Tampa is known for its cigar industry, beautiful white beaches, fun-filled themed parks and attractions like Busch Gardens and Zoo Tampa.
Located southwest of Orlando, Tampa, Florida is located on a large natural harbor on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s one of the largest cities in Florida, serving as a business and cultural center. While Busch Gardens Tampa and Adventure Island likely come to mind when thinking about Tampa, there is so much more that Tampa is known for.
What Is Tampa Known For?
Tampa is known for its history in the cigar industry with the historic Ybor City, where the hand-rolled cigar industry flourished for years. This is such a big part of the city’s legacy that Tampa is known as the Cigar Capital of the World. Tampa is also a hub for animal appreciation, with a zoo, aquarium, big cat rescue facility, and free areas for wildlife viewing.
However, Tampa is famous for so many more things. There are countless museums where you can take in art or history of the area, as well outdoor attractions like Bayshore Boulevard. It doesn’t matter what you decide to explore in Tampa, you’ll see part of what makes the city so amazing!
History, Culture, And Traditions Tampa Are Known For
The Cigar Industry
What is Tampa famous for, if not the cigar industry? For many years, hand-rolled cigars were the primary industry in the area, with over 200 cigar factories in operation at one point. The area even earned the name “Cigar City” – that’s how big the hand-rolled cigar industry was!
At the height of production, the cigar industry churned out over 500 million cigars each year. While the cigar industry is not nearly as prominent as an industry now, the history of the hand-rolled cigar is certainly something that Tampa is known for.
Gasparilla Pirate Fest
If you’re ready to try out the pirate’s life, Tampa is definitely the destination for you! One day every year in January, an enormous group of pirates descends on Tampa to hold a 4.5-mile parade. There’s always a captain and his crew leading the crowd and over 100 floats through the streets of Tampa, especially Bayshore Boulevard and downtown Tampa.
The Gasparilla Pirate Fest is actually one of the largest parades in the country! Following the parade, there are tons of pirate-themed activities you can get into. If you want to be a part of this quirky parade Tampa is famous for, make sure you plan your visit in January.
Home Of The “Twist”
If you’ve ever danced the “Twist,” you owe some of your moves to Tampa! The twist originated in Tampa Bay, when Hank Ballard wrote “The Twist” after seeing teenagers twisting and dancing in the area. The dance moves became more and more popular, as the song rose to popularity in 1960.
While there are fewer spots to dance to sixties music these days, Tampa is still a lively place to go out. Pay some appreciation to this dance trend Tampa is known for, by going out on the town yourself and twisting it up!
Although Ray Charles was not born in Tampa, it was a big part of his career and he has become a part of what Tampa is famous for. Charles moved to Tampa in 1947 when downtown’s Central Avenue was a focal point of African American culture. When he moved to Tampa, Charles rented a room on Emery Street and began playing the piano with several groups.
Most notably, he played piano in a group called the “Florida Playboys”. As the only black musician in the band, Charles was likely the first black person to step into Tampa honky tonks and other traditionally white spaces. Although his tenure in Tampa was short-lived, Tampa highlights its spot in this music legend’s history and career.
If you are an animal lover, you might already have an answer to the question, “what is Tampa Bay known for?” Tampa Bay has several places to view and learn about animal life. From the Florida Aquarium to the Manatee Viewing Center, there are lots of interesting places to go (even some for free)!
For ocean life, you can check out the Florida Aquarium, which has a broad range of fish and ocean life. If you’re more interested in the zoo, you can visit the Tampa Zoo at Lowry Park, featuring exotic animals from around the world.
In addition, the Big Cat Rescue Center is also located in Tampa, if you’re interested in seeing tigers and other large felines!
Districts And Areas Tampa Is Known For
Ybor City is a lively neighborhood that Tampa is famous for, partly for its place in the hand-rolled cigar industry and partly for its fun boutiques. When the cigar industry took off in Tampa, Ybor City was a focal point for cigars. If you’re interested in the history of the neighborhood, check out the Ybor City State Museum.
