Historic Tampa: ten reasons to visit
Historic Tampa offers history, geography, weather and cuisine, so here are a few of our insider tips to help rental vacationers make the best of their Tampa trip.
1. Tampa’s got history
Start at the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel where Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders mustered before heading to Cuba. 150 years ago Tampa was the railhead for cattle shipments to Cuba, as a result influencing every aspect of Tampa life. Today, visitors can take the electric streetcar to Ybor City, whose Spanish-Cuban roots are especially reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Beautifully renovated cigar factories make clear the strong links between the two nations.
2. Sandwiches and Coffee
Ybor City was once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World”. Why? Because of 200 factories with 12,000 cigar-makers rolling 700 million cigars annually, outproducing Havana. Difficult to believe? Not if you try historic Tampa’s strong coffee and satisfying pressed sandwiches – uniquely part of our Cuban heritage. Where do you find the best of both? Family-run Aquila is a great start; fabled for their delectable roast pork. In nearby Seminole Heights Jet City Espresso (5803 N Florida), just half a mile from Erehwon Retreat, dispenses coffee, chai latte and her signature Cafe Borgia, a honey-and-orange-infused latte. For pure Cuban coffee, try El Molino, a simple café attached to Ybor City’s Naviera Coffee Mills, which has been in business for nearly a century (2012 E. 7th Ave.).
3. Beer city
Recently rated one of “America’s Top Ten Emerging Beer Towns”, Tampa has a bounty of brews. Cigar City Brewing (3924 W. Spruce St.) brews up some uniquely Tampa beers: the bright, fruity Guava Grove and the rich Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. For more of the local good stuff, head to Seminole Heights. Here you’ll find The Independent; historic Tampa’s pioneer of the craft beer movement. Today it offers rare and unique beers and wines from around the world. In the same neighborhood, Angry Chair has a particularly attractive tasting room with diverse offerings. Folks love C 1949, a quaint, dog-friendly little hole-in-the-wall beer garden with plenty of seating, live music and rotating food trucks outside. Finally, take in America’s oldest beer brewer, right here in Tampa Bay. The Yuengling Brewery, complete with a “biergarten” where you can sample Yuengling’s rich heritage, offers free tours of the facility Monday-Friday.
4. Manatees, the cutest animals on the planet
So, you might not think a giant power plant is the best vacation spot, not so the adorable manatees who winter in the warm waters adjacent to the gargantuan Tampa Electric facility (6990 Dickman Rd., Apollo Beach). The utility company’s built a popular Manatee Viewing Center, with educational exhibits. Winter vacation rentals are the lucky ones because the manatees move off around mid-April only returning in early December.
5. The great food offerings of Seminole Heights
Make tracks for the neighborhood’s Taco Bus, a hipster-junkyard set-up with a very good food truck and outdoor seating. Open weekends all year round (913 E. Hillsborough Ave.) For something more elegant, why not dine at the James Beard nominated ‘The Refinery’? (5137 N. Florida Ave.) Adding to historic Tampa’s range, drop into Ichicoro, a unique fusion of Asian and Cuban ramen (5229 N. Florida Ave.). Finally, check out Ella’s Folk Art Cafe on “Soul Food Sunday” and definitely enjoy the chicken, waffles, live music and fun cocktails like the Po-mosa (5119 N. Nebraska Ave.).
6. Key Lime Pie
So, it might be a staple of the whole South but it began in the Keys. The key lime tree arrived in Florida in the 1500s and historic Tampa recipes for the pie appear in the 1800s, though it became really popular in the 1930s. Some restaurants make it with graham cracker crust, others with pastry. Either way, it’s a must-have and in Seminole Heights we love Trips Diner for this very special confection.
7. The world’s longest continuous sidewalk
Tampa is a record breaker. Consider Bayshore Boulevard, which runs along Tampa Bay through the Hyde Park neighborhood and on to points south. It isn’t just the city’s most scenic street, it’s also a four-and-a-half-mile linear bay-front park favored by joggers and walkers. It’s a fantastic way to work up an appetite for lunch. On Sunday follow the local foodies and make a beeline for lunch at the Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida (a.k.a. the local Thai Buddhist temple). Here, food vendors set up mid-morning every Sunday, dishing out authentic Thai eats (cash only) to a hungry audience. Stick around to enjoy the riverfront grounds (5306 Palm River Rd.)
8. The kids will totally dig it
With exhibits that combine the educational with the awesome, the Glazer Children’s Museum has always been a hit with the youngsters from day one. Try out the climbing structures that teach about water, or the firehouse with a working pole and drivable “fire truck”. The nearby Florida Aquarium offers exhibits from the dramatic (swimming with sharks) to the educational. Still got energy? There’s always Busch Gardens, Tampa’s most famous family attraction.
9. Life’s a beach
It certainly is in Florida which has miles of beach not covered in footprints or fishing lines. One of Florida’s greatest beaches and hiking areas is at Ft. Desoto State Park, with its nearby beach community of Pass-A-Grille. Great beach-combing, quaint shops, sunset dining, essentially make it a perfect day out. And talking about perfect days – the sun shines, on average, 361 days a year in Tampa Bay.
10. Historic Tampa – perfect vacation rentals
There are 2,000 restored Craftsman and Mediterranean bungalows in Seminole Heights, offering Arts and Craft vacation rentals like Erehwon Retreat (5801 N Suwanee Ave). Proprietor owned vacation rentals give their guests the lowdown on all that’s best in the local are, making your trip is unforgettable and your memories wonderful. In conclusion, our comprehensive listing of Area Attractions & Events contains details, maps, addresses, and links to the area’s best entertainment.