Are you thinking about moving to the Tampa area? Whether it’s the warm and sunny weather or the availability of jobs and affordability, the city has never been more attractive to newcomers. Situated on Tampa Bay near the Gulf of Mexico, the city is one of the largest metro areas in the southeast. Here are some facts that you should know before moving here:
1. Tampa’s great outdoors has something for everyone
Is it the outdoors and leisure opportunities that make Tampa so appealing? There are many ways in which Tampa caters to those looking to spend time outdoors, whether it’s in an urban context or not. Take, for instance, Tampa’s Riverwalk, a 3.7 miles recently revamped trail along Tampa’s waterfront. You can come here for walking, bicycling, jogging and walking your pets.
For all those water enthusiasts out there, Tampa might be the place for you. From swimming and boating to jet skiing, fishing, kayaking and scuba diving, you may easily indulge in this kind of fun as there is something for every outdoor enthusiast here.
Tampa’s beaches never disappoint
Living in Tampa means you’re granted the privilege of living close to some nice beaches. Within an hour or so, you’re ready for sandy shores and some fun in the sun. What makes them even more desirable, you can visit the coast at almost any time of the year.
“Before moving here, I would have liked to know how many amazing beaches are in close proximity,” says Tampa resident Jon Tavarez, owner of Prohousekeepers, who moved to Tampa 14 years ago. “We have America’s #1 rated beach within an hour drive, which is Siesta Key, as well as many other highly rated beaches such as Clearwater Beach, St. Pete Beach and Anna Maria Island.”
Here are some of the best beaches in the area:
The most famous of them, Clearwater Beach, has garnered not only the attention of the locals but has also been in the national spotlight. According to Vince Perri, owner of Commercial Claims Advocate in Tampa, “if you live in Tampa, you are less than 30 minutes away from beautiful cities like Clearwater, St. Petersburgh, and Dunedin. Clearwater’s beach has been rated in the Top 10 beaches in the world with its calm blue waters and a very lively pier that stretches out over the water.” In fact, Clearwater Beach was named #1 in the entire US by TripAdvisor in 2018 and 2016.
This Tampa destination spans 1,136 acres across five islands that are connected. With 328 bird species, this beach reminds us of nature’s astounding diversity.
Tampa’s proximity to the beaches and parks makes it a perfect city for families. “Of course, we have great beaches, but there are more outdoor activities to do while in Tampa (and while dealing with COVID). I have two little girls, and there is no shortage of activities to do with them,” says Jose Rincon, an international business consultant with Just South Consulting in Tampa Bay.
Discover Tampa off the beaten path
There are also some less-known attractions worth exploring in Tampa. “When it comes to places that are a must-visit in Tampa, I suggest taking a trip to the following locations: … Sparkman Wharf and Siesta Key Beach,” says Jon Tavarez. Sparkman Wharf is a waterfront area where visitors and locals can dine in a location with spectacular views. On the other hand, Siesta Key Beach is a Sarasota location that isn’t far from Tampa. Snorkeling, jogging and picnicking are just some of the activities you can enjoy when you go there.
There’s even more to Tampa’s bag of surprises. “Spots that are lesser known by visitors are Shell Key Preserve, Weeki Wachee State Park, Oxford Exchange,” according to Destiny Snyder, owner of Appetite for Adventure. Some of these places are outside Tampa, but you might have an unforgettable experience if you’re a kayaker. “Weeki Wachee State Park less than an hour from Tampa, and one of the most magnificent places. Kayak or paddleboard down the crystal clear spring waters of the Weeki Wachee River. Nine times out of ten you’re going to encounter some adorable manatees!” says Destiny.
Don’t forget to get the right kind of equipment before you set off on your adventure. “I recommend exploring Shell Key Preserve by kayak, and not just any kayak. Get Up and Go Kayaking has clear kayaks for you to use or do a tour with! And they even offer nighttime tours featuring LED underwater lights!” according to Destiny.
You are very likely to find a spot or a venue for your favorite activity in Tampa. Destiny tells us that, “there is honestly an endless amount of things to do in the Tampa Bay area no matter what interest piques your fancy! That’s one of the best things I’ve discovered living in this area. You will never be bored!!”
