Tampa Bay is a fantastic place to live. The weather, the culture, the economy, the beaches, there is just so much to love about this area. We are home to MacDill Air Force base, the Superbowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, but there is so much more to Tampa. If you are thinking of moving here, whether it's for warmer weather, a new job, or retiring to a condo on the beach, take a look at this Relocation Guide I have developed. I think you'll agree there are many, many great reasons to move to Tampa!
Tampa Bay home prices compare very favorably with other desirable Sun Belt and Metro areas, like Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, and Denver, and when compared to places like New York or Los Angeles, well, there is no comparison. Factor in great weather, a lower cost of living, no state income taxes, a family friendly environment, and the most amazing white sandy beaches, making moving to Tampa Bay an easy decision. Business Insider recently ranked Tampa as the number 2 best city for first-time home buyers, and Zillow named Tampa Bay as #1 hottest real estate market of 2022. Whether you're buying your first home for your budding family, downsizing to a condo to enjoy retirement, or an investor looking for a vacation home, Tampa Bay real estate is still very affordable, with a fantastic return that offers a great quality of life, making the decision easy. As this chart shows, home prices continue to rise, so the sooner you act, the sooner you can start building your equity in the #1 real estate market in America.
Investors are also cashing in on the hot rental market here in Tampa Bay. Buying residential property as an investment has continued to deliver a huge return, due to record high rental rates and a very high demand over the past few years. Commercial property, especially office space, has seen a steep decline in leasing as companies have migrated to a remote workforce over the last 2 years, but should recover as the pandemic fades. All in all, Tampa Bay is a very strong real estate market and is positioned to be #1 in 2022. Make sure you are a part of it!
This is music to the ears of folks from San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Chicago. Tampa has a low cost of living, and Florida is a very low-tax state. With no state income tax and modest sales taxes that vary by county, Florida is a very desirable destination. In fact, this a key reason why many people moving to Tampa Bay decide to relocate here in the first place. Property taxes vary by county, with rural Panhandle counties being the lowest, and the highest in South Florida, particularly Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. Hillsborough County is somewhere in the middle of that range at an average 1.09%* of your home value. However, that can be offset in many cases by your Homestead Exemption. Florida’s constitution provides for an exemption of $50,000 in the just value of your property. Also, veterans and their surviving spouses, widows, seniors, first responders, the disabled, and some other groups all receive additional exemptions. I would be happy to discuss this in detail if you need more info.
To be fair, Tampa is a little thin on beaches, but neighboring Pinellas County boasts some of the finest beaches in the Western Hemisphere. Picnic Island Park is a beautiful spot to take the family, and Ben T. Davis Park along the Courtney Campbell is popular, but these beaches face Tampa Bay. To get to the beaches that made Tampa world famous, you need to scoot across Tampa Bay to the beaches that face the Gulf of Mexico. Clearwater Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, and the other beaches on the barrier islands provide miles and miles of our famous powdery sugar sand, warm Gulf waters, and breathtaking sunsets, perfect for a family trip or a relaxing day all alone.
For many, the local weather is one of the primary reasons for moving to Tampa. We have a lot of northern folks with second homes or condos ("the snowbirds") that flock here every winter to avoid the bitter cold of northern winters. Geography and our proximity to the Gulf of Mexico keeps our temperatures from getting too hot; the record high in Tampa is 99 degrees, and we only get freezing temperatures a couple times per year, but that's almost always more inland, away from the warm Gulf waters.
Technically, it CAN snow here, but it's about a once-per-decade event, spotty and thin, and it tends to occur more inland and away from the water. Winter is a dry season here and it rarely gets cold enough to freeze, so... no snow. No rain and no freezing temperatures means it won't happen. However, there was a freak snowstorm in 1977, producing drifts of up to .2 to .3 inches of snow across the city. I'm certain folks in Duluth and Buffalo were rolling their eyes, but Floridians were caught off guard, and it all but shut down the town!
Some folks like the quiet of the country, but others crave the pulse of the city. Tampa is a vibrant, dynamic city with a population of 400,000, with the surrounding metropolitan area having a population of a little over 3 million people. In a city this size, there's not much we don't have. The Tampa Convention Center is a beautiful 600,000 square foot facility with views of the Hillsborough River, and attracts all sorts of events to downtown. Tampa International Airport is a world-class airport with the latest amenities and a convenient location. The city is littered with parks, art museums, theaters and concert venues, restaurants and bars, and an energetic nightlife. We really do have pretty much everything here in Tampa.
