Guide To Tampa: History and Things To Do

The ulitmate guide to Tampa, Fl_ History and Things to Do

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | By Cooper Samp

This guide is for everyone: whether you are visiting Tampa for substance abuse treatment or have lived here your entire life, you may discover something new here. From its rich history to the endless activities to do, Tampa has something for everyone! Learn how to enjoy Tampa, Florida free from alcohol and substances. 

Tampa is an overall amazing place to live, visit, and receive treatment. The weather here is optimal for many of the various aspects of treatment and early recovery. Tampa also offers various employment and schooling opportunities which can be extremely valuable resources for individuals lacking these things in recovery. 

Whether you already live here in Tampa or are thinking about visiting for substance abuse treatment, this article dives deep into the culture of Tampa, its history, and the endless sober activities to do around the area. 

History of Tampa

In my humble opinion, Tampa, Florida is one of the most underrated cities in America. This area of central Florida offers many of the conveniences of other Florida cities like Miami and Jacksonville but for a better price and with less crowds. Unlike other southwest cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, and Washington D.C., Tampa offers a tropical climate on the ocean opening up countless things to do. 

As of 2018, Tampa had a population of 392,890 and continues to be one of the highest growing cities in the United States. It is located in Hillsborough County and is a part of the  Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area for U.S. census purposes. This metropolitan statistical area makes up over 3.1 million residents making it the fourth largest in the southeast behind Washington D.C., Miami, and Atlanta. 

Tampa originated when the U.S. bought Florida from Spain in 1821. They built Fort Brooke at the end of the Hillsborough River on Tampa Bay in 1824. After the Civil War, Tampa’s economy grew from the discovery of phosphate in the area – an important mineral for fertilization. Tampa later became famous for Spanish/Cuban cigar manufacturing when Vicente Martinez Ybor moved his cigar manufacturing operations to Tampa from Key West. Tampa was perfect for cigar manufacturing because, like Key West, it was close proximity to Cuba, but had the advantage of Plant’s Railroad to distribute the product to mainland U.S. quicker. For this reason, Tampa became the leading export of “clear Havana tobacco” thus becoming the “Cigar Capital of the World.” 

Culture

The culture of Tampa, Florida is relatively diverse. Much of its history stems from Cuban cigar manufacturers as well as military personnel from at one time Fort Brooke which is now Macdill Airforce. For this reason, the demographic, employment opportunities, and food is very diverse; but of course, you can always find an authentic Cuban culture in certain areas like Ybor. 

Primary Areas of Tampa

Historic Ybor

Known for its Cuban influence, Ybor includes a variety of historic landmarks, historic restaurants, coffee shops, and tourist shopping. The brick streets and buildings are highly photogenic.

Historic Hyde Park

More residential than Ybor, Hyde Park is great for taking a walk through beautiful homes, lushing trees, and gorgeous parks. Hyde park resides between Bayshore Boulevard and the South Howard district. 

New Tampa

New Tampa, as the name suggests, is an up-and-coming district of Tampa. Here you’ll find newly constructed apartments, homes, and exciting new cuisine. New Tampa is a popular choice for young professionals as it offers a lot to do without the high price point of downtown Tampa. 

Downtown

The midtown of this beautiful city offers many of the jaw-dropping architecture like the famous Rivergate Tower, and newer Suntrust Financial Centre. Here you will find the Tampa Riverwalk and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. 

West Tampa

West Tampa is home to one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tampa, the International Airport, and the International Plaza. Here you will also find a variety of new developments along the Gulf shore across from St. Petersburg.

Channel District (Channelside)

Home to the famous shipping port of Tampa, if you ever take a Cruise, chances are you will take off from the Channelside Port. Channelside is also home to the Amalie Arena and therefore the Tampa Bay Lightning. The owner of the lighting, Jeffrey N. Vinik, plans to gentrify the area through a variety of high-end apartment complexes, restaurants, and attractions. You will also find the Tampa Aquarium here. 

Temple Terrace

Much like New Tampa, Temple Terrace offers economical living for young professionals while also providing various activities and restaurants. Temple Terrace is near the University of South Florida and Busch Gardens. 

Brandon

This area is located East of downtown Tampa and is home to the fairgrounds and famous Hard Rock Casino and Hotel. While this area is mostly industrial, Brandon offers beautiful golf courses and easy access to the southern beaches of St. Augustine and Sarasota. Brandon is the furthest district from downtown Tampa, but the Selmon Expressway makes traveling to and from a breeze. 