These days, Ybor City has lots of trendy restaurants and small boutiques, so you can hop from shop to shop. If you stop by during the evening, you should check out the bars and clubs, which attract locals and tourists alike. Make sure you don’t miss it!
You’ll never be short on places to go for nice outdoor walks in Tampa Bay! This sidewalk is actually one of the attractions that Tampa is known for! Bayshore Boulevard is actually the longest continuous pedestrian walkway, running 4.5 miles from downtown Tampa to Gandy Boulevard.
This walkway is a lovely place to take in views of downtown Tampa, and you won’t have to be alone. This part of Tampa is basically a public gym, full of people walking, biking, running, and just enjoying the outdoors. You’ll be headed this way if you’re taking part in the Gasparilla Pirate Parade, so might as well take it all in!
Hyde Park Village
If you’re visiting Tampa and looking for a stylish place to do some shopping, Hyde Park Village is what you’re looking for. This area has a variety of local boutiques, regional shops, and high-end brands, as well as restaurants and a fancy cinema. In addition to shopping destinations, there are lovely outdoor spaces and fountains, so you can enjoy your time outside.
If you happen to visit on the first Sunday of the month, you can also check out the outdoor market. No matter when you visit this part of town, you can get a feel for the upscale culture in one of Tampa’s nicest neighborhoods.
You can’t see what Tampa is known for without visiting the Tampa Riverwalk! The Riverwalk is a focal point of downtown, featuring restaurants, views of the Tampa skyline, and the Tampa Bay History Center. Since the path weaves alongside the Hillsborough River, you can enjoy a walk, bike ride, or even a boat ride.
While the museums and history center are open during the day, the Tampa Riverwalk is also a great place to visit at night. Enjoy the dazzling lights and cultural attractions, without the heat of the day.
No matter how you want to explore this 2.6-mile stretch of Tampa Bay, make sure you don’t miss out on this part of what Tampa is famous for.
Anyone who is after a theme park thrill will have one answer to the question, “what is Tampa Bay known for?” Busch Gardens, of course! This iconic animal theme park opened in 1959 and has been a part of what Tampa is famous for ever since.
Busch Gardens spans over 330 acres large, featuring African and Asian-themed landscapes, roller coasters, other rides, and activities. The park marries its animal theme with theme park rides, such as the SheiKra, which imagines roller coaster riders on a cheetah hunt.
There are also rides for smaller kids, such as the River Rapids ride and the Log Flume; both great choices if you find yourself there on a hot day!
With all the warm weather, Adventure Island is one of the top attractions in Tampa, Florida. Adventure Island is the largest waterpark in Tampa, with water rides, pools, restaurants, and other activities! Just a short ride away from Busch Gardens, Adventure Island makes a great place to cool off in the Florida heat.
If you have kids in tow, there are plenty of rides – slides and water tubing options – that the kids can enjoy. If you have little ones along for the ride, there are also splash pools and tranquil areas for use. On the other extreme, if you want to chase a thrill, you can check out Vanish Point or Wahoo Remix!
Located at Lowry Park, ZooTampa is a top-notch zoo with the mission of preserving, protecting, and (where applicable) rehabilitating animals. There is a reason why this is one of the famous landmarks in Florida.
The zoo is currently home to over 1,000 animals of varying specifics, with habitats that are inspired by and designed after different parts of the world.
In addition to the animal habitats, the museum offers encounters, tours, keeper talks, and special events throughout the year. The keeper talks are especially popular since they let visitors learn and ask specific questions about the animals. If you have kids in town, this is a great activity in Tampa!
Landmarks And Architecture Tampa Is Known For
If you’re a movie lover, don’t miss out on visiting the Tampa Theatre! This non-profit “movie palace” features classic movies, under a realistic night sky (complete with stars) and a fully decked-out Mediterranean-style courtyard. With over 700 events every year, there is always something to do at this theater which Tampa is famous for!
You might wonder why it’s a non-profit. This movie palace opened in 1926 to an immensely receptive crowd; however, the theater struggled to stay afloat in the 1960s as Tampa residents moved out toward the suburbs. When it looked as though the theater would have to close in 1973, the community banded together to save it, creating the non-profit it is today!