Of course, a city like that is going to have some traffic, and our roadways can get congested at morning and evening rush hours. But that's the story of most major cities, the price you pay to live in a city as dynamic as Tampa. But it's a small price to pay to get access to all the Tampa Bay area has to offer.
Tampa takes great pride in our airport. In 2017, Airports Council International named it the best airport for airports serving 15 to 25 million passengers, as well as a second-best ranking for airports serving more than two million passengers in all of North America. In 2020, Tampa International Airport was named the best airport of its size in North America, beating out almost 500 other airports!
It may seem odd to mention the airport in this guide, but I have been through no less than 15 or 20 airports in my travels, and NONE of those compare to Tampa International Airport. Easy access, convenient parking, logical layout that is easy to navigate, no long walks, efficient personnel, great shops and restaurants, it's what every airport should be. This is a key consideration if you are a business traveller or frequent flyer. Have you ever been to Newark's airport? If your work calls for frequent air travel, you'll be glad you are flying into or out of TIA.
Unless mountain climbing or snow plowing is your line of work, Tampa is a great city in which to do business. 120 years ago, Tampa's three primary industries were the manufacture of hand-rolled cigars, the fabrication of the wooden boxes they were packaged in, and the lithography and printing of the labels that went on those boxes. More than a hundred companies cranked out more than 100 million hand-rolled examples of Tampa's best-known product. In Ybor City, the old Cuban quarter and the heart of the cigar industry, they still produce hand-rolled cigars on the sidewalk, the same as they did a century ago (sorry, not Cuban tobacco like back in the old days).
A lot has changed since then. Tampa still rolls those stogies, but has also become a hub for finance, industrial, aerospace, and IT businesses. Tourism, hospitality, and service industries thrive here, as well as health care, agriculture, electronics, and international trade. Port Tampa Bay is the largest port in Florida, serving cargo ships, tankers, and cruise ships, and Tampa is designated as a foreign trade zone where goods can be unloaded for storage, repacking, or transshipment without import duties. Port Tampa Bay contributes billions annually to the region's economy. Bottom line, Tampa is a great place to do business. You should be here.
Tampa is a sports town. Three-time Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lighting skate at Amalie Arena in the Channelside district. The two-time Superbowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off at Raymond James Stadium, perhaps 20 minutes away. The legendary New York Yankees have been doing their Spring Training for 25 years at Steinbrenner Field, right across the street from Ray Jay. Take a quick drive across the bay, and the two-time American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays play in downtown St. Petersburg at Tropicana Field, and the venerable Tampa Bay Rowdies also play downtown at Al Lang stadium, right on the waterfront. If you like college ball, the University of South Florida Bulls always draw a crowd. The Valspar Championship is an elite PGA tournament, played every spring at the Innisbrook Golf Club in neighboring Palm Harbor. We even have thoroughbred horse racing at Tampa Bay Downs, for nearly 100 years. It just goes on and on! If you love sports, you will love Tampa.
Golfers love Tampa. Our warm weather allows golfers to play year-round on Tampa's 10-plus courses, and more than a hundred in the greater metro area. PGA pros love the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook in neighboring Palm Harbor, and TPC Tampa Bay used to host the Champions Tour in nearby Lutz. Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel boasts two Arnold Palmer designs, and is perennially ranked as one of the best in the nation. Wesley Chapel is also home to Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club, with two courses that are surprisingly hilly for Florida, and these changes in elevation make for challenging play. You could spend a lifetime mastering the courses here in Tampa. Plus, there is Topgolf Tampa, featuring over 100 climate controlled hitting bays, restaurants and bars, and 200+ hi-def TV's. Tampa is a golfer's haven.
You can't talk about Tampa without talking about boating. Tampa has numerous marinas and boat dealers, and there are several boat clubs that allow you to enjoy the water without a gigantic investment. From kayaks and e-boats for rent to motorboats to sailing sloops, Tampa can accommodate all your marine desires. Numerous homes in Tampa have docks and boat slips providing easy access to Tampa Bay and the Gulf. Scoot across the bay to the Gulf of Mexico, and you'll find charter fishing, dinner cruises, nature cruises, dolphin watching cruises, and more. The "salt life" runs deep in the veins of Tampa Bay.