2. Health care, tech and financial jobs abound
Tampa is rich in job opportunities that include shipping, healthcare, finance, supply chain, and technology. Some of the top employers include BayCare Health System, Tampa General Hospital and Wellcare — under healthcare. Those interested in financial roles could seek employment with JP Morgan Chase, Raymond James, Citi and Amscot Financial, among others. Opportunities in technology include employers such as ConnectWise, TechData, Validity, AgileThought and Accusoft. Military members can also find employment at the MacDill Air Force Base.
A series of Fortune 1,000 companies are headquartered in Tampa. The list includes OSI Restaurant Partners, Publix Super Markets, Raymond James Financial and TECO Energy. Tampa is also home to the nation’s seventh-largest port, which handles about half of Florida’s maritime trade.
3. Where to live? There’s a community for every taste and budget
When it comes to its neighborhoods, Tampa has a lot to offer. From historic to modern areas, there is a place for everyone here. As many Tampa residents might tell you – it is better to live closer to work as traffic won’t be on your side. Here are some of Tampa’s best neighborhoods that feature a refreshing mix of history and modern amenities.
Downtown Tampa has been shifting from a business district to a more residential area in recent times. Its stunning skyline features quite a few tall buildings, including upscale apartment buildings equipped with luxury amenities. The average rent for an apartment in Downtown Tampa is about $2,074 per month, as RENTCafé data shows.
This neighborhood is easily identified by a water tower built in 1927 and is only five miles away from downtown. The neighborhood is expecting new homes to be added. You can easily find your happy place if you’re looking for more affordable housing options with a historic flavor. Apartments would cost you on $1,030 per month on average.
An attractive area for young professionals, this up-and-coming area of Tampa is close to downtown. Seminole Heights might boast plenty of trendy restaurants and California-style houses, but it offers more: There is even a festival – called the Heights Unites Music & Arts Festival, organized by the neighborhood association. You can find a two-bedroom apartment with pool and gym access starting at $1,175 a month.
Tampa’s first western suburb, Hyde Park, is a family-friendly neighborhood. It features many Queen Anne and Colonial-style homes, most of them built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. As it’s a more high-end neighborhood, renting an apartment would cost, on average, about $1,939 per month. One of Tampa’s top shopping attractions — Hyde Park Village — is located here. Additionally, the University of Tampa is about half a mile away from here.
With its Cuban cigar factories and the pre-Prohibition Latin nightclubs, Ybor City is frequently referred to as Tampa’s Latin Quarter. Part of its appeal comes from the neighborhood’s multicultural historic roots, which locals pride themselves on. As Jon Navarez tells us, “there’s a big Spanish/Cuban influence in the city’s traditional food and architecture. Ybor City used to be a cigar factory town where immigrants of majority Cuban and Italian backgrounds worked to produce a majority of American-made cigars. We also invented the original Cuban sandwich.”
Nowadays, the area is just as vibrant as converted restaurants and clubs have now become host to live music and Cuban and fusion cuisine. You can find here both classic architecture and modern buildings, whether it’s a townhouse, loft or condo. A typical apartment rents for about $1,996 a month. In Ybor City, you would also be close to all the action, whether it’s downtown, the beach or sports stadiums.
Going back to 1920s, Beach Park is yet another historic neighborhood filled with oak trees and winding streets. Mediterranean homes with archways and terra-cotta roofs greet you every step of the way. Besides its own charm, Beach Park is a stone’s throw away from downtown, the interstate and the West Shore Business District. Apartments in the area go for an average of $1,331 per month in rent.
Just east of downtown, Channelside District has attracted many local businesses and entertainment venues. With its central Tampa location, there are many restaurants and shops here. There is no shortage of high-rise condos and lofts. Rent runs around $1,996 per month.
4. Cost of living in Tampa
Living in Tampa comes with many perks, from the gorgeous sunny weather to the no state income tax. Tampa’s combined sales tax is currently 8.5%, as each county gets to decide its own sales tax based on Florida’s low 6% state tax. Therefore, lower taxes but also quality homes make the city attractive to those looking to retire.
Let’s take a look at the most common expenses in Tampa, focusing on housing information, rent prices, and other expenses. Generally, the cost of living in the Tampa metro area is slightly higher — by 1.9% year-over-year — than the national average for September 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Average house value with a mortgage in Tampa — $235,200 (lower than the national average of 240,500)
- Monthly average rent in Tampa — $1,356 (lower than the national average of $1,463)
- Monthly utilities – $160
- Gasoline (1 gallon) – $2.37
- A dozen eggs – $2.54
- Milk (1 gallon) – $3.68
- A three-course restaurant meal for two – $55
Data sources: Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (Bureau of Labor Statistics), Point2Homes, Rentcafe, Numbeo and Yardi Matrix
With temperatures reaching the 90s or going even higher in the summer, you might see your electric bill increase, as the air conditioning is running full blast.
