The city of Tampa in Hillsborough County is the largest city in the greater Tampa Bay region of Florida, which has a combined population of 2.5 million.
Tampa is situated on the north shore of Tampa Bay in west Central Florida. Saint Petersburg lies west of the bay, while Bradenton is on the southern shore. The downtown business center of town is on the north shore of Hillsborough Bay (a small bay within Tampa Bay which is bordered by the eastern shore of Tampa Bay and the small peninsula of South Tampa) and Ybor City lies just to the east. MacDill Air Force Base is on the southern tip of South Tampa, while the city also extends to the north all the way to the newly incorporated area of New Tampa.
The Tampa Bay area was visited by many Spanish explorers, beginning with Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528. However, no long term permanent settlements were created until 1824 when the US federal government created a reservation for north Florida Seminole Indians. At the same time, the US created Fort Brooke to oversee the reservation as well as protect the strategic harbor.
The 1880s saw the town's first population boom. In 1883, phosphate was discovered in the area, spurring the development of the mining and shipping industries in the area. Shortly after, Henry B. Plant completed work on his railroad linking Tampa to Jacksonville. He began promoting Tampa as a holiday spot and built the grand Plant Hotel as a luxury resort destination. In 1886, Jose Martinez Ybor opened Tampa's first cigar factory in Ybor City which encouraged the immigration of many Italian and Cuban factory workers.
During the Spanish American War at the turn of the century, Tampa was the main port of departure for troops heading for Cuba. During this time, the Plant Hotel was converted into officer's accommodations, housing the Rough Riders and Teddy Roosevelt.
In more recent times, MacDill Air Force Base was created in 1939 and the University of South Florida in 1956. Over the course of the Twentieth Century, Tampa has grown into the center of a large metropolitan area; it now hosts the regional headquarters of many international companies, has acquired numerous professional sports teams, and has even bid for the summer Olympics.
Tampa is a very diverse city. The first residents were the members of the Seminole Indian tribe that was relocated there from northern Florida and the soldiers stationed at Fort Brook to control the reservation. The town remained a mostly military town until the 1880s when Tampa saw its first major waves of immigration from Cuba and Italy. The major growth of the area did not occur until air conditioning became common in the years after World War II, but the region has been growing steadily since then. Tampa is now home to many native Floridians, including Seminoles, Cubans, and Italians, as well the residence of many 'transplants' from the Midwest and other areas of the states and new immigrants from the Caribbean and central America. Tampa's population swells during the winter months with the arrival of the 'snow birds,' retired persons from the northern U.S. and Canada who come down for a few months to enjoy the relative warmth.
Tampa has a growing economy and serves as a major port. Among others, Raymond James, Home Shopping Network, Outback Steakhouse, and a major portion of Citigroup are all headquartered in Tampa. Tampa's major industries today are phosphate mining, shipping, citrus processing, shrimping, and tourism.
Tampa International Airport (IATA: TPA) (ICAO: KTPA), , located near the waters of Tampa Bay along I-275. Saint Petersburg Airport (IATA: PIE) is an alternative only fifteen miles away, generally serving smaller routes and discount airlines. A bit further away is Sarasota International , offering proximity to beautiful Gulf beaches to the south of Tampa.
Tampa's Amtrak station is located at 601 Nebraska Avenue in downtown Tampa. The Silver Service and Palmetto trains run daily from New York City or Miami to Tampa. The train journey through Florida offers great views, but be aware that the schedules are often more of a suggestion than a reality.
Tampa is easily accessible via the major interstate highways, I-75 from north and south, and I-4 from the east. From either highway, exit onto I-275 to reach Tampa. However, be prepared for frequent traffic jams particularly when it rains.
Tampa's Greyhound station is at 610 Polk Street in downtown Tampa.
Cruise ships from five cruise lines operate from Tampa, mostly to Caribbean islands and Mexico. The Tampa cruise terminal is on the Ybor channel downtown.
HART is Tampa's local bus service  which runs various routes around the region. Tampa also has the TECO Line Streetcar that runs from downtown to Old Hyde Park and Ybor City. Tampa is, however, primarily a driving city and you will find that transportation will be much easier if you have access to a car. The main freeways in Tampa are Interstate 275, Interstate 4, the Veterans Expressway (toll FL 589), and the Leroy Selmon Crosstown Expressway (toll FL 618). Some of the main east-west roads through town are Kennedy Boulevard (SR 60), Gandy Boulevard (SR 694), Hillsborough Avenue (US 92) and Fowler Avenue (SR 582), while some of the north-south roads are Dale Mabry Highway (US 92) and Florida/Nebraska Avenue (US 41). Traffic is especially bad during the rush hours: from about 7:30 to 9:30 am and 3:30 to 7:30 pm. During these times, try especially to avoid the notorious Malfunction Junction, the junction in downtown of I-275 and I-4. Driving in Tampa can be a bit daunting for those unfamiliar with the area, but with some city driving experience and a good navigator in the passenger seat, driving is probably the easiest way to get around Tampa.
