Tampa is the third largest city in Florida with a metropolitan population of almost three million. It is the commercial and industrial center of western Florida and home to one of the largest ports in the country. Unfortunately, the volume of shipping and the resulting industrial waste has made Tampa Bay a polluted area unsuitable for swimming. Most of the locals venture north to St. Petersburg or east to Clearwater if they are looking to hit the beach.
The feature attraction of Tampa is Florida’s second most popular tourist attraction after Disney World – the Busch Gardens. This wilderness theme-park zoo is home to thousands of African birds, animals, and reptiles with each section of the park harboring a different theme. The Serengeti Plain, for example, features roaming lions, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs and other animals of the plains, which are all viewed from a monorail. The African Queen, on the other hand, is a jungle cruise. While floating along the river, you can view the wildlife roaming along the riverbanks and swimming in the water. The Eagle Canyon is an enormous structure atop which you can watch rare golden and American bald eagles. Apart from the zoo, the Busch Gardens also has an amusement area with rides, restaurants, and shops.
Adventure Island at 4545 Bougainvillea Avenue is very near Busch gardens. It is a water theme park that features wave-pools, water slides, beaches, inner-tube runs, swimming pools, shops, and stands.
Seminole Culture Center
The Seminole Culture Center at 5221 North Orient Road is a reconstructed Seminole village and museum that traces the old way of life of the Seminole Indian tribe. The museum exhibits artifacts and Seminole crafts, and features an alligator wrestling and poisonous snake show.
Tampa Museum of Art
The Tampa Museum of Art at 601 Doyle Carlton Drive has a collection of contemporary American Art as well as art from ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece.
Henry Plant Museum
The Henry Plant Museum at the old Tampa Bay Hotel at 401 West Kennedy Boulevard traces the history of the city and showcases its culture.
Bayshore Boulevard runs 6.5 miles long and is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. A stroll along it and you’ll be able to enjoy great views of Davis Island as well as the Jose Gasparilla docked on the bayshore. This 300-ton pirate ship is rigged fully to look as it did in the 18th century. The ship is available to the public for on-deck tours.
Ybor (or Ybor City) is the Hispanic and Cuban district of Tampa centered around Ybor Square at the intersection of 13th Street and 8th Avenue. You’ll find fine restaurants, boutiques, and arts and crafts shops. If you enjoy cigars, you should visit the Tampa Rico Cigars located in the square where you can watch employees rolling cigars and then try them. Ybor also has a museum, the Ybor City State Museum, which traces the beginnings of the district and its transformation over the years.
Tampa has an MLB baseball team that plays from April to September, an NHL hockey team that plays from October to April, and an NFL team that plays from September to January.
Tampa started out as a village of fishermen and farmers in the early 19th century, but grew wildly in 1885 after Hispanic Vincente Martinez Ybor relocated his cigar factories from Key West to Tampa to take advantage of lower taxes and lower wages. The move triggered an influx of immigrant workers, most of whom resided in the present-day district of Ybor which today is known as a hotbed of restaurants, clubs, shops, and Cuban-Hispanic culture.
The city grew even more in 1898 when then U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, established the Tampa Bay Hotel as his headquarters and trained his forces there before sending them to fight the Spanish-American War in Cuba. The hotel today is home to a museum and administrative offices of the University of Tampa.
Carroll, Donald. Insider’s Guide Florida, 2nd Edition. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc., 1995. ISBN: 1556504527.
“Tampa.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tampa>
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