Archaeological evidence indicates the shores of Tampa Bay were inhabited by indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The Safety Harbor culture developed in the area around the year 1000 AD, and the descendant Tocobaga and Pohoy chiefdoms were living in or near the current city limits of Tampa when the area was first visited by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Interactions between native peoples and the Spanish were brief and often violent, and although the newcomers did not stay for long, they introduced European diseases which brought the collapse of native societies across the Florida peninsula over the ensuing decades. Although Spain claimed all of Florida and beyond as part of New Spain, it did not found a colony on the west coast. After the disappearance of the indigenous populations, there were no permanent settlements in the Tampa Bay area until after the United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1821.
In 1824, the United States Army established a frontier outpost called Fort Brooke at the mouth of the Hillsborough River, near the site of today's Tampa Convention Center downtown. The first civilian residents were pioneer ranchers and farmers who settled near the fort for protection from the nearby Seminole population.
The town grew slowly, and had become a minor shipping port for cattle and citrus by the time of the United States Civil War. Tampa Bay was blockaded by the United States Navy during the war, and Tampa fell into a long period of economic stagnation that continued long after the war ended.
The situation finally improved in the 1880s, when the first railroad links, the discovery of phosphate, and the arrival of the cigar industry jump-started its development, helping Tampa to grow from an isolated village with less than 800 residents in 1880 to a bustling city of over 30,000 by the early 1900s.
Today, Tampa is part of the metropolitan area most commonly referred to as the "Tampa Bay Area". For U.S. Census purposes, Tampa is part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The four-county area is composed of roughly 2.9 million residents, making it the second largest metropolitan statistical area in the state, and the fourth largest in the Southeastern United States, behind Miami, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. The Greater Tampa Bay area has over 4 million residents and generally includes the Tampa and Sarasota metro areas.
The Tampa Bay Partnership and U.S. Census data showed an average annual growth of 2.47 percent, or a gain of approximately 97,000 residents per year. Between 2000 and 2006, the Greater Tampa Bay Market experienced a combined growth rate of 14.8 percent, growing from 3.4 million to 3.9 million and hitting the 4 million population mark on April 1, 2007. A 2012 estimate shows the Tampa Bay area population to have 4,310,524 people and a 2017 projection of 4,536,854 people.
A 2004 survey by the New York University newspaper Washington Square News ranked Tampa as a top city for "twenty-somethings."
In 2008, Forbes ranked Tampa as America's fifth best outdoor city.
A 2009 Pew Research Center study ranked Tampa as the fifth most popular American city, based on where people want to live.
In 2016, Loughborough University ranked Tampa as a "Gamma" world city, alongside Phoenix, Austin, Cincinnatti, Lausanne, and Harare.
In 2015, Tampa was rated the best big city to live in within the Southeastern United States by Money Magazine.
When the pioneer community living near the US Army outpost of Fort Brooke was incorporated in 1849, it was called "Tampa Town", and the name was shortened to simply "Tampa" in 1855. The etymology of the name is unclear. The word "Tampa" may have meant "sticks of fire" in the language of the Calusa, a Native American tribe that once lived south of today's Tampa Bay. This might be a reference to the many lightning strikes that the area receives during the summer months. Other historians claim the name means "the place to gather sticks". Toponymist George R. Stewart writes that the name was the result of a miscommunication between the Spanish and the Indians, the Indian word being "itimpi", meaning simply "near it".
The first iteration of the name "Tampa" first appears in the memoirs of Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda (1575), who had spent 17 years as a Calusa captive and traveled through much of peninsular Florida. He spelled it "Tanpa" and describes it as an important Calusa town on the west coast. While "Tanpa" may be the basis for the modern name, archaeologist Jerald Milanich states that the Calusa village of Tanpa was on the shores of Charlotte Harbor, which is about 65 miles south of Tampa Bay. A later Spanish expedition did not notice the mouth of Charlotte Harbor while sailing north along the west coast of Florida and assumed that the current Tampa Bay was the bay they sought, thus accidentally transferring the name on Spanish navigational charts. Tampa Bay was labeled Bahía de Espíritu Santo (Bay of the Holy Spirit) in the earliest Spanish maps of Florida, but became known as Bahía Tampa (Tampa Bay) as early as 1695.
People from Tampa are generally known as "Tampans" or "Tampanians". Local authorities consulted by Michael Kruse of the Tampa Bay Times suggest that "Tampan" was historically more common, while "Tampanian" became popular when the former term came to be seen as a potential insult. A mix of Cuban, Italian, and Spanish immigrants began arriving in the late 1800s to live and work in the new communities of Ybor City and West Tampa. By about 1900, these newcomers came to be known as "tampeños" (or "tampeñas" for females), a term that is still sometimes used to refer to their descendants living in the area.
Not much is known about the cultures who called the Tampa Bay area home before European contact. When Spanish explorers arrived in the 1520s, they found Tocobaga villages around the northern half of Tampa Bay and Calusa villages along the southern portion of the bay.
Expeditions led by Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto landed near Tampa, but neither conquistador stayed long. The native inhabitants repulsed any Spanish attempt to establish a permanent settlement or convert them to Catholicism. The newcomers brought with them infectious diseases, resulting in a total collapse of the native cultures of Florida. The Tampa area was depopulated and ignored for more than 200 years.