Things to Do In Tampa

Tampa is amazing! It offers incredible weather year-round to explore the many areas, buildings, events, and places that this area has to offer. Because Hillsborough County is sunny and warm almost year-round, most people think of beaches when they think of Tampa but this city has much more to offer. There are years of history ingrained into this beautiful city to explore, various museums, and countless restaurants. Therefore, Tampa is an incredible place for those in early recovery. This is because everything is a sober activity meaning none of these activities require alcohol or drugs to participate.  

Explore Famous Landmarks

Tampa, Florida has years of history to explore – from cigar making origins to the beautiful architecture that is now Ybor and Hyde Park. There are even new landmarks like Bayshore Boulevard that make Tampa such a scenic a peaceful place to reside. Here are just some of the many famous landmarks in the area. 

Tampa Theatre

The Tampa Theatre is a historical U.S. cinema and city feature in the Uptown District of Tampa, Florida. Made as an atmospheric theater-style movie palace by architect John Eberson, it opened up on October 15, 1926.

The theatre features a variety of independent, international, and documentaries every day. It is Tampa’s only non-profit movie palace, and operating costs are supported by its members, benefactors and corporate sponsors, along with ticket and concession sales. It has actually been frequently used as a background for movies, music videos and local programming.

Bayshore Boulevard

Bayshore Boulevard is a waterfront roadway on Hillsborough Bay in South Tampa, Florida. Found to the south of downtown Tampa, its walkway, claimed to be the longest continual walkway in the world at 4.5 miles (7.2 km) long, is 10 feet (3.0 m) wide and is commonly used for exercise and recreation. 

Nonetheless, the longest constant pathway worldwide is in fact the Rambla of Montevideo, which is more than 13.7 miles (22.2 kilometres) long and borders the whole shore of Montevideo, Uruguay, along the Río de la Plata. The 3-mile (4.8 km) bike lane, a linear park, and the Bayshore Greenway Trail offer scenic views of the Tampa skyline and the water. 

The walkway’s comforts consist of benches, a water fountain, bike parking, a city marina, and workout stations. Numerous large and historic houses line the roadway, along with service consisting of the Colonnade (restaurant), a historic seafood restaurant developed in 1935 and enclosed 2016. The yearly Gasparilla Children’s parade is held on this road.

The Tampa Riverwalk

Tampa Riverwalk is a 2.6-mile-long (4.2 km) open space and pedestrian pathway development along the Hillsborough River in Tampa, Florida. The downtown Tampa portion runs along with the Tampa Arts District and allows access to MacDill Park, Curtis Hixon Park, Glazer Children’s Museum, Tampa Museum of Art, Rivergate Tower, and surrounding atrium including the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. The Riverwalk extends along the majority of the downtown Tampa waterfront from the Channelside District west to the Tampa Convention Center and north up the east bank of the Hillsborough River to Water Works Park in Tampa Heights, creating a continuous course linking multiple parks, tourist attractions, public areas, and lodgings. According to the city, the purpose of the Riverwalk is to “improve the image of Tampa as a unique and lovely location” and highlight Tampa’s waterside. 

Fountains at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is an 8 acres (3.2 ha) public park situated along the Hillsborough river in midtown Tampa, Florida that opened in its existing arrangement in 2010. It is adjacent to the Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa Riverwalk, Glazer Children’s Museum, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, and also Rivergate Tower. The park overlooks the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall, which is straight across the river. The park remains in an area known as the Waterfront Arts District.

This area is great for walking, picnics, biking, and site seeing. If you have a family, this can be a great area to spend time with your kids as it has fountains for them to run through, playgrounds to play on and the Glazer Children’s Museum. Check out events held at this park here

Sulphur Springs Water Tower

Sulphur Springs Water Tower is a landmark of Tampa, Florida It stands 214 feet (65 m) high, with a foundation 45 feet (14 m) deep which makes it visible from neighboring Interstate 275 and also a lot of the rest of Sulphur Springs. [1] It’s situated in the historical district of Sulphur Springs.

