A Local’s Guide to Tampa

On March 19, 2019

If you are new to the area, welcome to Tampa! There are a lot of cool spots in Tampa, but sometimes you want to stay away from the tourists. While the popular spots are busy for a reason, there are plenty of great places that aren’t as well known. If you ever want to check out some great spots, here is Tampa, from a local’s perspective.

Enjoy the Sunshine

There is a reason that Florida is called the “sunshine state”. Get out and enjoy nature year-round when you live here. There are more than 170 parks in the area, many with playgrounds and water play areas.

Take a walk along the Tampa Riverwalk.

Check out the views of the minarets at the University of Tampa.

Need more nature? Stroll through 7 acres of developed gardens or 6 to 9 acres of natural greenbelt at the USF Botanical Gardens.

If you’re going to get out on the water, skip the expensive river cruise. You can take a $5 ride with the Tampa Water Taxi Company. While it isn’t enjoying the sunshine, taking it at night is especially enchanting with the illuminated skyline in the background.

Become a Sports Fan

There are four major sports teams in the area; the Rays (MLB), Lightning (NHL), Rowdies (United Soccer League), and the Buccaneers (NFL). Buying season tickets to any of these teams is a great idea, but there are more affordable ways to see the games too. Watch the coupon sites, you can get a good deal.

The local minor league team, the Tampa Yankees, play at the GMS Field. Their games are fun to watch and don’t cost as much money, but a big perk to having this field is that it is also the New York Yankee’s spring training field.

Not into any of the major league sports teams? There are still plenty of college teams in the area too.

Great Places to Eat

There are many different cultures in Tampa, all of them with their own great restaurants. Some great places to add to your must-try list are:

  • La Teresita: some of the best Cuban food
  • Publix Subs: you guessed it, they serve sub sandwiches
  • Datz: great American food
  • Dough: specialty donuts you thought only existed in your dreams

Ybor City

While there are bound to be some tourists here, you can’t be a resident of Tampa and not know its history. The golden age in Ybor was from the late 1800s until the Great Depression. There were cigar factories, restaurants, and a thriving city full of immigrants.

During the Depression, the population moved on and Ybor nearly became a ghost town. It is undergoing a major revitalization, becoming a great place to spend some time.

While great food is definitely a draw, there is a thriving nightlife. There are shopping centers, craft beers, theaters, and even vintage cigar shops, as a nod to the history of the city.

Local Culture

Some of the best-kept secrets that locals enjoy are all the local culture perks. There are farmer’s markets almost every weekend with some of the best produce you’ll find because of the great growing seasons in Florida.

Want to stay fit with friends? Join a group doing yoga in the park on Sundays.

There are also food festivals, local music events, and tournaments on the beach.

As you start visiting the beaches and downtown areas, you will learn the peak times for traffic and best times that you can avoid the crowds. Once you get down the schedule like a local, you will find ways to truly enjoy the beauty of the city.


There are a lot of bars and clubs at nighttime. Making the rounds downtown with a group of friends is a fun way to spend an evening. Some of the best bars to try are Cigar City Brewery and Wet Willies. You can go downtown and stop by Franklin Manor and Four Green Fields. If you’re headed over to Ybor, you have many more options, including Double Decker and Gaspars.

If alcohol isn’t your scene, there are plenty of late-night places to try with specialty ice cream, donuts, and varied desserts you can get a fix for your sweet tooth.

Family Activities

While the theme parks are always a highlight for kids and teenagers, there are other fun activities for families. Some of the more popular family attractions are:

  • The Lowry Park Zoo 
  • Florida Aquarium (check out the splash pad)
  • Glazer Children’s Museum

If you are looking for something different, the Big Cat Rescue, where there are more than 80 different cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, and cheetahs. Orphaned and injured cats are brought to this sanctuary, so the variety can change between trips.

Another fun place for families is the Tampa Bay History Center. They have a theater with a choose-your-own-adventure feature and fun exhibits for pirates and treasure seekers.

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