Tampa is for the history buff and culture lover. It has a wealthy account of history on top of its amazing modern cosmopolitan charms. Plus, the city loves to celebrate all year round via its many traditions and history. St. Petersburg boasts beaches and is the greenest city in Florida. The city can feel small but it is passionate about the bigger things.
Tampa’s may be an underrated gem, but it is definitely high-caliber. Its interesting draws can even stand against the fame of Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The city’s roster of festivals, history, and riverside charms are enough to make it one of the most must-visit cities in Southern Florida. If you’re looking to venture out into underrated cities in Florida, Gulf cities are the places to be.
What Makes Tampa Unique?
Perhaps one of the most historical pieces in Florida, the legendary Ybor City is the most famous draw of Tampa. The cigar baron Vicente Martinez Ybor established the cigar factory in Tampa. The surrounding area was built to house all its workers.
Back in its prime, its 4,000 laborers produced around 900,000 cigars every month. Ybor’s Cigar Factory used to be the largest manufacturer in the late 1800s.
The factory workers that lived in the area comprised of different nationalities migrated to Florida in search of a better living. These migrant workers mostly came from Spain (where Ybor himself is from), Cuba, and Italy. But as their livelihood grew, the workers’ families soon set up their own businesses and helped developed Ybor City.
Ybor City is also a diverse center. Its workers come from different countries bringing with them their cultures and tradition. It has become a beacon for many more migrants across future generations. Thanks to a constant influx of diverse cultures, the area has kept on reinventing itself.
Ybor City has everything you could look for in a thriving city center. You can have all the cosmopolitan delights, as well as history and culture.
The area boasts its nightlife culture, top-notch dining, shopping, as well as art, and entertainment. Whether you’re staying downtown or around the riverside, the best place to get to know Tampa is around Ybor City.
For a better glimpse of Ybor City, head to its popular areas such as La Septima, or Seventh Avenue. It has rows of historic buildings older than the US independence. With its historical value, you can even find the National Register of Historic Places here.
With its plethora of cosmopolitan and cultural charms, Ybor City hosts the best dining scene in Tampa. You can easily find the best restaurant around, most of which offers you palates from different parts of the world. Sample dishes from Italy to Vietnam, Ybor City’s dining scene is a foodie’s paradise.
If you want a piece of history in Tampa, dine in the iconic Columbia Restaurant. It is one of the oldest restaurants in the city and is the most-recommended spot. The restaurant has a certain Spanish overtone to it, along with an old-world aesthetic.
And as for the party-loving visitors, Tampa’s nightlife center is in Ybor City. It is home to several bars and nightclubs. Head to The Castle and Club Prana for a classic dance club experience. But if you prefer a more laid-back time, visit The Ritz Ybor or the Crowbar.
Other than Ybor City, another iconic draw of Tampa is its charming riverside feature. The Tampa Riverwalk is so popular and quirky that it has become one of the most popular draws of the city.
The riverside charm is a 2.4-mile (3.9 km) stretch meandering along the Hillsborough River. The walk features many spots and places along, perfect for any visitor.
As you walk along its extensive path, you can see different features that add to the Riverwalk’s appeal. From sculptures to art installations, the riverwalk is every bit as amazing as the city is. Along the riverwalk, you can also visit many city highlights such as the Florida Aquarium and Tampa Museum of Art.
The Riverwalk also features a wide path that has a bike lane, a runner’s lane, and a pedestrian lane. You can expect to see some excitement along the path if you’re up for some people watching.
Bike rentals and even boat rentals are also speckled across the riverside. These modes of exploring offer fun experiences as you go along the famous stretch.
While the best dining is in Ybor City, the Riverwalk’s many eateries come in second. Expect to find quite an interesting array of flavors and dishes across the river banks. You can find quite a roster of restaurants that serve all kinds of cuisine and in different setups.
If you’re looking for quite an interesting fix in your gastronomic pursuit in Tampa, head to the Sparkman Wharf. You’ll find the Armature Works, housing several trendy food spots inside a renovated warehouse.
