10 Reasons to Visit Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay... you don't have to look too far for adventure!

Serengeti Safari
••• Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. © Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Regionally, Tampa Bay encompasses four cities — Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Bradenton. All border the largest open-water estuary in Florida (covering nearly 400 square miles). The outdoor recreational opportunities alone provides reason enough to visit the area, but I'll give you 10 more reasons to come to the Tampa Bay area.

  1. Come for Tampa Bay's attractions that provide a wide variety of exciting and entertaining possibilities.
    • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, is an adventure park and one of the top zoos in North America. It's world-class thrill rides provide heart-pounding excitement and it also brings you face-to-face with more exotic and endangered animals than any other destination outside of Africa.
    • Tampa's only water park, Adventure Island, immerses you in 30 acres of high-speed thrills and sunny tropical surroundings.
    • Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is recognized as the #1 family-friendly zoo in the nation by Child and Parents magazines. Over 2,000 animals in natural habitats populate seven main exhibit areas — Asian Gardens, Primate World, Manatee and Aquatic Center, Florida Wildlife Center, Free-Flight Aviary, Wallaroo Station and Safari Africa.
    • The Florida Aquarium is one of the top 10 aquariums in the country. See sharks, alligators, otters and penguins ... or touch a stingray, bamboo shark or star fish. Interactive programs allow you to swim with fishes or dive with sharks.
    • You can easily fill up an afternoon exploring Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI), featuring 400,000 square feet of interactive activities and exhibits — the largest science center in the southeastern United States! MOSI also includes a planetarium and Florida's only IMAX Dome Theatre, projecting images on a five-story, dome-shaped screen.
    • They're b-a-c-k... and they're life-size! Walk among 150 dinosaurs at Dinosaur World where you can also search for authentic fossils and unearth a life-size dinosuar skeleton in the Boneyard. Selected by VisitFlorida.com in 2005 as one of the "Top 10 Desintation in Florida to Visit."
  1. Come take a cruise from the Port of Tampa, the fastest growing cruise port in North America where some of the biggest names in the cruise industry — Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland American and Royal Caribbean — and over a million passengers each year set sail for destinations in the Caribbean and Central America. Its downtown Tampa location provides passengers with excellent before and after cruise activities.
  2. Come to Tampa Bay for the beaches and you'll never want to leave! The St. Petersburg-Clearwater barrier islands boast approximately 35 miles of white sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. This area's beaches are some of the finest in the nation — winning awards for everything from sand quality to environmental management. Dr. Beach has repeatedly ranked two of the beaches — Caladesi Island and Fort DeSoto Park ̬ on his annual top ten list and another — Clearwater Beach — as #1 City Beach in the Gulf region. >Beaches of St. Petersburg-Clearwater Photo Tour
  1. Come to Tampa Bay for shopping. Tampa Bay is home to a variety of shopping venues. Here is a sampling:
    • International Plaza and Bay Street, located near Tampa International Airport and Raymond James Stadium, features upscale shopping and dining experiences unavailable elsewhere in the area.
    • Westfield Brandon Shopping Mall, just off I-75 east of Tampa has recently built an expansion adding Dick's Sporting Goods, Books A Million and the Cheesecake Factory among other retailers to its already large selection of shops.
    • Westfield Citrus Park Shopping Mall in Northwest Tampa
    • Westfield Countryside Shopping Mall in Clearwater is unique since it features an ice skating rink in the center of the mall in addition to its retail selections.
    • John's Pass Village and Boardwalk in Madeira Beach features over one hundred merchants — from unique shops, restaurants, cruise lines, boat rentals, parasailing and jet ski rentals... and the beach is just a short stroll away!
    • Hyde Park Village in Tampa near downtown features unique fashion boutiques, trendy home decor, dining and entertainment, including Cobb CineBistro, a movie theatre and dining experience captured in one entertainment venue.
