Miami fits the more energetic traveler with all its parties, tons of activities, and several high-caliber draws. The coastal city is known for its dynamic and often rowdy scenes. Tampa on the other hand is best reserved for families, culture buffs, and history nerds. The bay city is perfect for those who prefer a more laid-back, curious city experience.
A tourism hall-of-famer, Miami is big, electrifying, and quite overwhelming. If there’s anywhere in the US that is jam-packed with touristy highs, Miami would be it. It features everything from beaches and hotels, to shopping and parties.
Topping must-visit lists here and there, Miami has every reason for you to stay longer, and perhaps even have you try new things. Packed with hyper highs, and dynamic charms, you can expect to be restless and exhilarated in Miami.
What Makes Miami Unique?
The city of Miami is a powerhouse in itself, thanks to its streets and areas brimming with thrills and charms. It certainly has something for everyone, no matter what kind of traveler you are. The city prides itself in the diversity it possesses, and in the variety of scenes and experiences it can provide as well.
Miami can be anything for everyone, whether you’re a nomad passing through, a vacationing couple, or family. The city has different areas sporting a variety of scenes and cultural overtones. Here are some of the most well-known:
A cultural and historical pillar in Miami, Historic Overtown is the beating heart of the city’s Black culture. It is located just a few blocks northwest of the iconic Downtown Miami. The neighborhood is rich with history, culture, and an epic gastronomy scene.
Since its establishment, the neighborhood has grown and developed. It was once the city’s entertainment capital after the rise of Broadway, then has become one of its best culinary havens. Now, a Black community thrives here serving the very best of its culture.
Downtown and Brickell
Miami’s literal shining center, Downtown has skyscrapers and upscaled streets galore. It is the city’s modern urban hub full of the best of its cosmopolitan charms, along with the neighboring Brickell district. You can expect to find it to be more populated, energetic, and well-developed.
If you’re down for some eats, shopping, art, and entertainment, Downtown and Brickell is the place to be.
Compact and packed closely together, Downtown and Brickell are easy to conquer, thanks to their several modern amenities. You can explore the area using the city’s Citibikes, a bike-sharing and rental system. And if you prefer trains to go around the city, the famously free service Metromover is also readily available.
A thriving Latin American center and the heart of Cuban culture in Miami, Little Havana is as spicy and vibrant as the nation itself. Here you can find the largest Cuban diaspora in all of the US. Head to Calle Ocho and experience a slice of Havana in all its many spots.
Along the main road, you will have the best Cuban spots that vary from art galleries, cigar shops, bakeries, music venues, and many more.
But the best way to experience even just a bit of the Cuban culture is through its gastronomy. Sample Cuban sandwiches and coffees and get a glimpse of what Cuba is like.
The Nightlife Scene
No Miami experience is complete if you won’t get a full taste of everything it has to offer. And one of its best features has to be the nightlife. Known for its electrifying evening full of music, booze, and sheer good fun, Miami has to be the US’ capital for nighttime debaucheries.
If you want to get a taste of its famous nightly reputation even just for a night, head to the famous areas of Calle Ocho, Coconut Grove, and of course Downtown. These hotspots offer the best nightlife experience with their top-rated bars, lounges, and clubs.
One of Miami’s biggest party events, the Ultra Music Festival is easily the brainchild of the city’s illustrious nightlife. Held every March every year for three consecutive days, Ultra is one of the largest EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festivals in the world. It has been celebrated for over 20 years now, frequented by younger crowds.
Thanks to its cultural and ethnic diversity, Miami is now home to a vast array of culinary specialties. If you’re more of a foodie, then Miami is the best place to be. It has a variety of cultures and nationalities making it a thriving home in the many different neighborhoods in the city. You can sample everything from European staples to hearty Asian dishes.
The city boasts several neighborhoods specializing in different cuisines and specialties. It will be a fun challenge to decide which place to go. The city’s size and extensive collection of gastronomic features can be a whirlwind for first-timers. Here are some of the best-known areas to explore:
A hit among the younger crowd, Wynwood is glitzy, artsy, hip, and creative. This neighborhood is an enclave for the millennials, thanks to its slew of coffee shops and art spaces. You can find the best coffees, pastries, and — quite recently — Asian fusion as well. Expect to see an interesting microculture that celebrates art, fashion, and food.