5. Expect long commute times as traffic can be heavy
Tampa is strategically located in proximity to other significant Florida destinations, as Tampanians themselves acknowledge it: “When I moved here, I didn’t know much about Tampa, all I knew is that Miami was not the place for me. Now, I consider myself an ambassador and share my love for Tampa when possible. Its location (40 minutes to beaches, 1 hour to Orlando, 4 hours to Miami, 4 hours to Tallahassee), the port, the airport, the universities, and the new wave of entrepreneurship, Tampa has a lot to offer,” Jose Rincon tells us.
If you are planning on driving, make sure you look into the commute time from the community of your choice. Traffic, however, is commonly cited as one of the area’s drawbacks. Commuting in Tampa takes 48 minutes on average during rush hour, as reported by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. Depending on whether you’ve lived your entire life here or whether you moved to Tampa, your perception of the actual commute time might differ — it just depends on your previous experience. When traveling to downtown Tampa, you can use three of the major Interstate systems: I-3, I-75 and I-275. If you’re looking to cut down on your commute time, you would benefit from a Sunpass. Sure, that means paying for tolls, but you can access Florida roads that avoid traffic and reduce commute time.
For Vince Perri, it took some time adjusting to the new “long distances” reality as driving was part of his daily routine. “Since my work as a public insurance adjuster requires a lot of driving, I would have liked to know about the long distances I have to travel on a daily basis”, says Vince.
Even for those coming from other big cities, commute times might be longer, as Perri tells us. “Since I came from an even bigger city, Miami, I was used to everything being 10-15 minutes away. In Tampa, most of the homes and businesses that I visit end up being roughly 30 minutes away. That being said, I believe that the drivers and the traffic is much more tolerable. Big city traffic like Miami can become very frustrating and add to the stress of one’s daily life.”
When it comes to public transportation, you can get around town using the TECO Streetcar, connecting Ybor City and Channelside Bay Plaza, and over 200 buses that cover the Tampa Bay area. Additionally, you can take an Amtrak train to get to Union State and other parts of the state.
Tampa may not excel in terms of walkability, but some neighborhoods are more pedestrian-friendly than others. In fact, Tampa is known to have the world’s longest continuous sidewalk, Bayshore Boulevard, stretching for four and a half miles.
As a popular tourist destination, Tampa has many travel options. Traveling out of state is easy to do, with the Tampa International Airport located inside the city.
6. There are plenty of good schools and colleges
For the younger students, the Hillsborough County School District has a lot to offer as it is the 8th largest in the country. Students here will be able to access a variety of resources and extracurricular activities. If you’re looking for alternatives to public school education, Tampa has a whole array of private schools to choose from, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
When it comes to college education options, students can choose to attend the University of Tampa, the University of South Florida, or Hillsborough Community College.
7. Whether football or golf fans, the love for sports is strong in Tampa
Sports fans, rejoice! Tampa is a city that enjoys sports. Football is one of the most popular sports here. Besides the NFL, college football has quite a solid fan base. Michelle Young, the owner of Bee Young Communications and Marketing, says “EVERYONE watches college football here and if you are from Florida, you either root for Florida or Florida State (regardless of where you went to college)”. Besides granting its students the opportunity to join their football team, the University of Florida also offers quality education. “USF is a really good school too – Tampa’s hometown university is No. 5 among US universities in research,” added Michelle.
You won’t only find football fans cheering for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but also baseball enthusiasts that look up to the Tampa Bay Rays. Hockey is also represented in the city, with Tampa Bay Lighting as their professional team. Soccer and basketball are also part of the city’s sports landscape, but for now, fans across all types of sports are cheering from their homes as most games permit limited attendance due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
A large number of golf courses and the gorgeous weather means that golf is a popular hobby around here. Golfers can choose from Westchase Golf Club or Topgolf, as main golf courses.
8. Bask in the sun-soaked weather
Tampa is well-known for its sunny weather. With Florida being close to the equator, sunlight is very strong. For this reason, temperatures range between the 50s to the 70s during the conventional wintertime. Tampa’s subtropical climate makes it a perfect place for those who are shying away from the colder temperatures in the northern parts of the country.
