Tampa is an American city located in the state of Florida. It can be found in the Hillsborough County along the west coast of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, providing the city a beautiful bayside backdrop.
The city of Tampa occupies an area measuring 170.6 square miles or 441.9 square kilometers. It has a total land area of 112.1 square miles or 290.3 square kilometers. 34% of Tampa’s total area is water, covering 58.5 square miles or 151.6 square kilometers. The city sits at an elevation of 48 feet or 14.6 meters above sea level.
In 2010, the city of Tampa was recorded as having 335,709 residents. It is the 55th most populated city in America, with a population density of 2,969.6 individuals per square mile or 1,146.7 residents per square kilometer. However, when the metropolitan population is taken into account, the population balloons to 4.2 million people.
Tampanians come from a wide and varied background, with over 12% of the city’s citizens born on foreign soil. Although half of the population is white, the remaining residents are of African-American and Hispanic heritage. There is also a growing Asian community in the city. This mix in cultures results in a growing number of languages spoken in Tampa. In a survey of schools in Hillsborough, the number of languages spoken by students is 150. English is still the primary language, although more and more residents are speaking Spanish. In fact, more than 22% of the city’s residents speak a primary language other than English. More than 17% of the population speaks Spanish, while others speak French and Italian. Given the growing Spanish-speaking population, travelers and those who wish to do business in Tampa may do well to learn Spanish or utilize the services of a Spanish language translation service to facilitate communication.
Tampa is readily accessible thanks to the Tampa International Airport. It is also served by four other airports: the Tampa Executive Airport; MacDill AFB Airport; Peter O. Knight Airport and the Tampa North Aero Park Airport. The city also has eight heliports and the Mezrah Seaplane Base.
Residents and travelers alike would be pleased to know that there are a number of dining options in the city. Given the diversity in Tampa, it’s no wonder you could easily find cuisine from various parts of the world, from American, Chinese and Japanese, to Ethiopian and Cuban flavors.
Tampa has a crime index of 321.5, which is higher than the US average of 319.1. Most crimes in the city involve theft, followed by burglaries and assault. It therefore makes sense to pay attention to your surroundings and to be careful of your belongings while in Tampa. Before going out for the day, leave your valuables locked in the hotel safe and avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying your electronic gadgets.
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One of the main reasons why residents and visitors love Tampa is its warm climate. The city has a humid subtropical climate, wherein the summer days are hot with thunderstorms in the afternoon, while the winter days are mild. The average temperatures peak between 70 °F and 90 °F, or about 21 °C to 32 °C, and can drop down to as low as 52 °F to 76 °F or 11 °C to 24 °C. During the summer season, the temperatures are at a sizzling 90 °F or 32 °C to 34 °C and drops down to about 75 °F or about 24 °C. It is also very humid, which can be quite off-putting for some travelers not used to the hot climate. The hottest month is June, with the temperature hitting a record high of 99 °F or 37 °C, while the coolest is the month of January, with an average low of 50 °F or 10 °C.
The hot weather in Tampa can be experienced from April to October, which also happens to be the city’s rainy season. Tampa has the reputation of being “the lightning capital of North America.” This is because afternoon thunderstorms are common during the summer season, caused by the air from the Gulf Coast as well as the Atlantic Sea as it converges over the city. Most of the lightnings that strike in Florida occur in or around the city, resulting to an average of 30 lightning-related injuries and 10 deaths a year.
November to March is considered the winter season in Tampa. The average temperatures during this time are only in the 75 °F or about 24 °C in the daytime hours, dropping down to around 50 °For 10 °C in the evening hours. However, there are times when the temperatures can drop by as much as 15 °F or -9 °C, thanks to the cold air from Canada. Hard freezes, although rare, are a concern for the agriculture industry as it can cause much damage to crops. Also, although Tampa has a tropical climate, there are occasions when the city experiences below freezing temperatures a few days out of the year. Snow is rare, since the last snow fall recorded in the city is back in 1977.
The climate in Tampa is ideal for growing many tropical plants, which is why there are many lush coconut palms and royal palms that dot the landscape. The city enjoys a distinct wet season and receives 26.1 inches or 663 millimeters of rainfall between June and September. On the other hand, the other months only accumulate a total of 18.6 inches or 472 millimeters of rain.
Travelers to Tampa should be prepared for warm weather. Lightweight clothing in natural fabrics is ideal. Those going to the beach should pack lounge or resort wear. Of course, it’s a must to always have an ample supply of sunscreen lotion. Overall, visitors to Tampa can expect to have a great and memorable time.