This is most likely Miami’s hottest gastronomic neighborhood. For years, the region was dominated by chain restaurants. But change came with a slew of new local restaurateurs springing up all over the place. It strikes the ideal combination of relaxed and romantic sensations. The Grove has a number of fantastic eateries that are ideal for first dates.
Miami’s Cuban heart, and a pillar of its Latino culture, Little Havana offers the best of Cuban staples. You can easily sample the country’s fabled sandwiches and coffees. Most of the restaurants you can find around the area are family-owned and have been there for generations. You can definitely get a slice of Havana here.
The Capital of Latin America
Upon setting foot in Miami, you can easily get a whiff of its vibrant and spicy Latino overtones. It is thanks to waves of immigrants from Latin America decades past that most of Miami is now heavily Latino. With its thick Latin American diaspora, Miami is the East Coast’s Hispanic capital. The cultural influences you may see are mostly Cuban, Mexican, Brazilian, and many more.
Many of these immigrants have escaped the political and economic turmoil that plagued their home countries. Forcing them to flee and seek better opportunities. Since the great migration from the 50s, the Latin American population has greatly increased. They have even lasted through generations, today, most of Miami’s population has Latin American heritage.
Like many cities and regions all over the US, Miami is culturally and ethnically diverse. Thanks to this, it has made Miami one of the most colorful and interesting places in all of the US. Multiculturalism is one of the pillars that has cemented Miami’s identity. Without it, Miami wouldn’t be as iconic as it is today.
With a wealth of features and cultural diversity, you can never run out of itinerary entries whenever you’re in Miami. You will always find something interesting to do here. Other than its many trademarks draws such as its nightlife scene and beaches, there are plenty more to do here.
You just need to go around its many many diverse areas and neighborhoods, you’ll surely fund something worth doing. Here are some of the more laid-back activities:
One of a city slicker’s favorite itinerary entries in a new city would be shopping. Awash with a wealth of cosmopolitan features, you can find many shopping spots across the city. It has everything you’ll ever look for, whether you’re into luxury brands or thrift shopping.
If you’re into luxury brands and upscale scenes, the Miami Design District, Wynwood, and the Coral Gables are the best spots for the posh shopper. And for some affordable shopping, and thrift goods, head to the Bayside Marketplace, Fifth and Alton, or Washington Avenue.
A zoo just a few blocks away from tall, gleaming skyscrapers, Zoo Miami is a spot worth visiting if you’re staying with the center. The zoo houses several animal species that are naturally from the Florida wild. This is a perfect place for families and animal-loving curious adults.
Zoo Miami houses an extensive roster of over 3,000 species, some of which are endangered. What makes the zoo even more interesting are the enclosures where the animals are kept. These spaces mirror the animals’ natural habitat so that they would behave as they would in the wild.
Everglades National Park
Just a 74-mile (119 km) drive south of Miami, Everglades National Park should be on your Miami itinerary. With a 1.5 million-acre (607,028.46-hectare) expanse, the Everglades is a beautiful patch in Southern Florida. It is one of the most famous national parks in the US.
The Everglades is mostly made up of swamps and marshes, where several species of amphibious animals live. The park also houses many other endangered species, making it an important conservatory.
It may not be as hyper as Miami, but Tampa is an underrated gem that is an icon of Florida in itself. The city can give you fun and celebration at every turn, alongside an interesting history and a wealthy mix of cultures. Tampa is the best choice for tourists who prefers smaller cities and lesser crowds, thanks to its cheaper delights and family-oriented appeals.
What Makes Tampa Unique?
Tampa’s most iconic area, Ybor City is perhaps a Tampa rite of passage, thanks to all its allure. Founded by Vicente Martinez Ybor, a Spanish industrialist who became a cigar giant after learning about the trade in Cuba. He moved to Tampa after a series of conflicts and set up a cigar factory. It then became one of the largest cigar manufacturers in history.
