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    Tampa: discovering downtown, Ybor City and much more

    Who I am
    Lluis Enric Mayans
    @lluisenricmayans
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    Welcome to Tampa! Welcome to Tampa! In the city we appreciated the welcome that the Subway clerk gave us. He has certainly heard us speak in Spanish; we had stopped for a quick sandwich and instead we sat and talked to him for a while and it immediately put us in tune with this city on the west coast of Gulf of Mexico. Anyone who knows something about Florida has certainly heard of this place which, since its commercial and railway origins, has started with momentum, where you live well and where constant development is sustainable.



    We are located in the county seat, the largest urban agglomeration in the area of Tampa Bay and one of the largest cities in the state. In 2008 Forbes magazine declared it the fifth best American city to live in the open air and in 2015 Money Magazine judged it the best large city in the south-east of the States to live in. In Tampa people also love to have fun, which is why attractions of various kinds have been created. We are ready to discover it and without wasting time we set off.

    Index

    • What to see in Tampa
      • The Downtown
      • The Riverwalk
      • Channel District
      • Ybor City
      • The museums of Tampa
      • The naturalistic attractions
    • Tampa Bay City Pass
    • The events of Tampa
      • Sporting events
    • Where to eat
    • Where to sleep in Tampa
    • How to get there and how to move around the city

    What to see in Tampa

    The Downtown

    Tampa is crossed by the Hillsborough River and is divided into many neighborhoods due to its size. We start our visit from the heart, the downtown. Skyscrapers stand out in front of our eyes and harmless white clouds and the sun's rays are reflected on the transparent windows. Our camera is already at work. The AmSouth Building, which houses offices and a bank, is the tallest building but the center is not just a vertically developed area.



    We note the contrast of the skyscrapers with the Renaissance style of the town hall (315 EJFKennedy) and with the historic Tampa Theatre which dates back to 1926 (711 N. Franklin St.) to which it is necessary to dedicate the time of a visit (which we choose to do self-guided). As soon as you enter the building you will notice the elaborate architectural beauty and the cinema hall is a lovely Mediterranean courtyard where films are presented and events and concerts take place.

    The Riverwalk

    We started well and now, still in downtown, we move to the river area called riverwalk created for those who want to walk, jog and cycle along a paved path that runs along the river. The area, initially built to give more life to the riverside, allows you to walk near works of art (monuments, sculptures, murals, glass works), but also in open spaces and in the five parks connected to it.

    East of the river we cross the neighborhood Tampa Heights, one of the oldest areas of the city, full of historic buildings and always in the downtown we visit the Sacred heart Catholic Church (509 North Florida Ave.) a graceful Catholic church with a prevalence of Romanesque style in which we appreciate the 41 meter high dome, the Carrara marble altar, the window decorations and the porcelain tiles.

    We enjoyed the visit to this religious building and then we reply to the Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (509 E. Twiggs St.), Tampa's first Mediterranean Revival Episcopal Church completed in 1907 by a local architect. Inside, the organ set in an oak box stands out and in the windows the colors of the images of Jesus Christ, saints, kings and heroes stand out.


    Channel District

    East of downtown we reach the Channel District, a pleasant neighborhood where nothing is missing. Those who live here or visit the area benefit from an entertainment complex, attractions, shops, restaurants, bars and outdoor spaces for musical events.


    Then we visit the SS American Victory (705 Channelside Dr.), a World War II ship where you can board, have a look at documents, photographs, weapons, navigation equipment, crew cabins, and engine room. Twice a year, usually in the spring and fall, tours take place along the Channel District with music, entertainment and performances of traditions from the past.

    Ybor City

    Northeast of downtown we enter the historic district of Ybor City (7th Ave, Dr. Martin Luthern King Jr. Blvd., Nebraska Ave., 40th St., 22nd St., Adam Dr.) which spans 2,6 square kilometers. Founded in 1880 by Vicente Martinez Ybor together with other cigar makers, this area was populated by hundreds of immigrants mainly of Latin origin. From that period until the Great Depression of the 30s, hundreds of thousands of cigars were produced in the factories present here, then with the crisis and mechanization the demand for hand-made fine cigars decreased drastically to the point that towards the 70s several areas of the neighborhood were abandoned.

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    Subsequently, from the 90s onwards, a part of the district was revitalized and exploited as a place for entertainment, night clubs, shops, restaurants, moreover many old buildings were renovated and used as offices and residences. Nothing is the same as before and now the main street of Ybor City, 7th Street, in 2008 it was named one of the ten greatest streets in America.



