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Tampa Bay City Guide: When, What, Where & How - To Visit

One of the best things about the west coast of Florida is the incredible sunsets. And what better place than Tampa Bay to see the fiery orb dip into the sea? Plunk your chair down on a sandy spot, walk along Pier 60, or pack into a waterfront bar, and enjoy the end of a beach day…and read on.

Photo credit: Boston Public Library

It’s probably not a coincidence that the word "Tampa" means "sticks of fire" in the language of the Calusa, a Native American tribe that once lived south of today's Tampa Bay area. Sticks of fire could be a reference to the many lightning strikes that the area receives during the summer months. However, other historians claim the name means "the place to gather sticks.”

The city of Tampa is the county seat of Hillsborough County, located on the west central coast of Florida on Tampa Bay. Included in the Tampa Bay area is St. Petersburg, which is a city located on the peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Northwest of St. Pete is Clearwater, which is the smallest of the three main cities in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area - referred to as the Tampa Bay Area.

WHEN TO VISIT

Weather-wise it doesn’t seem like there’s a bad time to visit Tampa Bay. With an average of 361 days a year of sunshine, how can vacationers go wrong? Other than the weather, Tampa Bay’s special events and promotions tend to have the most influence on attraction crowds. The area's beaches tend to be the most crowded during spring break and in the summer, of course.

WHAT TO DO

Not only does Tampa Bay have some of the country’s best beaches, it also has everything from arts and culture to shopping and sports to aquariums and zoos. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound and adventure awaits!

Perhaps the best way to enjoy the waterfront cities is from the water. Every type of cruise you can imagine exists: dinner, sightseeing, sunset and themed cruises, to name a few. For information on Tampa dining yachts, check out Yacht StarShip. Also, Tampa is the home port for the top cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise, Holland America and Royal Caribbean.

If exploring some of Tampa Bay’s top attractions sounds like fun, CityPASS added Tampa Bay to its already robust 10-city program in May 2014. Tampa Bay CityPASS is a booklet of admission tickets to 5 best tourist attractions in Tampa Bay. You save 39% compared to combined regular box office prices.

Included is one-time admission to Busch Gardens Tampa, The Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and a choice between Chihuly Collection or Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI). The whole family benefits from the variety of entertainment included in Tampa Bay CityPASS while saving money at the same time.

In the spring, Tampa Bay becomes a major arts destination, in celebration of Gasparilla Arts Month. It begins the first weekend of March in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, with a fine arts festival that attracts 250,000 annual visitors. Gasparilla extends throughout the month with an epic music festival drawing national acts and an internationally recognized film festival.

A quieter (yet artistic) option would be to take a tour through Bok Tower Gardens, which has given remarkable experiences to more than 23 million visitors since 1929. The Gardens also has a unique Singing Tower carillon and magnificent 1930s Mediterranean-style mansion.

Take a stroll along the Riverwalk, which is a 2.4-mile long pedestrian pathway on the waterfront in downtown Tampa. It wasn’t too long ago that there wasn’t much to do along the waterfront, but that has changed in recent years. “The Riverwalk connects Tampa's dynamic cultural venues, family oriented parks and the city center's vibrant business community creating connectivity and eclectic synergy,” according the Riverwalk website.

Lastly, the Tampa Bay area is home to many sports teams if you want to catch a game. Tampa Bay Buccaneers play in the National Football League (NFL), the Tampa Bay Lightning play in the National Hockey League (NHL), and the Tampa Bay Rays play in Major League Baseball (MLB). Plus, six MLB teams hold their spring training camps in the area.

WHERE TO EAT

Where to begin… As one can imagine, Tampa has a diverse restaurant scene. Enjoy everything from fresh seafood on the waterfront to regional Cuban and Spanish cuisine to feed your soul. A quick internet search will likely reveal Bern’s Steak House as a Tampa landmark. With the largest wine list in the world and two dozen varieties of caviar, Bern’s has built a solid reputation since 1956. And, of course, Bern’s offers perfectly aged steaks at its world-class establishment.

For more dining options, check out Where Traveler’s content provided on CityPASS’ website: Plan Your Visit to Tampa Bay.

WHERE TO SHOP

Here are a few popular names: Old Hyde Park Village in Tampa, Channelside, Prime Outlets at Ellenton, BayWalk in downtown St. Petersburg, and John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk. The Tampa Bay Times also has a Deals & Shopping section online where they cover everything from the deals at huge department stores to the tiniest boutiques. "Deal Diva" bloggers are always on the hunt for shopping bargains in Tampa Bay. Make sure to check out their Deal of the Day.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel deals can be found virtually anywhere; Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, to name a few. If you go to VisitTampaBay.com, you can also find a “Deals” tab. Click on it to see offers on hotels. Currently, if you book early and purchase your stay in advance at InterContinental Tampa, you can lock in up to 30% savings through April 2015. Also on their website, find other deals and discounts for your visit to Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay CityPASS is listed on their homepage!

HOW TO GET AROUND

Tampa Bay has two international airports, including top-rated Tampa International Airport. In addition to offering transportation to and from the airport, independent and hotel shuttle services are available to take guests around town, whether it's to grab a bite to eat or explore Tampa Bay. Once you’re in Tampa, transportation options include a comprehensive menu of motor coach, limo & taxi services, streetcar & trolley, shuttle systems and rental cars. Again, Visit Tampa Bay's website has more information.

Hop aboard Tampa's vintage streetcar and feel the charm of the past. The TECO Line Streetcar will take you between downtown Tampa, Channelside and historic Ybor City.

