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What Is Tampa Bay Known For?
Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Tampa Bay is known for its powdery white sand and turquoise water that invites visitors to vacation and play year-round. Though it is actually part of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, the region is most commonly known as the Tampa Bay Area. It hosts theme parks, sports teams, and many other tourist attractions that will impress tourists and visitors of all ages.
Tampa Bay is known for its pristine, award-winning beaches, tourist attractions, and theme parks, particularly Busch Gardens. It is also known for its pro sports teams, aquariums, zoos, cigar industry, and exciting nightlife.
Are you curious about what Tampa Bay is best known for? Read on to learn more about Tampa’s gulf coast beaches, amusement parks, food, sports, cigars, and nightlife.
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Tampa Bay Beaches
Tampa Bay is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in America. Some are private beaches, but most are open to the public. Many favorite beaches in the Tampa area offer pristine white sand that meets incredibly blue water, perfect for sunbathing and swimming. Though, there are some beaches that offer alternative experiences, including these five beaches:
- Apollo Beach Nature Preserve – Although no swimming is permitted at this beach, fishing is allowed. There is also a 2 acre (0.81 hectare) sandy beach area with an observation tower where visitors may see manatees if visiting between November and April.
- Caladesi State Park (Dunedin) – This beach is about a 40-minute drive away from Tampa but well worth the time. It is an undeveloped island, and very few undeveloped islands exist on the Gulf Coast. Swimming is permitted, but there is also kayaking and a nature trail walk for visitors to enjoy.
- Sand Key Park – Residents consider this beach to be the safest for kids in the Tampa Bay area. Swimming, building sandcastles, and playing on the playground are sure to please young sun-seekers. This beach is where endangered turtles lay their eggs, so it is possible to see these creatures hatch and travel to the ocean between May 1 and October 31.
- Pine Key Island – Tourists and residents who want to experience a deserted island find this beach incredibly inviting, especially during morning hours. The island has 23.6 acres (9.55 hectares), and two of those acres are white sand and ocean.
- Davis Island Dog Beach – this beach is one of the few beaches in Tampa where dogs are permitted. A bonus is that the beach is fenced in so owners can untether their dogs.
Popular Attractions in Tampa
Few people can think of Tampa, Florida without thinking of amusement parks and aquariums, and for good reason. There are water parks, thrill rides, museums, and marine life for people of all ages to enjoy.
Perhaps Tampa is most known for being the home of Busch Gardens, where visitors are dazzled with both amusement park rides and a zoo. According to Wikipedia, each year, more than 4.1 million people visit the Busch Gardens, Tampa, making it number eleven of the twenty most visited parks in North America.
The park encompasses 335 acres (135.57 hectares) and carries an African theme with plenty of opportunities for visitors to interact with the animals. And like any zoo, visitors also get the chance to learn how the park officials feed and care for these animals through park demonstrations.
Most are exotic animals that American tourists probably have never seen in person, such as sloths, hippopotamuses, elephants, and flamingos–and that’s just a start.
One of the more popular excursions available at Busch Gardens Tampa is the Serengeti Night Safari. In true Tampa style, the park is transformed into a reproduction of African villages with animals grazing on the plains.
Thrill-seekers enjoy this park as well because it is home to “SheiKra,” which was the world’s longest, tallest, and fastest roller coaster in its 2005 debut. For younger visitors, the park also offers kiddie roller coasters and water rides.
Museum of Science and Industry
Tickets to the Museum of Science and Industry are often sold as a package of four or more parks, but it is worth the trip if you want to go to this museum exclusively. Visitors can immerse themselves in all things science. From physics to scientific principles, children and adults alike are enthralled. One of the best exhibits is the giant “Operation” game board that teaches children about the human body.
Older children and adults will enjoy the Idea Zone and its many hands-on projects available. Additionally, visitors can get a sneak peek at technology not yet been released for public use. There are also NASA exhibits that allow visitors to interact with weather conditions.
Tampa Zoo at Lowry Park
Tampa Zoo has a Wallaroo Petting Station and Pony Barn that both children and adults will love. With up-close feeding encounters, signature encounters, and the African Elephant Backstage events, there is a reason the Tampa Bay area is known for its many zoo experiences.
The zoo by itself is a local favorite, but tourists can also take advantage of special periodic events. Tampa Zoo holds season-themed events such as October’s “Creatures of the Night,” November and December’s “Christmas in the Wild,” and they have monthly events like Toddler Tuesdays.
The Florida Aquarium
It will be hard to call a Florida visit complete without interacting with marine life. Visitors get to interact with Florida’s many ecosystems and various ecosystems throughout the world. The Florida Aquarium’s focus is on conservation and rescue, and they are especially interested in helping sea turtles and sharks.
In 2019 the location was recognized as one of the “top aquariums in North America.” It continues to receive favorable reviews for its activities, education, and conservation focus.
Food in Tampa
Beaches, amusement parks, and aquariums are not the only reason Tampa is considered Western Florida’s economic center. With an abundant supply of grouper, shrimp, oysters, and blue crab, chefs create dishes to delight locals and tourists alike.