During the summer, the temperature is in the 90s and above. Moreover, living here means you get to enjoy consistently warm weather, although quite humid, as Michelle Young highlights: “It’s hot, and it’s humid 9-10 months a year, so you don’t need a heated pool (almost 50 percent of homeowners in Florida have a pool so if you buy a house without one, chances are pretty good your neighbors will have a pool). You also may only wear jeans in January. No joke!”
Another natural phenomenon that also occurs in Tampa is lightning, but there’s more to it than the instant flashy sky. According to Michelle, “when you hear thunder, it means lightning isn’t far behind. GO INSIDE! They don’t call Tampa the Lightning Capital of the US for nothing! Lightning strikes can be felt from 10 miles away because it travels on the ground as well.”
9. Have a taste of the eclectic local cuisine
Tampa might be famous for its Cuban sandwich, but there’s more to the local food scene than meets the eye. Locals are able to sample a wide range of cuisines, including Mexican, Italian, Brazilian, Spanish and more. Even locals are taken with the large variety of local cuisine: “I always recommend the diverse food scene in Tampa. Latin/Hispanic cuisine, Asian, African, European, we have a little of everything to offer”, says Tampa resident Jose Rincon.
As each new culture left its mark, the existing variety is embraced by new food venues such as the Hall on Franklin and Armature Works. Tampa is really an eclectic mix of the old and the new, so much so that when you visit the Columbia restaurant, you get a taste of Florida’s oldest establishment of this kind.
There are also a couple of chains that originated in Tampa, attesting to the high culinary standards that the city is known for. Bonefish Grill, Outback Steakhouse, Carraba’s and The Melting Pot are just some of the names that have extended their reach outside Florida.
Aside from the famous spots, Tampa also has other culinary surprises in store: “Oxford Exchange is an absolute must brunch spot! The most amazing food (and coffee!) with a beautiful aesthetic perfect for photos”, says Destiny Snyder.
10. Get in the Tampa spirit with local festivals
The city has a rich festival tradition throughout the year. The diversity of festivals will make your time here worthwhile. According to Destiny Snyder,” there are always interesting events, festivals, and new restaurants opening up. Post-COVID newcomers can look forward to events like Sunset Music Festival (a two-day EDM fest located at Raymond James Stadium) and Gasparilla, where … pirates take over Tampa Bay!”
The first festival to usher in the beginning of the festival season is the Gasparilla Pirate Fest in January. Its first edition took place in 1904, and it’s reputed to have originated due to the exploits of local pirate Jose Gaspar. He supposedly instilled terror all throughout the Gulf of Mexico and southwest Florida in the 18th and 19th centuries. The festival comprises a series of events which include pirate parades, a mock pirate invasion and a children’s costumed parade.
Lately, Gasparilla has branched out in other types of festivals, such as the Gasparilla Music Festival, held each year in mid-March, and the Gasparilla Festival of Arts, taking place over the first weekend in March. The end of March is marked by the Gasparilla International Film Festival, garnering a large audience ready to watch more than 100 films over the course of six days.
Typically held over the Memorial Day weekend, the Sunset Music Festival has been rescheduled for the end of December in 2020. It is Tampa’s premier electronic music festival, bringing in crowds of over 50,000 attendees each year.
When October comes around, it’s time for Tampa Pig Jig on the River. It’s a music festival where you can also give your taste buds the treat of a tasty barbecue on the waterfront. Besides having a good time, you know your dollars are well spent: Proceeds also go to the NephCure Foundation.
11. The arts and music are well-represented in Tampa
Art and music lovers will always find something to their liking in Tampa, as there are venues dedicated to the creatives in many spots around the city. Here are some places to enjoy art in Tampa:
Located in the heart of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, this art museum is the perfect place to admire the newest exhibitions, as they are rotated each month. The views around it are just as captivating, so you might as well have a bite at the restaurants nearby.
The Straz Center for the Performing Arts
Once you visit the Curtis Hixon, it will be easy to find the Straz Center, located nearby. Every week, Broadway musicals and similar plays are being performed here.
The Tampa Bay History Center
If finding out more about the city’s roots interests you, the Tampa Bay History Center is another spot worth visiting, and it’s family-friendly too. Whenever restrictions are lifted, you know enjoying art and music will be close by.