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority provides buses, trolleys and electric streetcars serving major mall, museums, and most other attractions. For more information call (813) 254-HART or go to the transportation page of Plan Your Visit to Tampa Bay.

Hop aboard the St. Petersburg Trolley Downtown Looper route and find an easy way around downtown. Look for the bright red and yellow trolleys, board for just 50 cents and connect to all the city's major museums and attractions.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) is the public transit provider in Pinellas County, Florida, providing more than 14.5 million passenger trips in 2013. Two-hundred buses serve 5,115 bus stops on 40 routes in Pinellas County, including two express routes that travel to Tampa. Call (727) 540-1800.

 

Show Us Your CityPASS Selfie!

Who doesn't like a good selfie contest? Traveling tends to bring out our customers' playfulness, so we thought it would be fun to have a #CityPASSselfie photo contest in support of our loyal fans. On a daily basis we receive CityPASS selfies. Might as well give away 2 CityPASS booklets in the process!

What is a CityPASS selfie? It's a photo of you having fun with your CityPASS booklet in one of our 11 destinations!

#CityPASSselfie Photo Contest

To enter, all you do is send us a CityPASS selfie photo of you and a CityPASS booklet, sign, bus wrap, etc. You can enter the contest through our Facebook Contest Page, or through Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #CityPASSselfie. You can submit a photo and vote for your favorite every 24 hours until the end of the day on Sept. 7. CityPASS judges will decide one winner from 5 finalist photos: The two photos with the most votes and three photos of our choice will be considered.

The winner will get 2 CityPASS booklets to the city of their choice, except Southern California. Good luck!

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco

With summer slowly coming to an end, no matter where you’re located in the country, spending time outdoors is an absolute must. From the beach to the mountains to its eclectic city streets, San Francisco is known for its comfortable climate, making it the perfect place to take in the wonderful sights and sounds of Northern California.

Whether you’ve frequented The City by the Bay or it’s your first trip to this seaside metropolis, there’s no shortage of attractions and outdoor activities for all ages. If the kids are lucky enough to tag along for one more weekend adventure before they hit the books, they’ll be thrilled with all of the exciting things to do in San Francisco. Kids or no kids, the eccentric streets and scenic suburbs of the Fog City make for some excellent outdoor adventuring. CityPASS is dedicated to serving you the most enjoyable experiences on your time out of the office, so take a look at some of our favorite outdoor activities in San Francisco.

Cable Car Tour of the City

When the sun is shining and you’re interested in seeing San Francisco from top to bottom, there is no better way to travel the city streets than via cable car. Just a few dollars will buy you various rides throughout the city, giving you a glimpse of a time before buses and cars were available for urban transportation. Taking one of the many cable car tours will allow you to the see everything from the city’s hills to bustling areas of Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and various other districts and neighborhoods that make San Francisco so special.

Travel North to Muir Woods

Although this outdoor activity is nestled about 12 miles north of San Francisco, it is highly recommended for all adventure enthusiasts. Muir Woods is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and provides a scenic and forested park with magnificent redwood trees, extensive hiking trails and magical tree-lined hikes for those looking to take in the sights of Northern California’s most idyllic outdoor cathedral. The national park extends 554 acres, 240 of which is an old-growth coastal redwood forest that remains one of the most special areas within the park. Be sure to follow the map and ask the visitor center for hiking recommendations to avoid getting lost amidst the shadows of the historic redwoods.

Ocean Beach

Get some sand in your shoes by taking a short drive just outside the city to the quaint seaside town of Ocean Beach. The perfect place for surfers, skaters and beach-goers alike, Ocean Beach provides an excellent place to kick back, set up a picnic and take in the Northern California beach scene. Whether you’re looking to take a dip in the ocean, catch a wave or just take a stroll, Ocean Beach is the perfect escape from the more tourist-heavy attractions in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Park

Escape the city’s lively urban core by taking a day trip to Golden Gate Park, one of the largest man-made parks in the world. San Francisco’s most extensive park includes 1,017 acres of public grounds and was created to mirror Central Park in New York City. The park is over three miles long and features various museums, gardens, conservatories and arboretums for your viewing pleasure. If the Northern California sun is shining, Golden Gate Park is the absolute best way to exercise your way around one of the most visually pleasing outdoor establishments in the world.

When life hands you the opportunity to explore the wonderful city of San Francisco, these outdoor activities will ensure that you soak in the Northern California vibes. In addition to exploring all the outdoors has to offer, make sure to check out some of the other attractions in San Francisco offered by CityPASS.

15 of America’s Most Outrageous Foods

America's Most Outrageous Foods CityPASS recently searched out a variety of great restaurants dishing up some of America’s most amazing & outrageous foods. Do you think you could take down the Double Coronary Bypass Burger, stacked high with three servings of bacon and ground beef with two grilled cheese sandwiches for buns? Take a break from exploring some of Atlanta’s attractions and visit the Vortex Bar & Grill in Atlanta, GA to find out! read more »

What's New at the Space Needle

The Space Needle Observation Deck is more than just a great view. This summer, they've been rolling out a bunch of new features, implementing some of the latest technology to add to the experience. You can download their mobile app for free (iOS, Windows Phone and Android), and with it see the panoramic view you'll get from the Observation Deck. Plus, get more information about some of the landmarks you'll see, like the Museum of History and Industry, the Gates Foundation, the Ballard Locks, the Olympic Sculpture Park and Pike Place Market. read more »

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