Set along the western coast of Florida, the city of Tampa attracts millions of visitors and new residents each year. It is the 53rdlargest city in the United States, and home to major industry, sporting teams, and tourism sites. A visit to the city will benefit from a bit of knowledge about the general “layout” of the region and a bit of the history of it too.
The city isn’t really that old at all, and dates back to 1824 when the United States government established a fort along the shore. Today, the site of this fort lies beneath the massive Tampa Convention Center, but there are still many historic sites which are well-preserved and ready for tours and visits.
Consider that there are six historic districts (Ybor City, Hampton Terrace, Hyde Park, Seminole Heights, Historic West Tampa, and Tampa Heights) as well as more than eighty officially named neighborhoods or districts. In fact, Tampa contains one of the only two Historic Districts in the entire state!
The “official” neighborhoods of the city include six separate areas; the Downtown district that is home to the waterfront and commercial centers along with some upscale residential neighborhoods too; the historic Ybor City that is heavily influenced the by cigar industry; the West Tampa area that is the site of most of the historic districts, as well as the University of Tampa; the East Tampa area that has long been considered the residential district to the city’s African-American population; South Tampa which is primarily residential; and the North Tampa area which includes tourism and educational sites.
The Downtown area offers a great deal to travelers and residents alike and is home to the entertainment complex known as Channelside, and this contains everything from restaurants and shops to movie theaters and a bowling alley. This is also the area where the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Museum of Art, and the entire University of Tampa campus are found.
Ybor City is named after Vicente Martinez Ybor who opened Tampa’s very first cigar factory in 1886. This began the “boom” that eventually converted Tampa into a cigar capitol and a destination for the wealthy and elite. The area was also populated by the many immigrants who came to work in the cigar factories, and the Cuban, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, and German influences are still seen today. Here, visitors can find the Ybor City State Museum, the Cigar Museum, the City ArtWalk, and enjoy the Saturday Market. This is also a great place to find exotic foods, excellent nightlife, and all kinds of regular activities that include parades and street fairs.
North Tampa is also a place of great interest to many travelers because it contains Busch Gardens, the wonderful Lowry Park Zoo, the University of South Florida campus, and the Museum of Science and Industry too.
Something of interest to all visitors to Tampa is the ease with which they can travel from neighborhood to neighborhood. Traffic flows smoothly and parking is always easy to find, but there are also many reliable public transportation resources that can make a tour of the city quite simple as well. There are many public bus routes, but there are also the excellent streetcars. These are frequently used by tourists or those attending one of the many conventions held in the city. In fact, the streetcars are a great way to visit the Downtown historic areas and the Ybor City sites in a single day and at a remarkably low cost too. There are also trolleys that serve the Downtown area as well, though these are viewed more as a daily commuter option than a resource for tourists to the city.