Ybor’s factory employed over 4,000 laborers producing over 900,000 cigars every month. Its large exports gave rise to Ybor City. The famous area was once a simple neighborhood that housed the cigar factory’s migrant workers. It eventually grew into a thriving small-scale city within the city of Tampa.
The migrant workers that comprise the cigar factory’s laborers came from the places where Vicente Ybor had gone. Most of them were from Spain, Ybor’s homeland, and Cuba, where he first learned the trade of cigar production. There are also workers from Italy, who have fled the country due to poverty.
This mix of cultures gave rise to Ybor City’s diverse scene, which is still prevalent to this day. Now a Latin American haven, Ybor City is a thriving area where, history, culture, entertainment, and tourism all intertwine.
Ybor City is a hub of a culture where you can find almost anything here. It has everything a city-loving tourist would look for, plus, it is the most happening place in all of Tampa. Other than the Riverwalk, of course. Head to the famous Seventh Avenue and see the most interesting collection of old buildings and quirky establishments.
There are also two things the area is famous for — nightlife and gastronomy. Ybor City boasts the best nightclubs and bars in all of Tampa, maybe even all of Southern Florida. Visit clubs such as Club Prana and Empire, or bars such as Crowbar and The Ritz Ybor.
And as for the dining scene, you can have everything here. The streets are speckled with diverse cuisines from Asia to Europe. Visit the famous Columbia Restaurant where you can relish the best Spanish cuisine. It also boasts an interesting old-world-aesthetic ambiance and live music.
Thanks to its cosmopolitan culture and the mighty length of the Hillsborough River, Tampa takes pride in one of its amazing draws. The Riverwalk is perhaps a genius addition to Tampa’s already interesting flavor. It is a 2.4-mile (3.9 km) path that meanders along Hillsborough going south, ending in the Sparkman Wharf.
The Riverwalk in Tampa is speckled with so many things to do, and what’s even more interesting is that you can explore it in a few different ways. You can walk, stroll, run, jog, bike, or even boat your way through the Hillsborough River. You can find many rental shops that can lend you a pair of wheels, or different quirky kinds of boats.
If you’re with family, or small children, you can find plenty of ways to play together and enjoy Tampa’s riverside charm. You can play in one or all of the seven parks and playgrounds near the river.
Or if you love the kids to be entertained and educated, you can visit any of the eight museums and attractions you can visit near the riverwalk. Check out the Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa History Center, and the kids’ favorite, Florida Aquarium.
After those long hours of exploring, you’ll probably get hungry or even thirsty. You can easily find something to love in any of the 25 bars and restaurants along the river. You can sample local favorites or international dishes. Head to the Sparkman Wharf at the end of the riverwalk to experience the full flavors of Tampa’s culinary scene.
A Festival Capital
With an uber-interesting history, and a cool mix of cultures comes a lot to commemorate and celebrate. Tampa is a festival capital considering the sheer number of festivals that are held throughout the year. With a little over 10 festivities, you’ll surely catch one whatever season in Tampa you’re visiting.
Fun, interesting, and curious, here are some of the most well-known festivals in Tampa:
Gasparilla Pirate Festival
The bay cities of Southern Florida have always had a controversial history with pirates, and Tampa isn’t spared. The Gasparilla is the most interesting and vivacious pirate festival in all of the Sunshine State. It is also the most anticipated in the city. Visit Tampa from late January to early February and witness what the talk is all about.
Gasparilla Pirate Festival begins with a Mardi Gras–style parade along the Hillsborough. The Krewe of legendary pirate Jose Gaspar sails their way downtown. The ship along with a dozen private boats fills the air with music and festivities.
When the krewe finally reaches downtown, they will demand the key to the city from the mayor and a victory procession follows. The parade then continues into the riverside. A slew of parties continues with multiple events happening until the next morning.
Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade
If you plan to party through the Gasparilla Festival, you should stay tuned for the Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade. This interesting festival takes place the following weeks from the Gasparilla Festival. It is an annual celebration of the city’s Latin heritage and its wealth of cultural diversity.