In the mid-18th century, events in American colonies drove the Seminole people into northern Florida. During this period, the Tampa area had only a handful of residents: Cuban and Native American fishermen. They lived in a small village at the mouth of Spanishtown Creek on Tampa Bay, in today's Hyde Park neighborhood along Bayshore Boulevard.
After purchasing Florida from Spain in 1821, the United States built forts and trading posts in the new territory. Fort Brooke was established in January 1824 at the mouth of the Hillsborough River on Tampa Bay, in Downtown Tampa.
Tampa was initially an isolated frontier outpost. The sparse civilian population practically abandoned the area during the Second Seminole War from 1835 to 1842, after which the Seminoles were forced out and many settlers returned.
Florida became the 27th state in 1845. On January 18, 1849, Tampa was officially incorporated as the "Village of Tampa". It was home to 185 civilians, or 974 total residents including military personnel, in 1850. Tampa was reincorporated as a town on December 15, 1855.
During the Civil War, Florida seceded along with most of the southern states to form the Confederate States of America, and Fort Brooke was manned by Confederate troops. Martial law was declared in Tampa in January 1862, and Tampa's city government ceased to operate for the duration of the war.
In 1861, the Union Navy set up a blockade around many southern ports to cut off the Confederacy, and several ships were stationed near the mouth of Tampa Bay. The Battle of Fort Brooke on October 16 and the Battle of Ballast Point on October 18, 1863, damaged the Confederates, with Union troops destroying Confederate blockade runners. The Civil War ended in April 1865 with a Confederate defeat.
In May 1865, federal troops arrived in Tampa to occupy the fort and the town as part of Reconstruction. They remained until August 1869.
Tampa was a fishing village with very few people and little industry, and limited prospects for development. Tampa's chronic yellow fever epidemics, borne by mosquitoes from the swampland, were widespread during the late 1860s and 1870s, and many residents left.
In 1869, residents voted to abolish the city of Tampa government. The population of "Tampa Town" was below 800 by 1870, and had fallen further by 1880. Fort Brooke was decommissioned in 1883, and except for two cannons displayed on the University of Tampa campus, all traces of the fort are gone.
In the mid-1880s, Tampa's fortunes took several sudden turns for the better. First, phosphate was discovered in the Bone Valley region southeast of Tampa in 1883. The mineral, vital for the production of fertilizers and other products, was soon being shipped out from the Port of Tampa in great volume. Tampa is still a major phosphate exporter.
The discovery of phosphate, the arrival of Plant's railroad, and the founding of Ybor City and West Tampa—all in the mid-1880s—were crucial to Tampa's development. The once-struggling village of Tampa became a bustling boomtown almost overnight, and had grown into one of the largest cities in Florida by 1900.
Henry B. Plant's narrow-gauge South Florida Railroad reached Tampa and its port in late 1883, finally connecting the small town to the nation's railroad system after years of efforts by local leaders. Previously, Tampa's overland transportation links had consisted of sandy roads stretching across the Florida countryside. Plant's railroad made it much easier to get goods in and out of the Tampa Bay area. Phosphate and commercial fishing exports could be sent north by rail, and many new products were brought into the Tampa market, along with the first tourists.
The new railroad link enabled another important industry to come to Tampa. In 1885, the Tampa Board of Trade enticed Vicente Martinez Ybor to move his cigar manufacturing operations to Tampa from Key West. Proximity to Cuba made importation of "clear Havana tobacco" easy by sea, and Plant's railroad made shipment of finished cigars to the rest of the US market easy by land.
Since Tampa was still a small town at the time (population less than 5,000), Ybor built hundreds of small houses around his factory to accommodate the immediate influx of mainly Cuban and Spanish cigar workers. Ybor City's factories rolled their first cigars in 1886, and many different cigar manufacturers moved their operations to town in ensuing years. Many Italian and a few eastern European Jewish immigrants arrived starting in the late 1880s, opening businesses and shops that catered to cigar workers. By 1900, over 10,000 immigrants had moved to the neighborhood. Several thousand more Cuban immigrants built West Tampa, another cigar-centric suburb founded a few years later by Hugh MacFarlane. Between them, two "Latin" communities combined to exponentially expand Tampa's population, economic base, and tax revenues, as Tampa became the "Cigar Capital of the World".
During the first few decades of the 20th century, the cigar-making industry was the backbone of Tampa's economy. The factories in Ybor City and West Tampa made an enormous number of cigars—in the peak year of 1929, over 500,000,000 cigars were hand rolled in the city.
In 1904, a civic association of local businessmen dubbed themselves Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (named after local mythical pirate José Gaspar), and staged an "invasion" of the city followed by a parade. With a few exceptions, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been held every year since.
Beginning in the late 19th century, illegal bolita lotteries were very popular among the Tampa working classes, especially in Ybor City. In the early 1920s, this small-time operation was taken over by Charlie Wall, the rebellious son of a prominent Tampa family, and went big-time. Bolita was able to openly thrive only because of kick-backs and bribes to key local politicians and law enforcement officials, and many were on the take.
Profits from the bolita lotteries and Prohibition-era bootlegging led to the development of several organized crime factions in the city. Charlie Wall was the first major boss, but various power struggles culminated in consolidation of control by Sicilian mafioso Santo Trafficante Sr. and his faction in the 1950s. After his death in 1954 from cancer, control passed to his son, Santo Trafficante Jr., who established alliances with families in New York City and extended his power throughout Florida and into Batista-era Cuba.
