Tampa downtown

The city of Tampa is the county seat of Hillsborough County and the largest city in West Central Florida.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 70 72 76 82 87 90 90 90 89 84 78 72
Nightly lows (°F) 50 52 56 61 67 73 74 74 73 66 57 52
Precipitation (in) 2.2 2.7 3.4 1.8 2.9 5.6 7.3 7.9 6.3 2.3 1.8 2

Tampa is situated on the north shore of Tampa Bay in West Central Florida. Saint Petersburg lies west of the bay, while Bradenton is on the southern shore. The downtown business center of the city is on the north shore of Hillsborough Bay (a small bay within Tampa Bay which is bordered by the eastern shore of Tampa Bay and the small peninsula of South Tampa) and Ybor City lies just to the east. MacDill Air Force Base is on the southern tip of South Tampa, while the city also extends to the north all the way to the newly incorporated area of New Tampa.


Tampa is divided into five main districts fanning out from Downtown in the south-center between the Hillsborough River and Ybor Channel. West Tampa, once a separate city, lies across the Hillsborough River to the west of Downtown. South Tampa, a large residential area, extends south along the Interbay Peninsula. Historic Ybor City (sometimes considered a part of downtown) lies on the northeast side of downtown. East Tampa, the historically African-American side of the city, lies north of Ybor City. North Tampa forms the urban/suburban sprawl north of Busch Boulevard. A significant suburban area, often considered a part of "Tampa", extends many miles to the northwest, north, and east of the city.

Within Tampa proper, there are six official "historical districts" (Hampton Terrace, Hyde Park, Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights, Historic West Tampa, Ybor City) and at least 86 named neighborhoods.


The Tampa Bay area was visited by many Spanish explorers, beginning with Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528. However, no long term permanent settlements were created until 1824 when the US federal government created a reservation for north Florida Seminole Indians. At the same time, the US created Fort Brooke to oversee the reservation as well as protect the strategic harbor.

The 1880s saw the town's first population boom. In 1883, phosphate was discovered in the area, spurring the development of the mining and shipping industries in the area. Shortly after, Henry B. Plant completed work on his railroad linking Tampa to Jacksonville. He began promoting Tampa as a holiday spot and built the grand Plant Hotel as a luxury resort destination. In 1886, Vicente Martinez Ybor opened Tampa's first cigar factory in Ybor City which encouraged the immigration of many Spanish, Cuban and Italian (primarily Sicilian) workers. During the Spanish American War at the turn of the century, Tampa was the main port of departure for troops heading for Cuba. During this time, the Plant Hotel was converted into officer's accommodations, housing the Rough Riders and Teddy Roosevelt.

In more recent times, MacDill Air Force Base was created in 1939 and the University of South Florida in 1956. Over the course of the Twentieth Century, Tampa has grown into the center of a large metropolitan area; it now hosts the regional headquarters of many international companies, has acquired numerous professional sports teams, and has even bid for the summer Olympics.


Tampa is a very diverse city. The first residents were the members of the Seminole Indian tribe that was relocated there from northern Florida and the soldiers stationed at Fort Brook to control the reservation. The town remained a mostly military town until the 1880s when Tampa saw its first major waves of immigration from Cuba, Spain and Sicily. The major growth of the area did not occur until air conditioning became common in the years after World War II, but the region has been growing steadily since then. Tampa is now home to many native Floridians, including Seminoles, Cubans, Spaniards and Italians, as well the residence of many 'transplants' from the Midwest and other areas of the states and new immigrants from the Caribbean and central America. Tampa's population swells during the winter months with the arrival of the 'snowbirds,' retired persons from the northern U.S. and Canada who come down for a few months to enjoy the relative warmth.


Tampa has a growing economy and serves as a major port. Among others, Raymond James, Home Shopping Network, Outback Steakhouse, and a major portion of Citigroup are all headquartered in Tampa. Tampa's major industries today are phosphate mining, shipping, citrus processing, shrimping, and tourism.

Get in

Airside C at Tampa International Airport.

By plane

By train

Tampa's Amtrak station is located at 601 Nebraska Avenue in downtown Tampa. Amtrak's Silver Service runs daily from New York City or Miami to Tampa. The train journey through Florida offers great views, but be aware that, while Amtrak reports an 80% on time rate, the scheduled times, particularly on the southbound trains, can be hours before the actual time of arrival, and there are limited options for rescheduling.

By car

Tampa is easily accessible via the major interstate highways, I-75 from north and south, and I-4 from the east. From either highway, exit onto I-275 to reach Tampa. However, be prepared for frequent traffic jams particularly when it rains; nearly all of Downtown and the airport area are under constant and complete construction. Also be ready to deal with terrible drivers, as this is the retirement state.

By bus

By boat

Cruise ships from five cruise lines operate from Tampa, mostly to Caribbean islands and Mexico. The Tampa cruise terminal is on the Ybor channel downtown. Starlight Cruises toll free +1-888-952-5466

Get around

By car

Car rentals are the most convenient for of transportation for visitors, with local companies offering better prices but national chains offering more convenience vis-a-vis return policies and times.

The main freeways in Tampa are Interstate 275, Interstate 4, the Veterans Expressway (toll FL 589), and the Leroy Selmon Crosstown Expressway (toll FL 618). Some of the main east-west roads through town are Kennedy Boulevard (SR 60), Gandy Boulevard (SR 694), Hillsborough Avenue (US 92) and Fowler Avenue (SR 582), while some of the north-south roads are Dale Mabry Highway (US 92) and Florida/Nebraska Avenue (US 41). Traffic is especially bad during the rush hours: from about 7:30AM to 9:30AM and 3:30PM to 7:30PM. During these times, try especially to avoid I-275, especially between I-4 and SR 60 (by the airport) as this section runs by downtown and is currently being rebuilt.