    Walking through its buildings with a Latin flavor we notice two points of interest. The first is Ybor City Museum State Park (1818 9th Ave.), a typical Mediterranean style garden house where immigrants who worked in the cigar industry lived. Here you also get to know the founder of Ybor City, the history and development of the city and then, not least, there is the Baseball Museum at Lopez House  (2003 N. 19th St.) "temple" of baseball culture, a real local passion.

    The museums of Tampa

    Tampa lives a lot in the open air but then, as you discover it, you realize that there are others museums that interest visitors and are worth spending some time on. In the downtown we report two. The Museum of Art (120 W. Gasparilla Plaza) is a modern building overlooking the Hillsborough River, impressive in the evening when illuminated with LED lights; inside it is exposed classical ancient objects (for example Greek and Roman) and then temporary exhibitions are organized. Similarly, along the riwerwalk al Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (400 N. Ashley Dr.) high-end photographic works are displayed and temporary exhibitions are held.

    In the Channel District we point out the Tampa Bay History Center (801 Old Water St.) dedicated to the history and culture of the natives, the Spanish conquistadors and the historical figures of the area. Here is also a replica of a 20s cigar shop. In the city there are other interesting museums such as the Mosi, Museum of Science and Industry (4801 E. Fowler Ave.) with interactive activities dedicated to science, industry and technology and also a spectacular Imax theater, the largest of its kind in the south-east of the States.

    The building of the former Tampa Bay Hotel is home to theHenry B. Plant Museum (401 W. Kennedy Blvd.) where temporary and permanent exhibitions are held and where you learn the story of transport magnate Henry B. Plant, tell about life in Tampa in the 19th century and tell the story of the Spanish-American war . You can admire sculptures, objects and even pieces of the hotel's original furniture dating back to the end of the 800th century. In this location musical, theatrical and reading events are held.

    The naturalistic attractions

    A nice set of places of attraction it concerns the animal world and that of entertainment. In the Channel District we point out theAquarium (701 Channelside Dr.) where you can swim with fish, see corals, sharks, rays, eels and sea turtles. There is a children's area where you can play between water and sand but there is also a 4D theater for the fun of the whole family. To the Lowry Park Zoo (1101 W. Sligh Ave.) penguins, koalas, manatees, monkeys, emus, flamingos, crocodiles, llamas and Florida panthers await us for a close encounter. Then there are the roller coasters, you can take a train ride and experience a narrated safari.

    Il Big Cat Rescue (12802 Easy St.) is a non-profit park where abused and abandoned felines are treated and rehabilitated. It is nice to meet lynxes, jaguars, leopards and tigers who have recovered physically and psychologically thanks to the work of many sensitive people. Adventure Iceland (10001 McKinley Dr.) instead is a water park with swimming pools, slides, but also volleyball courts and an area with inviting white sand that is so much Florida!

    But the best known amusement park, open all year round, is Busch gardens (10165 N. McKinley Dr.), which has always been an institution in the area, ranging from countless thrilling roller coasters to African-themed rides, bathing attractions, live entertainment and animal encounters, more than 12.000. There is also a play area dedicated to children who do not feel the thrill and thrill of high-speed racing and whirlpools.

    During the year there are events related to music, gastronomy as well as more particular ones dedicated to the 4th of July, Halloween and Christmas holidays. It can be said that the name of Tampa is inextricably linked to that of Busch Gardens. At the moment, the online ticket costs $ 68 for ages 3 and up and includes admission to the park and all attractions.

    For a quiet walk we go to the Perry Harvey Sr. Park (1000E. Harrison St.), north of downtown where we find several murals and sculptures, for example that of Mr. Harvey who had a decisive impact on the life of the African-American community in Tampa and then there is the spectacular Gateway Sculptures, an unusual sculptural ensemble that represents musicians, dancers and a jukebox, an impressive work that does not go unnoticed created by the eccentric artist James Simon to emphasize the importance of music. We continue to explore and everywhere there is something to focus on. We like to observe the commitment with which some boys play in a basketball court but above all we are not indifferent to the acrobatics on the skateboard in the track called bro bowl (1200 N. Orange Ave.).