Every year in late January/early February, Tampa is invaded by pirates. For more than 100 years, the annual Gasparilla Festival has been a Tampa tradition... think Mardi Gras, but with cutlasses and eye patches, and going 5 or 6 weeks long. The pirates first arrive in Tampa to kidnap the Mayor and demand his/her surrender and the key to the city. The Mayor is defiant and denies their demands, so the following Saturday, they sail into Tampa Bay aboard their pirate schooner the Jose Gasparilla, cannons blasting away, along with a massive flotilla of private boats to invade the city. The Mayor surrenders the city and the pirates have a celebratory parade along Bayshore Boulevard, and then more festivities along Tampa's famed Riverwalk.
All of this, over a guy that probably never existed, and was likely invented as a premise to have a parade and a party. Local legend says José Gaspar was a Spanish turncoat and pirate that terrorized Florida's west coast in the late 1700's. He purportedly captured numerous female hostages to ravish, and left a vast treasure buried somewhere on the Florida coast. No evidence has been found to prove this person ever lived, let alone plundered ships and maidens around Florida, but since 1904, his name has been an excuse for a wild party. But over the years, this boozy and somewhat bawdy event has evolved into several weeks of ancillary events, including a family-friendly and alcohol-free Gasparilla Children's Parade, The Sant'Yago Illuminated Knight Parade in Ybor City, the Gasparilla Distance Classic foot races, a film festival, an art festival, a music festival, numerous parties, galas, and charitable fundraisers, golf tournaments, and even more events. Gasparilla isn't an event, it's a weeks-long season in Tampa.
The final event is the Outward Voyage Home, where the pirates, after weeks of plundering Tampa, return the key to the city to the Mayor, and set sail out to Tampa Bay the first or second weekend in March, which, of course, kicks off yet another party.
That's how we roll in Tampa... try to keep up...
If you aren't exhausted after Gasparilla, Tampa has many other annual events for you to enjoy. There is literally something happening every weekend here, so many events that I have yet to find a site with a comprehensive list and calendar of events. But here's a few of the biggies that Tampa Bay residents get to enjoy every year.
With the cool temperatures of February comes the Florida State Fair, the first state fair of the year. It's positively huge, runs 12 days and features agricultural exhibits with more than 5,000 animals, cultural exhibits, challenging games, crazy rides for thrill seekers, daily concerts from local bands and national acts, and of course, all that crazy fried fair food! Step back in time at the Cracker Country exhibit, that shows what life was like in Tampa in the late 1800's. Grab the kids, get some funnel cake, fried Oreo's, and deep-fried chocolate-covered bacon, and spend the day!
Right after the Florida State Fair comes the Florida Strawberry Festival in neighboring Plant City. The beaches get all the headlines, but Hillsborough County is one of the agricultural centers of the country. Our climate is perfect for citrus, tomatoes, cucumbers, and especially strawberries, and we produce more than 10,000 acres of luscious, juicy strawberries every year. The festival runs for 11 days in March, drawing half a million visitors for rides, daily concerts, kid's livestock shows, exhibits, and of course, old-fashioned strawberry shortcake!
What began as a backyard cookout to raise some money for an ill friend has blossomed into a huge annual event in downtown Tampa, featuring amazing food, a BBQ competition, great bands, and games for the kids. This family-friendly event is a fundraiser for NephCure Kidney International, working to find a cure for FSGS and Nephrotic Syndrome, a serious and somewhat exotic kidney disease. Thousands attend every year at Curtis Hixon Park in October for rock, rub, and ribs on the river.
Tampa's Cuban and Latin roots run deep, back to the founding of the city. You can celebrate this rich heritage at the Conga Caliente festival every November at Al Lopez Park, just north of Raymond James Stadium. Park your car at Ray Jay, catch a shuttle to the park, and enjoy a day of Latin music, authentic ethnic food, an art show, educational exhibits, and more. Admission is free, it's very family-friendly, so bring the kids, dance, eat, enjoy a cold drink, even sit down for a hand-rolled cigar and play some dominos.
One thing Tampa has in abundance is entertainment and nightlife. From martini bars to microbrewers, comedy clubs to sports bars, hookah lounges to wine bars, dance clubs to Irish pubs, Tampa has it all. Downtown Tampa and the Riverwalk has plenty of places to go for a cocktail and a stroll by the river. The historic South Howard Avenue district (Soho, as the locals call it) is loaded with restaurants and bars for you to explore, and is jam-packed every weekend. And be sure to check out Ybor City, the historic Cuban quarter of old Tampa, where old brick cigar factories have been transformed into restaurants, bars, and musical venues. In Tampa, there's something to do every single night of the week.
