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Tampa Bay Metro Area|Things To Do And See In Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida

Updated on January 19, 2015

St. Petersburg Skyline - Tampa Bay

A beautiful view from The Pier
A beautiful view from The Pier

Tampa Bay is my home. I feel extremely fortunate to live in an area often referred to as paradise. The weather is perfect for anyone who enjoys hot sunny summers and mild, temperate winters. The Gulf of Mexico nearby, is home to some of the world's best beaches. There is so much to do and see that anyone living or vacationing here never run out of places to go. For the sport enthusiasts, there are spring training games. It is home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Sports are big here and we support our teams, win or lose! There are water activities, music, cultural venues and events, theme parks, great food and great people.

The three primary cities in this area are Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The counties in the immediate Metro area are Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando. In this hub, we will briefly cover the three primary cities.

Early Ybor City

A delightful photograph from the early days of Ybor city - the architecture is beautiful.
A delightful photograph from the early days of Ybor city - the architecture is beautiful.

Tampa, Florida

Tampa was initially named 'Tanpa' by the local Native Americans. Tanpa means "sticks of fire", referring to the incredible lightning strikes seen in this area. The first area maps read Tampa rather than Tanpa. The first tribes were here before the Spaniards arrived and are believed to have 'blessed' the area.

Tampa is famous for its Gasparilla Pirate Festival which was first held in 1904 in honor of Jose Gasper. There is a week long festival held in February, much of it takes place in historic Ybor City. Ybor City is an old section of Tampa which is known as the historic cigar district. It is home to the Centro Ybor Museum and a plethora of restaurants, shops and boutiques. It is a party place full of hip, trendy clubs and it's just as much fun to sit at one of the outdoor cafes and people watch. You can even custom order your own cigar in the cigar shops/bars and watch it being rolled. It's really a fascinating place to spend a day or an evening.

Up Close And Personal At Busch Gardens

An impressive view from both sides of the glass
An impressive view from both sides of the glass

Nearby is the famous tourist destination, Busch Gardens, the 335 acre African-themed park. The animals are beautiful and it's fun to take one of the tours, either by safari style in a flat-bed truck (Serengeti Safari Tour) or on a monorail that rides above the free roaming animals. Being a theme park, there are amazing roller coasters, rides, restaurants, shops, shows and beautiful tropical gardens. Adventure Island is .25 miles north of Busch Gardens and is the place go for tropical water park fun. Be sure to take a cooler with snacks and plenty of water to drink because you will get very hungry from the non-stop fun in the sun. Be sure to apply sunscreen before you arrive and after swimming!!

Henry Plant Museum - Tampa, Florida

The museum is also home to the University of Tampa
The museum is also home to the University of Tampa

The Channelside District is also a must see destination. We go there often to see 3-D movies on the giant IMAX screens. You can also eat and enjoy a glass of wine while watching the movie. The District is packed with great places to eat, shops, dancing inside or outside in the courtyard with live music. There's a delightful Spanish tapas restaurant, TinyTapas, that I love and a newer Thai restaurant that has beautiful décor and a wonderful ambiance for a night out on the town. Taverna Opa serves authentic Greek food served by dancing waitstaff. It is within walking distance of the Tampa Convention Center, Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Florida Aquarium. It is also the Port of Call for some of the top cruise lines, including Carnival, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. The ships are amazingly huge close up and a beautiful sight! There is a monitored parking garage in the area for your convenience.

There's so much more to do in Tampa. There are museums, Lowery Park Zoo, the historic Tampa Theater in downtown Tampa, touring Old Hyde Park District full of old world charm, world class shows, operas and concerts. There are trolleys which link downtown, Hyde Park, Ybor City and Channelside. I have included links below for additional information!

St. Petersburg, Florida

St. Petersburg is over the Bay nestled on the Pinellas Peninsula.  It takes its name from the Spaniards meaning, "point of pines".  Perhaps you imagine only palm trees, but this area of Florida has many beautiful pine trees.  I remember braiding the needles together as a young girl.  The goal was to braid as many as we could without breaking.  It is believed that Ponce de Leon may have come ashore as early as 1513.  Hernando de Soto arrived with a band of men in 1539 and set up Fort De Soto on the beach.  It is now a famous travel/beach destination with campgrounds, sprawling, untouched white sand beaches, bike trails, the old, unfinished fort from  the Spanish-American War, a fishing pier and restaurant.  It is one of my favorite places to go because it is all protected, undeveloped land and absolutely gorgeous.

