ruth, hit his longest home run here at Plant Field on April 4, 1919, when he whacked a 587-foot, record-setting homer. Another famous baseball name, Al Lopez, also known as "El Senor," and named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, was a Ybor City native.

Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium is a nationally acclaimed arena that frequently hosts the Super Bowl, while Tampa's Lightning hockey team plays at the Amalie Arena and enthusiastic fans closely follow Tampa Bay's Devil Rays baseball team.

For racing enthusiasts, Tampa Bay has two greyhound racing tracks—Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, billed as the world's oldest continuously operating dog track, and Tampa Greyhound Track in Tampa. In nearby Oldsmar, Tampa Bay Downs thunders with the racing hooves of thoroughbred horses.

Finally, for those who want a scenic walk or jog, Bayshore Boulevard runs alongside Tampa Bay for a serene 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) of panoramic views and greenery. A favorite with joggers, walkers, skaters and bikers, it's the city's epicenter for fitness fans and was cited by the American Automobile Association as one of the state's "Top Roads." In St. Petersburg, the historic, mile-long pier is a delightful place to stroll the region's historic past, enjoy the present and contemplate the future.

Outdoor Activities
For those who enjoy the outdoors, Tampa and St. Petersburg have much to offer. From sun-bronzed beaches and serene city parks to more thrilling fishing excursions and boat tours, these twin cities make the most of Tampa Bay's sunny climes. The best golf courses include Rock Point, Bay Palms, and Mangrove Bay & Cyprus Links.


When it comes to retail therapy or some good old window shopping, few can outdo Tampa and St. Petersburg's malls and shopping centers. Hyde Park Village, Channelside Bay Plaza, Centro YBOR and the Big Top Flea Market are the top choices in Tampa, while Ellenton Premium Outlets, Tyrone Square Mall, Baywalk, the 66th Street Flea Market and the Wagon Wheel Flea Marget are St. Petersburg's best.

Tampa Bay is a land of natural abundance. All manner of fish thrive in the warm waters of the Gulf, and the region's more than 2,500 farms harvest everything from winter vegetables to spring strawberries. You'll find the most dining options near the Airport, in Ybor City and in the area around the University of South Florida.

Tampa Airport/Westshore
Bern's Steakhouse is hugely celebrated, and is known worldwide for its excellent cuts of beef and extensive wine cellar. Owned and operated by the Laxer family for more than 40 years, Bern's continues to win praise from judges for its stained glass lamps, its U.S. prime beef (aged up to 10 weeks in special lockers), and herbs and vegetables grown just for this restaurant. You will also find a 65-page dessert menu and the comparatively new addition, Sidebern's, designed to accommodate the main restaurant's overflow of diners with a taste of what it calls "One World Cuisine." While those two retain all their justifiable fame in Tampa Bay, they have been joined by a host of competitors offering a wide range of dining opportunities, both elegant and casual.

Donatello features Northern Italian cuisine, served amid glittering crystal by tuxedoed waiters. The restaurant has won numerous awards for its excellence in food and service. Armani's aims toward the pinnacle of Tampa Bay dining, both literally and figuratively—it sits high atop the Hyatt Regency Westshore, overlooking Tampa Bay. It is a local favorite for views and equally popular for its stylish Italian cuisine and a notable wine list. With a view of the Bay that inspired its name, Oystercatchers is tucked into a 35-acre nature preserve and lures diners with seafood plucked straight from the waters and served in a stylish setting.

Busch Gardens/University of South Florida
Tampa Bay likes its beer; it is the site of the state's first brewery, the Florida Brewing Company (est. 1897). Anheuser-Busch brews and dispenses its suds at a special exhibit in its Busch Gardens theme park. The smoked seafood at Skipper's Smokehouse can't be beat, while the cooks at The Cuban Sandwich Shop know how to prepare traditional Cuban fare with a modern twist. Try the Media Noche, their take on ham and cheese, or stop by Taj to sample a wide variety of Indian favorites.