Held every year since 1974, the Sant’Yago Parade is more of a civic tradition and celebration rather than a commemoration of history. It is hosted by the Krewe of Sant’Yago, an organization that preserves and honors Tampa’s rich Latin heritage.
The celebration usually takes place after the Gasparilla Festival, right in the middle of February on a weekend. The parade is held at the Seventh Avenue in Ybor City at night where floats by several business and private groups illuminate the streets. The Sant’Yago Parade is a hit among families.
Parks and Recreation Center
Brimming with many curious things, festivals and rich history aren’t Tampa’s only best draws. Staying true to its family-friendly charm, the city is also speckled with a myriad of parks and recreation centers. These spots offer leisure, entertainment, and education for families with children of any age. Expect to experience never-ending thrills and curiosities in Tampa’s best gems.
To get the entire 360 Tampa experience, visit these parks:
A big hit among families and thrill-seeking teens, Busch Gardens is an adventure park you shouldn’t dare to miss. It is a family-friendly park that offers animal and adrenaline-pumping experiences.
Here, you can see several animal species put in enclosures and sections that look straight out of the wild. Busch Garden’s wildlife features offer a safari tour taking you up close to many exotic animals. There are even interactive programs you can check out such as hand-feeding kangaroos and a visit to the Animal Care Center.
But Busch Garden’s best and most famous features have to be its adrenaline-pumping rides. You can try out the Cheetah Hunt, a rollercoaster ride that sports incredible speeds. For those who brave heights, check out the Falcon Fury, which takes you to a 335-foot (102 m) peak and then leads you to a sudden drop for a thrill.
Lowry Zoo, now called ZooTampa at Lowry Park is a wildlife center that houses over 2,000 animals from different parts of the world. Some of which can also be found in the Florida wild. The zoo features several sections that divide the many different species it holds.
You can visit primate enclosures, aviaries, and an African safari. In these sections, you’ll get to meet many of the zoo’s famous residents. You get to meet African elephants, orangutans from Southeast Asia, and panthers from Florida. You can explore the zoo via the many tours available as well.
Other than the animals themselves, the zoo also features other interesting activities. Try out the mini-train ride, a roller coaster, and a safari ride. For adults, there are also fitness programs, a variety show, a comedy show, and many other events.
Is Miami or Tampa Better for Vacation?
If we’re talking about an epic vacation, none can beat Miami. The high-powered coastal jewel of Florida, Miami is and has always been a vacation capital. Other than Hawaii, of course.
Miami has everything, from beaches to the Everglades. It provides every single vacation need you can imagine.
Is Tampa or Miami Safer?
When it comes to safety, Tampa is the better option. Miami isn’t extremely dangerous, but it has a greater record of violent and property crimes over the years. Tampa on the other hand is among the 20 safest cities in the US. However, Tampa still has its own problem areas.
Crime Rate in Tampa vs. Miami
In the recent US data, Miami has a violent crime rate of 207.4, which is higher compared to Tampa’s 147.6. However, these cities scored a bit lower than the national average. This means both Miami and Tampa are still safe places to visit.
Is Tampa Cheaper or More Expensive Than Miami?
Tampa is clearly cheaper than Miami, especially with all the former’s demands in business and tourism. The cost of living in Tampa is 15.4% lower than in Miami. From housing to purchases of goods and services, you can get more in Tampa thanks to its cheaper prices. However, Miami may be more expensive but you can also get your money’s worth.
Tampa vs. Miami Weather
There isn’t much of a difference between Tampa and Miami when it comes to weather. Warm highs of around 90 F (32 C) are expected in both cities. You can expect mild, and comfortable lows in the 50s and 60s F (10–20 C) respectively. Each city also receives roughly 250 days of sunshine each year, with annual rainfall averaging 50–60 inches.
However, many people report that Tampa can feel hotter in the summer because the air is more stagnant there. It is a slight difference between Miami’s cool ocean breeze and Tampa’s gulf air.
Is Miami Cooler or Warmer Than Tampa?
