Part of Florida's west coast, Tampa Bay has some of the best beaches in the world. Travellers booking flights to Tampa can plan a holiday combining trips to the beaches, the lakes and the Hillsborough River, or spend their entire trip in and on the water: snorkelling, diving, sailing, fresh or saltwater fishing, kayaking, or just napping on the beach.
So it’s not surprising that Tampa Bay also surrounds one of Florida's largest estuaries and has an abundance of water fowl. Some of the magnificent birds that are seen every day in Tampa are threatened species. The area is also a wildlife haven and has several nature parks and refuges. The well-known Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is home to one of Florida's largest destinations for West Indian Manatees. And, of course, Busch Gardens in Tampa is home to more than 35 endangered species and is well-known for its breeding programmes.
For those avid golfers booking Tampa flights, there are also golf courses, and lots of them. Tampa Bay has a golf course for every budget and skill level.
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The months of June through September can have temperatures in the mid-20s and 30s (Celsius) and be very humid and very rainy. On average, the warmest month is July when temperatures sometimes reach the upper 30s.June through November is the hurricane season.December to May is the most pleasant time of year with average temperatures between 15 and 26 degrees Celsius and much less rain. January is the coolest month, when the temperature range is 10 to low 20s.
When to fly to Tampa
Most visitors prefer to book their flights to Tampa October through April. The hotels, bars, discos, restaurants, shops, and attractions are all crowded, and the performance arts are in full season.
Budget-minded visitors have discovered that along Tampa's coast, ocean breezes make the summer quite bearable and many west coast hotels lower their prices considerably. Flights there may be cheaper at this time.
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Getting around Tampa
There are many ways to get around downtown Tampa and Ybor City. You can walk, but the rest of the city has a network of buses, trolleys and historic electric streetcars to get you around. To get to the airport, Ybor City, Busch Gardens or the Museum of Science and Industry, hop on one of the HART line buses. If you’re traveling at the end or beginning of winter months, you’ll notice extra traffic on the weekends. Many northerners come to Florida to escape the snow, and north-south routes can quickly become clogged.
Tampa insider information
- Catch a live performance or a first-run or classic film at the Tampa Theatre. This is a vintage theatre, opened in 1926 and decorated with a star-spangled ceiling, mythological statues, and a very large Wurlitzer.
- A free attraction are the manatees at the Tampa Electric Company. The water in the Electric Company's canal is at least 20 degrees Celsius, which is just right for a manatee. When the temperature of Tampa Bay drops below 20, there can be upwards of 300 manatees in the canal. Book your Tampa flight between November 1 and April 15 to see the manatees.
- Florida was producing wine before California was discovered. Eden Vineyards and Winery, the southernmost federally licensed winery and vineyards in the US, is just over an hour’s drive south of Tampa Bay. Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards is Florida’s largest winery and also about a hour’s drive south of Tampa.
- For up-to-date listings of what’s going on while you’re in town, the free Weekly Planet has listings as does the Thursday Tampa Tribune.
- Tampa is the largest city on Florida’s west coast and boasts the attractions, entertainment, culture, and fine arts of a large city. The Tampa Museum of Art has exhibits of old masters, 20th-century American art, sculpture, and works by emerging Florida artists. The Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center is the largest performing arts centre in the southeastern US with five separate theatres and a performing arts conservatory. The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) deals with health, environment, and outer space through hands-on activities and shows. The Channelside entertainment complex is the centre of the downtown waterfront with shops, art galleries, dining options, a 3D IMAX Theater, nightclubs, and sporting events.