When it comes to art, Tampa never ceases to surprise us. Besides the usual art establishments, Tampa’s surroundings are home to a hidden gem, namely “[the] Chihuly Collection. Unlike popular POIs such as Busch Garden, Ybor City [and] Clearwater Beach, Chihuly Collection is the hidden gem located at St. Petersburg, only 24-minutes drive from Tampa city,” says Allan from Vacation Home Rents. If you’re interested in beautiful glass art, then this is definitely a spot that you can’t miss. “This is the place to show glass art by the glass artist Chihuly. The surrounding display environment is dark, silent, with colorful and beautiful light from crystal clear glass, which calms minds and relaxes bodies. It is not crowded, and especially good to visit during this pandemic time,” says Allan.
For art fans, there are also other less-known destinations in the area. You might need to drive outside of Tampa, but it will be worth your while. As Michelle Young tells us, ”no one talks about it! The Ringling Museum in Sarasota is amazing!… It’s in Tampa Bay, and anything in Tampa Bay is considered Tampa because there aren’t a lot of true locals (born in Tampa).”
12. Explore the outdoors all year round
Boasting a total of 246 sunny days each year, Tampa is the ideal destination for those that enjoy the outdoors. Whether it’s being in the water, paddleboarding, or taking in the natural sights of the parks, Tampa really has it all! Take a stroll down Bayshore Boulevard Linear Trail, the world’s longest continuous sidewalk. But wait, this isn’t your regular kind of sidewalk — it’s 10 feet wide and stretches over 4.5 miles.
From the longest trail to the smallest park, Tampa really has it all! Snow Park isn’t large; in fact, it’s just a walk by in distance. It’s the smallest park in the world, and it’s dedicated to Major E. Henry Snow, a remarkable Tampa historic figure.
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is another park in Tampa that stretches over eight acres in the urban area of Tampa. Its focal points are two interactive fountains: The Louver fountain and the Mist fountain.
Tampa has something for skateboarders, too: Bro Bowl is one of the first skateparks created on the East Coast in the 1970s.
If you’re looking for a little bit of a thrill, the Busch Gardens Tampa theme park might be just the place for you! Many tourists come here for some roller coaster fun. What’s more, at Adventure Island, you can escape the hot and humid Tampa summer when you indulge in its waterpark rides.
When visiting the Lowry Park Zoo, you get to see over 2,000 animals. Additionally, the zoo allows children to have sleepovers and to feed the giraffes. At the Florida Aquarium, you get a firsthand look at protected sea creatures. From petting stingrays to swimming with sharks, there are a lot of fun activities you can look forward to once the facility can operate again under regular conditions.
13. What the locals say about moving here
Still on the fence about whether you would enjoy living in Tampa? Here’s what several locals have to say about moving and living in Cigar City:
“As someone who moved to Tampa just two years ago, and started a business here to help policyholders in case of disasters to their home or business, I feel that I can be a perfect fit for this topic. For the first year or so, I spent most of my time networking and meeting locals throughout the city to get to know people and help grow my business. It has been quite the journey, and it has allowed me to really get to know this new and exciting city.” says Vince Perri.
Besides experiencing success in his business, Vince also testifies to the city’s strong sense of community: “My favorite thing about Tampa is the big city atmosphere with the small-town feel. People here are very nice and always willing to help and have a pleasant conversation at any time. As a business owner, networking and getting to know people has also been very pleasant. There are many networking events and socials on a daily basis. Even with COVID, I have noticed many local groups going online and meeting through video communication software like Zoom. As I said, this community is always willing to help,” says Vince Perri.
Destiny Snyder, a Midwest-Tampa convert, tells us about her journey into making this city her home:
“Coming from a small town in Ohio, this big city life was a little different than what I was used to– but in the best way. Tampa is super central, making it not too far of a drive to several amazing other Florida cities. Less than two hours from Orlando, 30 minutes to St. Pete, and 40 minutes to Clearwater. Aside from the amazing location, it’s so nice to live in a city that always has something going on.”
14. Ready to move? Make renting a self storage unit part of the plan
Now that you have the inside scoop on everything Tampa, you’ve probably decided to make the Big Guava your new home. Plan your move carefully, from packing your home to moving into your new one to make sure the entire process runs smoothly. Whether moving or not, finding self storage is of great help, from unpacking belongings to actually keeping your living space neat and uncluttered until you need those items again. Renting a self storage unit in Tampa in Tampa would cost you around $100 per month. With a lot of options available, you will easily find a facility close to your new address.
Now that you know everything there is to know about Tampa, reserve a day or two to explore the local gems to enjoy the breathtaking sights.