Like Night & Day

Two unique cities share West Central Florida's Tampa Bay. One is a city that hoped by now to be the next Atlanta or Charlotte. The other -- nearly as old, nearly as populous -- just hoped for some urban renewal. Neither wish came true.Nonetheless, Tampa and St. Petersburg are still great places to live, beautiful places to visit.

Top, The Tampa skyline reflects its many business and banking interests. Above, The St. Petersburg waterfront, replete with shops, restaurants, mini golf, fish bait, and pelicans.
Lanny Provo photos




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Click here for a large map of the Greater
Tampa / St.Petersburg area.
BoseArts map

eparated by Tampa Bay and several decades of disdain for one another, the cities form the bulk of a metropolitan area with more than 2-million population. But the residents of Tampa and St. Petersburg seldom come together for anything less than the surprising success of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.

Otherwise, the cities suffer from sibling rivalry, taking pleasure in the other's civic failures or run-of-the-mill scandals. How intense is the emotion? When the St. Petersburg City Council announced more than a decade ago that it would build a domed stadium, to entice a major league baseball franchise, and that the stadium would be downtown, perhaps 20 miles from Tampa, the Tampa paper called for a federal investigation of the power-brokers involved.

The landmark Tampa Skyline Bridge. Flausa photo
But the dome got built, and this March 31, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays open their inaugural season against the Detroit Tigers. The dome underwent three name changes --it is officially Tropicana Field, after the orange-juice giant -- and has held tennis' Davis Cup finals and holds the NHL record for pro-hockey attendance when the Tampa Bay Lightning played there just a few days before the Devil Rays take to their artificial turf, one of the NCAA's regional basketball tournaments will be held in the dome -- are hearsal to hosting next year's Final Four.

Meanwhile, the hockey team now plays in its glorious new

The distinctive minarets of Bay Hall, built at the
turn of the century by railroad magnate Henry Plant,
are part of the University of Tampa.
home, the Ice Palace, on Tampa's waterfront. This is one of the few neighborhooods in either city showing growth in something other than residences or office buildings. In addition to the arena, the waterfront boasts the imaginative Florida Aquarium, which has struggled financially its first couple of years but not for lack of ingenuity. Carnival Cruise Lines sails one of its glitzy, 2,500-passenger ships from here year-round on a week-long itinerary that includes New Orleans. And a multiscreen movie complex is to be built near the other attractions.

Interestingly, one of Tampa's oldest neighborhoods is now the hottest. Ybor (pronounced EE-bore) City is dominated by gentrified cigar factories and old brick storefronts. Nightly, crowds roam among the 60-plus bars (from brew pub to martini specialties), music spots (techno to country) and restaurants (Spanish to, well there's lots of great Spanish food). Click here for a sampling of dining and entertainment in Tampa, St. Pete and in Ybor (be cool and drop the "city'') and elsewhere in Tampa:

Daytime Fun

Tampa has the lively nightlife, but to bring back that tan, you have to headabout 25 miles west, to the Gulf of Mexico beaches. Three large bridges cross Tampa Bay between St. Petersburg/Clearwater and Tampa. Awaiting you are three of the best beaches in the United States, according to an annual rating by a University of Maryland professor. Click here for a sampling of our best beaches.

A touch of culture

The Tampa Bay area boasts fine museums, with a spectacular exhibit at one of them now: More than 300

The Salvador Dali museum houses the world's largest
collection of the surrealist painter's work. Volunteer
docents lead narrated tours through museum.
items recovered from the debris field of the RMS Titanic isdisplayed at the Florida International Museum. Admission is by timed ticket, to better control the number of people in the galleries at any one time. Call ahead to book a time:(800) 777-9882.

Other notable museums include the acclaimed Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg (the world' s largest collection of the surrealist master), and Tampa's Museum of African American Art.

For children, the fabulous Museum of Science and Industry north of Tampa beckonswith dozens of hands-on experiements, a "hurricane-wind' room and the state's only domed Omnimax theater. St. Peters burg has the much

The Great Explorations kid's museum in St. Pete
offer mazes, live animalsand fun learning adventures
for the little ones.
smaller but engaging Great Explorations, the Hands-On Museum.

It is located just across the street from the Dali, less than a mile from the Florida International Museum, the small but impressive Museum of Fine Arts, and the clever, waterfront Museum of History.

While waterfront is a plus in both cities, St. Petersburg can boast seven miles of publicly held parks and open space along Tampa Bay. You can swim in an Olympic-sized pool or at a small beach,

Nearby Sy. Pete beach has
miles of waterffront.
Flausa photo
play tennis, walk through a palm tree arboretum or fish from the seawall, but thousands of people stroll to St. Petersburg's waterfront focal point, The Pier (see photo at top). Shaped like an inverted triangle, the five-story pier features a small aquarium, miniature golf, fishing spots and places to eat and drink -- including a branch of Tampa's Columbia restaurant.

Tampa Bay's No. 1 tourist attraction is Busch Gardens, which almost yearly adds a thrill-ride that literally takes your breath away. The park also shows hundreds upon hundreds of wild animals, with a few -- including hippos, hyenas and lions -- up close and personal behind thick glass. The park admission is hovering near $38 for an adult, but there are scads of discount coupons floating around.

And if you still think you need something else, travel the 70 miles or so east of Tampa to see Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios. Each is a great place to spend the day and a paycheck.

The Don CeSar Beach Resort Hotel has been used as
a location for many films.
For general information on the area, check the St. Petersburg Times website:, or grab a copy of the paper's Weekend go-and-do magazine, or contact the following; the area code is 813: St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, 813/821-4069; Gulf Beaches of Tampa Bay Commerce, 813/360-6957; St. Petersburg/ClearwaterArea Convention & Visitors Bureau, 813/464-7200; Tampa/Hillsborough Convention & Visitors Association, 813/223-1111.

Robert N. Jenkins is travel editor of the St. Peters burg Times, moving to St. Petersburg more than 28 years ago.