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Overview

Tampa is the metropolitan hub of Florida's West Coast. From it radiates St. Petersburg, with its own happening downtown and beachy islands; the northern water-riddled green spaces of its back yard; and the artsy resort towns and islands of Bradenton and Sarasota. One of the main reasons vacationers come to Tampa is Busch Gardens, its zoo-theme park with an African backbeat. Its waterpark sidekick, plus a zoo, art museums, Ybor City Latin quarters, and cruise-ship port also draw visitors. Most spend time across the bay visiting the shops and museums of downtown St. Petersburg and heading to its string of sybaritic barrier islands, which ...

Tampa is the metropolitan hub of Florida's West Coast. From it radiates St. Petersburg, with its own happening downtown and beachy islands; the northern water-riddled green spaces of its back yard; and the artsy resort towns and islands of Bradenton and Sarasota. One of the main reasons vacationers come to Tampa is Busch Gardens, its zoo-theme park with an African backbeat. Its waterpark sidekick, plus a zoo, art museums, Ybor City Latin quarters, and cruise-ship port also draw visitors. Most spend time across the bay visiting the shops and museums of downtown St. Petersburg and heading to its string of sybaritic barrier islands, which regularly rate among the nation's top-listed.

To the north, Tarpon Springs retains its roots as a Greek sponging community. Eco-adventures await to Tampa's north and east, including manatee snorkeling tours, kayaking, and great fishing. Bradenton, at the doorstep to St. Petersburg's scenic Sunshine Skyway Bridge, boasts the beginning of another island chain that stretches to Siesta Key in Sarasota and beyond to Venice and Boca Grande's Gasparilla Island. Mainland side, Sarasota's Ringling Estates complex has spawned an artistic temperament that reflects in the visual, performing, and culinary arts.

Chelle Walton
About the Expert

Chelle Walton is coauthor of Fodor's Florida and author of Fodor's Compass American Guides: Florida and The Sarasota, Sanibel Island & Naples Book: A Complete Guide.

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Chelle Walton for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    The beaches are crowded on weekends year-round, but are especially busy winter and spring. Fall brings fewer people and lower rates.