Ybor City
Bistros have broken out all over, turning up by the dozens in Ybor City. Ovo Art Café caters to the chic with a flower-bedecked dining room and soft music. Le Bordeaux turned a bungalow into a bistro, and Mise En Place lives up to its name, situated across from the onion domes of the whimsically magnificent Tampa Bay Hotel.

The region's claims to culinary fame have traditionally rested on two dining mainstays. The sprawling Columbia Restaurant, Florida's oldest dining establishment, has been serving up blue margaritas and Spanish cuisine since 1905, and racking up dozens of awards in the process. Here, you can dine in one of 11 ornately decorated dining rooms that cover an entire city block! Bernini Restaurant features a changing array of delicacies, from beef laced with white truffles to an upmarket Vesuvio Pizza topped with three-chili oil, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken and smoked mozzarella.


State: Florida

Country: United States

Tampa/St. Petersburg by the Numbers
Tampa Population: 369,075 (city)
St. Petersburg Population: 257,100 (city)
Elevation: 44 feet / 13 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 46 inches / 117 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 61°F / 16°C
Average July Temperature: 83°F / 28°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-5 (GMT-4 Daylight Saving Time); Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 813; 727

Did You Know?

The name Tampa comes from an indigenous people's word that meant "sticks of fire" since lightning is common in this area.

St. Petersburg was incorporated on February 29, 1892, a leap year!


Tampa and St. Petersburg are located on the Florida coast. Tampa is at the head of Tampa Bay. These cities are about 110 miles (177 kilometers) west of Orlando and about 290 miles (467 kilometers) northwest of Miami.

Tampa’s geography can be summed up in one word: flat. In fact, the biggest hill within 100 km is the approach span to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge leading south from St. Petersburg. East of Tampa you’ll find mostly farmland, namely huge fields of strawberries and blueberries.

Water is another defining feature of the Tampa Bay area. With the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the half-moon shape of the bay on the other, it seems like anywhere you go there’s a bridge to cross.

The beaches are all sand, with very few rocks. Besides the beaches, Tampa Bay itself is ringed with saltwater mangrove trees and mud flats. The calm waters invite nesting shorebirds, manatees and kayakers who want to see it all up close.

The Hillsborough River runs 87 km, from the swamp forests in the east, through downtown Tampa and into the bay. Along the upper portions of the river you may see gopher tortoises, Eastern Indigo snakes, Florida scrub jays or sometimes a bald eagle.

Closer to the coast, the wildlife becomes much more apparent pelicans, ospreys and Great Blue herons are everywhere.

In 1527, Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez set off with a fleet of four galleons in search of that coveted New World treasure—gold. His plans failed. A hurricane blew his ships off course to a landing on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

In the village, so the story goes, de Narvaez spotted a glittering gold ornament and thought he had found every early explorer's dream. But, that treasure turned out to be Spain's very own doubloons, salvaged by native tribes who had plucked them from shipwrecks!

More explorers came seeking treasure. The pirates Black Caesar, José Gaspar and Jean Lafitte left a legacy, literally and figuratively. They are remembered fondly—even honored—today at the region's annual Gasparilla Festival, a party that features a pirate invasion in full costume.

When fishing fleets arrived to take advantage of the fish-rich waters of Tampa Bay, another industry developed. Fish remains a mainstay of the region's economy and the backbone of the area's restaurants.

As commerce grew, the addition of miles-long causeways and bridges connected the string of islands with the mainland. The Skyway Bridge, a series of connectors that stretches 14 miles across glittering Tampa Bay, is now a tourist attraction in its own right.

Eventually, contemporary buccaneers began promoting the Tampa region as prime real estate. During the 1920s boom years, promoters followed in the tracks of entrepreneur and railroad magnate Henry Plant. Plant brought a railroad line from cold northern climes to the sunny South and engendered a legendary rivalry with his entrepreneurial counterpart, Henry Flagler, who also built a railroad on the Florida peninsula's Atlantic coastline.

