Moving to Tampa, FL: A Bellhops City Guide

Every year since 1904, the city of Tampa, Florida, holds a mock pirate invasion called “Gasparilla,” named after pirate José Gaspar, who terrorized West Florida’s coastal waters during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Often referred to as Tampa’s Mardi Gras, Gasparilla is one of the area’s most-anticipated events, typically drawing more than 400,000 attendees. The event begins with something called the Gasparilla Invasion, in which more than 750 people perform a mock invasion aboard a pirate ship, aptly named the “José Gasparilla.” The “pirates” then flood the streets, giving out treasures to kick off the Parade of Pirates, the third-largest parade in the United States. The festivities continue all day, with food, live music, and events such as the Sant’ Yago Knight Parade, the Gasparilla Distance Classic, the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, and the Gasparilla International Film Festival.

We don’t know about you, but that sounds like our kind of place. For those considering moving to Tampa, we’ve also gathered non-pirate-related information and resources to help make the decision easier (FYI, we are movers in Tampa, so we like to think we know our stuff.) We’ve also reached out to folks who live there to find out what they love about the city and what they think it could improve upon.

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Living in Tampa: The Basics

  1. A Brief Overview of Tampa

    Tampa is part of the Tampa–St. Petersburg–Clearwater area, which is the second-largest metropolitan area in the state and has around 2.9 million residents. The city itself has a population of 377,000.

    Though it’s threatened almost every year during hurricane season, which runs from June 1 until November 30, the city rarely suffers any major damage. In fact, the last time a hurricane made landfall there was in 1921.

    There are more than 165 parks and beaches within Tampa’s city limits, with 42 more in the surrounding area. There are also a number of theme parks and attractions, such as Busch Gardens Tampa, Adventure Island, Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park, and the Florida Aquarium.

  2. The Cost of Living in Tampa

    According to Numbeo, the cost for a four-person family to live in Tampa is around $3,100 a month (excluding housing). Expenses for a single person run around $860 (excluding housing).

    Home prices in Tampa, according to this article, are on the rise, due to high demand and a limited amount of supply. When it comes to renting, apartment prices range from $376 to more than $3,200, depending, of course, on what you’re looking for and which part of town you choose.

    If you are interested in a more thorough breakdown, Expatistan is a great site that will provide you with an extensive list of costs such as health care, groceries, clothing, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

  3. Jobs in Tampa

    Several Fortune 1,000 companies—such as Publix Super Markets, OSI Restaurant Partners, WellCare, TECO Energy, and Raymond James Financial—are headquartered in Tampa, and the city’s port is the seventh largest in the nation, handling nearly half the state’s commerce conducted by sea. It also serves as a port of call for three major cruise lines, which makes tourism a big part of the local economy. The average monthly salary in Tampa, after taxes, is around $3,300.

  4. Getting Around the City

    For those who like to walk, Tampa has the world’s longest continuous sidewalk, Bayshore Boulevard, which is four-and-a-half miles long.

    If you’re looking for public transportation, there’s the TECO Streetcar, which provides connections between historic Ybor City and Channelside Bay Plaza, and more than 200 buses run throughout the Tampa Bay area as well. For train travel, Amtrak offers rides throughout the city, to Union Station, and to other parts of the state, with connections to locations across the country.

  5. Crime in Tampa

    As with any major American city, crime is a factor, but it varies based on which part of Tampa you live in. This interactive crime map is a handy resource for determining the level of safety in particular areas.

Living in Tampa: The Lowdown on the Best Neighborhoods for You

The city is divided into Downtown Tampa, New Tampa, West Tampa, East Tampa, North Tampa, and South Tampa, which can be overwhelming just to read. So we’ve tried to take some of the pressure off by listing our favorites.

  1. Ybor City

    Ybor City is the area’s only National Historic Landmark District. Often referred to as Tampa’s Latin Quarter, it is a high-energy urban neighborhood with a strong community, very walkable streets, and a variety of cafés, restaurants, stores, museums, bars, and nightclubs. Classic architecture is mixed with modern buildings, offering a variety of homes to choose from, whether you’re looking for a loft, a town home, or a condo. It is also close to beaches, sports stadiums, and the Downtown area.

  2. Hyde Park

    Hyde Park was Tampa’s first western suburb, and many of the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival homes built in the late 1800s and early 1900s can still be found today. After a period of neglect, people began restoring this area in the ’70s and ’80s, and it is now considered one of the region’s more high-end neighborhoods, featuring one of Tampa’s top destinations for shopping, Hyde Park Village.

