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Tampa Bay Metro Area|Things To Do And See In Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida
St. Petersburg Skyline - Tampa Bay
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
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
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
Insiders Guide to the Greater Tampa Bay Area
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
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
St. Johns Pass - Madeira Beach, Florida
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 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
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
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
Tampa Bay Metro Additional Information
- Visit Clearwater and its Island Beaches
As a year round top vacation spot, Clearwater offers a seemingly endless supply of sun and a mild and temperate climate
- The Official Fort DeSoto Park Home Page
Fort De Soto Park was named Americas Top Beach for the second consecutive year by TripAdvisor, the world's largest online travel community.
- TPA | Tampa International Airport
TampaAirport.com | Tampa International Airport - America's Favorite Airport | Providing flight information, flight schedules, parking information, ground transportation providers, airport maps and more.
- Welcome to the Tampa Bay History Center
The Tampa Bay History Center is a state-of-the art interactive museum which preserves and teaches the remarkable history of the Tampa Bay area.