Pohoy and Tocobaga indigenous peoples used to settle in the area that is now known as Tampa. The Calusa Native American tribe named the area “Tampa,” which means “sticks of fire” in reference to the numerous lightning strikes that occur in the city. Another theory is that “sticks of fire” is in reference to a place where sticks could be gathered.
Tampa Bay area was first discovered by Spanish explorers Hernando de Soto and Pánfilo de Narváez back in the 1520s as they looked for gold and tried to establish a colony. However, it was three centuries later before Tampa was developed since the Spaniards concentrated their efforts on the eastern portion of Florida.
By the 18th century, Tampa was occupied by Cubans and Native American fishermen. The eastern shore of Tampa Bay was later occupied by slaves who escaped their masters, as well as Blacks who had gained their freedom.
The US government purchased the state of Florida in 1821 through the Adams-Onis Treaty. In 1824, the US Army set up Fort Brooke. However, the Second Seminole War hampered the development in the region. By 1845, the city became part of the United States, when Florida was recognized as the 27th State in the Union. In 1849, the settlement around Tampa had recovered enough after the hurricane damage that almost made the residents abandon the area. With the renewed strength of the Florida Territory, the Village of Tampa was incorporated. In 1853 and again in 1873, the village was reincorporated into a town. Finally, Tampa was incorporated as a city, first in 1855 and again in 1887.
Henry B. Plant was responsible for much of the development of Tampa in the 19th century. His railroad extension to Hillsborough River brought about much economic development to the area. Plant also built hotels to accommodate the growing number of tourists to the area. With the construction of the railway, the foundation for Tampa’s economic development was well underway.
The mining and shipping industries developed in the late 1880s with the discovery of phosphates used in fertilizers in the Bone Valley region. At the same time, Vicente Martinez Ybor relocated his cigar factory from Key West into the city in 1886. This brought Cuban and Spanish immigrants to the region to work in the cigar factories. Cuban cigars were easily imported by sea, thanks to the close proximity of Tampa Bay to Cuba, which were processed in the city before being sent to other parts of the country using the newly-built railway system. This development encouraged the migration of Italian and European Jewish immigrants to the area, who established businesses to cater to the needs of the growing population. The strong cigar industry in Tampa led to it being called “the Cigar Capital of the World.”
Much of Tampa’s economic development lies in its strategic location by the Tampa Bay. The port in Tampa is considered the seventh largest and one of the busiest in the country. The city has an active phosphate shipping industry, as well as a shrimp trading industry.
The presence of the US military also had a hand in the economic development of the city. During the Spanish-American War, the US troops headed for Cuba were deployed in the port of Tampa. Today, the MacDill Air Force Base is the base of the US Central Command as well as the US Special Operations Command.
By the turn of the 20th century, Tampa became one of the largest cities in the state of Florida. In the 1920’s, many subdivisions were constructed in the area, especially Davis Island. This is a manmade island created by D.P. Davis where many lovely homes could be found.
By the 1960s, downtown Tampa’s central business district began to take shape. Many banks and corporations set up shop in Tampa. It was also during this time that many roads, highways and bridges were constructed, which linked Tampa to other cities in Florida. Busch Gardens and Lowry Park, two of the city’s most popular attractions, were also developed during this period.
The city of Tampa has evolved into one of the most exciting, interesting and culturally diverse cities in the country. Today, travelers could take a look at the visual representation of the city’s history in the commissioned artwork called “The Story of Tampa.” This is a 4 feet x 8 feet mural painting depicting various important people, landmarks, events and images central to the city’s history. The mural could be found in the Tampa Municipal Office Building.
The city of Tampa has over 330,000 residents. In less than a decade, the city population has grown by 13.3%. A 2011 estimate of the Tampa Bay metropolitan population places it at 4,238,607 and it is expected to grow to 4.5 million residents by 2016. The average household size in the city has 2.4 people.