The era of rampant and open corruption ended in the 1950s, when Estes Kefauver's traveling organized crime hearings came to town and were followed by the sensational misconduct trials of several local officials. Although many of the worst offenders in government and the mob were not charged, the trials helped to end the sense of lawlessness which had prevailed in Tampa for decades.
Tampa grew considerably as a result of World War II. Prior to the United States' involvement in the conflict, construction began on MacDill Field, which served as a main base for Army Air Corps and later Army Air Forces operations just before and during World War II, with multiple auxiliary airfields around the Tampa Bay area and surrounding counties. At the end of the war, MacDill remained as an active military installation, while the auxiliary fields reverted to civilian control. Two of these auxiliary fields would later become the present-day Tampa International Airport and St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport. With the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force in 1947, MacDill Field became MacDill Air Force Base.
During the 1950s and 1960s Tampa saw record-setting population growth that has not been seen since. This amazing growth spurred major expansion of the city's highways and bridges, bringing thousands into the city and creating opportunities for Tampa business owners who welcomed tourists and new citizens alike into their neighborhoods. It was during this time period in the city's history that two of the most popular tourist attractions in the area were developed – Busch Gardens and Lowry Park. Many of the well-known institutions that play an important role in the economic development of the city were established during this time period.
The University of South Florida was established in North Tampa in 1956 and opened for students in September 1960. The school spurred the construction of several residential and commercial developments in the previously agriculture-dominated area around the new campus. Overall, Tampa continued to expand away from the city center during the 1960s as new hospitals, schools, churches and subdivisions all began appearing to accommodate the growth. Many business offices began moving away from the traditional downtown office building into more convenient neighborhood office plazas.
In 1970, the U.S. Census Bureau reported city's population as 80.0% white and 19.7% black.
Four attempts have been made to consolidate the municipal government of the city of Tampa with the county government of Hillsborough County (1967, 1970, 1971, and 1972), all of which failed at the ballot box; the greatest loss was the most recent attempt in 1972, with the final tally being 33,160 (31%) in favor and 73,568 (69%) against the proposed charter.
The biggest recent growth in the city was the development of New Tampa, which started in 1988 when the city annexed a mostly rural area of 24 square miles (62 km2) between I-275 and I-75.
East Tampa, historically a mostly black community, was the scene of several race riots during and for some time after the period of racial segregation, mainly due to problems between residents and the Tampa Police Department.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 175.3 square miles (453.9 km2), including 113.4 square miles (293.7 km2) of land and 61.8 square miles (160.1 km2) (35.3%) of water. The highest point in the city is only 48 feet (15 m) above sea level. Tampa is bordered by two bodies of water, Old Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Bay, which flow together to form Tampa Bay, which in turn flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The Hillsborough River flows into Hillsborough Bay, passing directly in front of Downtown Tampa and supplying Tampa's main source of fresh water. The Palm River is a smaller river flowing from just east of the city into McKay Bay, which is a smaller inlet, sited at the northeast end of Hillsborough Bay. Tampa's geography is marked by the Interbay Peninsula which divides Hillsborough Bay (the eastern) from Old Tampa Bay (the western).
The Tampa Bay area has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) zone, although due to its location on the Florida peninsula on Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, it shows some characteristics of a tropical climate. Tampa's climate generally features hot summers with frequent thunderstorms and dry and mild winters. Average highs range from 70 to 90 °F (21 to 32 °C) year round, and lows 52 to 76 °F (11 to 24 °C).
Summertime weather patterns predominate from around mid-May through mid-October, which roughly coincides with the rainy season. Daily temperatures are very consistent during this period, with daytime highs very often measuring near 90 °F (32 °C) and lows in the mid- to upper 70s °F (23–25 °C), almost always accompanied by high humidity. Mainly due to the proximity of large bodies of water, the official high temperature has never hit 100 °F (37.8 °C) – the all-time record high temperature is 99 °F (37 °C), recorded on June 5, 1985. Afternoon thunderstorms, usually generated by the interaction of the Gulf and Atlantic sea breezes, are such a regular occurrence during the summer that the Tampa Bay area and nearby inland areas of Central Florida are recognized as the "Lightning Capital of North America". The regular summertime afternoon thundershowers occasionally intensify into a severe thunderstorm, bringing heavy downpours, frequent lightning, strong straight-line winds, and sometimes hail. Average temperatures gradually fall beginning in September, and average daily rainfall amounts decrease as well during autumn.
Winter in the area is generally dry and mild. Average high temperatures range from the low to mid 70s °F (21–24 °C) during the day to the low to mid 50s °F (10–13 °C) at night. Occasionally cold fronts make it all the way south to the Tampa area and daytime highs stay in the 50s °F (10–13 °C) for a day or two, and nighttime lows fall below 40 F (5 C). Tampa average 2 days a year of frost, although many years may pass without a frost in the Tampa area. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Tampa was 18 °F (−8 °C) on December 13, 1962. The last measurable snow recorded in Tampa fell on January 19, 1977, with amounts between a trace and 0.2 inches (0.5 cm).
Spring in Tampa sees a slow increase in temperatures beginning in late February. However, monthly rainfall averages stay low until June, usually leading to dry conditions and the threat of brush fires in April and May.