If you love great food, Tampa is for you. Our rich diversity of cultures has produced restaurants that span the gamut of flavors and styles. Asian, Middle Eastern, Russian, Caribbean, African, Italian, German, British, Mediterranean, and good old American BBQ. I'm trying to think of something Tampa doesn't have, and drawing a blank; I used to drive by an Ethiopian place every day. And if you love seafood, Tampa Bay is littered with places for delectable, locally-caught fresh seafood.
Tampa has restaurants that aren't just excellent, they are historic. The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City is the oldest restaurant in Florida, founded in 1905, and you won't find more authentic Cuban cuisine if you drove to Miami. Bern's Steak House in the Soho district is known world-wide and Rachael Ray rated it the best restaurant in America, and celebrities, professional athletes, and even Presidents have dined there. They boast a wine room with over 600,000 bottles of fine wines, and a gourmet dessert room. From cheeseburgers to Châteaubriand, Tampa has it all.
Tampa has an astonishing array of museums to enjoy, dozens in Tampa itself, and hundreds within a two hour drive. From obscure, niche places like the Tampa Firefighters museum or the American Victory Ship and Museum, to the sprawling Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa has spectacular museums that are awe-inspiring, fun, and educational. Here's a few of the biggest and most well known:
One of the jewels of Tampa's downtown, the Tampa Museum of Art was founded in 1920. The new 66,000 square foot facility was dedicated in 2010, housing one of the largest collections of Roman and Greek antiquities in America. And it is surprisingly affordable; tickets are only $10.00, kids and seniors are a mere five dollars. It also has the distinction of being the only museum in the nation you can visit by boat!
The Museum of Science and Industry is a playground for young scientists with dozens of hands-on exhibits and activities. Do some stargazing at the Saunders Planetarium, then learn about paleontology and dinosaurs at the Dinovations Lab. Tour the International Space Station in the Virtual Reality Simulator, and experience life on a lunar colony in Mission: Moonbase. There are dozens more things to see and do for young explorers at MOSI.
Also on the Riverwalk, the Glazer Children's Museum allows youngsters to explore different aspects of the world and day-to-day life at more than 170 exhibits. They can learn about food production at the Farm, put on a show at the Twinkle Stars Theater, learn about money at Central Bank, or be a doctor in St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. It's an interactive environment that allows kids to learn while having fun.
In 1884, railroad and steamship magnate Henry Plant built a rail line into Tampa, jump-starting the Tampa economy by making goods and materials easy to ship both in and out of the area. He built the The Tampa Bay Hotel, with 511 rooms, and luxury never seen before in the area. It was a luxury resort that drew the wealthy to vacation here, and its Moorish-inspired minarets are a Tampa landmark to this day. The hotel closed in 1930, as the depression had brought tourism to a halt. In 1933, the museum was established to showcase the opulent furnishings, art, and collectables Plant acquired for the hotel, and the remainder of the building and grounds became the University of Tampa. This is a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era, the "gilded age" of early Tampa tourism and the founding of the city.
Another gem on the Riverwalk, the Tampa Bay History Center is just what the name implies, beginning with the first known people that inhabited the Tampa Bay area some 10,000 years ago, to the Tocobaga Indians that fished the plentiful waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf, to the first Spanish explorers of the 1500's, to the present day. It is also home to the Touchton Map Library, housing literally thousands of maps and sailing charts spanning 500 years. You can also get a bite of classic Cuban cuisine, as the aforementioned Columbia Restaurant has a satellite location at the Museum.
One cool thing about living in Tampa is you can live like a tourist any day of the week, and enjoy the attractions that the tourists pay big bucks in airfare and hotel bills to visit. You can head across the bay to relax on the very same beaches that are on the tourist's postcards, or stay in town and check out some of Florida's greatest theme parks.
I might be biased, but I think Busch Gardens is the best. This sprawling 335 acre complex is home to more than 200 species of animals, from elephants, hippos, and giraffes to monkeys and apes to exotic birds to antelope, impala, and ostriches, running free in their 65 acre habitat. You can ride trains, trams, or sky cars to different areas of the park, and cool off on two different water rides. Throw in a few of the world's best heart-pounding rollercoasters, and you have an amazing day with the family, any day you like.