The water tower was integrated in 1927 by Grover Poole for realtor as well as developer Josiah S. Richardson to supply appropriate water pressure to the Sulphur Springs Hotel and Apartments as well as Mave’s Arcade Richardson had developed next to Sulphur Spring with plans to increase the hotel spa, alligator ranch vacationer destination, and other business. [2] Mave’s Arcade occupied the initial floor of the resort building as well as was the first mall in Florida.


Sporting Events

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL)

The Buccaneers are the most popular sporting team in the area. With a season from August to December, you can enjoy professional football at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fl. Elite players include Jameis Winston from FSU and Mike Evans.

Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)

Do you want to experience one the most exhilarating sports along with one of the best sports teams in the league? The Tampa Bay lighting is one of the best teams in the sport and rarely disappoints. Home of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, you’re sure to see some great action!

Tampa Bay Rays (MLB)

Looking for something a little laid back and relaxing? There’s no better event than to catch some Rays – Tampa Bay Rays that is! The Rays’ Blake Snell, Tommy Pham and Charlie Morton are ranked among Sports Illustrated’s top 100 MLB Players of 2019. 

Rowdies (American Professional Soccer)

In the United States, professional soccer doesn’t have too much of a following compared to hockey, basketball, or football, but if this sport is your favorite Tampa Bay has you covered. The rowdies have been members of the USL Championship League since 2017. They play at the Al Lang Stadium near the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Pete.

Vipers (XFL)

A recent addition to Tampa, the Vipers are a part of the XFL. If you are unfamiliar with the XFL, they are a different form of football compared to the NFL. Players are similar to that of minor league football leagues like arena football. Vipers play at the same stadium as the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

Bulls (USF College Sports)

College sports are different in that they seem to be much more competitive. They are young athletes playing for the love of the game and through pure heart and passion. Thanks to the University of South Florida, this college offers about as many sporting events as you can imagine: football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, baseball, among others. 

Yankees Spring Training (MLB)

One of the advantages of Tampa is its ability to offer beautiful sunshine year round. For this reason, the New York Yankees practice during the springtime across from Raymond James Stadium. If you are a fan of baseball, you can appreciate some of the talent that always seems to be on the Yankees. Catch a practice game against the Redsocks and you’re in for a treat!

Entertainment

Busch Gardens

This entertainment park is your one stop shop for fun. For just over $100, you can obtain a season pass to this amusement park. Busch Gardens includes everything from rollercoasters, a water park, safari rides, shows, and live animals! Looking for a fullfilled day of fun – Busch Gardens is the place to go! 

Music

There are a variety of music venues throughout the Tampa area. The MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Tampa Fairgrounds offer an amphitheater to support large crowds for popular artists like Dave Matthews and Imagine Dragons. This is one of the largest venues in Florida. 

Other music venues in Tampa include the Ritz Ybor, The Orpheum, Brass Mug, The Attic, and Amelie Arena. Check out Eventbrite for upcoming music shows

Comedy shows

An uncommon night out on the town is a comedy show. Interestingly enough, Tampa offers a variety of venues for this type of entertainment. The main venue for comedy shows in Tampa, Florida is Improv Comedy Center in Ybor. Side Splitters is also another very common venue but can be a bit of a drive if you live near downtown Tampa. For those in the Temple Terrace/New Tampa area, the Box Improv Studio can be a great option. Comedy shows are a great way to get out of the house and have a laugh with friends and loved ones. 

Straz Center of Performing Arts

Thanks to the Straz Center of Performing Arts, Tampa is home to most of the popular plays and musicals of broadway. This extensive building overlooking the Hillsborough Bay also This year, check out the Florida Orchestra, Jersey Boys, Wicked, Cats, and Hamilton! 

Sparkman’s Wharf

Sparkman’s Wharf is a newly renovated area is located in the Channelside district. It offers a variety of activities including an outdoor theater, waterfront views, outdoor games, shops, and even a bowling alley with additional indoor sports. 

Golf Courses / Top Golf

Whether you are a natural Tiger Woods or have never played the game ever in your life, there’s something for you to do in Tampa. If you are looking for the best of the best, Tampa TPC is home of the Valspar Championship tournament. Looking to just get out there? Rocky Point Golf course is a great way to hit the links for a reasonable price. 

Of course Top Golf is a great way for beginners, but a superb way to bring large groups together and gather for a fun few hours. Oh, did I mention they have an amazing food selection too?!