Ft. DeSoto Beach Is A Beautiful Destination

It's beauty is enhanced by the quiet of nature with miles of sand and water and bicycle paths throughout the park.
It's beauty is enhanced by the quiet of nature with miles of sand and water and bicycle paths throughout the park.

St. Petersburg is more laid back than Tampa and has a more casual atmosphere. It has a hip, trendy, beautiful downtown area with a variety of shops, boutiques, restaurants, clubs, art centers and museums, including the world renown Dali Museum, which is a must see for any art lover. The Pier is a great place to dance, eat, shop and enjoy the water views and people watching. The Pier Aquarium is a private, not for profit aquarium and marine education center. It has a Water Walk along the Pier with ten stations that educate about the ecosystem in the waters of Tampa Bay, which is Florida's largest estuary. There are also luxury hotels and beautiful parks near The Pier.

The Pier - St. Petersburg, Florida

A walk along The Pier is beautiful and invigorating.
A walk along The Pier is beautiful and invigorating.

St. Johns Pass - Madeira Beach, Florida

Looking out over the water, one can often see dolphins.
Looking out over the water, one can often see dolphins.

The beaches are not too far away, beckoning with their glistening white sand and gorgeous Gulf Of Mexico clear waters. I grew up swimming in the Gulf and some of my favorite beaches are Passe-a-Grille, Maderia Beach, Treasure Island and Indian Rocks Beach. These beaches are home to some of the most amazing, beautiful sunsets you will ever see. Sometimes you can hear someone playing a flute or bagpipe in the distance. It is an enchanting, peaceful experience.

The beach communities are fun to visit and it's great to sit with the locals at one of the tiki bars or beach eateries. John's Pass Village and Boardwalk has a great fishing village atmoshpere with more than 100 stores, boutiques and restaurants. Water sports are huge on the Gulf coast and rentals are abundant. There is parasailing, waverunners, water skiing, kayaking, sailboats, snorking and scuba diving. There are also dinner and casino cruise ships. We love our outdoors here and the Florida lifestyle includes playing and relaxing in the water.

Clearwater, Florida

Clearwater inherited it's name from the Tocobegan word, 'pocotopaug', meaning 'clear water.' The Tocobega and Timucuan tribes inhabited this area long before the Spaniards arrived. It a gorgeous resort city and popular destination for the fun and sun enjoyed at Clearwater Beach.

Downtown Clearwater is where Scientology has one of their headquarters and they own many of the buildings and hotels in this area. It is very common to see them walking throughout the city. Members travel here from around the world to the headquarters and some of the celebrity members own lavish properties on the beaches. There are restaurants, shops, offices and theatres and parks in this area, and then a beautiful drive over the Clearwater Memorial Causeway to enjoy everything the beach has to offer, which is a lot! It is a vacation paradise, abundant with outdoor entertainment, water sports, Captain Nemo's Pirate Cruise, numerous cruise ships, restaurants, shops, beach boutiques, hotels and motels.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium - Home of Winter the Dolphin

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is off the causeway before you get to Clearwater Beach. It is a unique aquarium dedicated to protecting our marine environment. It is involved in rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine animals. It has educational programs and shows, including the Winter, the dolphin, from the movie Dolphin Tale. Winter has learned to swim again with a prosthetic tail after she had a terrible boating accident. Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a wonderful, family destination within minutes of the beaches and restaurants. Your kids will love meeting the beautiful marine animals living here. If you visit, your ticket price also includes admission to Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure, located in the historic section of downtown Clearwater. The ticket includes transportation on the Jolley Trolley.

Sunset At Pier 60 - Clearwater Beach, Florida

Being part of a sunset at Pier 60 is one reason to visit Clearwater Beach, it's beautiful and fun.
Being part of a sunset at Pier 60 is one reason to visit Clearwater Beach, it's beautiful and fun.

Pier 60 is a hot spot with magicians, jugglers, musicians, artists and craftspeople celebrating together with an awesome Key West homage to the setting sun. Make sure you have plenty of change if parking at any of the beaches as they are monitored frequently by the meter readers. You can also use one dollar bills to make change in the numerous change machines. Palm Pavilion is a favorite of mine directly on the beach. It has excellent grouper sandwiches, the best margarita's on the beach, big screen tv's, live music, indoor and outdoor seating with the sand and Gulf of Mexico for a backdrop. It also has a recently renovated retro style hotel behind the restaurant with a pool on the rooftop! You can wake up and walk outside to have the white sands and sound of the seagulls and the Gulf greet you.