Car rentals are the most convenient for of transportation for visitors, with local companies offering better prices but national chains offering more convenience vis-a-vis return policies and times.
Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Phone: (813) 273-4000, . Daily 9:30AM-5PM. Channelside district, just east of downtown. Fabulous aquarium following a drop of rain from a swamp through Florida's aquifer, to its rivers and out into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Restaurant, gift shop, children's play area, touch tank, interactive dive experiences, and eco-tours of Tampa Bay. Adults $17.95, ages 3-12 $12.95.
Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 West Sligh Avenue, Phone: (813) 935-8552, . Daily 9:30AM-5PM. One of the top-rated zoos in the country, featuring children's areas, restaurants, a manatee hospital, and first-rate encounters with animals from around the world. Make sure to tour the aviary and feed the lorikeets. Adults $15, ages 3-11 $10.50.
Busch Gardens, McKinley Drive, Toll Free: 1-888-800-5447,. More than just an amusement park -- also a top-notch zoo. Expensive, but a very enjoyable day -- rides, shows, and the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales! This is a fun place for all ages, kids, teens, and even adults. It has a family friendly atmosphere with lots of things to do and see. The scenery is amazing; it has a feel of different places as you travel throughout the park. Rides vary from a huge merry go round to the famous rollercoaster, Montu. There are many different types of rides to choose from and also many roller coasters to choose from as well. Not a ride fan? You can check out the many shows they perform daily. Ice skating, singing, magic, birds, dolphins and other performances can be found all around the corners of Busch Gardens. Not a show fan either? Then check out the many food establishments spread out through the park. They offer fast food like popcorn and fries to a nice sit down meal. Also check Busch Gardens out during different holidays. They always have special events and offers. For instance, for Halloween they have Howl-O-Scream when the park is open all night long. They also have special events for over night stays, New Years, and special ticket sales for Florida residents. Always watch out for these special events because they happen all the time. If you do one thing while you’re in Tampa, go visit Busch Gardens. It is a great place to remind you about how fun Tampa really is. It is one of the biggest attractions in the Tampa Bay area. The rides, food, and shows will make you want to come back!
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), 4801 E Fowler Av., Phone: (813) 987-6100, . Daily 9AM-6PM. Hands-on children's science museum, including an IMAX dome and stellar revolving exhibits. Great way to spend a day with the family. Adults $23.95, ages 2-12 $19.95.
Tampa Museum of Art, 600 N. Ashley Drive, Phone: (813) 274-8130, . Daily 10AM-5PM, Closed Mondays. An extensive collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, as well as contemporary and traveling exhibitions. Check the website for monthly "Art After Dark" exhibitions. Adults $8, Children under 6 Free. Free admission on Saturdays 10AM-Noon.
Tampa Theatre, 711 Franklin Street, Phone: (813) 274-8982, . Opened in 1926 and located right downtown, the Tampa Theatre is a historic movie palace featuring a wide range of independent, foreign, and documentary films on a daily basis. Architecturally stunning both inside and out, it is no wonder that the Tampa Theatre has become both a city and national landmark being listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1978. It is Tampa's only non-profit theatre and operating costs are largely covered by its membership program, various corporate sponsors as well as ticket sales.
University of Tampa. Formerly the Tampa Bay Hotel built at the turn of the 20th century by railroad magnate H.B.Plant, the beautiful old building is now used as the administration building and classrooms for the University of Tampa. It has been lovingly restored to most of its prior glory; the ballroom is a showpiece with its domed ceiling under brilliant silver minarets. There is a small, but very interesting museum in the building that recreates a large portion of Tampa's early history, as well as giving visitors a peek into how the hotel appeared when it first opened.
University of South Florida. The main campus for this university. Blossoming from five buildings in its opening (1960) to 164 buildings on the Tampa campus alone, this beautiful college is now educating more than 29,000 students. With beautiful greenery, fountains, and named the “top architecture school in Florida” by the Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design in 2002. A sports fan? The University of South Florida has you covered here as well! Home to the Division-1 football (at Raymond James Stadium) and basketball (at the on-campus SunDome) among others.