Plunking down what was then the staggering sum of USD3 million dollars, Plant opened the massive Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891 at the water's edge, topping it with glittering silver minarets and trimming its verandas with Moorish woodwork. Visible for miles around, the beloved Tampa Bay Hotel remains the city's landmark. A magnificent structure, it once boasted corridors so wide the hotel's indolent wealthy could hire a rickshaw to trot them off to their rooms. To get upstairs, they rode a hand-carved, wood elevator powered by hydraulic force, the only one of its kind in the world. Here, the famous and the infamous strode the wide verandas—Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Clara Barton, William Jennings Bryan.

Plant went on to build another hotel, the imposing Belleview Biltmore, which is still operating today. Soon these two hostelries were joined by the bubble-gum pink Don Cesar Hotel, flagship of the coastal island hotels and possessor of a notable guest list that includes F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda.

As time passed, Scots settlers moved into nearby Dunedin, which, nearly 150 years later, still toasts its Gaelic connections with an annual highland games festival that features such entertaining competitions as the log throw and a performance of the military Tattoo and Retreat ceremony.

Scots were not the only foreigners to find their way to Florida's tranquil Tampa Bay coastline. Generations ago, Greek sponge fishermen settled into Tarpon Springs; you can still buy a straight-from-the-sea sponge here, and chat with folks whose heritage has long been tied to the glittering waters of Tampa Bay. None of that heritage has been forgotten, either. Bouzoukis still strum at tavernas in Tarpon Springs, and it is said that many a platter is smashed at local pubs when the dancing goes derverish in the wee hours. At Easter, the community celebrates the Ephiphany by tossing a cross into the sea—divers plunge in after it, and the winner is guaranteed a year of good fortune.

Meanwhile, serene St. Petersburg was taking its own tack. Here, history was made in the halcyon days at the turn of the century before Prohibition and the bust in the boom. In 1885, an American Medical Association report dubbed the city a healthy place to live; dozens of green benches were scattered about town to provide respite to sun-seeking, elderly tourists. The city's newspaper, the Evening Sun, was once distributed free on any day that the sun did not shine. In 76 years, readers got their paper free just 295 times, or an average of four times a year! The city also made the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest consecutive run of sunny days—768—stretching from the February, 1967 to March, 1969.

In 1889, the Orange Belt Railway built the St. Petersburg Municipal Pier and added an ornate bathing pavilion and a toboggan slide into the sea. A horse-drawn flatcar carried passengers from the docks two miles away, and a jitney service shuttled them down the mile-long strip of concrete. Smack dab in the middle of town, that slab of concrete is today called simply The Pier, and it is no less unusual than it was in those early days—in the middle of it all is an upside-down pyramid!

In ensuing years, the city has tried hard to dispel its retirement community image—St. Petersburg Beach boasts discos that rock until dawn. The city still remains popular with an older crowd; there is a softball team open only to players age 70 and up, as well as the largest shuffleboard club in the world. So beloved is shuffleboard here that the city is home to the National Shuffleboard Hall of Fame!

Today's St. Petersburg remains a lovely place, filled with serenely beautiful old homes, manicured lawns, two miles of shoreline, 2,000 acres of recreation area and a plethora of parks so pretty you'll wonder if city gardeners measure the grass blades. The flagship of the city's hotels is the postcard-perfect Renaissance Vinoy Hotel, restored to its flapper-era splendor and, once again one of the most spectacular antique hotels in Florida.

Tampa Bay opened the sleek waterfront Tampa Convention Center in 1990, the Florida Aquarium in 1995 and a 20,000-seat Ice Palace Arena a year later. A downtown development connects downtown Tampa to Ybor City with the 230,000-square-foot Channelside at Garrison Seaport Center, an entertainment complex of theaters, restaurants and retail shops. Meanwhile, Holland America Lines and Carnival Cruises dock and depart regularly from the nation's 11th largest docking area.

Tampa Bay has long been a welcome sight for explorers, promoters and sun-seekers, a water-locked land blessed in abundance with sunlight and sand.