    • Prime Outlets in Ellenton is just south of the Tampa Bay area, but the short drive across the scenic Sunshine Skyway Bridge is worth the effort to browse this spacious open air mall has a great variety of name-brand outlet shops.
    1. Come to Tampa Bay to eat at any of several reputed restaurants.
      • Tampa's historic Columbia Restaurant — the oldest restaurant in the state of Florida and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world — opened in 1905 and the landmark restaurant takes up an entire city block in historic Ybor City. Its award-winning Spanish/Cuban cuisine features all the classics and a phenomenal wine list (more than 850 wines with an inventory of 50,000 bottles). The 1,700-seat Columbia features 17 dining rooms. Entertainment includes Spanish Flamenco dance performances nightly, Monday through Saturday.
      • Bern's Steak House not only serves the best cut-to-order steak, it has one of the largest wine collections in the world — about 6,500 labels — with a working wine cellar that holds about 90,000 bottles, a small percentage of Bern's entire stock. Reservations are required.
      • The Colonnade has been a South Tampa landmark since 1935. Situated on beautiful Bayshore Boulevard overlooking Tampa Bay, "The Nade" soon became a favorite hangout for local teens and "Cruisin at The Nade" a favorite pasttime. While originally featuring American favorites — hamburgers, fried chicken and a Colonnade original, an olive in CocaCola® — eventually the restaurant began serving fresh seafood. Today the restaurant still serves quality food in a casual, yet unique atmosphere.
      Tampa Bay also has a number of restaurant chains that began right here with their original locations: Beef O'Brady's Family Sports Pubs, Checkers, Durage Steakhouse, Shells' Seafood Restaurant, Hooters, Carrabba's Italian Grille and Outback Steakhouse.
    1. Come to Tampa Bay for sports. Whether you are a fan of football, hockey, baseball or even motorsports, Tampa Bay has it all.
      • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL Super Bowl Champions in 2003, call Tampa and the 65,890-seat Raymond James Stadium home. The stadium has hosted the Super Bowl on four separate occasions — 1984, 1991, 2001 and 2009.
      • The Tampa Bay Lightning, which calls Tampa's St. Pete Times Forum home, won the Stanley Cup in 2004.
      • The Tampa Bay Storm, an Arena Football team, holds the record for the most Arena Bowl victories — 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996 and 2003.
      • The Tampa Bay Rays, the 2008 American League champions, call St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field home.
      • Finally, St. Petersburg now hosts the annual Firestone Grand Prix (formerly the Honda Grand Prix) every spring.
    2. Come to Tampa Bay for a meeting or convention. Tampa's thriving downtown and renovated convention center offer conventioneers 600,000-square-feet of state-of-the-art meeting space as well as 6,500 rooms in and near its downtown location. In addition, more meeting space is available within the county at several locations throughout the county, including 7,500-square-feet at Westin Tampa Bay at Rocky Point and 12,500-square-feet at the Renaissance Tampa Hotel International Plaza.
    1. Come to Tampa Bay for the festivals! While locals will use any excuse to celebrate, visitors can get in on the action too during these great events:
    2. Come to Tampa Bay for the history. The Tampa Bay area is rich in history dating back more than 450 years — 150 years ago, Tampa became the railhead for cattle shipments to Cuba and almost 100 years ago the world's first commercial flight was made from St. Petersburg to Tampa. And, Ybor City, once known as the "Cigar Capital of the World," once boasted 200 factories with 12,000 cigar-makers. Today, you can explore Tampa Bay's history in a number of museums throughout the area, step back in time on the streets of Ybor City, and even take a reminiscent ride aboard an electric streetcar down Tampa's streets.
    1. Come to Tampa Bay for the sunshine. According the the National Weather Service, the sun shines an average of 361 days a year in Tampa Bay. It is notable that the last time Tampa suffered a direct hit by a hurricane was in 1921. Hmmm... maybe this should be the number one reason to come?!