In 2013, USA Today provided a “One-Day Restaurant Guide” for first-time visitors and the following restaurants are still worth visiting:
There is usually a line waiting for this cozy restaurant. Pinky’s Diner is known for its frittatas but also serves a fantastic Cuban French Toast. The establishment does not have a website, but it does have a Facebook page that you can use to contact them through this link.
Oystercatchers is a waterfront restaurant that offers incredible views of the water and is famous for its seafood, particularly the Pecan Wood-Grilled Swordfish. The restaurant is upscale but does offer casual outdoor seating. It is best to make a reservation.
Skipper’s Smokehouse is an iconic restaurant established in 1980. It has music entertainment and is considered a local landmark because the building appears to be in a state of disrepair. However, the ambiance is part of the restaurant’s charm.
Columbia Restaurant boasts of its longevity and is an absolute must-see when in the Tampa area. It was founded in 1915 by a Cuban immigrant and is the oldest restaurant in Florida. It has been operated by the same family for five generations and has a beautiful mix of local, Spanish, and Cuban influences. It also puts on a flamenco show.
Bern’s Steak House
Bern’s Steak House has a strict business/casual dress code and is considered a trendy restaurant, though it has operated in the Tampa area since 1956. It’s most famous for its decor and premium steak options. Bern’s is a restaurant to visit for special occasions and reservations are a must. Currently, they take reservations up to 90 days in advance.
Catch-23 is an upscale seafood restaurant that hosts Latin and Caribbean-style food. The restaurant describes itself as “the perfect romantic restaurant in Tampa.” They are famous for their Chilean Sea Bass and Local Black Grouper. Catch-23 won the Diner’s Choice Award in 2018.
If American cuisine is what you crave, you cannot go wrong at Datz Tampa. The restaurant has been featured on Good Morning America, The Food Network, The Travel Channel, and many other national shows. The restaurant opened in 2009 and boasts of serving “comfort food with flair” with an “eclectic cocktail menu.” They are most famous for their Darth’s Burger and The Cheesy Todd.
Shula’s Steakhouse is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. It has great food and is owned by a local celebrity, Don Shula, who is a former Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame coach. The restaurant features an elegant dining room and is decorated with sports photos.
Sports in Tampa
No city is complete without an engaging sports environment, and Tampa is certainly known for holding its own in the sporting arena. Most of the teams use “Tampa Bay” in their names, connecting them with the area’s infamous body of water.
Tampa is home to three major league teams, these are:
- NFL – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- NHL – Tampa Bay Lightning
- MLB – Tampa Bay Rays
Read about Tampa’s run in the 2020 Stanley Cup in this book on Amazon.
Cigars in Tampa
A lesser-known claim to fame for Tampa is its title of “Cigar Capital of the World.” Not only are cigars sold in Tampa, but they are also manufactured there. In fact, Ybor City, Tampa, is named after Vincente Martinez, founder of “Prince of Wales” brand cigars.
Popular cigar shops worth visiting, include:
- Long Ash Cigars – This location sells only cigars made on-site, and visitors can watch as they are made. In addition to selling cigars, they are a cigar lounge and have alcohol and coffee available for purchase.
- J.C. Newman Cigar Co – This is the only working cigar factory in the area. They offer tours of the factory with interactive experiences. They also provide unique souvenirs and gifts made by local artisans.
- King Corona Cigars Cafe and Bar – This location sells handmade cigars and they sell Cuban coffee.
After entertaining the kids at amusement parks and aquariums all day, enjoy some grown-up time with the nightlife Tampa is famous for. The following clubs are sure to please:
- Gaspar’s Grotto – with three spacious bar areas, live music, and nightly entertainment, karaoke, this pirate-themed restaurant/pub is sure to let you bust loose.
- The Ritz Ybor – Ritz Ybor is known as the premier venue for live music events. Even Lady Gaga and Keisha have performed here. There is no seating in the amphitheater, but patrons can get close to the stage for an incredible experience.
- CW’s Gin Joint – For those wanting a classier type of experience, CW’s Gin Joint offers an evening of Jazz and Soul music. The Roaring Twenties will likely come to mind when you visit this bar/restaurant.
- Cru Cellars – Wine Connoisseurs will love this wine bar. They feature around forty-five small production wines and have fabulous cheeses. Go for the wine, or go for a meal with the wine; either way, Cru Cellars is one thing the Tampa area is known for.
- Gametime Tampa – This nightlife location is all about games, from watching the area’s major sports team on flat-screen T.V.s to playing arcade games in the 24,000 sq ft (2,229.67 sq m) entertainment action, sports, and gaming fans will be enthralled.
- The Castle – The Castle has made Tampa famous for decades. This venue offers themed party experiences in one of four areas: the Saloon, Main Hall, Tower, Courtyard, and dungeon. Patrons are encouraged to dress in costume for their theme and the evening ends with a Midnight Mass party. A D.J. is there every night with alternate scene music that is sure to thrill party-goers.
Tampa, Florida, is a bustling city with so much to do that your visit is sure to be packed with enjoyment. From amusement parks to aquariums, restaurants, to beaches, each day will be packed with the things pristine beaches, gourmet foods, thrilling parks, cigars, and incredible nightlife. Once you visit Tampa you are guaranteed to return.
If you’re planning a visit to Tampa Bay be sure to check out this guide on Amazon.
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