Although the sun shines on Tampa an average of 361 days per year, this sunny enclave was founded on the premise of a somewhat cloudy enterprise: cigars. Vicente Martinez-Ybor founded Ybor City––Tampa’s bustling Latin quarter and one of only two National Landmark Historical Districts in Florida––when he chose it as the site of his cigar-rolling plant. Immigrants from Cuba, Spain, and Sicily soon followed, turning Ybor City into something of an international hub. Today, it remains a culturally- and architecturally-rich district full of things to do, see, smell, and taste.
A good way to experience Ybor City is to wander its old-world brick roads during a Cigar Industry History Tour. Tours depart from the Ybor City Museum, where guests can visit a 100-year old "casita" or cigar worker's house, before moving on to stops at 12 of the town's most historic sights. For a more literal taste of history, stop at Columbia Restaurant, a landmark eatery founded
in 1905, and recognized as Florida's oldest restaurant. Here, you can share a pitcher of Sangria and sink your teeth into an authentic Cuban sandwich featuring marinated roast pork, genoa salami, and Swiss cheese piled between buttered slices of Cuban bread, fresh-baked at the historic La Segunda Central Bakery.
To get from Ybor City to Tampa’s modern downtown, all it takes is a ride on a charming Teco Line Streetcar. Once there, take a stroll along the Riverwalk
, a path on the banks of the Hillsborough River dotted with parks and public art exhibits. The path will also lead you past the Tampa Museum of Art and The Florida Aquarium, which is home to 20,000 aquatic animals including sharks, alligators, and endangered sea turtles.
As the sun starts to set, you may want to prep for the Tampa nightlife by outfitting yourself in some new stylish attire. Head over to the Hyde Park historical district, where multi
-million dollar mansions and stately oak trees preside with extravagant authority. Extravagance is there for the taking in Hyde Park Village, an upscale shopping mecca where national brands like Anthropologie sit side by side with high-end boutiques such as The Pink Petticoat. Once you’re properly outfitted, head back to Ybor City to flaunt your new duds—and your dance moves—at The Castle. Or head downtown to catch a symphony or rock concert at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, a nine-acre entertainment complex stretched along the riverbank.
No list of things to do in Tampa would be complete, however, without mentioning Busch Gardens, a family-friendly theme park and zoo. Here visitors of all ages can take a safari
tour through a 65-acre recreation of the Serengeti, come face to face with a cheetah
, and release their inner animal as they rove through the crawl tubes, climbing nets, and bridges that make up the three-story treetop
trails attraction. Thrill-seekers get their fair shake, too, with an abundance of roller coasters and water rides speckled throughout the park.