Temperatures between Miami and Tampa don’t have much of a difference, with Tampa being slightly cooler. However, during the summer Tampa can feel a bit hotter because of its gulf air. Miami’s searing heat gets regulated, thanks to the cool ocean breeze coming from the Atlantic.
Is Miami More Humid Than Tampa?
Because of its more coastal setting, Miami is more humid than Tampa’s more interior location. The most humid month in Miami is September with a humidity level of 69.7%, and March is the least with a humidity level of 55.8%.
Tampa vs. Miami Hurricanes
Out of the two, Miami is more prone to hurricanes because of its location right at the tip of the state. Nearby larger hurricanes can affect the city via storm surges and heavy rain.
Tampa or Miami for Family Vacation?
With its more family-oriented draws, Tampa is the better option for vacationing families. The bay city boasts parks and recreation centers, perfect for families with children of all ages. Tampa is also the safer and cheaper choice.
Miami Seaquarium vs. Tampa Aquarium
Tampa Aquarium officially called the Florida Aquarium is hands down the better option. It offers more features and a lot more things to see and do than the Miami Seaquarium. Plus, it houses over 7,000 animal species.
Tampa Zoo vs. Miami Zoo
When it comes to zoos, the premier ZooTampa at Lowry Park is the better option. It boasts an even wider array of exotic animals than ZooMiami. It also offers a safari ride and various animal interaction activities such as feeding and even petting the animals.
Tampa vs. Miami for Nightlife
Nightlife is synonymous with Miami and all its hyper highs. It is brimming with the best clubs, bars, and lounges packed in different areas of the city. Miami becomes one big nightclub as soon as the sun goes down.
Is Tampa or Miami More Fun?
If you’re looking for sheer good fun, the electrifying streets and beaches of Miami are always the go-to option when in Florida. It boats the best nightlife, the most happening cosmopolitan centers, and beautiful beaches. Energy and dynamic are perhaps Miami’s most defining words.
Tampa vs. Miami Demographics
Tampa has a slightly smaller population than Miami, but both have a diverse demographic. The city is made up of 65.41% white, both Hispanics and non-Hispanics. Its Black or African American population is around 23.62% both also made up of Hispanics and non-Hispanics. It also has an Asian population making up 4.31% of the population. The rest are biracial or multiracial, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Miami on the other hand holds a greater population. The city is made up of various cultures being one of the most diverse cities in the US. It is primarily made up of whites making up 76.11% of the population. Black or African Americans with 16.79%, and Asians with 1.13%. The rest are made up of two or more races, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.
Tampa vs. Miami Population
Despite having different land areas, Miami being the biggest, their demographic doesn’t fall far from each other. Miami has the most number of residents with a staggering 471,525 while Tampa varies slightly with a total of 407,599.
Is Tampa Growing Faster Than Miami?
Miami is reported as the fastest-growing city in Florida among the two. But both cities have seen more rapid population growth than New York City on a national scale.
How Far Is Miami From Tampa?
Miami is approximately 205 miles or 330 km from Tampa, directly.
How to Go From Tampa to Miami
Located on opposing coasts of Florida with a sheer distance in between, the best way to get from Tampa to Miami is by flying. However, there are many other ways such as taking a bus or driving between cities.
Miami Airport vs. Tampa Airport
Miami and Tampa Airports are two of the largest airports in all of Florida. Both have modern facilities and a wealth of available flight connections. However, when it comes to service quality, and overall experience, Tampa International Airport is the better one. You can easily navigate your way around the airport, plus TSA lines aren’t long and the process is much smoother. Miami can feel crowded, and super busy, and flight delays are more rampant than in any other airport in Florida.
How Long Is a Flight From Miami to Tampa?
With 205 miles (330 km) of airplane distance, a flight usually takes an hour or so.
Is It Cheaper to Fly to Tampa or Miami?
The intercity drive can be cheaper, however, you still have to consider other costs such as gas and toll fees. However, driving isn’t time-effective and may have plenty of setbacks. Flying to Miami or Tampa is the better option because of how time and cost-effectiveness it can be.
How Long Is the Drive From Miami to Tampa?
Should you choose to brave the high road, a typical drive can take around five hours.