One restaurant that I must mention is Island Way Grill. A trip to Clearwater Beach will not be complete without a night at this fabulous dining establishment on the Intercoastal Waterway. It is classy, has indoor and outdoor dining and a tiki bar on the deck, a sushi bar, an amazing menu and is well-known as a ' see and be seen' hot spot.

The beaches are beautiful. And don't leave Florida without seeing a sunset on the Gulf of Mexico.

Caladesi Island State Park - Dunedin, Florida

It's a piece of paradise away from the crowds and condos of nearby beaches.
It's a piece of paradise away from the crowds and condos of nearby beaches.

Caledesi Island State Park; Honeymoon Island

This article in no way covers all there is to do in this area, so I've included links throughout the text and placed additional links below. The Tampa Bay Metro area is a vacation destination or a place to call home. We are very fortunate to have world class beaches nearby, north of Clearwater in Dunedin, Florida. I will briefly mention Caledesi Island and Honeymoon Island as day trips. Caledesi has worn the top honor of being one of the top 10 best beaches in the world. It is a popular destination and even fun getting there, on a short ferry. You feel the Gulf breeze and often see dolphins! There is a nice, beachy rustic snack shop with food and souvenirs, t-shirts, hats and sunblock, for those who forget! Both of these beaches are gorgeous stretches of beach, no condos, no development, just rustic, beautiful Florida. Come and enjoy all this area has to offer!

Caledest Island Video

The Florida Aquarium At Channelside

Thank You for Reading and Please Feel Free to Leave a Comment.

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    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      8 years ago from Summerland

      I live in Clearwater...this is truly the best area to live! :)

    • profile image

      Tampa Pool Cleaning guy 

      8 years ago

      Tampa is a beautiful place!!!

    • vanessafunk profile image


      8 years ago from Syracuse, New York

      Great hub! Lived in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Brandon, and Sarasota for a few years. I liked the Tampa Bay area far more than Sarasota. Sarasota was too seasonal and it seemed like Sarasota was always getting hit with the hurricans that were missing Tampa! I do miss it. Maybe when I get my degree we will find out way back. I don't suppose you know much about the other coast or even the Charlotte Harbor area?

    • ilovehubs profile image


      8 years ago from North America

      Hi rebekahELLE,

      I really appreciate for your quick response. I will check at the Chamber of Commerce for Tampa website and pass it on to my friend too.

      The link in the message is not to my Hubs but still it is up to you if you want to delete the message, I have no problem or hard feelings.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Ilovehubs, Hi, and thanks for the comment. I don't generally accept comments with links, so will most likely delete this after a couple of days. I don't have specific details on crime within the city. I live north of the city out in the suburbs. Your friend can contact the Chamber of Commerce for Tampa which may be able to better answer your friends concern. Tampa is a big metro city, and not unlike most big cities, has its share of crime. It would be a great idea for your friend to visit the city to get a first hand look at different areas of the city that seem to be a good match. Thanks, hope this helps.

    • ilovehubs profile image


      8 years ago from North America

      Hi rebekahELLE,

      Very interesting and detailed info about Tampa Bay Metro Area, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

      One of my friend is planning to move to Tampa area to study at University of Tampa. She was little bit concerned about the crime. When I checked the crime at spot crime and I was surprised too.

      Here is the link.......

      Since you live in Tampa, I believe you have more knowledge. Can you please add some details about the crime and some nice neighborhoods to live with the family.

      I will appreciate for your thoughts on this matter.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Thanks scubadoggy! Palm Pavilion is a great place to sit directly on the beach, enjoying one of their margaritas and grouper sandwiches, listening to the live music and loving the beach vibes! You'll have to make another visit to the sunshine state!

    • scubadoggy profile image


      9 years ago

      Awesome hub, I agree, the Tampa / St. Pete area is one of my favorites, and can't wait to move back... Wow, Palm Pavilion is my favorite place to eat on Clearwater, I miss the steamed mussels, corona, and Jimmy Buffett band playing while enjoying the sunsets... :)

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      9 years ago from Western New York

      This gave me the beach fix I needed! We're planning on doing Florida in a couple of years with our kids (they're 3 and 5 now), and I definitely want to hit St. Pete's or Clearwater for a couple of days on the beach!

