Tampa, the west coast's business-and-commercial hub, has a sprinkling of high-rises and heavy traffic. A concentration of restaurants, nightlife, stores, and cultural events is amid the bustle. The city has really come into its own in recent years. The downtown Tampa waterfront features stunning views and excellent museums. Animal lovers flock here for attractions like Lowry Park Zoo, Busch Gardens, Big Cat Rescue, and Giraffe Ranch. Revelers will enjoy the strip of bars and clubs that constitutes Ybor City, a historic area with a heavy Cuban influence. The city also abounds with art museums, shops, and a wide array of restaurants. Downtown and Ybor City are both excellent spots to look for live music. Not too far out of town are some great golf courses and nature trails. Tampa is also a short drive from a long stretch of gorgeous Gulf Coast beaches.
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Things You Can’t Miss
The young — or young at heart — can try the Museum of Science & Industry’s zip line. Explore the science behind natural disasters in Disasterville.
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Explore five interconnected islands of mangroves, wetlands and palm hammocks, which provide refuge to loggerhead sea turtles and 328 species of birds.
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I always miss my cat whenever I travel. I get my fix at this sanctuary with its beautiful bobcats, tigers, cougars and jaguars. Snuggling is discouraged.
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I love to stay right on St. Pete Beach. No matter what the hotel’s price range is, the beach is the same, with pristine white sand and warm Gulf water.
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This completely natural island features what some consider the best beach in the world. As you’ll see, this isn’t the most controversial of opinions.
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Feeling game? At Florida Aquarium, visitors have the opportunity to put on a wetsuit and go swimming with the 20,000 aquatic plants and animals on show.
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It may be known for its hair-raising rides, but Busch Gardens is also one of the largest zoos in the country. See over 2,000 animals roam the open plains.
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A round at the Fox Hollow Golf Club in New Port Richey is best followed with a bite to eat at the course restaurant. Be sure to get a table near a window.
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There aren’t many places in the U.S. where an open-air shopping mall could thrive, but Tampa just happens to have perfect weather all the time. Embrace it.
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Inexpensive diversions in beautiful — and budget-friendly — towns.