Tampa and Beyond
If you have a day to explore the Tampa area, follow this driving tour to get a great overview of this big city on the Gulf coast.
It has been said that the Tampa Bay Area is a large metropolitan area with charming community ambiance.
Originally named for the body of water, Tampa Bay, the area represents a region of many diverse areas and faces. It is a unique blend of urban excitement in a natural setting with a dash of tropical flair. The most populous area of Florida, this vibrant waterfront area on the beautiful central west coast of Florida also affords easy access to the rest of the state.
In the heart of downtown Tampa, the Henry B. Plant Museum, 401 W. Kennedy Blvd., will transport you back to 1891. The former Tampa Bay Hotel, now part of the University of Tampa (look for the dramatic minarets and Moorish revival architecture), was home base to Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in the 1898 Spanish American War with Cuba. The museum illustrates the opulent lifestyle of early Florida tourists, local history and the tropical setting of the area, conducive to the legend of the famous pirate, Jose Gaspar. Hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tues. - Sat.; Noon - 5 p.m., Sun. Call (813) 254-1891.
A good place to take in the colorful overview of the area is at the Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Old Water St. (formerly St. Pete Times Forum Drive), a regional history museum of the area's rich culture and diverse heritage. Open daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m; Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Call (813) 228-0097.
Leave your car and hop on the TECO Streetcar to ride an electric streetcar from downtown to Ybor City. Visit www.tecolinestreetcar.org for station locations and hours. Pick up an Ybor City walking tour brochure at The Centro Ybor Visitor Information Center and Museum, 1600 E. 8th Avenue, and plan to spend all afternoon enjoying the National Historic Landmark District. Hours: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Mon. - Sat.; Noon - 6 p.m., Sun. Call (813) 241-8838.
The Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Dr., world-class attraction, offers breath-taking galleries and showcases Florida habitats of diverse plants and animals. There are lots of opportunities to touch at the kid-friendly interactive exhibit "No Bone Zone". If time permits, take a Wild Dolphin Cruise aboard the 72-foot, 149-passenger catamaran. The Aquarium is open 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., daily. Call (813) 273-4000 for general information or details about the Wild Dolphin Cruise schedule.
If you'd like a human-powered water adventure, the Canoe Escape in John B. Sargeant Park, 12702 U.S. 301, on the nature-rich Hillsborough River, is just a few minutes from downtown on I-75. From their convenient location you can rent a canoe or kayak or schedule a guided trip and paddle through this cypress swamp full of Florida's unique flora and fauna. Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., daily; last hour to rent a canoe is 3:30 p.m. Call (813) 986-2067 for reservations (suggested).
History is often reflected in art. As such, the Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza, tells the story of the ages through its incredible collection of contemporary art, photography and renowned collections of Greek and Roman antiquities. Open 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., Monday - Thursday; 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Call (813) 274-8130. Or plan to attend one the Broadway shows, fabulous productions and special events held year-round at David A. Straz, Jr. Center for The Performing Arts, 1010 North W.C. MacInnes Pl. Call (813) 229-7827 for their current schedule.