Whites make up close to 45.6% of the population, coming from German, Irish, English, American, Italian and French ancestry. Hispanics or Latinos and Blacks or African-Americans each make up a quarter of the city’s population. Asians comprise close to 3% of the city’s residents. Those that come from two or more races make up 1.2% of the city’s population. This shows the rich diversity of the city’s population. More than 37,000 residents or 12.2% of the city population is foreign-born, most of which come from a Latin American country. The bulk of Tampa’s residents are in the productive ages of 18 to 64 years old. In Tampa, the median age is 34.7 years old, compared to the Florida median age of 38.7 years old. The median age in the metropolitan area is higher than other metropolitan cities, with the median age at 42.10. The average age of residents is estimated to be 41.88 years old. Only 21% of its citizens are minors, while seniors comprise close to 20% of the population. Over 26% of the population is between the ages of 35 to 54, while another 20% is between the ages of 18 to 34 years of age. There are slightly more females than males in the city of Tampa.
Tampa’s residents are educated. Over 32% have completed at least a high school education or GED, while over 21% have attended some college and 16% have a Bachelor’s degree. Over 5% have a Master’s Degree as well. Most of the city’s residents or almost 18% belong to the Catholic Church, while other residents attend Southern Baptist and United Methodist Church services and other Christian religions, for a total of nearly 3%. Followers of Islam, Jewish religion and Jesus of the Latter Day Saints account for about 3%.
The residents of Tampa enjoy a good standard of living. In 2011, the estimated median household income was at $44,623 a year, while the average household income was even higher at $60,331. The city’s residents have an estimated per capita income of $25,368. The average Tampanian lives in a home or condo that is worth about $180,800 or rents a home that costs about $891 a month. The cost of living index in Tampa is at 95.7, which is close to the US average of 100.
However, there is some disparity with the poor. In 2009, over 19% of the residents of the city are considered to be living in poverty. Most of those affected are the city’s African American and Latino residents.
Traditionally, the cigar industry has served as the backbone of Tampa’s economy. Today, the city has many diversified industries, which contribute to the continued growth of the city. Service, retail, finance, real estate, shipping, national defense, tourism and professional sports all contribute to Tampa’s financial bottom line. The city is home to many Fortune 1000 companies, such as TECO Energy, WellCare Health Plans, Inc. and OSI Restaurant Partners. The military is also a major employer in the city, thanks to the MacDill Air Force Base, which is the headquarters of several important military units and offices.
More than half of Tampa’s residents are working in the services sector. Retail trade businesses account for about 14% of the jobs in the city. Finance, insurance and real estate, construction, manufacturing and government are other areas of employment in Tampa.
The city’s low labor cost is one of the main drivers for its high competitiveness. The city of Tampa has the lowest labor cost of a major American city in the country. The city has an unemployment rate of 9.9% as of January 2011. As of 2010, the GDP of Tampa Bay is at $117.23 billion and ranks 23rd nationwide. The city of Tampa ranks 4th in a study done by KPMG among the top 10 cities that are viable for business in America. This is out of 27 of the largest metropolitan regions in the country. Ironically, the recession is one of the reasons why Tampa continues to be good for business. The economic strength of the city lies in its affordable business environment, thanks to low labor costs and low lease prices. At the same time, the city is also rated as having top scores for professional and support services.
The cruise line industry also has a presence in Tampa. Next to Miami, Tampa has one of the busiest ports of call for cruise ships in the state. Tampa Port services passengers of Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise, Yacht Starship and SunCruz Casino.
There’s something for everyone in Tampa. Whether you’re an adrenaline-junkie looking for some thrills, or prefer to do a few rounds of golf, Tampa is an excellent vacation destination for the whole family.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (used to be called Busch Gardens Africa) is one of the largest zoos in the country, ranking in as the fourth largest in America. There are many thrilling attraction rides, as it is known for its rollercoasters, such as the inverted rollercoaster Montu, the vertical dive machine rollercoaster SheiKra and three water rides. Busch Gardens is ranked as one of the best theme parks in the country and is the place to see birds, zebras, hippos, lions, giraffes, monkeys and a number of other exotic animals in their natural habitat, without having to go to Africa.
Adventure Island is a family-oriented water park. It’s a great place to get away from the humid Florida heat. There are various wild water rides, a lazy river, a wave pool and various cabanas spread out on 30 acres for the whole family to enjoy.
Tampa Museum of Science and Industry is ranked as one of the best museums in the state. There are various exhibits and more than 450 interactive displays. The only IMAX dome in Florida can be found here. The Kids in Charge area is the largest science center in the country geared towards children.
Lowry Park Zoo is an award-winning zoo in the city and has been regarded as the number one zoo in the country by Parents Magazine and Child Magazine. With this stamp of approval, travelers with children would have an easier time knowing that it is one of the best places to spend a family day in Tampa. It is home to more than 2,000 rare animals spread around 56 acres of land. There are seven exhibit areas: Asian Gardens, Primate World, Manatee and Aquatic Center, Native Florida Wildlife, Free-Flight Aviary, Wallaroo Station Children’s Zoo and Safari Africa.