A Festival Capital
One of the most interesting and enjoyable things about Tampa is that it loves its festivals so much. The city has a long inventory of festivals in every season. Thanks to its wealth in culture and history, the people find a lot of things to celebrate and commemorate.
These festivals are speckled all over the city’s calendar of events, covering almost every month.
You can be sure to celebrate with the locals at any time you’ll visit, because of how many they are. Here are two of the most famous ones:
Gasparilla Pirate Festival
If you take a look at many of Southern Florida’s histories, you can catch accounts of pirates in many of them. Tampa perhaps has the most popular history with pirates as the city practically turned an invasion into a festival.
The famous Gasparilla Festival is an annual commemoration of the pirate invasion. It is a long-held celebration, full of entertainment and excitement.
The vibrant festival is like Mardi-Gras but on the water. The festival starts at Hillsborough Bay where boats make their way to downtown Tampa. This is a reenactment of the infamous invasion of the pirate Jose Gaspar and his krewe.
The parade is a drama of how the pirates take the city as they conquer downtown and take the key to the city from the mayor.
After a successful invasion, the parade then continues along the Riverwalk. Other events like parties and concerts take place on the following days. The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is the most jam-packed and biggest in all of Tampa.
Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade
Following the Gasparilla Pirate Festival is yet another interesting festival in Tampa. The Gasparilla is more of a commemoration of history. The Sant’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade is a celebration of the city’s cultural diversity. You can see a swarm of brightly lit floats along with music and dancing.
The Sant’Yago Knight Parade is a celebration of the city’s civic pride with its diverse history and thriving civic culture. The celebration is hosted by the Krewe of the Knight of Sant’Yago, a group committed to preserving and honoring the city’s Latin bloodline.
The parade is held on a weekend following along La Septima or Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. The various floats you’ll see along the street represent the various associations, groups, local businesses, and many more.
Parks and Recreation Center
Florida has always been the US’ park capital with a staggering number overshadowing all the other states. And in Southern Florida, many of its cities house many of the state’s most famous. Tampa isn’t a stranger to these iconic spots, as it offers parks and recreation centers that are both educational and entertaining.
With the sheer number of parks and centers in the city, here are two of the most recommended in Tampa:
Busch Gardens has to be the most famous park in Tampa. It isn’t only a family park but it also provides a wide variety of experiences to its visitors. Its 335-acre (135 ha) expanse offers education, entertainment, thrill, and sheer good fun. From a zoo to a world-famous ride, Busch Gardens is a bucket list entry for sure.
The park’s zoo has enclosed animals kept in spaces that offer a functional habitat. You can go on a safari tour and check out how the animals behave and interact. If you want more than just a mere viewing, you can check out the Animal Care Center and learn how rescue animals are tended to.
And as for the thrill and fun, the Busch Garden’s most famous feature are its adrenaline-pumping rides. You can try out the iconic Cheetah Hunt taking you at incredible speeds that will surely give you an experience of a lifetime. Or, if you don’t mind heights, try Falcon Fury. It will take you to its 335-foot peak (102 m), and will suddenly drop at an overwhelming speed.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park
ZooTampa is one of Florida’s largest zoos housing over 2,000 animal species that came from all over the world. It is perfect for curious kids and animal-loving adults. The zoo features animals from Africa, Asia, and the Americas, in different shapes and sizes. Some of which are even endangered and protected.
You can check out elephants, penguins, orangutans, and plenty of reptiles. There are even animals native to the wilderness of Florida such as panthers. A safari ride is one offer that takes you around the simulation of the African wilderness. It shows how animals behave in their natural habitat.
The zoo also offers a mini-train ride, and a roller coaster perfect for adventurous kids and fun-loving families. For adults, there are fitness classes, comedy shows, and live talk shows also on offer. As you can see, ZooTampa is not an ordinary zoo. It offers diverse experiences, on top of animals and exciting tours.