Though threatened by tropical systems almost every hurricane season (which runs from June 1 to November 30), Tampa seldom feels major effects from tropical storms or hurricane; no hurricane has made landfall in the immediate Tampa Bay area since the 1921 Tampa Bay hurricane made landfall near Tarpon Springs and caused extensive damage throughout the region. Three major hurricanes have seriously threatened Tampa in the ensuing decades. Hurricane Donna (1960), Hurricane Charley (2004), and Hurricane Irma (2017) were each forecast to make landfall in Tampa Bay from the southwest, a worst-case track that would result in maximum storm surges throughout the region. However, all three storms turned to the east and made landfall in southwest Florida instead. Irma came closest, moving almost due north after making landfall near Marco Island on September 10, 2017 and passing just east of Tampa as a Category 1 storm. Irma caused substantial damage to the area, particularly to the electrical grid.
Because of tremendous population growth and coastal development since the last hurricane strike combined with rising sea levels due to climate change, Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay area is considered one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to a direct hit from a major storm.
The city of Tampa is split between two USDA climate zones. According to the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, Tampa is listed as USDA zone 9b north of Kennedy Boulevard away from the bay and 10a south of Kennedy Boulevard and along the bay, Zone 10a is about the northern limit of where coconut palms and royal palms can be grown, although some specimens do grow in northern Tampa. Since the Tampa area is home to a diverse range of freeze-sensitive agriculture and aquaculture, hard freezes, although quite rare, are a major concern. Since Tampa has some characteristics of a tropical climate, hard freezes (defined as below 28 °F (−2.2 °C)) happen rarely (every five to 20 years depending on location). The last officially recorded freeze at Tampa International Airport took place on the morning of January 13, 2011, when the temperature dropped to 31 °F (−1 °C).
As of 2000, the largest European ancestries in the city were German (9.2%), Irish (8.4%), English (7.7%), Italian (5.6%), and French (2.4%).
As of 2010, there were 157,130 households out of which 13.5% were vacant. In 2000, 27.6% households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 16.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.9% were non-families. 33.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.07.
In 2000, the city's population was spread out with 24.6% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 32.3% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.7 years old. For every 100 females there were 95.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.1 males.
In 2006, the median income for a household in the city was $39,602, and the median income for a family was $45,823. Males had a median income of $40,461 versus $29,868 for females. The per capita income for the city was $26,522. 20.1% of the population and 16.4% of families were below the poverty line. 31.0% of those under the age of 18 and 13.6% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty level.
As of 2000, those who spoke only English at home accounted for 77.4% of all residents, while 22.6% spoke other languages in their homes. The most significant was Spanish speakers who made up 17.8% of the population, while French came up as the third most spoken language, which made up 0.6%, and Italian was at fourth, with 0.6% of the population.
There is a large gay population and a gay cultural center known as the GaYbor District.
Communities of faith have organized in Tampa from 1846, when a Methodist congregation established the city's first church, to 1939, when a 21-year-old Billy Graham began his career as a spiritual evangelist and preacher on downtown's Franklin Street, and through to today. Among Tampa's noteworthy religious structures are Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a 1905 downtown landmark noted for its soaring, Romanesque revival construction in granite and marble with German-crafted stained glass windows, the distinctive rock and mortar St. James Episcopal House of Prayer, listed with the National Register of Historic Places, and the St. Paul AME church, which has seen the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Bill Clinton speak from its pulpit. The latter two have been designated by the city government as Local Landmark Structures.
Tampa's religious community includes a broad representation of Christian denominations, including those above, and Presbyterian, Lutheran, Christian Science, Church of God, United Church of Christ, Philippine Independent Church, Unitarian Universalist, Metropolitan Community Church, Seventh-day Adventist, Eastern Orthodox (Greek, Coptic, Syrian, and OCA), various Pentecostal movements, Anglicans, the Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is also at least one congregation of Messianic Jews in Tampa. There is a Korean Baptist church, a Mennonite church, several Haitian churches, and a Vietnamese Baptist Church. Tampa has several Jewish synagogues practicing Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. In addition, there is a small Zoroastrian community present in Tampa.
Around the city are located a handful of mosques for followers of Islam, as well as a Tibetan-style Buddhist temple, a Thai Buddhist Wat, and local worship centers for the Sikh, Hindu and Bahá'í faiths. The Church of Scientology, based in nearby Clearwater, maintains a location for its members in Tampa.
Overall, Tampa is 50th out of the largest 51 metropolitan area in the percentage of the populace that attends religious services of any kind.
Finance, retail, healthcare, insurance, shipping by air and sea, national defense, professional sports, tourism, and real estate all play vital roles in the area's economy. Hillsborough County alone has an estimated 740,000 employees, a figure which is projected to increase to 922,000 by 2015. Several large corporations, such as banks and telecommunications companies, maintain regional offices in Tampa.
Several Fortune 1000 companies are headquartered in the metropolitan area, including OSI Restaurant Partners, WellCare, TECO Energy, and Raymond James Financial.
Downtown Tampa is undergoing significant development and redevelopment in line with a general national trend toward urban residential development. As of April 2007, the Tampa Downtown Partnership noted development proceeding on 20 residential, hotel, and mixed-use projects. Many of the new downtown developments are nearing completion in the midst of a housing market slump, which has caused numerous projects to be delayed or revamped, and some of the 20 projects TDP lists have not broken ground and are being refinanced. Nonetheless several developments are nearing completion, which city leaders hope will make downtown into a 24-hour neighborhood instead of a 9 to 5 business district. As of 2010, Tampa residents faced a decline in rent of 2%. Nationally rent had decreased 4%. The Tampa Business Journal found Tampa to be the number two city for real estate investment in 2014.
