Things to do when in Tampa:

Jog/walk/rollerblade/board/dance down Bayshore Boulevard. It is incredible.
Go to Bern's Steak House.
Visit Ybor City on any Friday or Saturday and have a ball. There is something for everyone in Ybor.
Go in February to see the spectacle of Gasparilla. There is nothing more fun than the city's most prominent business and political men dressed up as pirates. Puts life in perspective for you.
OK, go ahead and catch a Bucs game. You may still hear cannons go off whenever the Bucs score. That tradition used to be my father's responsibility and joy.
Visit Whaley's grocer on Howard Avenue. It smells GREAT in there.
Go to any major grocery store. Find the bread aisle. When you come upon bread sold by the yard, buy it! That's Cuban bread!! You have found one of Tampa's greatest treasures. Make sure the packaging says the bread came from El Segundo Bakery.
Need sweet? Visit Chalupa's on Neptune. They have all kinds of goodies, and decent coffee, too.
Borrow a car and get lost in downtown. You will only get lost once in Tampa, then you will know its six-way intersections and colorfully named streets forever.

edited 12-25-2007

Located east of Tampa Bay, growing outward from the spot where the Hillsborough River flows into Hillsborough Bay, Tampa is the county seat of Hillsborough County, Florida; with a 2000 census population of 303,447, it is the third-largest city in Florida.

The name Tampa comes from the Caloosa Indians, but the exact meaning is unknown. A 16th century explorer named Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda compiled a list of place names in use by the natives, including "Tanpa," which Spanish mapmakers changed to "Tampa."

In 1824, the U.S. Army established Fort Brooke near the mouth of the Hillsborough River. It served as a command post during the second and third Seminole Wars. After it was no longer needed, it was decommissioned in 1883 and later torn down. Today, the Old Fort Brooke Municipal Parking Garage in downtown Tampa marks the spot where it once stood.

A town grew up around the fort, at first called Fort Brooke, but then named for the nearby prominent body of water Tampa Bay. The "Bay" was soon dropped, and the town became known as Tampa. It was incorporated as a city in 1855, and then reincorporated on July 15, 1887, which is now considered the official date of the city of Tampa's founding.

In 1886, Vicente Martinez Ybor and Ignacio Haya purchased 50 acres of land near Tampa on which to build cigar factories. With the workers living nearby, a company town sprang up, called Ybor City. Later, cigar factories were also established in West Tampa, incorporated in 1895 and annexed by Tampa in 1925. Tampa became famous as "Cigar City."

In 1891, Florida railroad magnate Henry B. Plant, hoping to draw more people to ride his trains all the way to the end of the line, opened the Tampa Bay Hotel across the Hillsborough River from downtown Tampa. A grand, opulent hotel, its architecture was inspired by that found in the Ottoman Empire, including most notably several large minarets atop the roof. After Plant died in 1899, the hotel ended up as the property of the city of Tampa. It closed as a hotel in 1932, eventually reopening as a University of Tampa classroom building with a museum inside. A new high school was named for Plant in 1927; a small city east of Tampa is named Plant City in his honor.

Throughout the 20th century, Tampa steadily grew as the center of commerce for the west coast of Florida, with the city limits expanding in all directions not cut off by water, and unincorporated suburbs beyond the limits, filling the swamplands and palmetto scrublands with roads, houses, and strip malls.

Tourism remained a principal industry, helped along in the late 1950s when the local Anheuser-Busch brewery started beautifying their grounds and didn't stop until they ended up creating the Busch Gardens theme park (originally known as "The Dark Continent").

The cigar industry declined beginning in the 1930s, as cigarettes grew in popularity and machine-rolled cigars made in Central America began to be sold at a much cheaper price than cigars from Tampa. There was a small boom in cigar smoking in the United States beginning in the late 1980s, but Ybor City's revival began in the early 1990s, when new restaurants, bars, and nightclubs suddenly began to sprout, and the area became the premier nightspot of the Tampa Bay area.

Tampa also became infamous as a symbol of futility, when the NFL expansion team Tampa Bay Buccaneers began play in 1976 and lost their first 26 regular season games over a span of almost two years. Later expansion teams, first in hockey and then in baseball, continued the tradition.

Vaguely creepy addendum: After I finished this writeup, I went to another window and refreshed my Yahoo! home page, and the AP top story was "Plane Crashes Into Tampa Building."

The Seamier Side of Tampa

As a 2.5 year veteran of living in the Tampa area, I have a few points of interest to add:

The Castle in Ybor City-feeling a little gothy? Head on down here to a giant goth club run and frequented by goths, rivetheads, and banktellers dressed in black. The "Gothic Lounge" downstairs will get you your drinks faster and a dollar cheaper. (and your elbows and smokes soggy..they actually have a little stream that meananders along the surface of the bar..seriously). I got a number at this club once..it was from some junkie girl that I hope I didn't catch anything from.

The Strip Clubs: there are many, many of these. Covers usually range in the $5-$10 dollar range, and the clubs themselves range from seedy joints to palatial houses of decandance. It's a moot point, you can see all the strippers at 3AM at the local Denny's anyways.

The Whores: cruise any industrial area after dark and take your pick. $10-15 for oral, $20-30 for "around the world". Watch your wallet.

Hey, You know Heir Ron?: swing on down to 15th street for a fix of the yummy white devil powder. You're gana get ripped off, and probally robbed, but you never know. In the mood for crack? It's all butta, baby.

Nude Beach: well, not really, but there is a little pull off by the power plant at the end of McMullen that people run around topless.

The After Hours: this is tricky. There is one right in downtown, very close to where that little plane hit, that is free to get in. It costs $10 to sit though. Seriously. Who ever brainstormed that was a genius.

So there you have it! Head on down to the lap dance capitol of the world (oh wait, that pesky 6' rule is in effect), and have a night full of fun. Don't mention my name, it won't open any doors.

Tampa is the quintessential American city. The city planners of Tampa clearly have lofty aspirations and a definite vision--take a typical interstate city, with gas stations, fast food establishments, and grocery stores lining a single highway, and reproduce it hundreds of times to make a sprawling metropolis. Spreading construction over a ten-mile stretch of highway is one of Tampa's most significant innovations. While close-packed cities like San Francisco make driving from point to point difficult and walking necessary, Tampa requires driving for the convenience of its sophisticated residents. Sidewalks shmidewalks!

While the plan is straightforward, the implementation is not. To alleviate traffic congestion, the central highway, known as Dale Mabry, is the size of a freeway. There are also a few residents of Tampa too snobby for fast food. For them every chain restaurant imaginable was built, often in several locations, along Dale Mabry. The presence of restaurants such as multiple Outback Steakhouses, Olive Gardens, Rio Bravos, etc. along Dale Mabry make Tampa one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.

Dale Mabry Highway itself is one of the art capitals of the world. Music lovers appreciate the huge selection of car audio system vendors along the highway. Dance and nude art afficionados have many clubs with frequently refreshed galleries, such as the famous Mons Venus, to frequent. Architecture buffs marvel at the utilitarian Dale Mabry shops and restaurants, particularly their bulky plastic friezes.

Tampa's residents are charming. For example, today I ordered a double espresso at a coffee shop and the barista, tongue in cheek, replied "I've never made one of them before." 50% of cars on Dale Mabry have American flags and bumper stickers reading God Bless America and United We Stand. It's nice to see such a fine community coming together. I predict that within ten years two more lanes will be added to Dale Mabry as more and more people discover Tampa.

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