St. Petersburg packs quite a roster of titles on its belt. From being the first green city to the sunniest in all of Florida, you cannot simply brush away the value of St. Petersburg. The city boasts the ideal contrast of beach scenes and its pioneering cosmopolitan center.
The city is ideal for families looking to have a good time away from the giants of the state. Kids and passionate adults will find something to advocate for and learn from here. From eco-friendly initiatives to the works of art giants, you will leave the city wide-eyed for sure.
What Makes St. Petersburg Unique?
Florida’s First Green City
St. Petersburg is considered one of the eco-friendliest cities in all of the US and is the first green city in Florida. Thanks to its green initiatives, the city enjoys cleaner air and smarter consumption of energy.
The city completely switched to clean and renewable energy in 2017. It was one of St. Petersburg’s biggest eco-friendly milestones, making it a green pioneer in the entire country.
In addition to its smart energy consumption, the city also started streetscaping trees. This allows for better pedestrian-friendly streets. Thanks to this initiative, the Arbor Day Foundation has dubbed St. Petersburg a “Tree City USA”.
Staying true to its objectives, the city has also partnered with various NGOs. This includes US Green Building Council, and Environmental Protection Agency.
The Sunshine City
Situated inside the Sunshine State, St. Petersburg enjoys sunny skies and warm days throughout the year. But it isn’t like any city in Florida, St. Petersburg actually has the most number of days with sun and warmth.
Seeing a record high of 361 days of sunlight each year, St. Petersburg is the “Sunshine City” of the US. It even has an entry in the Guinness World Records.
St. Petersburg boasts the perfect condition for a sunny day out strolling, thanks to its perpetual summer condition. The average highs in St. Petersburg hit around 90 F (32 C), and average lows play around 50 F (10 C). You can expect to have good weather anytime outside the hurricane season. While there will be rain, it won’t be as much as in the other parts of the country.
The Beaches, of Course
St. Petersburg’s region is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches. Nestled right along the coasts that border the Gulf of Mexico, you can have quite a roster of top beaches around the St. Petersburg /Clearwater area. From laid-back beaches to jam-packed activity-oriented strips, it isn’t hard to find yourself enjoying the best of the Tampa Bay area.
For that top-notch beach experience in the region, visit some of the most recommended ones:
St. Pete Beach
Perhaps the most famous beach in the city, St. Pete Beach is the main beach and is full of activities perfect for every type of traveler. A local and tourist favorite, you swim, paddleboard, and surf, among many others here. The extensive white-sand stretch is also one of the US best beaches to visit. On top of its activities and amenities, the beach is also extremely gorgeous.
From its name, Caladesi Island Beach can only be reached by boat. However, the destination is worth the journey with all its stunning beauty. The white-sand beach is full of facilities and other features such as food stands, rental shops, bathrooms, and barbecue grills. From the beach, you can enjoy swimming and paddleboarding with a view of the Gulf of Mexico.
Another one of the US’ top beaches in the area, Clearwater Beach is one of the most stunning beaches you will ever visit. Alluding to its name, the beach has notable crystal clear water that glistens under the sun.
You can easily take a dip in its gentle waves and safe conditions. The beach also sits next to an upscale neighborhood full of shops, dining, and nightlife spots.
The city’s thriving commercial and trendy district, the EDGE District is the city’s beacon of culture, and art, as well as its cosmopolitan heart. With its edginess as its name alludes, the district is committed to preserving its eclectic and unique spirit.
The EDGE District has evolved into a St. Petersburg institution offering the best dining, shopping, and nightlife spots. It is interesting to think that over a decade ago, the area was only a sleepy part of town.
As the city’s fame grew together with its population, the need for places to dine, drink, and shop also grew. The downtown area quickly became one of the most appealing places in the city. It is considered the most walkable downtown in all of Florida. Thanks to this, the area has a real estate boom.
The EDGE District brought with it a distinctly modern and cultural flavor to St. Petersburg’s thriving local life. You can have the best vibrant scenes here, from art to trendy independent businesses.
