Tampa

Tampa FL by CC user 41389084@N02 on Flickr

Introduction

Every winter, the inevitable incursion of cold that floods across Canada and much of the United States sends many retired and mobile people fleeing the chilly air, snow and darkness racing south in search of tropical warmth.

While some love the dynamic of a small beach town, other crave the constant pulse of an urban area. If you love a little of both, Tampa offers the best of both worlds. As a thriving metropolis of just under 3 million people, Tampa has all the modern conveniences and amenities one could want for, but within a quick drive of the downtown core, some of the finest beaches on the Gulf of Mexico can be enjoyed. Whether you are a family looking for a warm place to go on holiday, or you want to escape winter in its entirety, you will find that Tampa has everything you need to have a great trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Ybor City Mural by CC user holmesjr on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

Upon your arrival in Tampa, check out Ybor City, the place where this city made the most of its money before the tourism boom that followed World War II. After the war, the former cigar factories and warehouses here fell into disuse as manufacturing gradually moved offshore, and while blight characterized the area for a time, this part of town was eventually targeted for urban renewal.

Today, this neighborhood is known for its architecture, restaurants and nightlife. In particular, this is a popular part of Tampa for those of the LGBT persuasion, making Ybor City an unmissable place for those that seek out the same sex.

While the bulk of the mass tourism industry arrived once the average American had both the money and the mobility to move about the country, Tampa’s reputation as a favored warm weather destination had its foundation laid by a wealthy railway magnate in the late 19th century.

The Henry B. Plant Museum tells the story of an ornate hotel (conveniently placed at the terminus of his rail line) that opened up this part of Florida to those that could afford the many weeks it would take to get to Tampa. The oldest continually operating elevator in the USA can be found here, and its expansive 150 acre compound boasted everything from casino to a horse racetrack; truly, this was a millionaire’s playground.

If you have a burning desire to look at some finely produced pieces of visual art, the Tampa Museum of Art have all the works you are craving. Greek, Roman and Etruscan artifacts will delight history buffs, while highlighting modern and contemporary works from local and nationally famous artists.

Busch Gardens Tampa by CC user rollercoasterphilosophy on Flickr Other Attractions

Do you love screaming until you are blue in the face from exhilarating rides at an amusement park? If so, Busch Gardens is a park you simply can’t afford to miss. While this theme park offers cultural and zoological attractions related to various African settlements, the aspect of Busch Gardens that it is best known for is undoubtedly its roller coasters.

From Cheetah Hunt’s figure 8 loops, to the inverted vertical loops of the lightening fast Montu, the rides and coasters of Tampa’s cornerstone modern attraction will keep you coming back for more during the course of your stay.

Those that are carting around a family may be wondering if there are options outside of Busch Gardens when it comes to keeping their kids entertained. If you are among them, worry not, as the Lowry Park Zoo.

Ranked as the most family friendly zoo in the United States in 2009, this park balances their conservation and healing mission with regards to local and international wildlife with the desire to connect visitors with these animals in a safe and fun way. Children are given the opportunity to do such things as feeding the giraffes or touching the manta rays that call the nearby Gulf waters home, while also learning more about their background through super informative educational shows led by zoo workers.

Want to encounter that manta ray in the Gulf of Mexico rather than in the zoo’s holding tanks? There are many fine beaches within easy reach of Downtown Tampa that will give you the supremely relaxing daythat you are desperately seeking. Those looking to leave the crowds behind should give Anna Maria Island beach a try, while those seeking a more populated place will love Clearwater Beach which its abundant beach volleyball courts and sun loungers.

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