Tampa's port is now the seventh largest in the nation and Florida's largest tonnage port, handling nearly half of all seaborne commerce that passes through the state. Tampa currently ranks second in the state behind Miami in terms of cruise ship travel. Besides smaller regional cruise ships such as Yacht Starship and SunCruz Casino, Tampa also serves as a port of call for three cruise lines: Holland America's MS Ryndam, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas, and Carnival's Inspiration and Legend.
The main server farm for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia Foundation projects is located in Tampa.
MacDill Air Force Base remains a major employer as the parent installation for over 15,000 active uniformed military, Department of Defense (DoD) civil service and DoD contractor personnel in the Tampa Bay area. A significant majority of the civil service and contractor personnel are, in fact, themselves retired career military personnel. In addition to the 6th Air Mobility Wing, which is "host wing" for the base, MacDill is also home to Headquarters, United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), Headquarters, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), the 927th Air Refueling Wing, Headquarters, United States Marine Forces Central Command (USMARCENT), Headquarters, United States Special Operations Command Central (USSOCCENT), and numerous other military activities of the active and reserve components of the armed forces.
Since the year 2000, Tampa has seen a notable upsurge in high-market demand from consumers, signaling more wealth concentrated in the area.
Tampa is home to a variety of stage and performing arts venues and theaters, including the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa Theatre, Gorilla Theatre, and the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre next to the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Performing arts companies and organizations which call Tampa home include the Florida Orchestra, Opera Tampa, Jobsite Theater, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, Stageworks Theatre, Spanish Lyric Theater, Tampa Bay Opera, and the Tampa Bay Symphony.
Current popular nightlife districts include Channelside, Ybor City, SoHo, International Plaza and Bay Street, and Seminole Hard Rock. Downtown Tampa also contains some nightlife, and there are more clubs/bars to be found in other areas of the city. Tampa is rated sixth on Maxim magazine's list of top party cities.
The area has become a "de facto" headquarters of professional wrestling, with many pros living in the area. WWE's former developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling, was also based in Tampa.
Tampa is home to several death metal bands, an extreme form of heavy metal music that evolved from thrash metal. Many of the genre's pioneers and foremost figures are based in and around the city. Chief among these are Deicide, Six Feet Under, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Death and Morbid Angel. The Tampa scene grew with the birth of Morrisound Recording, which established itself as an international recording destination for metal bands.
The underground rock band, the Baskervils, got their start in Tampa. They played the Tampa Bay area between 1994 and 1997 and then moved to New York City. Underground hip-hop group Equilibrium is based out of Tampa, as well as the Christian metalcore band Underoath.
In 2009, the new Frank Wildhorn musical Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure hosted its world premiere at the Straz Center.
The Tampa area is home to a number of museums that cover a wide array of subjects and studies. These include the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI), which has several floors of science-related exhibits plus the only domed IMAX theater in Florida and a planetarium; the Tampa Museum of Art; the USF Contemporary Art Museum; the Tampa Bay History Center; the Tampa Firefighters Museum; the Henry B. Plant Museum; and Ybor City Museum State Park. Permanently docked in downtown's Channel District is the SS American Victory, a former World War II Victory ship which is now used as a museum ship.
Tampa has a diverse culinary scene from small cafes and bakeries to bistros and farm-to-table restaurants. The food of Tampa has a history of Cuban, Spanish, Floribbean and Italian cuisines. There are also many Colombian, Puerto Rican, Vietnamese and barbecue restaurants. Seafood is very popular in Tampa, and Greek cuisine is prominent in the area, including around Tarpon Springs. Food trucks are popular, and the area holds the record for the world's largest food truck rally. In addition to Ybor, the areas of Seminole Heights and South Tampa are known for their restaurants.
Tampa is the birthplace of the Florida version of the deviled crab and the Cuban sandwich, which has been officially designated as the "signature sandwich of the city of Tampa" by the city council. A Tampa Cuban sandwich is distinct from other regional versions, as Genoa salami is layered in with the other ingredients, likely due to the influence of Italian immigrants living next to Cubans and Spaniards in Ybor City.
Several restaurant chains were founded or headquartered in Tampa, including Outback Steakhouse, The Melting Pot, Front Burner Brands, Carrabba's, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Bonefish Grill, Columbia Restaurant, Checkers and Rally's, Taco Bus, and PDQ.
The city of Tampa operates over 165 parks and beaches covering 2,286 acres (9.25 km2) within city limits; 42 more in surrounding suburbs covering 70,000 acres (280 km2) are maintained by Hillsborough County. These areas include Hillsborough River State Park, just northeast of the city. Tampa is home to a number of attractions and theme parks, including Busch Gardens Tampa, Adventure Island, the Lowry Park Zoo, and the Florida Aquarium.
The Lowry Park Zoo features over 2,000 animals, interactive exhibits, rides, educational shows and more. The zoo serves as an economic, cultural, environmental and educational anchor in Tampa.
Big Cat Rescue is one of the largest accredited sanctuaries in the world dedicated entirely to abused and abandoned big cats. It is home to about 80 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars and other species, most of whom have been abandoned, abused, orphaned, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts. They have a variety of different tours available.
Busch Gardens Tampa is a 335-acre (1.36 km2) Africa-themed park located near the University of South Florida. It features many thrilling roller coasters, for which it is known, including Sheikra, Montu, Gwazi and Kumba. Visitors can also view and interact with a number of African wildlife. Adventure Island is a 30-acre (12 ha) water park adjacent to Busch Gardens.