Not to mention, the district also boasts a collection of well-preserved old buildings. If you want to experience the city beyond its beaches, the EDGE District is a perfect place to explore.
Apart from its facade and energy, the area also houses the best dining places and shopping centers in the region. You can check out a variety of flavors and fun across the district’s 30 restaurants, bars, and pubs.
And if you want to shop til you drop, the district also offers a wide variety of selections. You can find an extensive collection of art for sale here, from fine art to folk art. But for the fashionista, the options are even more tasteful. You can shop from luxury designer labels to local homegrown brands.
Arts and Culture Center
Iconic cities across Florida always have some sort of large art and culture scene, St. Petersburg isn’t an exception. With a rich history and thick culture, the city offers a slew of museums and cultural centers showcasing just how blessed the city is.
Thanks to their overt appreciation of the arts and culture, it has become one of its strongest foundations. St. Petersburg now offers seven art districts, art festivals, and music festivals, among many others.
With so many on its roster, your option might be too overwhelming. Here are of the city’s most recommended spots:
The Dali Museum
From its name, the museum features thousands of art pieces by revolutionary Spanish artist Salvador Dali. His iconic art style combines technical mastery with his unique style and vision. The Spanish artist revolutionized the art world with his vibrant aesthetic and surrealist works. The museum houses the Dali artworks, which consist of 96 of the artist’s paintings from 1918 to 1970.
Visiting the gallery is one of the most popular things to do in St. Petersburg, and perhaps one of the must-dos. The Dali Museum doesn’t only offer Dali’s works, it also has other galleries, gardens, a cafe, and many more.
Museum of Fine Arts
One of St. Petersburg’s most important institutions, the Museum of Fine Arts showcases humanity’s development via the arts. You can check out various pieces in various media representing the last 5,000 years of human history.
The museum features various forms of art from different cultures. You can check out ceramics, porcelains, and many more hand-crafted pieces from all over the world. The large collection also includes folk art, indigenous art, as well as several ceremonial objects.
Morean Arts Center
Located right on Central Avenue, the Morean Arts center best represents the city’s young and thriving spirit. The center offers a variety of activities for the free and creative spirits. Not to mention, it also hosts parties and events every day.
One of the center’s quirky features is the first permanent collection of artworks by American artist Dale Chihuly. It is housed in an unusual structure. He is famous for his trademark geometric and vibrant glass sculptures.
One of his greatest contributions to the art community is a slew of unique techniques. This allows artists to create intricate glass artworks. As you visit the gallery, you’ll see a 20-foot (6 m) structure at the entrance.
Is Tampa or St. Petersburg Better?
Tampa and St. Petersburg are perhaps two of the most jam-packed and interesting cities in southern Florida. You can easily confuse itineraries between the two. But if you’re looking for a destination saturated with fun and excitement, Tampa is the better option.
Tampa boasts a more diverse culture and a more eclectic scene. The city is also larger which means it packs more high-caliber draws than St. Petersburg. Tampa however, is a very cosmopolitan place, usually best for families and the younger crowd. St. Petersburg’s only advantage here is that it has some of the US’ best beaches.
Is St. Petersburg Safer Than Tampa?
A study conducted reported that St. Petersburg is unfortunately one of the least safe cities in the US. Compared to other 181 cities, across 41 indicators of safety, St. Petersburg suffers from many aspects. This includes assaults per capita, unemployment rate, violent crime, and many others. Tampa on the other hand is 61% safer than St. Petersburg, which in itself is a good factor in considering where to visit.
Tampa vs. St. Petersburg Crime Rate
When it comes to the crime rate, Tampa is the better option, thanks to a lower crime rate than St. Petersburg. In violent crimes, Tampa fares with a rate of 147.6 out of 100,000, while St. Petersburg has 686.
Is St. Petersburg Cheaper or More Expensive Than Tampa?
The cost of living in the two cities is quite comparable and is close to the national average. St. Petersburg has a cheaper cost of living than Tampa, nevertheless. Compared to St. Petersburg, it costs 1.5% more. Although Tampa has lower utility rates than St. Petersburg. But St. Petersburg offers more cheap housing and transportation expenses.
