In addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
Tampa's calendar of events begins with the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on Dale Mabry Highway. This New Year's Day event matches college football's Southeastern Conference and Big 10 Conference champions. Mid-month brings the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival , a 10-day-long fete beginning in mid-January that honors African-American culture with such family-friendly events as a 2-day street festival, art exhibits, crafts, spoken word performances, music and ethnic food.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Tampa leaders introduced a citywide, pirate-themed festival based on the adventures of legendary buccaneer Jose Gaspar. Gasparilla Pirate Fest evolved into a full-blown mock pirate invasion followed by a downtown parade, an arts and crafts show and live entertainment on multiple stages. The tongue-in-cheek surrender of the city to swashbucklers kicks off in late January or early February with the arrival of the fully rigged Jose Gasparilla—a faithful replica of a Spanish galleon—at the Tampa Convention Center.
With so many events and fun things to do, February is a great time to vacation in Florida. First, catch daily parades, top-name entertainment, rodeo competitions, cook-offs, livestock shows, agriculture demonstrations, exhibits of everything from antique farm equipment to purebred canines and so much more at the Florida State Fair , which takes place over a 12-day period in early February. This all-American event has delighted Floridians for more than 100 years. Where else but a state fair would you make a meal of funnel cakes and corn dogs, stroll along a midway under the stars and step into the poultry barn to cast your vote for the best-looking chicken?
The promise of work in cigar factories lured Cuban, German, Italian and Spanish immigrants to Tampa's Ybor City in the late 19th century. Fiesta Day —once a day of rest for the workers—celebrates Ybor's rich ethnic heritage with lively music, multicultural entertainment, a colorful parade of flags, international food from nearby restaurants, cigar rolling demonstrations and contests for the best flan and the best flan eater. A high-spirited Latin tempo energizes the historic district during this celebration in late February.
Take advantage of March's cool spring temperatures and join the throng of art lovers wandering among more than 300 white-tented artists' booths filled with every genre imaginable during your trip to the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts , held on the first weekend of the month.
Early March is a good time to pick strawberries. If you can't make it to the farm, celebrate the harvest at the 11-day Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City , 15 miles east of Tampa. Taste the freshest strawberry pies, cobblers, shortcakes and milkshakes, or buy a flat of berries and make your own. Although strawberries are the star of the show, this festival boasts a stellar lineup of country music performers. With exhibits, carnival rides, a midway and a parade, this event has all the flair of a state fair.
The Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts , held in Ruskin, has a dual mission: to preserve Florida's manatee population and to promote visual and performing arts. At this early March event you will find 100 booths of fine arts and crafts, live entertainment, food vendors and a beer garden as well as activities for children and lots of information about manatees and local wildlife.
In April, Best of Tampa Bay , sponsored by the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, features culinary creations from the area's top local restaurants. You also can eat, drink and be merry at the Tampa Caribbean Festival at the Florida State Fairgrounds in April. Celebrate the culture and history of the islands with Caribbean cuisine, parades, dance demonstrations, live deejays and soca, reggae and steel bands.
Whoever said "you have nothing to fear but fear itself" had obviously never been to Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay . Haunted houses, zombies, ghosts, vampires and a host of otherworldly creatures will scare you out of your wits on select nights from late September through late October.
The historic Tampa Bay Hotel is the perfect setting for a Victorian Christmas Stroll . Christmas trees, holiday greenery, lavish period decorations, vintage toys and elegantly wrapped packages adorn the hotel's Grand Hall and rooms of the Henry B. Plant Museum harking back to Christmas traditions of the past.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
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.