I’ve lived in Tampa for several months as an expat. And I fell in love with it. It’s one of the greatest places to be. But you may need a little direction to get the most out of your vacation.
Generally you’d want to steer clear from the Temple Terrace area. Do not book AirBnb or a hotel in that area. If you still decide to book there, do not go outside after 8 PM. As of lately, there is also a serial killer in that area. If you don’t know where Temple Terrace is located, it is the East side of Tampa, East of the 275, including the USF area.
If you’re planning to rent a car, I would recommend renting a Ford Mustang Convertible or Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. These are the best vehicles to travel in when sitting in Tampa’s traffic jams. But sweating is guaranteed if you drive with the top down. These get between 15-25 mpg in the city. Also, drive responsibly.
Clearwater is one of the must-see beaches in Florida. I personally preferred Clearwater over Daytona beach. But beware, you may hit morning and evening traffic jams. It can take 2 hours to make your way East out of Tampa. If you want to stick to the West side of Florida, then Clearwater beach might be one of the best and only beaches worth going to.
My favorite place is Sandbar. You can either relax on the beach renting chairs and an umbrella to protect you from the dangerous Florida sun, or you can sit at the bar with a nice view at the ocean.
Finding a parking spot near Clearwater beach can be tricky. Your best bet is to find a valet service to park your car for you. You’ll probably pay 20 USD on parking tickets. Which is still reasonable. When I go to Brussels, parking my car for 8 hours costs 15.80 EUR.
Gulfport is a quite little hidden town near St. Petersburg. The road is paved with red bricks leaving a very authentic impression. You can find a couple of bars and restaurants near the water to have a drink.
There are various AirBnb‘s in the area that are quite affordable. The beach is within walkable distance and there is no traffic in the neighborhood.
Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve
If you love hiking, then you will love the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve. It is located North East of Tampa on the East side of the I-75. To enter, you’ll need to pay a fee of 2 USD. Trails can take several hours giving you plenty of nature to admire.
There are no free entrance parks in Florida, and if there are, they are usually not worth visiting.
At the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve, you can also rent canoes per hour. Visit the Canoe Escape website for more information. And remember, there is no such thing as no alligators in Florida. Keep your eyes open.
Hyde Park Nightlife
Your visit will not be complete if you haven’t visited Tampa’s Hyde Park, which is famous for its nightlife. It has various rooftop bars that will simply blow your mind! the picture below was taken at Epicurean. There are many alternatives available too, check Google Maps and Yelp for suggestions.
Whether your drive your own car or rent a car, beware that the very South of Tampa could have floods with extreme rainfalls.
If you travel all the way to Miami, you can travel to the Bahama’s using a ferry. For many The Bahama’s is a very expensive vacation they only do once in a life time. But for locals, it’s more of a getaway. A round trip can cost around 200 USD.
The Villages is a retirement community 50 miles North of Orlando and 85 miles North of Tampa. It is a trip that is definitely worth a 2 hours drive. To buy a home there, the minimum age requirement if 55 years.
If you don’t meet the age requirement, don’t worry. There’s still plenty of things to do there. Every night one of the town squares will have something to do. Whether it’s a concert or a mini market going on. The old western look will also put you in a very relaxing mood. The residents there at happy to show you around and tell you why they love The Villages.