    • dinesh c bhatt profile image

      dinesh c bhatt 

      9 years ago from India (Noida)

      Absolutely beautiful area! Beautiful pictures!

      Thank you for sharing this

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Tampa is a beautiful area! We especially love Anna Maria Island. BTW, one of my sons-in-law is from Tampa.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks gnelson! it is a great place to live! we feel very protective of our beaches, don't we??

      Hi PD, thanks for riding your ride over to my hub!!

      wow, you have 36 hour days!! give me some of those hours!! thanks for your comments! It's such a beautiful area and we don't mind sharing it! come on over and pick out an island. ;)

    • Pearldiver profile image

      Rob Welsh 

      9 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

      I would lost at having so much to do there and I would really battle to get 40 hours from my 36 hour days. (Even with a new clock lol)

      What a beautifully written hub in which you have really done justice to Florida. I spent my younger years living on an island with no neighbors; so those sand bars look mighty appealling. Thank you for sharing this.. Take Care

    • GNelson profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      Yes, it is a great place to live. Always glad to get back home to the best beaches in the world.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Tampa Bay

      the Gulf of Mexico in our area is still untouched by the Gulf Oil Spill. We were out on the water yesterday and it was gorgeous. We were in a friend's boat, and anchored at a sandbar along with many other lovers of the Gulf. The water is clear, clean and beautiful. Come and enjoy this lovely part of the world.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thank you wordscribe and lis! glad to be able to share a mini, virtual vacation with you. that's nice to hear from your mother, WS. it is a friendly place and I think part of it is because we love it here so much.

      lis, come on over across that big ocean! thanks for reading and commenting! :]

    • liswilliams profile image


      10 years ago from South Africa

      yeah, you are fortunate to stay in Tampa by the looks. I will have to come check it out sometime!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      What a fantastic tour of Tampa that was. Thanks for the mini vacation, I feel nice and rested now. My mom just got back from visiting her sister there and raved about her trip. She said the people were the friendliest she's come across in ages, and it's just gorgeous there. I've only been to Ft. Lauderdale for a moment and Sanibel Island when I was barely old enough to walk. I remember getting lost there, though. Anyhoo, rated UP and Useful!

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Thanks for the comments! Os, I think you can see why we are so protective of our coastal areas. We are hoping our beaches and marine eco-systems will not be drastically impacted by the oil spill. It's still too early to tell. Many people move here for various reasons, but first and foremost would be the beauty and access to so many fun, outdoor activities.

      De Greek, come on over. I'll introduce you to my soon to be Greek in laws! There is a beautiful Greek community here, Tarpon Springs, which will be my next Hubtrail hub! thanks for visiting!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      10 years ago from UK

      OK, I am sold. We will get packed immediately. Any spare room to put us up in? :-)))

    • theindianblues profile image


      10 years ago from Some where on the Globe

      Good photos and text. Over all very informative.

    • fits4life profile image

      Cherri Brown-Jett 

      10 years ago from Richmond

      Your hub makes me want to move to Tampa too. Nice job. the pictures are excellent!

    • oscillationatend profile image


      10 years ago from a recovering narcissist.

      Such a lovely place it seems. Though, too much humidity for me to really think about moving there. Thanks for this!

      And I sincerely hope the oil spill doesn't spoil the Gulf.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks Maita and irish, love to see you here in the Bay area.

      it is gorgeous.

    • theirishobserver. profile image


      10 years ago from Ireland

      wonderful hub beautiful pictures......want to go there.....Irish

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      10 years ago from US

      This is a beautiful place! You are very fortunate Madam, Happy Mothers Day, Take care, Maita

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks jiberish. it is a lovely area!

      thanks samboim, it is an enchanting area and so beautiful.

      I'm sure you spent some time at the beaches at 15! :]

    • samboiam profile image


      10 years ago from Texas

      I love the Tampa area. We lived in St. Petersburg for a year when I was about 15. My favorite place on Earth.

    • jiberish profile image


      10 years ago from florida

      Beautiful pictures!

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks cupid and wanderlust. the island is gorgeous, isn't it?

      even getting there is fun! :)

    • Wanderlust profile image


      10 years ago from New York City

      Caladesi Island is absolutely beautiful !

    • cupid51 profile image


      10 years ago from INDIA

      Very nice hub and the pictures are lively!


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