Tampa vs. St. Petersburg for Nightlife
The vibrant nightlife of St. Petersburg is concentrated in its pedestrian-friendly center. You may simply go bar hopping and take advantage of the various places in the city. This includes bars, lounges, and music venues to experience a more relaxed atmosphere.
Tampa’s nightlife, on the other hand, is more subdued. You’ll need to drive or use Uber to go between locations because there are fewer options and they tend to be more affluent.
Is It Better to Stay in Tampa or St. Petersburg?
When it comes to quality of living, costs, and range of accommodations, it is better to stay in Tampa than in St. Petersburg. Not to mention Tampa has a more diverse scene for your touristy needs, from entertainment to education.
Is Tampa and St. Petersburg the Same?
Tampa and St. Petersburg are close neighbors, but they’re not the same. They’re completely distinct cities, each with its autonomy and institution.
Are Tampa and St. Petersburg Twin Cities?
Despite both being in the Tampa Bay Area, Tampa and St. Petersburg aren’t twin cities. Tampa is the more cosmopolitan and chic large center. St. Petersburg though exciting and interesting is small and more condensed.
Where Is St. Petersburg in Relation to Tampa?
St. Petersburg is approximately 17 miles (27 km) southwest of Tampa.
What Is the Name of the Bridge Between Tampa and St. Petersburg?
The central bridge that connects Tampa and St. Petersburg is called the Howard Frankland Bridge. It is named after the man who proposed it. The Howard Frankland Bridge is one of three bridges that connects the two cities.
How Long Is the Bridge Between Tampa and St. Petersburg?
The Howard Frankland Bridge has a total length of 5,290 yards (4,838 m).
How Far Is St. Petersburg From Tampa?
There is a 17-mile (27 km) distance between St. Petersburg and Tampa, directly.
How Much Is a Cab From Tampa to St. Petersburg?
A taxi cab from Tampa to St. Petersburg costs an average of 80 to 95 USD, one way.
Is There a Ferry From Tampa to St. Petersburg?
Cross Bay Ferry offers ferry services between Tampa and St. Petersburg, offering amazing views with less hassle. Fares are affordable and the company offers departures from 10 AM to 11 PM, Wednesdays through Sundays.
How Long Is the Ferry Ride From Tampa to St. Petersburg?
Ferry rides from Tampa to St. Petersburg usually take around less than an hour or so.
How Long Does It Take to Get From St. Petersburg to Tampa?
It depends on your mode of transport. If you’re taking a taxi or driving your car, it will only take less than 30 minutes. But if you’re taking the bus, it may take more than an hour. Ferries, which are only available on Wednesdays to Sundays only take around 50 minutes.
Is St. Petersburg and Tampa the Same Airport?
The St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport is the biggest one in the area and serves the entire Tampa Bay area. The airport serves both St. Petersburg and Tampa. However, Tampa also has its own airport, catering to both domestic and international flights.
Tampa Airport vs. St. Petersburg Airport
Tampa and St. Petersburg are both served by the same airport. The St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport also serves Clearwater, just north of St. Petersburg. Tampa also has its own airport located six miles west (9.7 km) of the downtown area.
When it comes to ease of navigating around, lesser TSA lines, and cheaper flights, the Tampa International Airport is the better option. It serves a slew of international airlines from Europe to Canada. Plus, it also offers the best dining and shopping scene.
Which Airport Is Bigger – Tampa or St. Petersburg?
The Tampa International Airport is another one of Florida’s largest airports in terms of size and passenger traffic. It is also bigger than the St. Peter–Clearwater International Airport in St. Petersburg.
How Far Is St. Petersburg From Tampa Airport?
The direct distance between St. Petersburg and Tampa Airport is approximately 16 miles or 27 km.
How Much Is a Taxi From Tampa Airport to St. Petersburg?
An average one-way taxi ride from Tampa Airport to St. Petersburg costs around 55 to 70 USD.