The Florida Aquarium is a 250,000 sq ft (23,000 m2) aquarium located in the Channel District. It hosts over 20,000 species of aquatic plants and animals. It is known for its unique glass architecture. Adjacent to the aquarium is the SS American Victory, a World War II Victory ship preserved as a museum ship.
The Tampa Bay History Center is a museum located in the Channel District. It boasts over 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2) of exhibits through 12,000 years. There are theaters, a map gallery, a research center and a museum store.
Well-known shopping areas include International Plaza and Bay Street, WestShore Plaza, the SoHo district, and Hyde Park Village. Palma Ceia is home to the Palma Ceia Design District. Previously, Tampa had been home to the Floriland Mall (now an office park), Tampa Bay Center (demolished and replaced with the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers training facility, known as "One Buc Place"), and East Lake Square Mall (now an office park).
The Tampa Port Authority currently operates three cruise ship terminals in Tampa's Channel District. The Port of Tampa is the year-round home port for Carnival Cruise Lines' MS Carnival Inspiration and MS Carnival Legend. In 2010 Tampa will also be a seasonal port for Holland America Line's MS Ryndam, as well as Royal Caribbean International's MS Grandeur of the Seas and MS Radiance of the Seas. A fourth company, Norwegian Cruise Line, has announced plans to sail out of Tampa for the first time. The 2,240 passenger MS Norwegian Star will be Tampa's largest cruise ship when it debuts a seasonal schedule in 2011. Cruise itineraries from Tampa include stops in the Eastern and Western Caribbean islands, Honduras, Belize, and Mexico.
Perhaps the most well known and anticipated events are those from Tampa's annual celebration of "Gasparilla", particularly the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a mock pirate invasion held since 1904 in late January or early February. Often referred to as Tampa's "Mardi Gras", the invasion flotilla led by the pirate ship, Jose Gasparilla, and subsequent parade draw over 400,000 attendees, contributing tens of millions of dollars to the city's economy. Beyond the initial invasion, numerous Gasparilla festivities take place each year between January and March, including the Gasparilla Children's Parade, the more adult-oriented Sant'Yago Knight Parade, the Gasparilla Distance Classic, Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, and the Gasparilla International Film Festival, among other pirate themed events.
Other notable events include the Outback Bowl, which is held New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium. Each February, The Florida State Fair brings crowds from across the state, while "Fiesta Day" celebrates Tampa's Cuban, Spanish, German, Italian, English, Irish, Jewish, and African-Cuban immigrant heritage. The India International Film Festival (IIFF) of Tampa Bay also takes place in February. In April the MacDill Air Fest entertains as one of the largest military air shows in the U.S. Guavaween, a nighttime street celebration infuses Halloween with the Latin flavor of Ybor City. Downtown Tampa hosts the largest anime convention in Florida, Metrocon, a three-day event held in either June or July at the Tampa Convention Center. Ybor also hosts "GaYbor Days", an annual street party in the GLBT-friendly GaYbor district. The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, held annually since 1989, is the city's largest film festival event, and one of the largest independent gay film festivals in the country.
Tampa hosted the 2012 Republican National Convention and the 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards in April 2014.
Tampa is represented by teams in three major professional sports leagues: the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball. The NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning call Tampa home, while the Tampa Bay Rays of the MLB play across the bay in St. Petersburg. As indicated by their names, these teams, plus several other sports teams, represent the entire Tampa metropolitan area.
The Tampa Bay area has long been a site for Major League Baseball spring training facilities and minor league baseball teams. The New York Yankees conduct spring training in Tampa, and the Tampa Yankees play there in the summer. On the collegiate level, the University of South Florida Bulls and the University of Tampa Spartans participate in many different sports.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began in 1976 as an expansion team of the NFL. They struggled at first, losing their first 26 games in a row to set a league record for futility. After a brief taste of success in the late 1970s, the Bucs again returned to their losing ways, and at one point lost 10+ games for 12 seasons in a row. The hiring of Tony Dungy in 1996 started an improving trend that eventually led to the team's victory in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 under coach Jon Gruden.
Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls: Super Bowl XVIII (1984), Super Bowl XXV (1991), Super Bowl XXXV (2001), and Super Bowl XLIII (2009). The first two events were held at Tampa Stadium, and the other two at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa will be the host for Super Bowl LV in 2021.
Originally the Pittsburgh Gladiators and a charter member of the Arena Football League, the Tampa Bay Storm relocated from Pittsburgh in 1991 and won ArenaBowl V that year. They have won 4 more ArenaBowls since then: ArenaBowl VII, IX, X, and XVII, and also appeared in ArenaBowl I, III, XII and XXIII. They have the most Arena Bowl titles.
Tampa was also home to the Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League. The Bandits made the playoffs twice in their three seasons under head coach Steve Spurrier and drew league-leading crowds to Tampa Stadium, but the team folded along with the rest of the USFL after the 1985 season. They played at Tampa Stadium, which hosted the 1984 USFL Championship Game.
Raymond James Stadium hosted the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship.
The Tampa Bay area has long been home to spring training, minor league, and excellent amateur baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays (originally "Devil Rays") began playing in 1998 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. After a decade of futility, the Rays won the 2008 American League Pennant and made it to the World Series. They also won American League East titles in 2008 and 2010.
In 2007, the Rays began the process of searching for a stadium site closer to the center of the area's population, possibly in Tampa.