    When we researched about Tampa we discovered the presence of the Buddhist temple Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Temple (also called Wat Tampa) and we put it on our list. We reach 5306 Palmer Road and the result is that we immediately feel transported to another dimension. The building has a width of 9 meters, is 27 long and 10 high. Inside we see a statue of Buddha in a meditative position. The monks live in the temple and on Sundays from 13pm to 14pm they celebrate the service with songs, sermons and meditations. Other religious ceremonies are also held and then group discussions with the study of the word of Buddha. The temple is open for visits from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 to 16. On Sunday from 8,30 to 13 there is a characteristic Thai food market that we do not miss.

    About twenty minutes from Tampa is theHillsborough River State Park (15402 US 301 N. - Thonotosassa) separated from the river of the same name by a series of rapids. It is a park with over eleven kilometers of paths surrounded by oaks, pines and dwarf palms. In the nature of this beautiful location you can swim, fish, canoe, kayak and cycle, then among the fauna you can meet alligators, hawks and cranes. Boats, bicycles and golf carts are available for hire. There is also space for camping, picnics and shopping. With a guided tour you can also visit Fort Foster which dates back to the times of the wars with the Seminole Indians.                                                          

    We report three in the city centers Business for shopping lovers or simply for the curiosity to visit them: Westmore Plaza (250 Westshore Plaza), University Mall (2200 E. Fowler Ave.) and International Plaza (2223 N. Westshore Blvd.).

    Tampa Bay City Pass

    If you are planning to spend a few days in Tampa and you want to save a little about the entrance to the various attractions, you can consider buying a tourist pass.

    In fact, with the Tampa Bay City Pass you will save the 51% on the following attractions:

    • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
    • The Florida Aquarium
    • Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
    • Clearwater Marine Aquarium
    • Museum of Science & Industry oppure Chihuly Collection

    The pass costs $ 106 for adults and $ 96 for children aged 3 to 9 and can be purchased by clicking on the link below.

    Tampa Bay City Pass

    The events of Tampa

    What's better than experiencing the energy of Tampa by attending one or more Events? In January the Tampa Black Heritage Festival, the event that celebrates the African-American contribution in American society and gives the opportunity to deepen their awareness. All this happens with live entertainment, cultural events, seminars, but also markets where food and handicrafts are sold.

    Depending on the calendar, in January or February the show is at its highest during the Gasparilla Pirate Festival which takes place in different locations, we mention for example the SS American Victory and the Henry B. Plant Museum. The first edition dates back to May 1904 and from that date onwards every year there are costumed parades, film festivals, marathons and music is listened to celebrate Josè Gaspar (also known by the nickname of Gasparilla), a naval officer who became a pirate "operating "In southeastern Florida.

    It then takes a leap in time during the Bay Area Renaissance Festival (11315 N. 46th St.) which takes place on some weekends in February and March. Each weekend there is a theme that takes you back to the 16th century between merchants, music and food in the Renaissance style. Celebrations in honor of Ireland are held in March with the Mayor’s River O’Connor Fest in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (600 N. Ashley Dr.) near the Hillsborough River. First on the occasion the river is colored and takes on a typical Irish green shade, then there are games, activities for children, costume competitions, walks and runs along the river. You can have fun with live music and also enjoy street food. Four-legged friends are also invited to the event.

    We also report three events that take place in November and celebrate as many ethnic groups. L'India Festival held at the Florida State Fairgrounds (4800 US 301) aims to further strengthen the integration of the Indian community in Tampa. Colors, joy, folkloristic dances and purchases at the craft and food stalls surround the event. Latin culture and art are expressed in the event Hot Congas held at Lopez Park (4810 N. Nimes Ave.) when live music, ethnic food and works of art meet; and in true Latin style there is no shortage of an area to play dominoes and one dedicated to cigars!

    The St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church (2418 W. Swann Ave.) takes place on greek Festival, a carefree and ideal opportunity to taste Mediterranean cuisine, listen to live music, dance and shop. The event was born to introduce visitors to the Orthodox religion, Greek culture and Hellenic food. On this occasion you can visit the church with the splendid windows, observe the painted ceilings and icons. An event that takes place for a good part of the year is the 4th Friday Tampa, a monthly event that occurs every 4th Friday of the month to celebrate local art and culture. Discounts, special offers, free entries, special foods and live music characterize the purely commercial event that attracts thousands of people.

    Sporting events

    Many know Tampa also thanks to its well-known American Football team i Tampa bay buccaneers who had their glory years in 2002 and 2021 when they managed to win the Super Bowl.

    Look for a ticket to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Despite the weather, Tampa also hosts the home games of a major ice hockey team i Tampa Bay Lightning 2004 Stanley Cup winners. They play their games at the Amalie Arena.