Right next door to Busch Gardens is Adventure Island, another great family attraction. There are several fun water rides and slides, and 5 different pool areas where kids of all ages can splash, swim, and cool off on a hot summer day. There's a special kids area with a shallow pool and water playground, and Mom can relax in a private cabana.
The Florida Aquarium is a world-class facility, located in the downtown Channelside District. Its' 8 different exhibits house more than 9,000 animals, both marine and terrestrial. Everything from stingrays to seahorses, octopuses to otters, and tortoises to tiger sharks can be seen here. Education is a big part of their mission, arranging affordable field trips for local schools, their "SEA-SPAN" video blog which defies categorization, summer camps, and school-year AquaCamps for kids 5-11 that coincide with school vacations, helping working parents with day care, along with a side order of science and marine education. They also have daily wild dolphin spotting cruises, a VIP penguin encounter, and Splashpad, a kid's waterpark/play area. The Florida Aquarium is an amazing attraction, affordably priced, and something you'll want to visit over and over again.
If those aren't enough, you can jump on Interstate 4 and visit Legoland in neighboring Winter Haven and let the kids run wild with dozens of rides and fun activities- guaranteed to make them sleep on the way home! And of course, Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios theme parks are just up I-4 in Orlando. Besides those, Tampa's convenient location means you can jump across Tampa Bay and enjoy all the attractions of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, just a 10 or 15 minute drive across 3 different bridges.
ZooTampa is awesome enough to get its own place on this list. When I was a kid, it was called the Lowry Park Zoo, but it became ZooTampa in 2018 after being renovated and expanded. Technically, you could say Tampa has THREE zoo's, if you count all the animals at Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium, but ZooTampa is special. You can get extremely close to the animals, and even feed some of them by hand. It is broken up into sections for different parts of the world, featuring a section devoted to Florida wildlife like black bears, rattlesnakes, and manatees. There's also an African section, an Asian section, a huge aviary, and a special primate section with chimps, orangutans, and a variety of other monkey species. In all, there are more than 1,000 animals. ZooTampa is a world leader in animal conservation projects, and even boasts a year-round, licensed child care program for toddlers! It is an amazing facility, one all Tampa residents take pride in.
Tampa has several theater companies and stages for local theater, the most notable being the Straz Center on the Tampa Riverwalk. This massive 335,000 square foot complex houses 5 theaters, 3 restaurants, a rehearsal hall, and a conservatory for education, workshops, and performances. The Carol Morsani Hall puts on major Broadway productions like Hamilton and Cats, performances by Opera Tampa, orchestral performances, and concerts. The beautiful and historic Tampa Theater in Ybor City screens classic, foreign, and independent films and produces stage shows and musical concerts. Several other clubs in Ybor City hold weekly concerts by lesser known bands, venues like The Ritz, The Orpheum, and Crowbar. And being a major city, Tampa attracts big-name acts like Elton John, Lady Gaga, and the Rolling Stones, playing venues like the Yuengling Center, the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater, Amalie Arena, and Raymond James Stadium. If you like concerts and live performances, Tampa is the place to be.
While not in the actual city limits, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is just a short drive up I-4. This is another massive tourist draw that locals can enjoy anytime they like. The 190,000 square feet casino (the 4th largest in America) has over 100 gaming tables and more than 5,000 Vegas-style slot machines. it also features 8 different bars, 12 separate restaurants, plus a food court, shopping, and of course, all the rock 'n roll memorabilia the franchise is known for. Plus, you can add the Hard Rock to the previous list of concert venues, because they attract some top-flight performers and comedians throughout the year.
So you’ve made up your mind and you are definitely moving to Tampa- now what? That’s easy. My name is Debbie, and I’m very easy to talk to. Pick up the phone and call me. Let me find the perfect home for you, whether it is a starter home, a larger home in an area with great schools and parks for your growing family, or the perfect little beach condo that frees you from yard work and allows you to retire in comfort and soak up some sun. No matter what your situation, I am ready to help you find the perfect home, the home that you love. Buy your home the Wright Way, and call me today!
And remember, Tampa Bay's geography and bridges make lots of great attractions in neighboring cities just minutes away, so be sure to check out my other guides!