1. It’s just the perfect size. Having lived in capital cities like Cairo and Mumbai (with millions of residents), Tampa boasts under 400,000 residents (US Census Bureau, 2015). That means morning and afternoon rush hour commutes exist, but they are bearable, lines at Starbucks and Chipotle reach the doors, but service is quick and more importantly, everyone is friendly.
2. There are celebrations and festivities to fill your social calendar like a celebrity. From the pirate invasion of Gasparilla in January, Margarita Festival and Oktoberfest, to countless festivals, concerts, sports events, fireworks, cruises and rooftop parties every month.
3. It’s eclectic cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tampa’s unique culinary culture blends past traditions with modern twists and plunges your palette into rich flavors and lavish drinks. There are innovative new eateries with high-tech kitchen theaters for chef demonstrations, historic dining serving traditional Cuban and Spanish dishes, and American steakhouse.
4. People say you ‘hit the beach lottery’ when coming to Tampa. Dozens of stretches of beautiful sandy beaches provide relaxing excursions for boaters, bird-watchers and beachcomers alike. The beaches are a favorite for tourists and locals alike; even the overly friendly and reckless sea gulls can’t ruin a day of fun in the sun.
5. I come from the land of football (not the American kind, but soccer as it is known here), where toddlers learn to play in the streets with a wadded up ball of socks. Sports is a passion for millions of Americans and fans in Tampa can enjoy any of the three major sports leagues with the Buccaneers (American football), the Lightning (ice hockey) and the Rays (baseball). Even the New York Yankees call Tampa home during Spring training.
6. Ybor City and Plant Hall are two of my favorite landmarks. The silver minarets of the original hotel still shimmer and shine on the banks of the Hillsborough River and no tourist can overlook this iconic landmark. A small section of the original hotel has been preserved in it’s original form for tourists and the remainder of the building houses University of Tampa classrooms and offices.
7. The lightning capital of the nation has recorded nearly 50,000 lightning flashes within a 50-mile radius. These cloud-to-ground flashes light up the sky like the best pyrotechnic show. Brace yourself (and take cover) if you have never experienced this summer phenomenon.
8. At 4.5 miles, Bayshore Boulevard is the world’s longest, continuous, waterfront sidewalk and one of the most enjoyable stretches. They call it South Tampa’s unofficial gym that is lined by historic mansions and calm waters and provides a flat pavement for walkers, joggers, bikers and rollerbladers of all ages.