The City of Tampa is located on the south west side of the Florida peninsula on Tampa Bay, the Bay connecting to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a great port side city to visit, with a mix of history, Spanish and American influences, cruise ships, art, food, museums, roller coasters, sport and beaches all here to enjoy.
Tampa International Airport – is located at 4100 George J. Bean Parkway about 6 miles from downtown Tampa, and at the airport there are Rental Cars, limos, taxis and the Super Shuttle vans ( Tel: 800 282 6817 or 727 572 1111) to take you to your hotel, as well as the HART Local bus (Route 30) that heads from the airport to downtown. More than 17 million passengers transit through the airport each year.
Cruise ships – leave from Terminal 2, 3 or 6 and there are around 4000 parking spaces set up for cruise passengers. You need to show a passport if headed to a foreign port, or photo identification if staying in USA waters, and of course your travel documents need to be with you, and not packed in your luggage.
Streetcars – are located downtown with the TECO Historic Streetcar Trolleys taking you from Downtown past 11 stations and a number of the city attractions including Channelside (Tampa Tribune Station – close to Visitor Information Center and the Cruise Terminals) all the way to Ybor City. HART Route 8 buses also travel the same route. You can pay a one way fare, or get an unlimited 1 day pass. You need exact fares to board. (See www.tecolinestreetcar.org for details).
If you can find a hotel facing either the Port or the Hillsborough River, there are great views.
Right beside the harbor Garrison Channel and alongside the Hillsborough River is the Riverwalk – a nice way to see and get a feel for the City and waterways (See www.tampariverwalk.com ). The Riverwalk takes you past Park areas where different festivals and events are held during the year and also the Monument trail – where there are statue/busts of some of the important people who were part of Tampa’s history, along with stories about their lives. The Riverwalk is quite long, but you can either walk all of it, or just a part of it, with sunsets over the Bay maybe an extra bonus.
There are many things to do and see in Tampa – and these are some of them –
THINGS TO DO AND SEE
Tampa is around 30 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico coastline, with Island Keys just off the coastline too. There are pristine beaches to be found here, as well as resorts. There are many beaches, but the best known small towns along here are Clearwater, Dunedin, St Petersburg and Largo with the island of Caladesi a short 20 minute ferry ride away from Dunedin. See www.caladesiferry.org Tel: 727 734 5263 located at 1 Causeway Boulevard, Dunedin.
There are also lots to see here too –
In Clearwater –
St Petersburg with a population of about 250,000 people has many more interesting places to see – including the Kenwood Historical District – where there are lots of 1920’s bungalow houses located; the Weedon Island Preserve – over 3000 acres of preserve; the St Petersburg Pier – a historic pier that is closed but is due to be re-developed; Passage Key Nature Reserve, historic Fort De Soto Park on Mullet Key, Egmont Key Lighthouse and many other attractions.
As you know the days of the Spanish Galleons has long gone, but the stories of Pirates and swash buckling Buccaneers live on in movies and stories.
In Tampa there is the legend of Gasparilla – a Spanish Pirate who is said to have been born in Seville in Spain around 1756.
Gasparilla’s real name was José Gaspar and he began his life of adventure at the age of 12 when he is said to have kidnapped a girl and held her for ransom, before being captured and brought before a court. The Judge found him guilty and gave him a choice of prison or joining the Spanish Naval Academy. He chose the latter and eventually reached the rank of Admiral, before being made the Navy Attaché to the King’s Court. He was just 27 year’s old when given this high rank.
His womanising and romantic d’alliances with the ladies of the Court however saw bitter rivalries take place, and he was accused of trying to steal the Spanish Crown Jewels. Fearing prison and maybe execution he commandeered a ship, the aptly named ‘Floridablanca’ and set sail for Florida, where he became known as the pirate, Garparilla. His lust for gold and treasure became legendary, and he is said to have plundered some 400 ships, taking their treasures and killing all those on-board, only sparing the women and children, some of the women becoming his concubines.
His end came in 1821, when he made the fatal error of attacking what he thought was a British merchant ship, only to find that it was the American Navy warship ‘USS Enterprise’ in disguise. A fierce battle erupted, and the ‘Floridablanca’ was sunk by cannonballs, and as his ship sank Gasparillo is said to have leapt overboard to the cry of “Gasparilla dies by his own hand, not by the enemy’s!”
Where was his treasure? While it is said that the treasure chests full of gold and other plunder are said to be buried somewhere up the Peace River, near a place called Spanish Homestead, the treasure has never been found, or at least they’re not telling, but Gasparilla’s name lives on.
In January each year, Gasparilla and his Mystic Krewe lay siege to the City of Tampa with his ship the newly named ‘Jose Gasparilla’ sailing into Tampa Bay to the cries of despair from all those who sight it.
Pirates come in all sizes and guises – and a great time is said by all as the feasts and merriment goes on well into the night with parades and parties happening all over the City.
Welcome to Tampa. Sit back and enjoy a cigar, rum and put on your pirate gear!