Ybor City. Is a historic Spanish district located near downtown featuring a wide range of nightclubs, bars, and shops making it a popular evening and weekend hotspot. Originally home to Cuban and Italian immigrants the city was famous for its many cigar factories and is where the Cuban Sandwich first popularized in the United States. Ybor City is also a National Historic Landmark District and can be easily visited by catching one of its famous streetcars that connects downtown Tampa to Ybor City.
Channelside. Entertainment complex in the revitalized Channelside district near the Port of Tampa. Numerous upscale restaurants, several mid-range chain restaurants and bars, an IMAX movie theater and a trendy (if you can believe it) bowling alley.
Raymond James Stadium. Home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and USF Bulls.
Legends Field. Across from RJS, the home of the Single-A Tampa Yankees and the spring training home of the New York Yankees.
The St. Pete Times Forum. Home of the Tampa Bay Lightning (of the NHL) and Tampa Bay Storm (of the Arena Football League). Also hosts numerous shows and concerts throughout the year.
Gasparilla Pirate Festival,  is an annual event consisting of several parades, live entertainment, and fireworks. The event is also known as the Mardi Gras of Tampa, and normally takes place on the last two Saturdays in January.
Guavaween.  offers daytime events and nighttime parade on the last Saturday in October in Ybor City.
Sant'Yago Knight Parade is an illuminated nighttime parade that takes place one Saturday in February in Ybor City.
Several film festivals take place at the Tampa Theatre several times a year.
Read the Tampa Tribune -- Tampa has some sort of event going on nearly every weekend, especially in the spring and early summer. Art festivals, a terrific Renaissance festival, street festivals -- take advantage of the great weather and enjoy our city.
Surprisingly, ice skating is a popular activity in the Tampa Bay area. The Tampa Bay Skating Academy in nearby Oldsmar has two NHL-sized ice surfaces. Other well-known rinks include Sunblades Center and the rink in Westfield Countryside Mall, both in Clearwater.
Tampa Theatre Historical point of Interest in Downtown Tampa. Catch an Indie Flick or a Folk performance.
University of Tampa
University of South Florida
Lettuce Lake Park between I-75 and the University of South Florida has boardwalks that go through a nearly pristine area with 700 year old cypress trees, alligators, egrets and herons. One end of the boardwalk overlooks the Hillsborough River in its original state, a far cry from what it looks like in the downtown area.
Citigroup, Raymond James, Outback Steakhouse Corporate Office, Home Shopping Network, Tech Data.
International Plaza Mall
Westshore Plaza Mall
La Teresita, 3246 W Columbus Dr., (813) 879-4909. Inexpensive Cuban diner with good food and interesting characters. A true Tampa institution.
Hugo's Spanish Restaurant, 931 S Howard Ave., (813) 251-2842. Slightly more expensive than La Teresita, but still a bargain in the pricey SoHo neighborhood. $10 will buy you a mountain of food at lunch time.
Westshore Pizza, 927 S Howard Ave., (813) 251-2020. Numerous other locations throughout Tampa Bay. A local chain with good, cheap eats including pizza and cheesesteaks.
El Taconazo, 913 E Hillsborough Ave., (813) 232-5889. Known locally as the "Taco Bus." Simple and delicious Mexican food for very little money. The ceviche is a steal at only $5, but be forewarned: there's no air conditioning.
New Soul Sandwich Shop, 518 N Willow Ave., (813) 251-3720. Definitely "off the beaten path." Great soul food in industrial neighborhood, just off Kennedy. Don't mind the ramshackle surroundings, as the proprietors and the regulars are quite friendly.
The Jerk Hut, 207 E Twiggs St., (813) 223-4473. and 1406 E Fowler Ave (813) 632-9551 Don't be put off by the name - "jerk" is a Jamaican term for slow-roasting meats. The Jerk Hut serves theirs with an addictive sweet red sauce. Also, curries and oxtail stew.
Mel's Hot Dogs, 4136 E Busch Blvd., (813) 985-8000. A tacky little restaurant near Busch Gardens. Good hot dogs and bizarre hot dog related memorabilia.
Bahama Breeze, 3045 N. Rocky Point Drive E., Phone: (813) 289-7922.
T. C. Choy's Asian Bistro, 301 S Howard Ave., (813) 251-1191. Sushi and dim sum, along with other traditional Chinese fare.
Bern's Steak House, 1208 S Howard Av. +1 813-251-2421.  considered to be the best steakhouse in America along with one of the largest wine lists as well
The Columbia Restaurant, 2117 East 7th Avenue, Phone: (813) 248-4961, . See description under "Drink".