The Florida Aquarium is one of the biggest aquariums is Western Florida. Visitors can see the marine life creatures that are found in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Interactive programs are designed to help educate visitors about the creatures of the deep, such as “Swim with the Fishes” and “Dive with the Sharks.” You can also watch sharks being fed or interact with penguins.
Dinosaur World is another unique attraction in the city. Here, visitors can view 150 life-size dinosaurs set in an outdoor environment.
New to the city is the Glazer Children’s Museum, where several themed exhibits invite children of different ages to indulge in imaginative play on tugboats, miniature fire trucks and jungle gyms. There’s a large 35-foot tall structure called Water’s Journey that aims to teach children and adults about the water cycle and physics. In the Art Smart Museum, the children have the chance to directly interact with art pieces.
Tampa has more than 165 parks and beaches. More than 2,200 acres of the city are dedicated to these areas of entertainment and leisure, while an additional 70,000 acres just outside the city limits are dedicated to parks, theme parks and many other attractions.
Tampa takes pride in its thriving performing arts scene. The city boasts of the Florida Orchestra, Opera Tampa, The Tampa Bay Symphony, The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and Spanish Lyric Theater. For a taste of Tampa culture, go to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. There are smaller cabaret-style theaters as well as larger venues for concerts, operas, Broadway productions and other performances. Also known as the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, the venue is recognized as one of the largest performing arts centers in the country.
The music scene in Tampa is alive and well. There are many death metal bands based in the city, including Six Feet Under, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Obituary and Deicide. The band Baskervils also has its roots in Tampa, before making it big in New York’s underground rock band scene.
The architecture in the city is a reflection of the city’s history as well as its culture. There are many post-modern constructions in Tampa, such as the Tampa Museum of Art, while the Tampa Theater is a showcase of Art deco design. The theater opened in 1926 and still continues the tradition of playing the Wurlitzer organ before a movie screening. Some historical buildings in the city can be found in the Ybor City District, such as the El Centro Español. In fact, the neighborhood has been considered a National Historic Landmark.
The city also has many museums. The most notable is the Museum of Science and Industry, although there is also the Tampa Museum of Art, The USF Contemporary Art Museum, The Tampa Bay History Center, the Henry B. Plant Museum, and the Tampa Firefighter’s Museum. The city also has Ybor City Museum State Park, as well as a museum ship, the SS American Victory.
Those who wish to enjoy the outdoors have a number of options in Tampa. There is Lettuce Lake Park. Visitors could see nature at its finest, with squirrels, birds, turtles and alligators in the park. There’s even a canoe ride, a boardwalk for those who wish to take a stroll and various areas to go bird watching. A stroll along Bayshore Boulevard will also give travelers a glimpse at the diversity of the people in the city. Bok Tower Gardens is one of the most beautiful gardens near the city. It is a nature preserve that has a 205-foot tower sculpture called the Singing Tower with a 60-bell carillon. It is surrounded by a moat that is actually a koi pond and near the reflection pool. The tower is made of gray Creole marble, pink Etowah marble and coquina stone. It is considered a National Historic Landmark.
For a unique take on Tampa culture and history, take a Ghost tour. This is a night-walking tour held by candlelight that takes you to the different neighborhoods of the city, such as St. Petersburg, John’s Pass and St. Pete Beach.
Tampanians love their sport. The city has a number of teams. The Raymond James Stadium is home of the city’s NFL team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The city is represented in Major League Baseball by the Tampa Bay Rays and in the NHL by the Tampa Bay Lighting. Visitors who want to hit a few rounds of golf can do so at the Westchase Golf Course, a Par 72 course designed by Lloyd Clifton. At the same time, visitors will be pleasantly surprised to know that Tampa is home to many pro wrestlers, most notably Hulk Hogan. The Florida Championship Wrestling has its headquarters in the city.
For shopping options, there is Westfield Citrus Park, as well as West Shore Plaza. International Plaza and Bay Street are other locations in the city that offer many shopping, sight-seeing and people-watching options for visitors.
