Like Night & Day
Two unique cities share West Central Florida's Tampa Bay. One is a city that hoped by now to be the next Atlanta or Charlotte. The other -- nearly as old, nearly as populous -- just hoped for some urban renewal. Neither wish came true.Nonetheless, Tampa and St. Petersburg are still great places to live, beautiful places to visit.
Top, The Tampa skyline reflects its many business and banking interests. Above, The St. Petersburg waterfront, replete with shops, restaurants, mini golf, fish bait, and pelicans.
Lanny Provo photos
Otherwise, the cities suffer from sibling rivalry, taking pleasure in the other's civic failures or run-of-the-mill scandals. How intense is the emotion? When the St. Petersburg City Council announced more than a decade ago that it would build a domed stadium, to entice a major league baseball franchise, and that the stadium would be downtown, perhaps 20 miles from Tampa, the Tampa paper called for a federal investigation of the power-brokers involved.
Meanwhile, the hockey team now plays in its glorious new
Interestingly, one of Tampa's oldest neighborhoods is now the hottest. Ybor (pronounced EE-bore) City is dominated by gentrified cigar factories and old brick storefronts. Nightly, crowds roam among the 60-plus bars (from brew pub to martini specialties), music spots (techno to country) and restaurants (Spanish to, well there's lots of great Spanish food). Click here for a sampling of dining and entertainment in Tampa, St. Pete and in Ybor (be cool and drop the "city'') and elsewhere in Tampa:
Tampa has the lively nightlife, but to bring back that tan, you have to headabout 25 miles west, to the Gulf of Mexico beaches. Three large bridges cross Tampa Bay between St. Petersburg/Clearwater and Tampa. Awaiting you are three of the best beaches in the United States, according to an annual rating by a University of Maryland professor. Click here for a sampling of our best beaches.
A touch of culture
The Tampa Bay area boasts fine museums, with a spectacular exhibit at one of them now: More than 300
Other notable museums include the acclaimed Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg (the world' s largest collection of the surrealist master), and Tampa's Museum of African American Art.
For children, the fabulous Museum of Science and Industry north of Tampa beckonswith dozens of hands-on experiements, a "hurricane-wind' room and the state's only domed Omnimax theater. St. Peters burg has the much
It is located just across the street from the Dali, less than a mile from the Florida International Museum, the small but impressive Museum of Fine Arts, and the clever, waterfront Museum of History.
While waterfront is a plus in both cities, St. Petersburg can boast seven miles of publicly held parks and open space along Tampa Bay. You can swim in an Olympic-sized pool or at a small beach,
Tampa Bay's No. 1 tourist attraction is Busch Gardens, which almost yearly adds a thrill-ride that literally takes your breath away. The park also shows hundreds upon hundreds of wild animals, with a few -- including hippos, hyenas and lions -- up close and personal behind thick glass. The park admission is hovering near $38 for an adult, but there are scads of discount coupons floating around.
And if you still think you need something else, travel the 70 miles or so east of Tampa to see Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios. Each is a great place to spend the day and a paycheck.
Robert N. Jenkins is travel editor of the St. Peters burg Times, moving to St. Petersburg more than 28 years ago.