When to fly
Most visitors prefer to book their flights to Tampa around October through April. The hotels, bars, discos, restaurants, shops, and attractions are all crowded, and the performance arts are in full season. October is also home to Tampa’s Oktoberfest which sees Tampa’s waterfront city transform into a buzzing, lively and bustling German beer garden filled with authentic and traditional food, music and games. The festival has plenty of German Beer, schnitzels and pretzels on offer and is a great celebration to enjoy with your friends and family. Every February the annual two-week state fair arrives in Tampa and features Florida’s agricultural life through displaying livestock expositions and arts and crafts displays. There are also activities such as rides, concerts and food to keep attendees entertained throughout the two-weeks.
Budget-minded visitors have discovered that along Tampa's coast, ocean breezes make the summer quite bearable, with many west coast hotels lowering their prices, it is also possible to find cheap flights to Tampa during this time.
Part of Florida's west coast, Tampa Bay has some of the best beaches in the world. Travellers flying 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.
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. The gardens are a whimsical mix of theme park and zoo. They host different events during the year like special night-time openings for Hallowe'en and big shows for New Year’s Eve. The smaller Lowry Park Zoo is also nearby, but if you’re sticking to the beaches on your trip, you might just spot a manatee or dolphin on the coast instead.
At night, head to the historic multicultural district of Ybor City. It is a National Historic Landmark District with cobblestone streets and old cigar factories that dates back to 1886. The area has been fully restored to the age when the cigar industry ruled this Latin Quarter. The old factories no longer make cigars, but now house shops, clubs, art galleries and restaurants. There are still demonstrations showing the art of hand-rolling cigars. Enjoy Spanish flamenco dancing at night.
The months of June through September can have temperatures in the mid-20s and 30s 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 between 10 to low 20s.
Getting around Tampa
There are many ways to get around 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 travelling 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.
Getting from the airport
The main airport in Tampa is Tampa International Airport (TPA) located some 6 miles (9.6 km) from the city. There are several bus services operating between the airport and the city. Car rental and taxis are also available.
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.
- 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 an 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 waterfront with shops, art galleries, dining options, a 3D IMAX Theater, nightclubs, and sporting events.