Several Major League baseball teams conduct spring training in the area, and most also operate minor league teams in the Class-A Florida State League. The New York Yankees and the affiliated Tampa Yankees use George M. Steinbrenner Field across Dale Mabry Highway from Raymond James Stadium.
The NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning was established in 1992, and currently play their home games at Amalie Arena, located in downtown Tampa. In 2004, the team won their first and only Stanley Cup. The Lightning lost the Eastern Conference Final in 2011 in 7 games against that year's champion Boston Bruins. The Bolts were Eastern Conference Champions in 2015. They returned to the Eastern Conference Final in 2016 but lost in 7 games to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies compete in the United Soccer League (2nd Division) after spending their first 6 seasons in the North American Soccer League. The team began play at Tampa's George M. Steinbrenner Field in 2010, then moved to St. Petersburg's Al Lang Field in 2011. The Rowdies won their first league championship in Soccer Bowl 2012.
Previously, Tampa had hosted two top-level soccer teams. The Tampa Bay Rowdies of the original North American Soccer League was the area's first major sports franchise, beginning play in 1975 at Tampa Stadium. The Rowdies were an immediate success, drawing good crowds and winning Soccer Bowl '75 in their first season to bring Tampa its first professional sports championship. Though the NASL ceased operations in 1984, the Rowdies continued to compete in various soccer leagues until finally folding in 1993.
The success of the Rowdies prompted Major League Soccer (MLS) to award Tampa a charter member of the new league in 1996. The Tampa Bay Mutiny were the first MLS Supporters' Shield winner and had much early success beginning in 1996. However, the club folded in 2001 when local ownership could not be secured mainly due to a financially poor lease agreement for Raymond James Stadium. The city has no current representation in MLS, however, the Rowdies are currently seeking to join the league.
The University of South Florida is the only NCAA Division I sports program in Tampa. USF began playing intercollegiate sports in 1965. The South Florida Bulls established a basketball team in 1971 and a football team in 1997. The Bulls joined the Big East in 2005, and the football team rose to as high as #2 in the BCS rankings in 2007. They are now part of the American Athletic Conference.
The University of Tampa Spartans compete at the NCAA Division II level in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC).
Tampa is governed under the strong mayor form of government. The Mayor of Tampa is the chief executive officer of city government and is elected in four-year terms, with a limit of two consecutive terms. The current mayor is Bob Buckhorn, who took office on April 1, 2011. The City Council is a legislative body served by seven members. Four members are elected from specific numbered areas designated City Districts, and the other three are "at-large" members (serving citywide).
The city of Tampa is served by Tampa Fire Rescue. With 22 fire stations, the department provides fire and medical protection for Tampa and New Tampa, and provides support to other departments such as Tampa International Airport and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.
The city of Tampa has a large police department that provides law enforcement services. The Tampa Police Department has over 1000 sworn officers and many civilian service support personnel.
Public primary and secondary education is operated by Hillsborough County Public Schools, officially known as the School District of Hillsborough County (SDHC). It is ranked the eighth largest school district in the United States, with around 189,469 enrolled students. SDHC runs 208 schools, 133 being elementary, 42 middle, 27 high schools, two K-8s, and four career centers. There are 73 additional schools in the district that are charter, ESE, alternative, etc. Twelve out of 27 high schools in the SDHC are included in Newsweek's list of America's Best High Schools.
Tampa's library system is operated by the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System. THPLS operates 25 libraries throughout Tampa and Hillsborough County, including the John F. Germany Public Library in Downtown Tampa. The Tampa library system first started in the early 20th century, with the West Tampa Library, which was made possible with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie. Tampa's libraries are also a part of a larger library network, The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, which includes the libraries of the neighboring municipalities of Temple Terrace and Plant City.
There are a number of institutions of higher education in Tampa.
The city is home to the main campus of the University of South Florida (USF), a member of the State University System of Florida founded in 1956. In 2010, it was the eleventh highest individual campus enrollment in the U.S. with over 46,000 students. The University of Tampa (UT) is a private, four-year liberal arts institution. It was founded in 1931, and in 1933, it moved into the former Tampa Bay Hotel across the Hillsborough River from downtown Tampa. "UT" has undergone several expansions in recent years, and had an enrollment of over 8000 students in 2015.
Hillsborough Community College is a two-year community college in the Florida College System with campuses in Tampa and Hillsborough County. Southern Technical College is a private two-year college that operates a campus in Tampa. Hillsborough Technical Education Centers (HiTEC) is the postsecondary extension of the local areas Public Schools district. The schools provide for a variety of technical training certification courses as well as job placement skills.
The Stetson University College of Law is located in Gulfport and has a second campus, the Tampa Law Center, in downtown Tampa. The Law Center houses the Tampa branch of Florida's Second District Court of Appeal.
Other colleges and universities in the wider Tampa Bay Area include Jersey College, Eckerd College, and St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg.
The major daily newspaper serving the city is the Tampa Bay Times, which purchased its longtime competition, The Tampa Tribune, in 2016. Print news coverage is also provided by a variety of smaller regional newspapers, alternative weeklies, and magazines, including the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, Creative Loafing, Reax Music Magazine, The Oracle, Tampa Bay Business Journal, MacDill Thunderbolt, and La Gaceta, which notable for being the nation's only trilingual newspaper - English, Spanish, and Italian, owing to its roots in the cigar-making immigrant neighborhood of Ybor City.
