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Tampa

Enjoy big-city thrills and Cuban culture in a relaxed setting

There’s a reason millions of Americans choose to retire in Florida, and it’s not just the bright sunshine and abundant beaches. Cities like Tampa are modern meccas of entertainment and culture, combining the serenity of the Sunshine State coastline with the accessibility of a metropolis and the convenience of a tourist resort. This is a destination that the whole family can enjoy.

Seeing the Sights

One of the most important items on any Tampa itinerary should be a drive along Bayshore Boulevard to drink in the beauty of scenic Tampa. If you don’t have a car, then walk. The bay is a little out of the way, but you can make a day of it. You can also rent a bike. When you’re down there, you can drop in at Picnic Island Park, great for a barbecue and even a spot of fishing. This idyllic setting is also perfect for a romantic stroll, and with plenty to see and do, and plenty of wide-open spaces, it might even keep the kids quiet.

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Visit Tampa-Matthew Paulson

Tampa’s Riverwalk is a great way to stretch your legs. Take a stroll along the historic Hillsborough River and enjoy stunning views of the city’s modern skyline along with monuments to the city’s fascinating past.

See animals at the Lowry Park Zoo, where you can feed the giraffes, birds and even the stingrays. Busch Gardens, Lettuce Lake Regional Park and the Big Cat Rescue are also well worth a visit if you want to have some fun in the Florida sun. If it’s shelter you want, then at the Florida Aquarium you can duck indoors to enjoy the deep blue.

The aquarium is conveniently located right in downtown Tampa. Visitors can engage with interactive exhibits and explore several fascinating ecosystems. The Wetland Trail leads adventurers through swamps where real alligators lurk and pythons slither; the Journey to Madagascar introduces the curious to ring-tailed lemurs and flying cockroaches; and in the Coral Reef Gallery, spectators can gaze into a tank containing a beautiful and complex ecosystem that sustains life for a host of fish.

The aquarium launches regular Wild Dolphin Cruises through Tampa Bay, taking passengers to the habitats of the most intelligent aquatic mammals on the planets. During hot days, kids play in the elaborate Splash Pad.

If the aquarium doesn’t satisfy your curiosity, a trip to the Museum of Science & Industry might. The emphasis here is on entertainment, but you’ll feel a little more informed about technology, nature and the cosmos once it comes time to leave. History fans looking for a more low-key experience can learn about Tampa’s past at the Henry B. Plant Museum or the Tampa Bay History Center, while art lovers can indulge their passions at the Tampa Museum of Art.

Tampa is also big on games, with parks devoted to sports and Segway rides available citywide. And if you have kids in tow, there is no better way to tire them out as you prepare for a night of kid-free, adult entertainment at the Tampa Bay Downs or the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

To perk you up for a day of sightseeing, drop into Buddy Brew Coffee. You can grab a cup of hot or iced coffee to go, or you can stay for breakfast. Buddy Brew prides itself on its relaxed and friendly ambiance, which is why this coffee shop, located on Kennedy Boulevard, is often the first port of call for busy locals looking for a place to charge their batteries. The La Segunda Central Bakery can also keep you full, with a mouthwatering selection of freshly baked Cuban and American treats.

The Tampa Bay History Center is an affiliate of the world-famous Smithsonian Institution, which may be all anyone needs to know before walking through the front doors. The museum’s exhibits cover more than 12,000 years of history, specifically focusing on the Florida peninsula. The museum is located in downtown Tampa on the Riverwalk that overlooks the Garrison Channel.

The Cuban Influence

You may know that Tampa is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Busch Gardens, but did you know that this Sunshine State hotspot is also credited with inventing the Cuban sandwich? Tampanians are very proud of their Cuban heritage, and the city is awash with sandwich shops and southern delicacies that will tantalize the taste buds.

If you find yourself near Columbus Drive, be sure to stop in at Brocato’s Sandwich Shop for what many locals say is the best Cuban sandwich in the city. For something a little more central, Mise en Place’s extensive menu will give you a taste of France, Cuba and everything in between. And there’s always room for dessert at the Harry Waugh Dessert Room, located on the second floor of the iconic Bern’s Steakhouse. This is arguably the most popular restaurant in the city, and not without reason. Harry Waugh has its own room dedicated to serving the very best desserts, from their signature Baked Alaska and Banana Cheese Pie, to a triple-chocolate classic, all washed down with an aged rum, a delicate Armagnac or a sweet dessert wine.

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Visit Tampa Bay

For a taste of local culture, hit Ybor City, Tampa’s Latin Quarter. This history-rich district showcases vibrant culture at all hours. Grab a bite of gourmet lunch or coffee during the day, and in the evening tap your toes or dance to live music.

To get a deeper sense of Tampa’s Latin community, visit the Ybor City Museum State Park. The complex consists of a museum (housed in the historic Ferlita Bakery building), Mediterranean-style botanical garden and a re-created version of a cigar worker’s house. The museum offers insight into the history of the Ybor City neighborhood, including its role as a major cigar-manufacturing center. Guided tours are available and each is led by a member of the Ybor City community.

Nightlife

As the day draws to a close, finish in style with a trip to the Tampa Theatre. This venue comes alive at night, with neon signs beckoning entertainment fans from miles around. Built in the early 20th century, the exterior of the Tampa Theatre can be mistaken for being a little bland and uninspiring, but it’s a different story once you step inside. The interior is a veritable time machine, decorated in a classical Spanish style, paying homage to Tampa’s past and to its connection with the Spanish Empire.

The great acoustics also add to the experience and ensure that wherever you are in the theatre, you can immerse yourself in the action. As for the performances themselves, the Tampa Theatre has been known to schedule everything from movie and matinee nights, to comedians, kids’ plays and even meet-and-greets with Internet celebrities like the Grumpy Cat.

As one of the brightest destinations in the Sunshine State, Tampa is a hotbed of tourism and culture, and there is enough great cuisine to satisfy even the most insatiable of appetites.

For More Information

Visit Tampa Bay

800-448-2672

www.visittampabay.com

 

Florida Department of Tourism

888-735-2872

www.visitflorida.com