  3. Seminole Heights

    Because of its coolness factor among young professionals—many of the houses are small California-style bungalows—and its trendy restaurants, this neighborhood has been on the rise. It even has its own festival, the Heights Unites Music & Arts Festival, which is put on by the neighborhood association and the neighborhood's own brewery, Brew Bus Brewing. You can still find a reasonably priced apartment, but that’s changing quickly.

  4. Beach Park

    Beach Park was built in the 1920s on the waterfront of Old Tampa Bay and is full of oak trees and winding streets. Many of the homes have a Mediterranean style, with stucco exteriors, terra-cotta roofs, archways, and decorative tiles. It’s close to Downtown, the airport, the interstate, sports stadiums, and the West Shore Business District.

  5. Sulphur Springs

    Located about five miles north of Downtown, Sulphur Springs is marked by a distinctive water tower that was built in 1927. According to this article, the mayor has focused on revitalizing the area with projects that have included tearing down vacant buildings and installing more than 400 streetlights. More new homes are expected to be built, so if you’re looking for an affordable area with historic charm and a lot of potential, this is it.

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Tampa Culture and Nightlife

  1. The Arts, Museums, and Nightlife

    Tampa has a variety of performing-arts venues and theaters, including the Gorilla Theatre, the Tampa Theatre, the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, and the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

    When it comes to museums, Tampa has the Museum of Science & Industry, the Tampa Museum of Art, the Tampa Bay History Museum, the Dali Museum, and many others.

    And if you love the nightlife, you will want to visit Channelside and Ybor City, with popular places like The Franklin Manor, Centro Ybor, and Gaspar’s Grotto.

The Pros and the Cons: Things You’ll Love—and Perhaps Learn to Love about Tampa

  1. Let's Hear from the Locals

    When we asked Tampa residents about what they love and what they think could be improved upon, Allison Richardson, who moved to Tampa from Atlanta, said it feels like a small town to her but there is also a lot of arts and culture in the surrounding Bay Area of St. Pete, Clearwater, and Sarasota.

    “Quaint, hundred-year-old homes and oak-canopied streets in South Tampa and historic Hyde Park,” she said. “Awesome restaurant scene on Howard Avenue, the River Walk District, Channelside, and Seminole Heights.”

    Allison went on to say that there are sensational beaches within 30 minutes to an hour away, and that crime and traffic are minimal.

    “As far as friendliness, however, I’d give it a five out of ten,” she said. “It’s definitely not a Southern city; no Southern hospitality here.”

    Corey George complained about the traffic but said that it’s better than Orlando, Miami, and Atlanta.

    And Shane Chamblee told us that one of his favorite venues is the Tampa Theatre, a historical movie house and event venue that shows first-run and classic films. “Tampa is a great place for foodies, too,” he said. “Lots of diversity food-wise. Wat Tampa is a Buddhist temple that fund-raises with a market that’s open to the public every Sunday. They serve amazing homemade Thai food. It’s incredibly popular, though. You have to get there early because they run out of food fast.”

Additional Resources for Moving to Tampa

For all the things we didn't cover, and for more of what we did, here are some other sites that will help you with your decision on moving to Tampa, FL:

  1. Six Helpful Links

    • City of Tampa's Official Site: The name says it all. Geared more toward residents, this site will teach you everything you need to know about living in the city.
    • Visit Tampa: This site is geared more toward those who plan to visit—offering ideas for things to do, restaurants to visit, and places to stay and shop.
    • The Tampa Bay Times: Winner of 12 Pulitzer Prizes, this well-respected paper provides all the major news you need to know about.
    • Tampa Bay Metro: An online magazine that touts itself as a leading lifestyle resource for city.
    • Tampa Magazine: Three sister magazines devoted to the best Tampa has to offer, with interviews from celebrities, articles on health and wellness, style and shopping, arts and culture, and more.
    • Tampa Bay Parenting: This is a great resource for parents in the Tampa area who are looking for advice and information they can trust to raise responsible and happy children.

Good Luck with Your Move to Tampa

And that’s it. Our job is done. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your potential move, that’s OK. It’s all part of the process. Hopefully, what we’ve provided will help alleviate some of your anxiety and enable you to decide if Tampa is the right place for you. If you decide to take the plunge, get in touch. Like we said before, we are Tampa movers, after all.