Photograph by Sean Pavone, Alamy Stock Photo
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The Hillsborough River reflects the Tampa skyline.

Photograph by Sean Pavone, Alamy Stock Photo

Everything to Know About Tampa

Here's how to plan the best possible trip to the Big Guava.

It's difficult to pinpoint what gives Tampa, Florida, its spark. Maybe it’s the city's status as one of the lightning capitals of the world. Maybe it's the cosmopolitan culture blended with a kaleidoscope of nearby natural wonders. Or maybe it's just the relaxed, sunny disposition of the locals, who greet strangers like long-lost friends.

Celebrate

Visit for the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, a miniature Mardi Gras that celebrates Tampa’s pirate past. It’s a citywide party, and locals dress as pirates. Those who don’t visit in time for the January celebration can still see the large pirate ship docked in the bay year-round.

What to Eat

Don’t miss trying a Cuban sandwich (officially Tampa’s signature sandwich). Get the real deal at Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, a historic Cuban neighborhood. The Columbia’s recipe hasn’t changed since 1915. The interior of the restaurant is pretty neat, too.

Souvenir to Take Home

Visit any Tampa grocery store and pick up a bag of Chifles Plantain Chips. The crispy, salty plantains (or platanitos) have been a favorite local snack since they were created in a Tampa home in 1963.

Sustainable Travel Tip

Hop on Tampa’s historic yellow streetcar, which runs from Ybor City to downtown. Riding the streetcar is like a brief journey back in time—the seats are old-school wooden benches.

Instagram-Worthy View

Ballast Point Park offers views of the city skyline (specifically from the fishing pier). The best time to go is at sunset, when pinks and oranges take over the skyline.