Dave And Busters

If you haven’t heard of Dave and Busters before, think of it like an arcade, but for all ages. They offer any type of arcade game you can think of from shooting games to racing games, and even casino games. Of course, trade in your tickets at the end for some pretty cool prizes. 

Indoor Skydiving

Yes, you’ve heard that correctly. No this isn’t a virtual simulation, but rather a chamber than simulates the feeling of falling by blowing extreme amounts of air. So, if you’re afraid of heights but have always wanted to know the feeling of freefalling, indoor skydiving in Brandon, Fl might be your best bet! 

Segway Tours

If you are new to the Tampa Bay area, check out these tours. These tours take you around the historic parts of Tampa like Ybor, the University of Tampa, Harbour Island, Tampa Convention Center and Hyde Park with the ease and luxury of Segways. 

Museums

Glazer Children’s Museum

Developed to influence youngsters and families by producing learning chances around ingenious play and discovery, the 53,000 square foot Glazer Children’s Museum will certainly have a combination of permanent and touring exhibitions, unique occasions and thorough programs.

Florida Museum of Photographic Arts

The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts is dedicated to displaying important photo art as significant to modern life and also society. FMoPA accumulates, protects, and shows contemporary and historic jobs by nationally and globally recognized photographic artists.

Henry B. Plant Museum

With its spectacular Moorish architecture, extravagant home furnishings, as well as exotic landscapes, a trip to the restored spaces of the previous Tampa Bay Hotel, will transport you to Victorian elegance. Docent and audio tours (in English/Spanish) offered. National Historic Landmark. Extraordinary Museum Store.

Tampa Bay History Center

The Tampa Bay History Center – a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum- highlights 3 floors of exhibits examining 12,000 years of Florida history. Hit the high seas with pirates and conquistadors, walk the brick roads of Ybor City with Cuban cigar rollers, or saddle up for a livestock drive with Florida pioneers. The History Center’s hands-on exhibitions and immersive movie theater experiences explore the history and heritage of the Tampa Bay region. The History Center lies along Tampa’s Riverwalk and features waterfront eating at the Columbia Cafe and a museum shop showcasing local crafts and art pieces. Among Tampa’s premier social attractions, the History Center’s cutting-edge, interactive displays supply a fun and instructional experience for visitors of all ages.

Museum of Science & Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry is for both kids and grownups. Experience what it’s like to pedal a bike on a 1-inch cord put on hold 30 feet in the air or lie on a bed-of-nails in the Kids In Charge show! Then, experience aspects of the Florida Drivers’ Test in a driverless vehicle, the Meridian Shuttle. Learn exactly how this innovate modern technology can change your morning commute and experience the extraordinary navigating power of LIDAR. Make certain to also take a look at MOSI’s two latest permanent exhibits: Imagination Playground and Mission: Moonbase. Imagination Playground enables children to craft whatever from robots to cities using cubes, bricks, cogs, cylinders and curves. Imagination Playground permits youngsters to play in such a way that motivates imagination and cooperation, while continuously discovering brand-new instructions and initiatives that encourage the benefits of understanding, social advancement, motion and, above all, fun.

USF Contemporary Art Museum

The University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum (USFCAM) arranges and offers exhibits of modern art from Florida, the United States and worldwide, including Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Changing exhibitions are developed to introduce the community to existing social patterns. USFCAM explores social concerns through research and collaborative jobs with community partners. USFCAM houses the university art collection and handles the award winning Public Art program.

Nature

The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium is among the leading fish tanks in the country! Experience sharks, alligators, penguins and far more! Absorb yourself in interactive programs like Dive with the Sharks, Shark Swim and Swim with the Fishes or take a Wild Dolphin Tour aboard the Bay Spirit II, a 72-foot powered catamaran. Unique Behind the Scenes experiences like Penguins: Backstage Pass are one-of-a-kind and amazing as you come face to beak with our lovable penguins. After discovering all the exhibits within, splash away at the Aquarium’s brand-new water play area, The Splash Pad!

Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park

Plan your next family adventure at ZooTampa and start making unforgettable memories today. From open-air safari rides to roaring water coasters, ZooTampa has more than just animals! In 2009, Lowry Park Zoo was voted the #1 Family Friendly Zoo in the US by Parents Magazine and is recognized by the State of Florida as the center for Florida wildlife conservation and biodiversity. 