Major television stations include WFTS 28 (ABC), WTSP 10 (CBS), WFLA-TV 8 (NBC), WTVT 13 (Fox), WTOG 44 (The CW), WTTA 38 (MyNetworkTV), WEDU 3 (PBS), WEDQ 16 (PBS), WMOR-TV 32 (Independent), WXPX 66 (ION), WCLF 22 (CTN), WFTT 50 (UniMás) and WVEA 62 (Univision).
The area is served by dozens of FM and AM radio stations including WDAE, which was the first radio station in Florida when it went on the air in 1922.
Three motor vehicle bridges cross Tampa Bay to Pinellas County from Tampa city limits: the Howard Frankland Bridge (I-275), the Courtney Campbell Causeway (SR 60), and the Gandy Bridge (U.S. 92). The old Gandy Bridge was completely replaced by new spans during the 1990s, but a span of the old bridge was saved and converted into a pedestrian and biking bridge renamed The Friendship Trail. It is the longest overwater recreation trail in the world. However, the bridge was closed in 2008 due to structural problems.
Tampa has several freeways which serve the city. There are two tolled freeways bringing traffic in and out of Tampa. The Lee Roy Selmon Expressway (SR 618) (formerly known as the Crosstown Expressway), runs from suburban Brandon at its eastern terminus, through Downtown Tampa, to the neighborhoods in South Tampa (near MacDill Air Force Base) at its western terminus. The Veterans Expressway (SR 589), meanwhile connects Tampa International Airport and the bay bridges to the northwestern suburbs of Carrollwood, Northdale, Westchase, Citrus Park, Cheval, and Lutz, before continuing north as the Suncoast Parkway into Pasco and Hernando counties.
Three of the city's freeways carry the interstate highway designation. Interstate 4 and Interstate 275 cut across the city and intersect near downtown. Interstate 75 runs along the east side of town for much of its route through Hillsborough County until veering to the west to bisect New Tampa.
Along with the city's freeways, major surface roads serve as main arteries of the city. These roads are Hillsborough Avenue (U.S. 92 and U.S. 41), Dale Mabry Highway (U.S. 92), Nebraska Avenue (U.S. 41/SR 45), Florida Avenue (U.S. 41 Business), Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Fowler Avenue, Busch Boulevard, Kennedy Boulevard (SR 60), Adamo Drive, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Tampa is served by three airports (one in Tampa, two in the metro area) that provide significant scheduled passenger air service:
Tampa's intercity passenger rail service is based at Tampa Union Station, a historic facility, adjacent to downtown between the Channel District and Ybor City. The station is served by Amtrak's Silver Star, which calls on Tampa twice daily: southbound to Miami and northbound for New York City. Union Station also serves as the transfer hub for Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach service, offering bus connections to several cities in southwest Florida and to Orlando.
Uceta Rail Yard on Tampa's east side services CSX as a storage and intermodal freight transport facility. Freight and container cargo operations at the city's seaports also depend upon dockside rail facilities.
The Port of Tampa is the largest port in Florida in throughput tonnage, making it one of the busiest commercial ports in North America. Petroleum and phosphate are the lead commodities, accounting for two-thirds of the 37 million tons of total bulk and general cargo handled by the port in 2009. The port is also home to Foreign Trade Zone #79, which assists companies in Tampa Bay and along the I-4 Corridor in importing, exporting, manufacturing, and distribution activities as part of the United States foreign trade zone program.
Weekly containerized cargo service is available in the Port of Tampa. Cargo service is offered by Ports America, Zim American Integrated Shipping Company, and MSC which has recently partnered with Zim. Currently 3,000 to 4,250 TEU containerships regularly call the Port of Tampa.
The bay bottom is very sandy, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constantly dredging the ship channels to keep them navigable to large cargo ships.
Public mass transit in Tampa is operated by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), and includes public bus as well as a streetcar line. The HART bus system's main hub is the Marion Transit Center in Downtown Tampa, serving nearly 30 local and express routes. HART is also currently making a bus rapid transit system called MetroRapid that will run between Downtown and the University of South Florida.
The TECO Line Streetcar System runs electric streetcar service along eleven stations on a 2.7-mile (4.3 km) route, connecting Ybor City, the Channel District, the Tampa Convention Center, and downtown Tampa. The TECO Line fleet features varnished wood interiors reminiscent of late 19th and mid-20th century streetcars.
Limited transportation by privately operated "Neighborhood Electric Vehicles" (NEV) is available, primarily in Downtown Tampa and Ybor City. Water taxis are available on a charter basis for tours along the downtown waterfront and the Hillsborough River.
The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) develops bus, light rail, and other transportation options for the seven-county Tampa Bay area.
Tampa and its surrounding suburbs are host to over 20 hospitals, four trauma centers, and multiple Cancer treatment centers. Three of the area's hospitals were ranked among "America's best hospitals" by US News and World Report. Tampa is also home to many health research institutions. The major hospitals in Tampa include Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph's Children's & Women's Hospital, James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, and The Pepin Heart Institute. Shriners Hospitals for Children is based in Tampa. USF's Byrd Alzheimer's Institute is both a prominent research facility and Alzheimer's patient care center in Tampa. Along with human health care, there are hundreds of animal medical centers including a Humane Society of America.
Water in the area is managed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The water is mainly supplied by the Hillsborough River, which in turn arises from the Green Swamp, but several other rivers and desalination plants in the area contribute to the supply. Power is mainly generated by TECO Energy.