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Over a century and a half ago, Tampa was merely a small village. Nowadays it is one of the larger cities in the American State of Florida. At the end of the nineteenth century the Spaniard Vicente Martinez Ybor started manufacturing cigars here. Only a few years later Ybor City (currently a neighborhood northeast of the city center) became the world's cigar capital: In over 200 factories 12,000 workers produced 700 million (!) cigars per year. Over twenty years ago this was a neighborhood with bars, cafés, nightclubs and other places of entertainment and it had a somewhat dingy reputation. A lot has changed since. The district is still an entertainment area, but they have added residential tower blocks, hotels, shopping malls and museums. The district's history and the influence of various groups of immigrants (Cubans, Italians, Spaniards and Germans) comes to life in the Ybor City State Museum.
Ybor City is part of the Channel District, which runs along the banks of the Hillsborough River and where the city has its origins. As part of the River Walk Plan, those banks have undergone a metamorphosis in recent years. It is currently a lively, cozy boulevard along the river where some museums have found a new home, including the Tampa Bay History Center that is dedicated to Florida's different ethnic groups, from the original Seminole tribe to the Spanish settlers and the immigrants who shaped Florida when it became American. They have for example reconstructed a tobacco shop from the beginning of the previous century. The Children's Museum and the Museum of Art are also located on the Hillsborough River. The latter is housed in an ultramodern building, matching its modern art collection from the twentieth century. Strangely enough, this museum also houses some pieces from ancient times, mainly of Greek, Roman and Etruscan origins.
In the Channel District you will find one of the United States' best aquariums. In the Florida Aquarium you can follow the path of a water droplet: From raindrop via swamps and rivers to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. It also contains water basins where children can touch the animals. In addition, the museum organizes eco tours through Tampa Bay. Qualified divers can enter the aquarium filled with sharks.
The SS American Victory warship is moored in Tampa's harbor. You can visit the entire ship except when it participates in a historical ship event.
Tampa's main attractions are its beaches along the Gulf of Mexico with a total of 45 kilometers of beach. Some of the best beaches include Siesta Beach, Caspersen Beach and the more peaceful Blind Pass Beach. Some of the beaches around Tampa are located within protected nature reserves where no tourist facilities are available. Some beaches can only be accessed by boat.
Florida has many amusement parks and Tampa also has one: Busch Gardens. It is a large adventure park themed around Africa at about a century ago. Highlights include gruesome roller coasters. Next to the park lies Adventure Island where spectacular water attractions are the principal features. If you prefer something a little bit less exciting, Paradise Lagoon or Rambling Bayou may be more up your alley.
You can go to the Hillsborough River for canoeing or kayaking. Boats are rented out by Canoe Escape on Fowler Avenue and all trips go downstream, so a canoe trip should not take too much effort.
The Museum of Science and Industry is particularly interesting. Here you can for example learn more about the hurricanes that often plague the Gulf of Mexico: What causes them and what determines their path? The museum also includes a butterfly garden where they have recreated a so-called wetland and it has a dome-shaped IMAX theater. The Challenger Learning Center is named after the American space shuttle that crashed in 1986. In the reconstructed space capsule you feel as if you were an astronaut.
In the Museum of History in St. Petersburg you take a walk through time, so to speak. It includes for example a reconstruction of a shop from the nineteenth century and there is a trolley bus from 1913. Try History On For Size, where you can see yourself in a mirror dressed up in a historical garment, is truly entertaining.
Salvador Dalí is from Spain but the largest collection of his works cannot be found in his native country but in the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. The building that houses the museum fits the eccentric artist: Nine hundred triangular windows that protect the collection like a sort of bubble. According to the museum it is one of the hundred buildings you need to have seen before you die.
There are several parking garages and parking lots in the city center. You can also park on the street but make sure not to exceed your parking time. Carefully read the instructions on the parking meters. In some neighborhoods parking on the street is free after 6 pm; in others this is only the case after midnight. Parking spaces may also have been reserved for residents.
Tampa International Airport is located 11 kilometers west of the city center. It is often voted the best airport in the United States. In your rental car you can reach Tampa Airport from the center via the West Columbus Drive or the I-275.