Henry B. Plant Museum
If you make it out to the University of Florida, check out the Henry B. Plant Museum on the South end of campus. The museum was originally a hotel, which opened in 1891. Nowadays, the space has been repurposed into a museum, which features the history of the Gilded Age of tourism which is part of what Tampa Bay is known for.
Going to the museum is like stepping into the past since it is set up with the artifacts and furniture where they would have been when the space was a hotel. Beyond just Tampa, the Henry B. Plant Museum offers lots of facts about Florida as well! Even if you don’t stop into the museum, make sure that you check out the beautiful Victorian style on the exterior!
If you’re looking out at Lower Tampa Bay, you can see the bridge that Tampa is famous for. Technically, the Sunshine Skyway’s full name is the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The bridge is over four miles long, consisting of two long bridge beams with a central cable-stayed bridge.
Sunshine Skyway was completed in 1987 and has been an iconic part of Tampa ever since. If you happen to have a car with you, make sure you reserve some time to drive over the bridge. It only takes about 5-10 minutes for the entire journey, and you definitely won’t regret visiting this landmark that Florida is known for.
Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center
A highlight of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center is a protected marine area with an observation tower, bird-watching areas, butterfly gardens, and a boardwalk. Visiting this area is entirely free and offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities that Tampa is known for.
As the name suggests, you can even see manatees in this viewing center! If you’re trying to see these adorable beasts, your best bet would be between November and April. The warm water around the center allows you to appreciate this endangered species.
Indian Rocks Beach
Take a short drive out of the city to get to one of the best beaches in Tampa, Florida: Indian Rocks Beach. Indian Rocks Beach is a long stretch of beautiful beach that surrounds the laid-back barrier island communities. Whether you stay in a beachfront property or drive in, the beach is extremely accessible with ample public parking.
Everyone knows that Florida beaches are among the best, and Indian Rocks Beach is no exception. Beyond the wonderful water and pristine beaches, you can also visit the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, where you can see rehabilitated birds from the area. Regardless of which beach you visit, make sure you save some time to appreciate the coast of Tampa.
Contemporary Art Museum
Opened in 1989, the Contemporary Art Museum of Tampa is a focal point of the arts culture in the city. This is another gem Tampa is famous for located on the University of South Florida campus. With over 5,000 pieces of art in the permanent collection, there is always something new to see in this wonderful museum.
In addition to being a great museum, the CAM is also a place for educators, students, and artists to come together. There are educational programs throughout the year, as well as workshops and classes. Keep an eye on the programming on their website – you might be able to catch some seasonal activity!
Food Tampa Is Known For
If there’s any one food Tampa is known for, it’s definitely the Cuban Sandwich (or Cubano). Allegedly, the Cubano originated in Florida. The famous sandwich carries mustard, cheese, pickles, ham, pork, and (more cheese) – make sure that you tuck into this popular food in Florida.
Locals have their own favorite places to get a Cuban, but some of the best are La Segunda Central Bakery and Columbia Restaurant. If you can’t get to either of these restaurants, make sure you at least try this phenomenal sandwich.
With so much fresh seafood around, it’s no wonder that crab is one of the dishes Tampa is famous for. Deviled crab is a crab meat croquette, which consists of crab, fried green peppers, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, and other spices. These ingredients are rolled into balls, covered in crumbs, and then fried to produce deviled crab.
The food picked up the name “deviled crab,” since the dish can be quite spicy! Again, you can find this local delicacy in many places, but if you want to go where the locals go, check out Brocato’s Sandwich Shop or Pappy’s Devil Crabs.
Discovering More Things Tampa Is Known For
If you’re interested in experiencing all that Tampa is known for, the best way is to visit and see for yourself! From ZooTampa and the Big Cat Rescue to Ybor City and Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa is famous for lots of things. However, there are so many more things to explore beyond these classics.
One thing’s for sure: there is no lack of fun things to do in Tampa. Whether you want to enjoy an amusement park or enjoy the wonderful weather, make sure that you take time to appreciate Tampa’s skyline.