I've got a few questions about Tampa

  1. Is it possible to get around using the bus system only?
  2. What hotel is the nicest with the best views, yet cheap?
  3. Other than Busch Gardens, what’s fun to do?

We’re going to be there the last week of the year. I read the other Tampa threads but none talked about the bus system or specific hotels.

I live near Tampa, but I’ve never been a bus person. I found this web site with some information. Just figure out what places you want to vist and find a hotel in the middle, you’ll be ok.


Spray-painting X’s on the city limits signs.

Depends on what you like to do.

Touristy places? Go to the Tampa Aquarium, Busch Gardens, or drive an hour over to Disney and all the other junk in Orlando.

Beaches? Clearwater and St.Pete have some beautiful beaches.

Art? Salvador Dali museum in St.Pete

Bar Scene? Ybor City is very popular for the college crowd.

Tampa has a lot of rough neighborhoods. The bus system is pretty good, but consider where you might be traveling through.

Here’s some links for the Tampa area:








Actual Tampa resident here.

  1. I suppose so, generally speaking, but you will probably be happier renting a car. HART, our underfunded, victim-of-apathy bus system, isn’t all that great.

  2. Tampa is very flat and most hotels are short. The convention center Marriott might be good for you. Or one of the hotels near the Airport, a la in the Westshore area. But to have a view you need to be a few floors up in the air. Such hotels are more expensive, especially during the holidays.

  3. Beaches, Florida Aquarium, Ybor City, boating, golfing, shopping, nature trails, art museums, strip clubs, etc. etc … many tourists seem to enjoy driving around real slowly in the fast lanes, pointing at palm trees.

I hate palm trees. I won’t be a problem in that area, I’m sure. Damn ugly things, and people loved to plant them all over Tucson when I lived there. Yuck.

Thank you for so many links!

I was worried about the bus system being poor. I guess I’m just going to have to suck it up and get a rental car. From my reading, it looks like there’s a pretty good Doubletree near Busch Gardens that is nice, no views though.

I’ve heard about Ybor. How do you pronounce it?


It’s pronounced EE-bor. You might enjoy it as a first ime visitor, but I haven’t dug the scene there in years. It’s mostly a bunch of twenty-somethings stumbling from bar to bar.

I think you will find better/ more affordable accomodations in St. Petersburg. I’m a little biased, of course :wink:

In reality, Ybor is not just a bunch of drunk brats. (Yes, if you want to go after 11 PM, you will see a bunch.)

There are many quality restaraunts down there, including the landmark Columbia - the oldest Spanish restaurant in the US, very yummy food there - and lots of cigar stores, art galleries, shops etc.

It is after all the historic Latin Quarter and to say there’s nothing there but bars full of kids is like saying there’s nothing in New Orleans but bars full of kids - true in the micro, way way off in the macro.

But…I’m a twenty-something and I want to stumble drunkenly from bar to bar! Maybe I should look at hotels in Ybor so I don’t have to drive anywhere.

Can’t go to St. Petersburg, we’ve got family that lives in Tampa, which is the reason for the trip. Maybe we’ll visit, but we’re not going to spend much time there so there’s no reason to get accomodations.

Speaking of, I was thinking bed and breakfasts. Do you guys know of any in Tampa? Seems like they are not so popular down there.

Right you are, RTA. I stand corrected. Unfortunately, like so many others, when I think of Ybor, it’s the Tweekers on Parade that immediately come to mind. It needs some new marketing, I tell ya what.

I’ll second the Columbia as a unique culinary experience. You should visit Ybor, but don’t stay there hotel-wise. Aside from the nightlife, which is quite fun, there isn’t much else to do. Its dead during the day, and doesn’t look nearly as nice.

FYI: St. Pete is really only 25-30 mins from Tampa. If you want a cheap hotel with a view, your best bet would be an efficiency on St. Pete or Clearwater beach. They can be had for as little as $70/night beachside. In fact, if you plan on going to the beach, you’ll probably want to drive to St. Pete/Clearwater anyway, and Tampa doesn’t have any. Sarasota, about an hour south, has some of the best, though.