There are many annual celebrations in the city that enliven the days. One of the most important is “Gasparilla Pirate Festival.” This January event, commemorating the pirate invasion by mythical pirate Jose Gaspar has been held since 1904 and is Tampa’s answer to Mardi Gras. The parade features a decorated pirate ship, a parade where pirates throw trinkets, prizes and beads to the milling crowd and is attended by more than 500,000 visitors. Other pirate-themed events are held concurrently, such as the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts and the Gasparilla International Film Festival.
Tampanians celebrate New Year’s Day with an event called the Outback Bowl. On the other hand, the city’s rich cultural heritage is marked by Fiesta Day. This is a celebration of the Cuban, German, African-Cuban, Spanish, Jewish and Italian heritage of the city’s residents. The Latin influence of the city can also been seen in the Halloween celebration of the New Orleans-style Guavaween, thanks to the influence of Ybor City’s Cuban heritage. Children celebrate the event during the day while the older ones have a grand costume party in the evening.
Tampa also celebrates a Strawberry Festival every March in Plant City where 75% of the country’s strawberry harvest during midwinter originates. The festival has been going on for 70 years and you could see everything imaginable that you could do with strawberries. There are agricultural shows, rides, games for the children, country singing, and all-you-can-eat contests.
The city has several events and festivals during the year. It celebrates the annual Bay Area Renaissance Festival in February, the annual Wine Festival in April and the Parade of Sail International Maritime Festival around July. It pays tribute to its progressive beginnings with the annual Cigar Heritage Festival in November. The city goes back in time from December 1 to 23 when the Henry B. Plant Museum holds the annual Victorian Christmas Stroll.
Tampa is an amazing city! Travelers will do well to learn a little something about the place before visiting. Here are some interesting things you may not know about Tampa.
- Tampa has many aliases. It is known as The Big Guava and Cigar City. Other names for the city include Lighting Capital of the World, Cigar Capital of the World and America’s Next Greatest City.
- Tampa has been ranked first out of 350 cities by Hispanic magazine as the best place for Hispanics to live in America.
- Money Magazine ranks Tampa in the top five percent of best cities to live and work in America. In 2008, the city ranked number 22 on the Top 101 biggest cities.
- The diversity in Tampa is higher than the rest of Florida. The Black population, Hispanic race population and foreign-born population percentages are significantly higher than the Florida average.
- Tampa Bay is known as the largest estuary set in the open water in the State of Florida.
- Tampa is a green city! The air quality index of Tampa in 2010 was at 26.3, which was lower than the US average of 32. Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter levels in the city are below the average of most American cities. However, the lead levels in the air are worse than the country’s average.
- The University of South Florida-Main Campus is located in Tampa, with a full time enrollment of more than 27,000 students.
- Residents and tourists can be rest assured that safety is important in Tampa since there are 2.74 law enforcement officers per 1,000 residents in the city. This is higher than the State average of 2.47 officers per 1,000 residents. It ranks number 18 in the Top 101 cities with the most number of police officers per 1,000 residents in 2006. At the same time, it ranks number 11 on the Top 101 cities with the largest percentage of women in law enforcement occupations.
- In the city of Tampa, only 18 buildings are taller than 250 feet or 78 meters. There are 69 high-rise buildings in the city, making it a place with one of the most number of high-rise buildings in the state of Florida. The city’s tallest building is 100 North Tampa, with 42 floors and standing at 569 feet or 176 meters.
- Tampa has 611 bridges with a total length of 25,242 meters or 82,815 feet. Combined, the bridges carry an average daily traffic of 20.6 million vehicles and average truck traffic of 1.2 million each day.
- The historical tornado activity in the city is higher than the state average as well when compared to other American cities. Tampa has a 127% greater chance of experiencing tornado activity compared to the US average. Hurricanes, floods and fires are the major causes of natural disasters in the city.
- Tampa is the birthplace of many notable people. These include NFL players Jeris McIntyre, Mike Pearson, Andrew Williams, Michael Jenkins, Chris Davis and Major League baseball players Matt Mantei, Luis Gonzales, Carl Everett, Chris Ray, Derek Bell and Kevin Cash. Other celebrities who call Tampa Bay their home are Hulk Hogan and his family, wrestler John Cena and ATP tennis player James Blake. Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys, Aaron Carter, Ray Charles and Lauren Hutton are some of the celebrities who are from Tampa, Florida.
- Tampa is sister cities with the following cities: Barranquilla in Colombia; Le Havre in France; Ashdod in Israel; Agrigento in Italy; Veracruz and Boca del Rio in Mexico; Oviedo in Spain; and Izmir in Turkey.