Soul Of America





John's Pass Fishing Village and Boardwalk in St. Petersburg


    The metro area is quietly attracting more family vacationers with its ample blend of sunshine, beaches and family attractions, including world famous Busch Gardens. Some also believe the metro area will soon rival Miami as the cruise gateway of the world.

    Tampa’s high quality of life is also luring more residents who are expanding the list of general and heritage attractions as well. Explore its menagerie of old architecture influenced by Cubans, Germans, Italians, and Spaniards. That unusual and unique architecture give the city’s heritage a flavor. Tampa’s best-known heritage destination is Ybor City (pronounced “E-bore”). It’s the historic cigar factory district featuring Cuban restaurants, nightlife, arts & crafts, antique shops, restored buildings, and a nostalgia market. Given the huge naval fleet in the region, tattoo parlors are as plentiful as dandelions. But don’t be mislead, Tampa Bay is become more sophisticated and urbane each week.

    Tampa (map) cultural attractions lie in the shadow of downtown glass skyscrapers and neon lights. The huge Florida Aquarium downtown is one of the nation’s largest and best. The ethnically diverse restaurants downtown and in Ybor City spices things up as well. On the outskirts of town, you’ll find numerous theme and water parks, more museums and galleries, cultural sites. Raymond James Stadium, the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a landmark pirate ship icon. A new Museum of Art will soon grace the downtown shoreline.

    Due to its location along Tampa Bay, there are a wealth of outdoor activities including swimming, snorkeling, boating, fishing, wildlife parks, and the like. Site-seers note: Bayshore Boulevard located downtown has the world’s longest continuous sidewalk paralleling the shore of a bay. Each year more people take a Caribbean cruise from Tampa Bay. Channelside dining and entertainment center adjacent to the cruise terminal is an after-hours magnet featuring restaurants, shops, nightclubs and cinema. Enjoy the sounds of live Latin jazz, tango and flamenco performances on the First Friday of every month.

    Across Tampa Bay on a peninsula that extends into the Gulf of Mexico, St. Petersburg (map) is a surprising suburban-style city. Home to the world famous Salvador Dali Museum which is constructing an iconic venue as eye-catching as the artist himself. To its west, lies a string of islands called Holiday Isles, to its east, Tampa Bay. The islands are connected to the mainland by five bridges, including the impressive Sunshine Skyway, which connects St. Petersburg to Bradenton. St. Petersburg and nearby Clearwater are famous for 35 miles of powder-white barrier island beaches on Florida’s Gulf of Mexico. From undeveloped, isolated island hideaways to wide city beaches that offer all the amenities a beach-lover could imagine, area beaches are unmatched among U.S. visitor destinations. St. Pete also has a revered Museum of Fine Art.

    Beaches. Beaches. Beaches. You’ll love the natural beauty of the beaches at Caladesi Island State Park, Fort De Soto Park and Clearwater Beach. They are routinely rated among the top beaches in the U.S. Clearwater Beach has been named the top city beach in the Gulf region and Sand Key Park has consistently ranked in the top 20. The area features more than 20 barrier islands, also known as keys that buffer the Pinellas Peninsula from the Gulf of Mexico. The gentle slope and calm surf make area beaches perfect for family water activities.

    In many ways, divers and people who enjoy water sports will enjoy this area more than most. The Gulf and Intracoastal Waterway offer every water activity imaginable, including: deep-sea fishing, some of the best backwater salt flats fishing in Florida, boating, sailing, canoeing and sea kayaking. SCUBA dive shops offer trips to artificial reefs, wrecks and area springs and rivers; wind surfing and shelling. At the end of the day or week, Tampa and St. Petersburg metro area is a great family vacation destination and cruise gateway.

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