Aside from what was already mentioned, I can’t offer much else. There are a lot of fun local watering holes/restaurants along the beaches (Shephards, Frenchies, etc.). Other really good restaurants (but pricey) are Armani’s (Hyatt Westshore), Salt Rock Grill (Indian Rocks Beach), Berns or Charley’s (nice steakhouses), Roy’s (hawaian/asian fusion), and the Island Way Grill.

If you have some extra cash and the interest, you way want to look into chartering a fishing boat for a day. You can get up to 8 ppl for $75/day each if you shop around.

I grew up in the area, but haven’t been back in some time, so take my advice with a grain of salt:

  1. View? dunno know what you would have a view of in Tampa…maybe the lights of St. Pete across the bay, but nothing else I can think of. As for Bed and Breakfasts, it ain’t that kind of town. Big, lots of traffic, industrial…not a lot of “quaint”.

  2. Ybor used to be fun, but like places I have been in other cities, a block or two in the wrong direction and you can be in a nasty neighborhood. The last year I lived in the area, there were several stabbings… some in the police station’s parking lot. Jus’ sayin’…be careful (unless it’s cleaned up a LOT).

  3. Adventure Island is a blast if it’s still there. A HUGE water park, owned by and across the street from Busch Gardens. Might be closed by the last week of December though.

  4. If you’re into zoo’s at all, the Lowry Park Zoo was kinda cool…a lot of “natural” style exhibits…not a lot of cages…sort of walkways above the animal environments. Sort of different.

I would agree with the suggestions to visit the Dali Museum in St. Pete and Clearwater Beach. :slight_smile:

Fort DeSoto Park has the number one beach in the nation, according to Dr. Beach, whoever he/she might be. FWIW, I completely agree. Tampa has no beaches, unless you count what is generally called the Redneck Riviera—it’s basically where people who like mud flats go to drink beer and burn bright red. Lots of lovely ladies in teeny bikinis, though.

I’d like a view of the water. We don’t have that around here. Totally devoid of oceans and stuff.

I’m not looking at lovely ladies, but thanks for the beach suggestion.

If you want to see water, get your relatives to drive you arcoss one or all of the bridges that cut across the bay (The Howard Franklin, the Gandy, and rats, I can’t remember the third. But they would know.).

Visit the St. Pete Pier if you have time (right up the street from the Dali Museum, BTW). They have restaraunts there at the Pier, and you can enjoy the view while you eat.

The third bridge is the Courtney Campbell Causeway.The St. Pete Pier is very nice, and also has a pretty good (if small) aquarium. One word of warning, though: pelicans are vicious little cusses. For a dollar, you can buy a small container of little fish to feed to them. Just remember, you are putting your fingers near a bill that can CRACK A CLAM SHELL! I still have the scar on my right index finger to prove it.

Re: The Bridges. The correct names are the Howard Frankenstein and the Courtney Crumble. :stuck_out_tongue:
If the Gandy has another more appropriate name, I’m not aware of it.
Re: Pelicans. They are not vicious, just overly enthusiastic about fish and unaware of what the sharp points at the end of their bill and the sharp edges along the inside can do to human flesh. Feeding pelicans does help you hone your reflexes though.

In Tampa:
Ybor is okay, there are several good bars and restaurants. I suggest you go on a Friday night. Saturday nights are a bit over the top, and lately there have been too many violent episodes on Saturdays. Hotels may be a bit expensive.

Hyde Park Village, for that upscale shopping experience

Florida Aquarium/Channelside, not a bad way to spend an afternoon

Tampa Museum of Art in downtown Tampa

In Clearwater:
Clearwater Beach, very nice

In St. Pete:
Baywalk, cute little boutique-type stores & restaurants

Dali Museum, an amazing must-see

St. Pete Beach - prettier and quieter than Clearwater Beach

In Sarasota (@1 hour South of Clearwater):
Ringling Museum, pretty nice

St. Armand’s Circle, more upscale shopping

Mote Aquarium

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Note: While it’s possible to get around each city using the bus system, but I don’t recommend it. It’s a huge waste of time, and overall, not a pleasant experience.

Enjoy your visit! :cool: