For those who live and work in south Florida, when they talk about Tampa, they also mention its sister city St. Petersburg in a single breath as Tampa/St. Pete. Even though the third and fifth largest cities in Florida are separated by Tampa Bay, the two kissing cousins have been connected at the hip since their inception. While Cuban and Caribbean culture blend seamlessly in this Gulf Coast winter haven, don’t think that Tampa/St. Pete as a more northerly version of Miami, because they have distinctly different personalities.
While the full-time population of Tampa is just under 400,000 and that of St. Pete hovers around the 260,000 mark, at this time of year the population of both cities explode as snowbirds from more northern climes fill them to near bursting. And why not? The subtropical climate sports an average winter temperature of 65 degrees and offers easy access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Looking For Something To Do in Tampa?
If you’re looking for something to do, Tampa is the spring training ground for the New York Yankees, and their rivals the Philadelphia Phillies are only minutes away in Clearwater. Or you can thrill to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if you’re a football fan. Just make sure you steer clear of Dale Mabry Highway on game day, unless you want to spend your afternoon stuck in a traffic jam when Raymond James Stadium empties out.
Other distinctly Tampa winter offerings include the Lebowski Fest where fans of the Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski party like the Dude in bathrobes and slippers, compete in the obligatory bowling tournament and revel in the underachiever lifestyle portrayed on the silver screen.
Tampa also celebrates its buccaneer roots every year with a week-long festival called Gasparilla Days, named after pirate Jose Gaspar. While participants aren’t required to walk the plank, you’ll hear sea chanties aplenty and will bear witness to a pirate invasion and parade hosted by the 700-member strong Mystic Krewe who make the town seem more like New Orleans during Mardi Gras as they toss colorful beads to the onlookers.
Another big draw in Tampa Bay is the cuisine.
That translates to seafood and Cuban delicacies. Most every restaurant in town sports grouper on their menu, since the brawny fish abounds in the local waters. Even the venerable Cuban sandwich is distinctly different in Tampa from that of its Miami variant. Traditionally consisting of roast pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles served on a toasted Cuban roll, Tampa natives adds a slice or two of Genoa salami to their version. If you’re a meat eater, you owe it to yourself to stop by Bern’s Steakhouse, which not only offers perfectly aged steaks, but sports one of the largest wine cellars in the world.
Want To Move To Tampa?
Moving to Tampa won’t break the bank, since the median cost of real estate there is $256,250. A burgeoning downtown and adjacent Channel District are home to an eclectic blend of modern and classic architecture. While you won’t see candy-colored, art deco homes and waterfront celebrity mansions galore like you will on Biscayne Bay in Miami, Tampa has a lot to offer.
Within a 2-mile radius of downtown residents and visitors alike can catch a Broadway show at the Straz Center, take in an NHL game or attend a concert at Tampa bay times Forum, or watch an independent film at the Tampa theater. Downtown also boasts the Florida Aquarium, home to Winter, the star of the hit motion picture Dolphin Tale.
Speaking of movies, Tampa has been featured in a number of Hollywood films, including Cocoon, Goodfellas, Magic Mike, Spring Breakers, A time to Kill and the George Clooney remake of Ocean’s Eleven. So, if any of the Tampa Bay landmarks appear familiar to you, you probably remember them from a rerun you saw on TV.
As far as the neighborhoods are concerned, Tampa properties range from the high-priced Hyde Park where you’ll find everything from $3 million mansions to $1,300 a month apartments to the bargain basement properties of Ybor Heights (pronounced E-bore). In between are all kinds of opportunities for both investors and those looking to relocate in Tampa.
As a rule, the farther north of Downtown you go, the lower the prices, the closer to the water, the higher the ticket. Named as one of the top-10 best places to invest in real estate back in 2015, the property values have risen an average of 16.7% per year on residential properties ever since.
If Tampa proves to be too pricey for your budget, nearby St. Pete offers even more bargains.
The median price of homes there is $236,000, with the median rent being $1,500. If you’re into luxury, Snell Isle could be the place for you.
The neighborhood boasts the biggest yards, the most swimming pools and the priciest cars in town. If historic homes sporting huge front porches shaded by hundred-year-old oak trees is more your style, Old Northeast offers old-world charm galore.
Bargain hunters, on the other hand should check out Kenwood which is loaded with restored 1920s style bungalows. If living on the water is a must, there’s Tropical Shores which offers some of the newest homes in town.
Family-friendly things to do and places to see abound on Tampa Bay
- Busch Gardens
Why drive 2-hours to Orlando when there’s a first-class amusement park right on Tampa Bay that offers residents a 12-month pass starting at only $11.25 per month? The facility includes amusement rides, a waterpark and even a zoo. The park also hosts concerts and weekend events, such as the Mardi Gras Weekend. Busch Gardens was ranked in 2019 as one of the Top-10 amusement parks in the country.
- If you crave culture, Tampa Bay offers everything from the Tampa Bay Symphony and the Florida Orchestra in Tampa, to the Salvador Dali Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Pete. There are also dozens of other museums and art galleries spotted all around Tampa Bay.
- The Tampa Riverwalk is another popular attraction, since it includes a number of restaurants, museums, hotels and the Florida Aquarium. If you’re looking to walk, the Riverwalk also boasts the Historic Monument Trail which is a walking history lesson composed of bronze and marble monuments designed to showcase the people who played a significant role in the development of Tampa. If you’re a little less athletically inclined, you can rent a Segway from Magic Carpet Glide to help you get around the Riverwalk on two gyroscopically controlled wheels.
Any way you cut it, if you’re looking for a place to hang your Panama hat in south Florida, it takes two, baby.