Often grouped together as one due to their close proximity, the cities of Tampa and St Petersburg are both populated by over 100,000 inhabitants, coming together to form a vibrant, fast-paced and multicultural area of Florida. With a keen emphasis on arts and culture, expect a wide array of evening entertainment, bars, concerts and clubs, very popular with a youthful crowd.
Located in Hillsborough country on the western coast of Florida, both Tampa and St Petersburg sit next to the Gulf of Mexico, making fishing and swimming popular pastimes for those who prefer their leisure time to be a little more laid back.
Possessing the world record for the number of consecutive sunny days (768 to be exact), St Petersburg is the original ‘Sunshine City’, popular for its low cost of living. With that in mind, it’s the perfect destination for holidaymakers on a budget who wish to enjoy the sub-tropical climate without all the fuss of Orlando.
To get the very best out of the Tampa Bay region, it’s well worth doing some research first. Our guide to popular hotspots and undiscovered gems alike will ensure that your itinerary takes in the best of the region, whether you wish to eat, shop, dance or drink!
With so much new ground to explore, Tampa Bay is the ideal spot for runners. The Pinellas Trail is a 47-mile fitness track built on abandoned railways, promising stunning scenery every step of the way. If running isn’t your thing, hop on a Segway – Doo’s Amazing Segway Tours offer historical, scenic and eco-guides to the seafront twice daily, ensuring that you get to grips with your new surroundings in style.
Where to eat
As is the case in most of Florida, seafood is the dish that most Tampa and St Petersburg residents pride themselves on. However, fish-phobics need not worry; both areas have a high density of restaurants that carry cuisines from all around the world. Harold Seltzkers is a family-friendly steakhouse in St Petersburg, colloquially known as offering the best prime rib in town. All dishes are made from scratch daily, and ‘Wine Wednesdays’ are a major draw, offering patrons 50% off their dinner wine.
In a city that truly comes alive at night, it’s important to line your stomach with a good hearty meal. Al’s Finger Licking Good Bar-be-que in Ybor City has a humble exterior that perfectly suits its homely brand of Southern hospitality. Serving cuts of every meat you could think of with generous sides of mac ‘n’ cheese, black-eyed peas and yellow rice, expect to leave stuffed full of comfort food. If you do find yourself lusting after traditional seafood, Eddie V’s is a solid option – the Maine lobster tacos are said to be among the best in the country.
- Harold Seltzkers, 3500 Tyrone Blvd North, St Petersburg
- Al’s Finger Licking Good Bar-be-que, 1609 Angel Oliva Senior St, Ybor City, Tampa
Where to shop
Before you can get ready to party, it is of course vital to find the right outfit. Tyrone Square Mall in St Petersburg is your one-stop spot for all things retail, boasting classic department stores such as JC Penney, Dillard’s and Macy’s. For those who like things a little more independent, an afternoon on Beach Drive in the downtown area will yield all manner of unique treasures, including a flea market and various antique and gift boutiques.
For those who love to hunt a bargain, Ellenton Premium Outlets is one of Florida’s best discount malls. Located just 30 minutes south of Tampa, expect to see over 130 designer names at heavily discounted prices, including the likes of Michael Kors, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren and Saks Fifth Avenue. In the spirit of a sale, Tampa Bay is also a great region for thrift shopping – both St Petersburg and Tampa itself have several branches of charity shop chain Goodwill.
- Beach Drive, Northeast downtown St Petersburg
- Ellenton Premium Outlets, 5461 Factory Shop Blvd, Ellenton
Where to party
With most bars, restaurants and clubs operating a 3am license, the entertainment scene of Tampa Bay is fast establishing itself as one of the best in the country, sitting at odds with Florida’s legacy as a popular retirement state. Live music is well represented in the region; home to the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team, the Amalie Arena regularly hosts huge concerts by world-famous artists, as does the David A Straz Jr Center for the Performing Arts, with a lengthy programme of Broadway shows. For something a little more intimate, Skippers Smokehouse and Oyster Bar offers a year-round friendly atmosphere to drink, dine and watch local bands, popular for its ‘Floribbean’ menu.
St Petersburg holds its own in the club stakes too. Octave hosts seven-nights-a-week karaoke sessions, guest DJs and purse-friendly drink deals. The Coliseum is right down the road for those who like to bust some slightly more refined dance moves, opening its oak dancefloor to everything from ballroom dancing to trade fairs. For casual drinks and conversation, you could do much worse than visiting The Ale and the Witch. Although it is a little tucked out of the way in downtown St Petersburg, its combination of craft ale and a smoky jazz atmosphere is an intoxicating mix.
- Skippers Smokehouse and Oyster Bar, 910 Skipper Rd, Tampa
- The Ale and the Witch, 111 2nd Avenue, Northeast St Petersburg
Where to go
Although Orlando is the go-to location for theme parks, Busch Gardens is a fun, chilled out alternative to the likes of Walt Disney World or Universal Studios. Located in the heart of Tampa, it’s something of a zoo-meets-rollercoaster hybrid, diverse enough to keep children of all ages entertained and informed. The Tampa Bay History Centre adds to the educational fun, exploring 12,000 years of Floridian history over three floors. Situated on Old Water Street, tickets cost $12.95 for adults and $10.95 for children.
In St. Petersburg, the Salvador Dali museum is an absolute must-see. Lose yourself in surrealist art at the world’s largest collection of his work, including a DNA strand staircase and 75-feet high glass dome. The St Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts on the downtown waterfront has a similarly impressive collection of original pieces, boasting three Monet paintings alongside works by O’Keeffe, Renoit and Gauguin.
For those who likes their activities to be a little more, well, active, the calm waters of the region are perfect for learning how to sail. The St. Petersburg sailing centre can be found on the municipal marina, offering sailing lessons from award-winning alumni including Florida native and silver paralympian, Jennifer French. St Petersburg is also home to three acclaimed golf courses (Mangrove Bay, Cypress Links and Twin Brooks), 150 city parks and 260 metres of shoreline, so there’s no excuse to spend every day of your trip indoors.