Why Go To Tampa
Everyone knows that Tampa is the place for families. And for animal lovers. And for conventioneers. But possibly – even if you don't fit into any of those demographics – Tampa is for you, too? This balmy city by the bay still has plenty of charms away from the amusement park, the aquarium and the convention center (although Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium are still great ways to spend a day). There's lots of history here. For example, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders stopped here on their way to Cuba during the Spanish-American War. And you'll also find a few choice museums, including the Museum of Science & Industry. And then there are the sports – this is the home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. It's the namesake city of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, and the spring training home base for several other major league teams. And when you've exhausted all that Tampa has to offer, you can drive just 25 miles south to St. Petersburg for some sophisticated dining or to Clearwater for its gorgeous sugar sand beach.
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Tampa Travel Tips
Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit Tampa is from September to December. For those key four months of the year the vacant hotels offer fire-sale prices to lure you in. The months from May to August are the busiest at the area attractions, plus the weather can be uncomfortably muggy. The months between January and April, though cooler, are a more expensive time to plan a trip.
Weather in Tampa
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
What You Need to Know
- There's a busy cruise harbor The Tampa Port Authority operates three terminals to accommodate some of the Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Holland America cruise ships. Which is perfect – you may only need one day in town to see the best of Tampa.
- The beach is just a short drive away Beloved shorelines like Clearwater Beach, Treasure Island and Caladesi Island State Park are all within an hour or less from Tampa.
- The dress code is casual True to its Florida locale, Tampa's dress code is casual. You'll fit right in with shorts and flip-flops.
How to Save Money in Tampa
- Consider a Tampa CityPASS If you're planning to visit more than a few of Tampa's top attractions, such as the Florida Aquarium, Busch Gardens or ZooTampa at Lowry Park, buy a CityPASS and save on admission.
- Plan a fall visit You'll bypass the winter crowds and avoid the muggy temps and wave of tourists who descend on the city during the summer. Plus, fewer travelers yield lower hotel rates.
- Check the tourism website Visit Tampa Bay curates deals on hotels, attractions and vacation packages on its website.
What to Eat
When in Tampa, don't miss out on the city's two specialties: waterfront dining and Cuban food. Oystercatchers is consistently recommended among recent visitors and locals for its enviable waterfront seat (it's part of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay) and for having some of the freshest seafood in town. For a different perspective of the bay, head up to the 14th floor of the Grand Hyatt for stunning views from Armani's floor-to-ceiling windows. For a more casual setting and a break from Tampa's downtown scene, take a jaunt to Harbour Island for Café Dufrain's locally sourced plates.
If you're in search of Cuban food, head to Ybor City and take a seat at Columbia Restaurant. Here you'll enjoy your Spanish, Caribbean and Cuban plates with a side of flamenco dancing. La Teresita Restaurant is another local favorite that also features live music nightly.
Bern's Steak House is a Tampa dining staple that travelers say is well-suited for special occasions. On the other end of the spectrum, Rooster & the Till features a farm-to-table twist on modern American tapas. Another tasty choice is Ulele, situated on the Tampa Riverwalk, which offers what it calls Native-inspired foods, and dishes like the charbroiled oysters with garlic butter and cheese fly out of the kitchen.
One of the best foodie attractions in town, also conveniently located on the Tampa Riverwalk, is the Heights Public Market at the Armature Works. Everything from modern Cuban cuisine to wood-fired pizza is on offer and the market continues to add new options, including an outdoor pavilion bar overlooking the Hillsborough River, sure to be a popular spot.
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