"Tampa Florida" Tampa by FrostyJW

Tampa Travel Guide: 1,034 reviews and 2,349 photos

General Details

Tampa is situated in the central west side of Florida, on Tampa bay area, west of which is St Petersburg and the Gulf Coast resorts. Its about 70 miles west of Orlando.

Tampa International Airport is very good, modern, well designed and efficient, and can be reached from London Airports, or via other cities or Newark, using Continental Airlines. The Airport is only 4 miles from the downtown area, and there is a bus service, or taxis available.

Summers in Tampa are very hot and humid, and of course from June-October is also hurricane season, so best time to visit is Sept-May, when you can expect 70s most days, though the Gulf water is cooler than in summer.

Downtown Tampa area is attractive, but mainly office buildings and not many shops or shopping malls, and for that reason not many people about. The Convention Centre area is worth seeing, and you can walk part way along the Hillsborough River, and presently (Sept 2005) they have a long term building project to extend a walkway along the river side.

There are several parking lots if you are driving downtown and want to explore on foot. Alternatively, using the local HARTLINE buses, many take you from the out lying areas to the Marion Street Transit Centre, from which a trolly bus does a circular tour of the downtown area, so you can get off and on to explore on foot. A day pass on the Hart Line Transit system buses costs $3 and can be got as you board any HartLine bus. It is also possible to take a bike on the buses, but you first have to get a special pass for this from the Hart Line Office at the Marion Transit Centre.

From the centre of Tampa you can visit the marvellous Henry Plant Museum, which now houses the University. The building was originally a Hotel, but closed down and was then taken over by Tampa and changed to the University. However one whole section ground floor has been restored to how it was in the 1930s, and is well worth a visit. Entrance fee is $5, and worth every cent.

From Tampa Downtown you can also get the TECO electric tramway to YBOR City, which is the historic Cuban Cigar centre, which is worth seeing, and although quiet during the day, is very busy at night with clubs and bars. There are several restuarants and bars worth visiting in the day too.

The TECO electric tramway also passes CHANNELSIDE, which is the passenger Cruise Liner port, and basically just an expensive shopping mall for Cruise Liner passengers. Not really worth seeing unless you have money to spend! Adjacent to Channelside is the Florida Aquarium, which is well worth visiting and costs about $15 entrance.

From Tampa bay it is possible to explore by car the St Petersburg area, Clearwater Beaches, Sarasota and and further south. There are three causeway bridges that cross from Tampa to St Petersburg, Clearwater, but note that at weekends the road to Clearwater is VERY busy and there can be long delays.

Busch Gardens is about 5 miles north of downtown Tampa area and well worth the visit, if you enjoy theme parks and zoos and roller coaster rides. Entrance passes can be purchased for one or more days, though quieter mid-week, and to get a parking space near the entrance you need to be there early.

Lowie Park and Zoo is also worth a visit, and only about 3 miles north of downtown Tampa at the junction of Slight and North Boulevard, the park itself is free entrance with shady places to sit with your own picnic, at sit by the river and watch folks in their boats.

Lowie Zoo is on the West side of North Boulevard, and has entrance fee of about $12.

South of Tampa on the coast road towards Bradenton there is a Manatee protection centre at Big Bend, where the TECO electric power station pumps purified warm water into Tampa Bay, with a protected area for Manatees. They winter in these waters and can been seen in their hundred's in the winter months until about March.

For local transport details Hartline does have a web page of timetables, Henry Plant Museum also has web pages, and a free Guide to Tampa can be collected from the HartLine Marion Transit centre.

Other things to see in Tampa

The Tampa Bayshore Boulevard is very attractive and popular with jogger’s, walkers and inline skaters, and some very expensive and impressive homes looking across Tampa Bay. There is seating along the boulevard, but not in the shade !

Hyde Park area is a very attractive up-market shopping area with shady seating, good cafes and shops, even with an English Phone Box! Expensive apartments and homes, but worth looking around. The Hart Line buses operate a shuttle bus from the Tampa downtown area into Hyde Park at about 45 minute intervals.

The two northern most causeway bridges across Tampa Bay have beach areas with shallow warm water for bathing.

The Skyway Bridge that runs from the St Petersburg peninsular south back to Bradenton is very spectacular, and the original bridge has a fishing pier each end, so you can take your car and park (entrance fee payable)

Further information available -

Ybor City has several bars and restaurants, but especially good is The Tampa Bay Brewing, at Ybor Centro, adjacent to the Teco Trolleycar stop.They brew a large range of their own excellent beers, and great food too. Large seating area inside, with the brewing equipment on view, and an outside bar area too. Ybor can be very busy in the evenings, with lots of night clubs and youngsters, and it has been known for some trouble, so unless you actually want late night clubs, then best to go mid-day.

The Ringling Museum, house and grounds south of Bradenton (about 50 miles) is well worth a visit, and you would need a whole day to see it all. See their web pages for opening times and costs.

Local Tampa Bus services for Hart Line (some services are only hourly of less, unlike European city buses!) information and map can be found at

http://www.hartline.org/

Henry Plant Museum details available at
http://www.plantmuseum.com/

The Ringling Museum at Sarasota details at

http://www.ringling.org/

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Good centre to see Gulf Coast resorts, Busch Gardens etc
  • Cons:Too hot in summer, take insect repellent, only go between October and May
  • In a nutshell:Cosmopolitan centre, but more commercial in downtown area than for tourism.
  • Last visit to Tampa: Apr 2007
  • Intro Updated Nov 1, 2007
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FrostyJW

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