With Tampa’s wide spread of tourist attractions, many visitors to this city choose to rent a car for the duration of their stay. If you opt to rent a car and drive yourself, try to avoid heavy traffic times, from about 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. If you can’t avoid driving during the workday commute, be sure to allow extra time to get where you’re going.

If renting a car is not in your plan, Tampa also offers a variety of public transit options to help you make the most of your trip.

Tampa’s Got HART

Tampa’s Hillsborough Area Regional Transit or HART serves the county, with buses running regularly on both “local” and “Commuter Express” routes. Local routes have numerous stops along the way, while Commuter Express lines have fewer stops and provide service from downtown to the suburbs and back. Either option is great when travelling with kids, since the buses here rarely fill up. Fare is US$1.75 for local routes and US$2.75 for Commuter Express lines. Those over 65 and under 17 years of age ride for half-price.

Take a Ride on Tampa’s Streetcar

Tampa also offers a streetcar line called TECO, which runs from Dick Greco Plaza (downtown) to Centennial Park in Ybor City. With only 10 stops, the streetcar is a valuable resource for tourists looking to travel between attractions. Stops along the line include St. Pete Times Forum, the Florida Aquarium and many great restaurants and shopping destinations. As an added bonus, there are ticket vending machines conveniently located at each stop.

This streetcar line is also a great way to show the kids a historical transportation method, along with many historical locations along the way (no walking needed). A single streetcar fare is US$2.50. Or you can pick up a day pass with unlimited rides on both streetcars and trolleys for only US$5. Route times vary by season and day of the week, so be sure to check with your hotel concierge before heading out.

Or Take Tampa’s Trolley

Tampa is also home to a two-line trolley system that runs during higher-traffic commute times. The lines run beside Tampa’s Central Business District and transfers are available for travel between streetcar and trolley lines.

Prefer to take a taxi or limo? Tampa has many local cab companies who can conveniently pick you up and drop you off at your hotel, at whatever time you choose.


When travelling to the United States, you’ll pass through U.S. Customs right at your home airport and then be on your way. Once you land at Tampa International Airport, head over to the baggage claim area to get your bags. In just a few short steps, you’ll be outside and able to catch a shuttle or taxi to your hotel.

Travel requirements cont'd


Smiling WestJetters will greet you at the international check-in counters and will help you prepare to board your flight home. You can also check in and select your seat online using WestJet’s simple Web check-in service.

Saltwater and sunshine is what has put Tampa Bay on the map. But it’s when you see the true depth of Tampa and what the city has to offer that you’ll get really hooked.

There’s so much varied terrain, so many cool neighbourhoods and little hidden towns here – you can do exactly what you want, every day you’re here.

It’s hard to find sandy beaches anywhere north of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s all mangroves and oyster shells. Make good use of the 40 km of Tampa Bay beaches and dig your toes into the golden sand. Try Fort Desoto’s secluded East Beach with its winning views of the 58-metre-high Sunshine Skyway Bridgethe world’s longest cable-stayed concrete bridge.

Then slip on your sandals and peruse the coastal art galleries in St. Pete Beach, hire a charter boat from Hubbard’s Marina in John’s Pass or cast off from any of the 30-plus public fishing piers throughout the Bay area.

Once the saltwater air works up your thirst, head north to Dunedin. This Scottish community is known for its brewery and the annual Highland Games. These include log throwing, hammer throwing and other events.

Ready for some refinement? Try the Tampa Museum of Art. It sits on the Hillsborough River by the bay. Ivy-league rowing crews regularly train on the river because it’s so calm. Each season, the crews paint a portion of the seawall in their school colours.

Nearby, the Tampa Theatre offers avant-garde films and new hits in its restored 1920s movie palace. Across the bay, the newest crown jewel is St. Petersburg’s Dali Museum. It contains Salvador Dali’s Masterworks paintings, weighing more than 450 kilograms each.

In St. Petersburg, you can visit the Holocaust Museum and the Great Explorations Children’s Museum, among others. Pack a picnic and wander through the lush grassy parks next to the downtown yacht basin.

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ˆTotal price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions. *Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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