Cafe Don Jose, N. 56th St. A bit cheaper than the Columbia Restaurant, yet the quality seems to be much better.
The Palm, 205 Westshore Plaza Dr. +1 813-849-7256. .
Mise en Place, 442 W Kennedy Blvd. (813) 254-5373. .
Ybor City is a historic area of Tampa which now hosts the region's best known bar and nightclub district. In the 1980's it was reborn as an arts/bar district, but increased demand for rental space eventually crowded out the artists and independent, small-scale bars. Now chains and drunken hooligans predominate in the late hours.
Although not spectacular, Ybor City now boasts a very respectable list of very dependable upscale restaurants. Make sure you find time, however, to have at least one meal at The Columbia, a beautiful Spanish restaurant in continuous operation since 1905. Excellent food and attentive service for a very affordable price -- make sure you stay for the Latin dance show staged twice each evening (nominal fee).
Ybor’s newest addition, Centro Ybor, includes a 20-screen movie theater with stadium seating, restaurants, a comedy club, retail stores, and Steven Spielberg's fun center, GameWorks.
Amerisuites Tampa Airport/Westshore Hotel, 4811 W Main St Tampa, FL 33607 Tel: (813) 282-1037.  A favorite of both business and leisure travelers, AmeriSuites hotels offer guests an attractively designed suite with 25% more space than a traditional hotel room.
Amerisuites Tampa/Busch Gardens Hotel, 11408 North 30th Street Tampa, FL 33612 Tel: (813) 979-1922.  Most AmeriSuites provide guests with amenities such as kitchenettes with microwaves and refrigerators, complimentary Bountiful Breakfast Buffet, fitness rooms and pools.
Amerisuites Tampa/Sabal Corporate Park Hotel, 10007 Princess Palm Avenue Tampa, FL 33619 Tel: (813) 622-8557.  AmeriSuites has received the Three-Diamond designation from AAA in recognition of its good design, exceptionally well-maintained structures, quality of guest service and chain-wide consistency.
Amerisuites Budget Hotel, Various locations, free Wifi access, breakfast and special offers.
Best Western All Suites Hotel Near USF Behind Busch Gardens, 3001 University Center Drive, +1 813 971-8930, Toll-free: +1 800 786-7446, Fax: +1 813 971-8935, .
Best Western Brandon Hotel & Conference Center, 9331 Adamo Drive, +1 813 621-5555, Toll-free: +1 877 287-6026, Fax: +1 813 699-1939, .
Best Western Tampa, 734 S Dale Mabry Highway, +1 813 490-2378, Fax: +1 813 490-2380, .
Best Western The Westshore Hotel, 1200 N West Shore Boulevard, +1 813 282-3636, Toll-free: +1 800 449-4343, Fax: +1 813 282-0055, .
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 8610 Elm Fair Boulevard, +1 813 490-1000, 
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 4750 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., +1 813 877-6061, 
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 9402 Corporate Lake Dr., +1 813 885-3700, 
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 8310 Galbraith, +1 813 910-7171, 
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 3025 North Rocky Point Dr, +1 813 287-8585, 
Motel 6 Tampa Downtown, 333 E Fowler Avenue, +1 813 932-4948, Fax: +1 813 931-4577, 
Motel 6 Tampa East - Fairgrounds, 6510 US 301, +1 813 628-0888, Fax: +1 813 620-4899, 
Residence Inn Tampa Downtown, 101 East Tyler Street, +1 813 221-4224, Fax: +1 813 221-4228, 
Residence Inn Tampa North/I-75 Fletcher, 13420 North Telecom Parkway, +1 813 972-4400, Fax: +1 813 972-3376, 
Residence Inn Tampa Sabal Park/Brandon, 9719 Princess Palm Avenue, +1 813 627-8855, Fax: +1 813 627-8899, 
Residence Inn Tampa Westshore/Airport, 4312 W. Boy Scout Boulevard, +1 813 877-7988, Fax: +1 813 877-8078, 
SpringHill Suites Tampa Westshore Airport, 4835 West Cypress Street, +1 813 639-9600, Fax: +1 813 639-9700, 
Tampa Stadium (Hillsborough) Microtel Inn & Suites, 5405 North Church Ave., +1 813 739-2244, Fax: +1 813 739-2250, 
Avoid Downtown after dark, when most of the office workers who populate it during the day are gone. Also be aware while in Suitcase City, the part of town surrounding Busch Gardens, USF and University Square Mall.