Seven sunny reasons to visit Tampa, Florida
As if the opportunity to visit Orlando or Miami wasn’t enough, Virgin Atlantic launched another route to the Sunshine State last year so you can now fly from London Heathrow to Tampa, a major city on the Gulf Coast.
With its rich cultural history infused with Cuban and Spanish influences, vast urban landscapes and no shortage of beautiful beaches, there are lots of reasons to visit The Big Guava.
Do the Florida triangle
With Tampa added to the itinerary Virgin Atlantic flyers can now take in the Florida triangle – Tampa, Miami, Orlando – in a single trip.
Orlando has the magical delights of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, and as it’s less than a two hour drive you can get the best from each destination. Aside from the parks you go back in time in Kissimmee’s Old Town (which features an amazing 86-foot Ferris wheel), learn how to jet ski, or enjoy Hollywood Drive-In Golf – Orlando’s premiere mini-golf experience.
Similarly, Miami has fine cuisine, epic nightlife, and stretches of beautiful pastel-coloured Art Deco buildings not too far from the famous beaches.
Known as Tampa’s playground, Ybor City is a National Historic Landmark District and sits just north of downtown. Founded in the 1800s as a cigar manufacturing town by Spanish entrepreneur Vicente Martinez-Ybor, it retains the Hispanic and Italian touches to this day, including cuisine, nightlife, and shopping.
Stroll the brick-paved 7th Avenue, grab a meal at the many popular restaurants, and stop by the Ybor City Museum State Park and trace the city’s cigar-making history.
Stroll down the Tampa Riverwalk
Whether it’s your first visit or you’re a regular visitor, the Tampa Riverwalk is a great way to take in the views of the city while wandering through some of its most popular areas.
Originating in the ‘70s, the 2.6 mile long space has undergone major improvements in recent years with the walk extending alongside the downtown waterfront to connect many of the city’s notable destinations such as downtown Tampa and Glazer Children’s Museum. Bronze and marble busts of prominent figures like Tampa’s first black educator Edward Davis and local Native American legend Princess Ulele line the route, so you can learn about the city’s history while admiring the view.
Take a ride at Busch Gardens
While Orlando is home to Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios, thrill-seekers shouldn’t count out Tampa.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has an annual attendance of four million and for good reason: the park has some of the best rollercoasters in the state, including the new Iron Gwazi which plunges riders 206 feet, and Montu – the first coaster in the world to feature an Immelmann loop (a simultaneous loop and roll) named for the German fighter pilot.
Sun yourself at St Pete Beach
You can’t go to the Sunshine State without visiting one of its many beautiful beaches, and venturing further afield to St Petersburg will give you plenty of options.
St Pete Beach is the jewel of the resort city’s crown, with an impressive stretch of white sand and turquoise waters. Take a dip before exploring the Pass-A-Grille area and the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum which is housed in a church dating back to 1917. Definitely make time to visit Shell Key, where you can take a boat ride and see the seabirds and turtles.
Located on the downtown Tampa waterfront, The Florida Aquarium is one of the best-rated in America and houses a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial animals. Visitors can see sea turtles, sharks, lemurs and otters, and take part in several events to learn about animal habitats and the importance of conservation.
Tampa Museum of Art
Founded in 1920, the Tampa Museum of Art exhibits modern and contemporary art as well as Roman, Greek, and Etruscan antiquities. It also regularly hosts workshops, classes, and events for all ages – and there’s even free entry on Thursdays.
*Reward flights are subject to availability. Taxes, fees and carrier-imposed surcharges apply and vary according to choice of cabin, departure airport, destination and date(s) of travel and are subject to change. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club membership required.