McKay Bay Natural Park

Centrally located near downtown Tampa, McKay Bay Nature Park is a 38-acre park at 134 North 34th Street. The park and nature trail access McKay Bay, an avian sanctuary and a location along the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve Trails

Looking for an escape from the city? The Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve (LHWP) contains one of the largest premier contiguous recreation areas in Hillsborough County. Within the LHWP are park sites managed by the Hillsborough County Conservation and Environmental Lands Management Department: Dead River Park, Flatwoods Park, John B. Sargeant Park, Morris Bridge Park, Trout Creek Park and Wilderness Park Off Road Loop Trail System.

Beaches

This might be a bit obvious but how could we leave it off this list?! While the beaches in Tampa might be a little limited, it is centrally located between some of the best beaches in the world: St. Pete Beach and Anna Maria Public Beach. If you have a dog or are looking for something a little closer, Tampa offers a dog beach on Davis Island!

The Crystal Lagoon

Come check out the first man-made lagoon in the United States. The Crystal Lagoon brings the joys of the beach to Wesley Chapel. This crystal clear water is breathtaking to look at, but you can do much more than that: from kayaking to water slides, there’s something for everyone. 

Lift Adventure Park

This is a playground on the water! Lift Adventure Park is a massive inflatable jungle gym located in Hudson, Fl. Learn to wakeboard, conquer the Aqua Park or paddle around the lake. The Lift Adventure Park aspires to provide a unique experience in outdoor recreation.

Food

West Tampa Sandwich Shop (Cuban)

There’s no more authentic than this place. Everyone who works here is Cuban, speaks Cuban, and therefore knows how to make an amazing Cuban sandwich. If you are looking for culture come here and order the Honey Cuban – Obama ordered this so you know it’s good!

Columbia Restaurant (Ethnic)

Once again, if you are looking for culture this is your place. Amazing food with a unique atmosphere. Come to the Columbia restaurant for a dinner and a show! 

Ulele (Lunch/Dinner)

One of the most popular restaurants in Tampa. At Ulele Expect intricately flavored, visually appealing dishes prepared on the 10′ diameter barbacoa grill. On Tampa’s Riverwalk near Armature Works. 

The Oxford Exchange (Photogenic Brunch)

There aren’t many places in Tampa that give you the feel this place does. You’ll be seated under an atrium which fills the room with bright airy natural light and plants, making it perfect for a Sunday morning brunch. Check out the coffee shop, tea shop, and book store while you wait for your table. If you are looking for a classy establishment for brunch this is your place! 

Bern’s Steakhouse (Fine Dining)

Bern’s steakhouse is one of, if not the most notable places in Tampa. In 1996, Wine Spectator rated Bern’s in a tie for the best steak house in the United States. George W. Bush even ate at Bern’s twice during his presidency. While the dinner might set you back a few dollars, the overall experience and food will be some of the best you have ever had. 

Datz (Breakfast)

Datz is famous for their unique breakfast food. They have burgers with donuts for the bun, bacon infused breakfast potatoes, and award winning cold-brew. The worst part about this place is having to pick just one thing to order. Also, check out Dough, the bakery next door! 

Armature Works (Variety)

Armature Works is a fully restored mixed-use building that breathes new life into the historic Tampa Heights neighborhood. With its unobstructed view of the Hillsborough River, the historic structure has been reinvented as a premier community destination with innovative eateries, Heights Public Market, reimagined event spaces and an exclusive coworking space.

Salt Shack on the Bay (Seafood)

Located on the Gulf Coast, Salt Shack is nestled on Rattlesnake Point just off the Gandy Bridge in South Tampa. A rustic-refined beach getaway featuring fresh seafood and seasonal cuisine. Visitors are welcome near and far, by boat or by car, to one of Tampa’s last outposts, a hidden gem, if you may.


Tampa, Florida is a beautiful place unlike anywhere full of rich history. There’s a reason Tampa seems to be one of the fastest-growing cities in America.

The advantages of Tampa for addiction recovery extend far beyond the availability of treatment. This city offers a variety of sober fun activities, but also an abundance of resources needed in early recovery: group meetings, employment, sunshine, and endless things to do alleviating boredom.

So, whether you are visiting Tampa or have lived here your entire life, hopefully, this article has shed light on something new you can explore this weekend!

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