In this issue:
- Fun for All
- Cigars and Beer
- Good Eats and Great Shopping
- An Artsy City
- Fun for the Active
- Where to Stay
- Travel Deals
Florida is one of the most popular states for tourists and the pretty beaches are one of the state's biggest attractions. There are 825 miles of beaches and 1,260 miles of coastline. Tampa Bay, located on the western side of the state is home to some of the world's top-rated beaches, but there's more than just sand play. You can kayak in Tampa Bay, take an evening sail and visitors have even been known to spot manatee or dolphin from the shore line. Away from the water there is plenty else to do...
Fun for All
Just like any other Florida city, Tampa Bay has a variety of year-round outdoor activities. Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo features more than 1,700 animals on nearly 60 acres of natural habitats, water play areas, and rides. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay appeals to the thrill seekers with roller coasters and thrill rides, live entertainment and one of North America's largest zoos. The latest feature is the Sesame Street friends' African journey.
The fun-in-the-sun water park Adventure Island has 30 acres of waterslides, waterfalls and waves while Dinosaur World is just what it sounds like. See over 150 make-believe life size dinosaurs in this outdoor dinosaur museum.
Not far from Tampa is the new LEGOLAND Florida that just opened this fall. The 150-acre interactive theme park with more than 50 rides, shows, entertainment and lots of Legos is geared for the young crowds, ages 2 to 12.
Cigars and Beer
Tampa Bay may have a lot of family-friendly things to do, but it's also quite fun for grownups. You may know that Tampa has a variety of nicknames and two of them are similar and speak volumes about this coastal city: Cigar City and Cigar Capital of the World. What place do cigars hold in Tampa to earn it such monikers? The history stems back to the 1800's - also known as the city's cigar days. It was the world's largest cigar producer when Cuba exported tobacco to Tampa. The industry was started by Don Vicente Martinez Ybor and created a 12,000-strong immigrant workforce that produced over 700 million cigars a year. In 1959 the trade stopped when Fidel Castro took control of Cuba.
While the Cuban cigars disappeared, the nicknames stayed. Today, in Ybor City, Tampa's Latin Quarter still offers a cultural-ambiance which includes hand-rolled cigars, Latin music and, naturally, Cuban coffee and food.
It should come as no surprise that Tampa's first brewery, The Florida Brewing Company, was founded by cigar industrialists in 1896 and was the first of many breweries in the area. Today there are still plenty of beer establishments. Cigar City Brewing (CCB) is a popular place and was obviously named with the city's history in mind. Brewery tours are offered at select times while the tasting room offers all current brews.
CCB isn't the only brewery in the area. Other options include:
Tampa Bay Brewing Company - Ybor City, FL
Saint Somewhere Brewing - Tarpon Springs, FL
Dunedin Brewery (Florida's Oldest Craft Brewery) - Dunedin, FL
Peg's Cantina - Gulfport, FL
Sarasota Brewing Company - Sarasota, FL
Good Eats and Great Shopping
There really is something for everyone in Tampa Bay as far as food goes. The restaurants in the Historic District are diverse and include Spanish, Cuban, Italian, Greek and French. Ask locals where "Restaurant Row" is, and they'll point you in the direction of Sand Lake Road where you'll find 35 independent eateries including steakhouses, tapas bars and Thai.
Another draw in Ybor City is the fantastic shopping. Shopping ranges from unique gift shops to colorful art galleries. Besides Ybor City, Hyde Park also offers plenty of shopping opportunities as one of Tampa's oldest and most upscale neighborhoods known for its multi-million dollar mansions and bungalow-style masterpieces.
Tampa truly has everything from antique shops and vintage clothing stores, to weekend markets. Specialty shops range from high-end, designer boutiques to locally owned shops.
An Artsy City
Tampa is very proud of its art culture. You will know immediately when you step off the plane at the Tampa International Airport. Take note of the airport's collection of sculptures, tapestries, acrylic and oil paintings created by local and international artists. The city was recently awarded "Top Arts Destination" by American Style Magazine and for good reason. The city is teeming with culture centers and museums. Public art can be found throughout the community. Plus, year-round art and culture events, festivals and performances are held throughout the city. Tampa Bay's artsy attractions cover the board: museums, independent and foreign film, opera and orchestra, plays and even traveling exhibitions from the Smithsonian.
The Dali Museum opened a year ago and features a permanent collection of 96 oil paintings, plus drawings, fine prints, photographs, videos and Surreal Objects by Salvador Dali.
Visitors don't need to go to New York to see a Broadway show. Tampa Straz Center presents various shows and productions almost daily throughout the year. The center has five theaters, a Rehearsal Hall and a beautiful Riverwalk. Opera Tampa is the resident opera company of the Straz Center.
Fun for the Active
Some cities naturally offer a nice setting for those who enjoy staying active and Tampa is one such place. Outdoorsy-types will appreciate the numerous water activities and places to camp. There are many options for setting up camp, and hooking up RVs (road vehicles). Lettuce Lake Park has 240-acres of wilderness with activities like hiking and picnic areas. An educational center lets visitors explore an animal inhabited cypress swamp.
Fishers can enjoy their sport from piers, canoes, riverbanks, in-shore boats, or the deck of a deep-sea charter. Tampa is also a golfer's paradise with 100 year-round private and public golf courses. For those who enjoy watching rather than doing, professional sports include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, or New York Yankees spring training.
Where to Stay
Because Tampa is only a short drive from Orlando, it makes for a great extension to your itinerary. Be sure to browse our hotel directory to find some great Tampa hotel deals! Other choices include: The Bayview Waterfront Resort, a European-style boutique waterfront resort of only 7 rooms directly on the Boca Ciega Bay on the island of St. Pete Beach, the Bay Palms Waterfront Resort also on St. Pete Beach and directly on the water or The Plaza Beach Hotel - Beachfront Resort, a Key West style family owned resort. Perfect for couples or families, it has large rooms featuring full kitchens and private balconies overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
Thank you for reading USA Tourist News Magazine. We'll see you next month!
Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair
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