Vibrant and Warm Destination
Historical preservation and a good measure of civic pride have contributed to a cultural richness that makes Tampa comparable in Florida to Miami. Consider vibrant, historic Ybor City, birthplace of Tampa's cigar industry and now its hot-hot-hot Latin-infused nightspot. For fun things to do, there is an eclectic mix of art, history and science museums that inspire adults and children to explore new horizons together while having loads of fun.
When it comes to family-oriented entertainment, animals figure prominently in the mix at Busch Gardens Tampa and such top-notch attractions as Big Cat Rescue and Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park.
Nearby Gulf Coast beaches sing a siren's song to visitors who can't resist superfine sand and gently lapping waters. And while the area's parks, rivers and other natural attributes are conducive to active participation, there's plenty of spectator action for those who like a good game. Tampa's championship football, arena football and hockey teams provide seasonal sports excitement, but baseball rules in April when the Tampa Bay Rays and fellow “boys of summer”—the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies—suit up for spring training. Family outings don't get any better than a day at the ballpark.
And when you've seen all there is to see, Tampa can be an ideal starting point for a cruise to Caribbean ports of call, or maybe just a drive trip down Florida's scenic west coast to Bradenton, Sarasota, Sanibel or Fort Myers.
By CarThe major direct route to Tampa from the north is I-75, which traverses Florida's north-central lake district: The 62-mile stretch south of Wildwood is especially scenic. It is roughly paralleled by US 301 on the east and US 41 on the west. North of downtown I-75 changes to I-275, which merges with I-4 in mid-city. I-75 bypasses the city proper to the east, rejoining I-275 north of Bradenton.
Driving into Tampa from the south, US 41 parallels I-75, the main corridor from the southern Gulf Coast. From Daytona Beach in the east, I-4 angles across central Florida through Orlando, while older US 92 runs parallel from Lakeland. SR 60, a four-lane, divided highway, leads from Lake Wales. Running from the Gulf Coast west of Tampa, SR 60 connects to Clearwater, and I-275 travels to St. Petersburg.
Air TravelCheap airline flights can be found from numerous cities. Commercial flights entering Tampa land at Tampa International Airport (TPA). Several commercial airlines and private planes use St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE). Private and corporate planes have access to Albert Whitted Airport (SPG) in St. Petersburg and Peter O. Knight Airport (TPF) in Tampa.
Tampa International Airport is on the city's west side along Old Tampa Bay. The 1.4-mile-long SkyConnect train connects the airport, the economy garage and car rental center. To reach downtown Tampa, take I-275 north—though you'll actually be traveling east—and take the Ashley Street exit. Past this exit I-275 turns sharply northward, bisecting the city. Continue along I-275 to reach such destinations as the University of South Florida and Busch Gardens Tampa. Exit to I-4 east if you're heading for Ybor City, Plant City or Lakeland. Or take a cab: United and Yellow cabs provide service from the airport. Both have a minimum $15 fare from the airport; the flat rate to downtown (about 8 miles) or cruise terminal (about 9 miles) is about $25.
To reach downtown St. Petersburg, take I-275 south, cross the bay on the 7-mile Howard Frankland Bridge, and proceed another 10 miles or so due south. From I-275, take I-375 into the northern half of downtown or I-175 into the southern half. Transportation from Tampa International to St. Petersburg is easily acquired. Supershuttle provides transfers from Tampa International to St. Petersburg and cities in Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties; phone (727) 572-1111 or (800) 282-6817.
St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is about 10 miles across the bay from Tampa on SR 686 (Roosevelt Boulevard), near the west side of the W. Howard Frankland Bridge. Airport traffic exits northwest toward Clearwater or south, providing access to St. Petersburg and Tampa.
Hertz, which offers discounts to AAA members, is at the car rental center by Tampa International Airport, (813) 874-3232 or (800) 654-3080; St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, (727) 532-4801; and at St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-1631; or phone (800) 654-3080.
Street SystemDowntown Tampa is bracketed by water and has only a few major access routes. From I-275, take the Ashley Street exit. Also from the north, SR 45 (Nebraska Avenue) and one-way US 41 Bus. Rte. lead into downtown. Cass Street approaches from the west. From the east, use SR 60 (John F. Kennedy Boulevard).
Tampa also is laid out in a basic grid, with a few geographic variations. US 41 Bus. Rte. (Florida Avenue) divides east from west; John F. Kennedy Boulevard/Frank Adamo Drive (SR 60) separates north from south. Many streets in the downtown area are one way.
Five major east-west thoroughfares support cross-town traffic: SR 582 (Fowler Avenue), SR 580 (Busch Boulevard), US 92/US 41 (Hillsborough Avenue), SR 574 (Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard), and the Crosstown Expressway (toll). Three others parallel I-275: on the west, SR 597/SR 580/US 92 (Dale Mabry Highway); through the central city, US 41/SR 45 (Nebraska Avenue); and on the east, SR 583 (56th Street).
Generally, downtown speed limits are 30 mph or as posted. Unless otherwise posted, a right turn is allowed on a red light after a complete stop. It is best to avoid taking an unfamiliar route during rush hours (about 7 to 9 a.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m.).
If driving is not your thing, you can explore downtown Tampa by water. Pirate Water Taxi cruises along the Hillsborough River and has some 15 stops on its route. A fee is charged; phone (813) 390-3711 for rates and schedule.
ParkingLimited on-street parking is available in the downtown business sections and along major thoroughfares. Rates for municipal parking garages start at $1.20 per hour with a maximum of $9.50 per day. Metered lot parking and use of the Fort Brooke parking garage run $1.60 per hour (if using the garage for 6-24 hours, the rate is $9.50). For downtown parking information phone (813) 274-8179 or (813) 221-3686.
In-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. All hotels must meet the same basic requirements for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality to be AAA Approved. A rating of one to five AAA Diamonds tells members what type of experience to expect, from no-frills to highly personalized.
Sales tax is 8.5 percent in Hillsborough and 7 percent in Pasco County. An accommodations tax is 6 percent in Hillsborough County and 4 percent in Pasco County.
(813) 231-6130; Sheriff (813) 247-8200
AdventHealth Carrollwood, (813) 932-2222; AdventHealth Tampa, (813) 971-6000; Memorial Hospital of Tampa, (813) 873-6400; Tampa General, (813) 844-7000.
201 N. Franklin St., Suite 102 Tampa, FL 33602. Phone:(813)226-2752 or (800)448-2672
Commercial domestic and international flights entering Tampa land at Tampa International Airport (TPA). Several commercial airlines and private planes use St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE). Private and corporate planes have access to Albert Whitted Airport (SPG) in St. Petersburg and Peter O. Knight Airport (TPF) in Tampa.
Hertz, which offers discounts to AAA members, is at the car rental center at Tampa International Airport, (813) 874-3232; St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, (727) 532-4801; and at St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-1631; or phone (800) 654-3080.
Tampa's Amtrak station is at 601 N. Nebraska Ave. in downtown Tampa, behind historic Union Station. Daily service is offered; phone (813) 221-7600 or (800) 872-7245. Bus service to Union Station is available via HART routes 9, 12 and 400; phone (813) 254-4278.
Greyhound Lines Inc. is at 610 E. Polk St. in Tampa; phone (813) 229-2174.
Major companies include United Cab Co., (813) 777-7777, and Yellow Cab Co., (813) 253-0121.
HART serves Tampa and its immediate suburbs, including shopping malls and area attractions. Service also includes the TECO Line Streetcar System, which makes 11 stops along a 2.7-mile track between downtown Tampa and Ybor City. For HART bus and streetcar fares and schedules, phone (813) 254-4278.