By bus

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) provides extensive bus service throughout Hillsborough County. There are four types of routes offered: "local", "Commuter Express", "MetroRapid" (Bus Rapid Transit), and Trollies (see below). Local routes are ones which have many stops in a small region. Commuter Express lines are long-distance lines namely providing service from suburbs into Tampa. Only local to local & commuter express to local transfers are allowed. Fares are $1.75 for local routes and $2.75 for commuter express lines. Four small routes (83, 87, 88, & 89) have a 50¢ fare with no transfers. Riders over 65, 17 and under, on Medicare, or disabled are half-price: 85¢ for "local" routes and $1.35 for "commuter express" routes. Bus transportation in the Tampa area is not popular and one can expect plenty of room in busses.

Tampa streetcars

PSTA, offers service in Pinellas County (the county west of Tampa Bay, home to Clearwater and St. Petersburg) similar to what HART offers in Hillsborough.

By streetcar

Tampa also has the TECO Line Streetcar that runs from Whiting and Franklin Streets downtown to Centennial Park in Ybor City with 9 stops along the way (11 total stops). The line is useful for tourists and convention goers. The line runs by many local shops, restaurants, and attractions including the convention center/ Embassy Suites, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Channelside, the Florida Aquarium, and through Ybor City. There are 3 types of streetcars in operation: 9 "Birney Safety" replicas (picture, right), one "Breezer" open-air replica (picture, left), and one original "Birney" car (#163, not pictured) which operated in Tampa from 1923-1946 and went through 10,000 man-hours of restoration. Even if you're not using it for transportation, the streetcars are a fun way to see some of the city's historic and cultural sights. Each station is covered and offers benches, ticket vending machines, and information kiosks. Dick Greco Plaza in downtown serves as an intermodal station, offering connections to HART buses, taxis, and easy pedestrian access to the surrounding area.

As of December 2012, a one-way fare is $2.50. A 1-day, unlimited ride pass for streetcars, trollies, and local HART buses are available for $5; as this is the cost of 2 rides (not synonymous with "round-trip"), it's highly recommended. Riders over 65, disabled, on Medicare, or 17 and under are discounted to $1.25 per trip or $2.50 for 1-day unlimited, with appropriate ID. A "Family All Day Ticket" is also available, allowing 2 adults plus 3 children or 1 adult and 4 children to ride streetcars only for only $12.50. Children under 4 are free, but if taller than the fare box ID is required. Exact change is required when purchasing on board, streetcar drivers do not provide change.

Additionally, automated Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) are installed at all streetcar stations and accept cash or credit cards and can provide change when paying cash. Three-day and one year passes are available from TVMs and authorized sales outlets. Sales outlets along the line are located at Bank of America building's concierge (downtown), Grand Central at Kennedy (Channelside), Wine Design (Channelside), Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau Visitor Center (Channelside), Centro Ybor Visitor Information Center (Ybor City), and the HART Administrative Office (1201 E. 7th Ave in Ybor City). Tickets and passes for the streetcar and all HART lines can be purchased online. For more information about the streetcar line, tickets, or HART services, call +1 813 254-4278.

Service is available M-Th noon-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-2AM, and Su noon-8PM. Streetcars arrive every 20 minutes, except every 30 minutes on Friday/Saturday from 1AM-2AM. Service is extended when the Tampa Bay Lightning play at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, allowing spectators to park in Ybor City and avoid the end-of-game traffic encountered when parking near the forum.

By trolley

Tampa also a rubber-wheel trolley system serving the Central Business District. Unlike the streetcars, which are electric and run on a fixed track, the trollies are simply small, diesel buses styled to look like a streetcar. The In-Town Trolley runs north-south from I-275, through downtown to the northern end of Harbor Island. It has service every 10 minutes at 17 stops(), Monday through Friday from 6-9AM and 3-6PM. As of May 2012, rides are $0.25 (no transfers), $3.75 for a 1-day pass, and $5 for a 1-day streetcar/trolley pass. Riders over 65, 17 and under, on Medicare, or disabled are discounted to $1.85 for a 1-day trolley pass or $2.50 for a 1-day trolley/streetcar pass. Children under 4 are free, but if taller than the fare box ID is required. Only $1 bills are accepted.


Downtown Tampa

A view of downtown Tampa, Florida taken from the W Platt Street bridge.

North Tampa

Ybor City

This historic multi-ethnic district located northeast of downtown & north of the Channelside district is best known to locals for its wide range of nightclubs, bars, and shops making it a popular evening and weekend hotspot. However, this historic district has much to offer the tourist by day. Originally home to thousands of Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrants (as well as smaller numbers of Romanian Jews and Germans), this neighborhood was famous for its many cigar factories and is where the 'Cuban sandwich' was first popularized in the United States. Ybor City is one of only two active National Historic Landmark Districts in the state of Florida and can be easily visited by catching one of its famous streetcars that connects downtown Tampa to Ybor City (see "Get around" section).



The Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing at Raymond James Stadium off Dale Mabry Highway.

The Tampa Bay Rays (MLB, baseball) and Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL, soccer/association football) play in St. Petersburg.













Stay safe

Be aware while in Suitcase City, the part of town surrounding Busch Gardens, USF and University Square Mall. It can be dangerous traveling toward Pasco county too. Hitchhiking is also prevalent in this area, but do not stop!



Go next

Routes through Tampa

Reverses direction  W  E  LakelandWinter Haven Miami
END  W  E  Brandon Orlando
Gainesville Wildwood  N  S  Bradenton Miami
Ends at  N  S  St. Petersburg Bradenton
Lake City Land O Lakes  N  S  Bradenton Miami
END Clearwater  W  E  Brandon Vero Beach

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, February 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.