    Look for a ticket to the Tampa Bay Lightning

    Where to eat

    For its cultural richness Tampa is also an excellent destination Catering. Let's start with the refined Columbia (2117 E. 7th Ave.-Ybor City) in a Mediterranean style with a Spanish atmosphere. This is the first location of a chain opened in 1905; a really nice setting. The menu features a variety of dishes including paella, roast pork, tenderloin, black beans and creme brulee. Inside there is a gift shop where you can also buy gastronomic specialties.

    A vibrant Caribbean atmosphere with good food and cocktails is experienced at Bahama Breeze Island Grille (3045 N. Rocky Point Dr. E.), a live music venue and patio views of Tampa Bay. In the Tampa Heights neighborhood we suggest He is asleep (1810 N. Highland Ave.) to sample Florida, European but also native food. You can choose whether to eat inside or outside the restaurant. When you want meat, the chain Outback steakhouse (3403 Henderson Blvd.) is a guarantee but don't forget that good fish and pasta dishes are also served.

    Where to sleep in Tampa

    Tampa Marriott Waterside

    We suggest some hotel in different locations around the city for an overnight stay in Tampa. Near the Riverwalk the Tampa Marriott Waterside (700 S. Florida Ave.) features spacious rooms and suites with modern decor, a rooftop pool, fitness center, restaurants, and an outdoor patio overlooking the waterfront for beautiful panoramic views. In the downtown we point out the Residence Inn by Marriott (101 E. Tyler St.) with suites and studios featuring full kitchens and dining rooms. The hotel has a fitness center, conference room and outdoor swimming pool and is pet friendly.

    THEHilton Garden Inn which is located at 1700 E. 9th Avenue in Ybor City is a structure from which you can easily reach the downtown and the port. The rooms and suites have a relaxation area (armchair and / or sofa), microwave and coffee maker. The hotel has a fitness center, outdoor swimming pool, restaurant, sauna and lobby bar. The Four Points by Sheraton (4400 W. Cypress St.) has spacious suites with sitting areas and microwaves and the heated outdoor pool is an added bonus. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to and from the airport and to certain areas of the city.

    THEHotel South Tampa & Suites (3314 South Dale Mabry), good value for money, less than 8 miles from downtown. The spacious rooms decorated in light tones are equipped with cable TV, a microwave, a refrigerator, a coffee maker and an iron. The property features a fitness room and a spacious outdoor swimming pool.

    Search all Tampa hotels

    How to get there and how to move around the city

    You can reach Tampa with direct flights from Europe via theairport di Miami (2100 NW 42nd Ave.) which is just over 4 hours away plus a road transfer, or with other stopovers in the States and a subsequent internal flight to thecity ​​airport (4100 George J. Bean Pkwy). You can also get to the city on board ships from cruise that dock in the Channel District, east of downtown.

    If you don't rent a car you can use the mezzi di transportation citizens. HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Authority) is the bus and tram transfer service in Hillsborough County and the main station is Marion Transit (1211 N. Marion St.) in downtown. Tbarta (Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority) serves the Tampa Bay Area for bus and tram transfers. The downtown, Channel District and Ybor City districts are served by the tram line TECO. THE water taxi operate on the waterfront and along the Hillsborough River while the Amtrak depart from Union Station (601 N. Nebraska Ave. downtown), a beautiful station built in the Spanish Renaissance style that dates back to 1912.

    From town three ponti cross Tampa Bay. The W.Courtney Campbell Causeway (Rt.60) connects Tampa to Clearwater and from there you can see some of the most picturesque views of the bay. The most central Howard Frankland Bridge (I-275, Rt.93) is the busiest bridge in the bay connecting Tampa to St. Petersburg, while the southernmost bridge is the W.Gandy Bridge (Rt.92) which also connects Tampa to St. Petersburg.

    Tampa is vibrant and growing, it offers many options to choose from how to experience your vacation and as many attractions to have fun. The city invites you to absorb its joie de vivre; visiting it is a very pleasant experience in the company of the sun, the sea and lots of greenery. We can visit it alone or combined with other cities in the Sunshine State. Tampa and Florida are waiting for us and they know how to make us want to come back!

    Are you planning a Florida tour?

    I recommend these articles:

    • How to organize a Florida tour on your own?
    • Car rental Miami and Florida: low cost practical tips
    • Florida climate: when to go and what temperatures to expect
    • Miami Travel Guide: Useful Tips for Planning a Vacation
    • Low Cost USA flights: how to save money for your flight to the United States
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