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Moving to Tampa? Here’s What You Need to Know

by Team NextBurb 31 January 2021

Moving Guides By City

Why Move to Tampa

Did you know Tampa was one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation during 2020? Often overshadowed by more famous Florida cities, like Miami and Orlando, what's unique about this port city on the Gulf Coast? Put on your pirate hat and discover the magic drawing people to Tampa.

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About Tampa

Tampa and its suburbs trace back to 1824, when it was founded as a fort. Its early ties to Cuba and Spain, role in Florida's railroad history, and sailing folklore have created a unique culture. See its legacy through the city's iconic events, like the Gasparilla Parade, or historic neighborhoods like Ybor City.

Modern Tampa is the state's third-largest city and the economic center of western Florida.

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Situated on the sheltered Tampa Bay near the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa's waterfront includes the Hillsborough River, which cuts through the heart of downtown on its way to the bay. Some of the area's most iconic sites involve the water: the picturesque Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the miles of sidewalk along Bayshore Boulevard, and the renovated downtown Riverwalk. It includes the Channel District, where cruise ships and cargo ships pull alongside. Tampa's port is the largest in the state. Plus, Tampa is close to world-class beaches.

Some consider Tampa a more affordable, less touristy alternative to Orlando. Attractions include Busch Gardens and Adventure Island theme parks, the Lowry Park Zoo, and the Florida Aquarium.

Tampa and its surrounding metropolitan area are known as the Tampa Bay area. The metro includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Manatee Counties. People often lump Tampa and nearby St. Petersburg together, although they face each other from different sides of Tampa Bay. Each has a distinct culture, with St. Petersburg considered the younger, more artistic side city, while Tampa's towering skyscrapers are all business.

7 Reasons Why People Move to the Tampa Metro

#1- Weather

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A big reason to move to Florida is the tropical climate. Tampa benefits from a cooling ocean and bay breeze. Mild winters typically see little rain. January has an average high of 70F and an average low of 51.6.F.

Yes, the summers are hot and humid with afternoon thunderstorms. Nearly two-thirds of the year's precipitation falls from June to September. But one fun fact about Tampa is the temperature has never reached 100F degrees. It's gotten close, at 99F, and nearby St. Pete Beach has a record high of 102, but Tampa's never pushed over that mark.

Florida does experience hurricanes. Tampa's Gulf Coast location means it's more likely to experience tropical weather crossing the state from the Atlantic side than a direct hit. In fact, the last storm to directly hit Tampa Bay was in 1946.

#2- Beaches

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Tampa proper lacks those iconic Florida beaches. However, some of the best beaches in the world are in the Tampa Bay metro area. A short drive from delivers you to the beaches at Clearwater, St. Pete, or Fort DeSoto. Two-time best beach in the nation winner Siesta Key is just an hour south in Sarasota. The breathtaking Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island are also popular getaways. In sum, numerous quality beaches await!

#3- Walkability

Overall, the Tampa Bay area isn't renowned for its walkability, but Tampa has made strides to create a walkable city with ample access to outdoor recreation. An example is the 2.5-mile Riverwalk that winds along the Hillsborough River to connect multiple cultural centers, retail, dining, and public parks. Several local communities are walkable and make creating a live-work-play lifestyle easy.

#4- Job Opportunities

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Tampa is one of the leading cities in the nation for work opportunities. One 2018 study ranked Tampa fourth in the country for job opportunities. Hospitality is the number one draw, although more jobs in this sector are across the bay. Professional, scientific, and technical industries are the number 2 employer in the Tampa area.

The city continues attracting new businesses. Fortune 500 company Mosaic relocated its headquarters here. Tampa was already home to Raymond James and other financial institutions like Citi and JPMorgan Chase. The city was also named one of the Top 20 Tech Towns as of the end of 2019. Top employers in the area include ConnectWise, AgileThought, and Accusoft.

Supply chain jobs are a vital part of Tampa's economy, with the port and its associated industries important employers for the Tampa Bay region.

#5-Affordability

Tampa's cost of living is around 8% less than the national average. Housing prices are a big reason why Tampa is a more affordable place to call home. The median sale price in October 2020 for a Hillsborough County single-family home was $290,000, under the national median of $313,000.

Tampa's strides towards a more pedestrian-friendly city are helping with transportation costs. Those near the urban core have access to more free or low-cost public transportation options.

#6- Family-friendly

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Tampa has enough activities to keep everyone in the family entertained. In addition to its parks and beaches, Tampa has Busch Gardens amusement park and Adventure Island water park. The Museum of Science and Industry and the Glazer Children's Museum allow kids to get hands-on with science. The city is also home to the Florida Aquarium and the Lowry Park Zoo. Multiple youth community sports leagues are available across its various neighborhoods, and as youth organizations for the arts, like the Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra.

#7- Sports entertainment

Four major sporting teams call Tampa home. The 2020 Stanley Cup champions the Tampa Bay Lightning play downtown at Amalie Arena. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play in the NFL at Raymond James Stadium. Catch Major League Baseball at a Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The newest team is the Tampa Bay Rowdies, part of the United Soccer League, also headquartered in Tampa.

Plus, several MLB teams use Tampa for spring training, including the New York Yankees.

As it is a Florida city, Tampa also has numerous championship golf courses in the metro area. Try the award-winning Pebble Creek Golf Club or the popular Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club.

What Living in Tampa is Like

The Commute

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The closer you live to Tampa's urban core, the easier it is to create a walkable lifestyle. Some downtown neighborhoods have access to one of the city's free TECO Line streetcars that run from downtown to Ybor City from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Others are designed with sidewalks and bike lanes, making them pedestrian-friendly.

The city operates a public bus system with stops throughout the metro, but lacks a rail system.

Otherwise, residents of Tampa suburbs need a car to get around. Most residents experience some kind of commute. Those living and working on opposite sides of the bay have the most challenging commute. Crossing the Howard Franklin Bridge can take over an hour during the busiest times. Otherwise, it's a 20–30-minute car ride.

The area's major highways are the north-south I-75, the east-west I-4, which connects to Orlando, and I-275, which circles the bay to connect with St. Petersburg. Toll roads Selmon Expressway and the Veteran's Expressway are also major routes in and out of town.

According to US Census data, about one in five Tampa Bay area workers spend over 45 minutes commuting to work. Still, Tampa Bay's average commute times are typically shorter than other Florida cities. Pinellas Park, Plant City, Sarasota, and St Petersburg residents have some of the state's shortest commute times. Residents living in Land'o'Lakes, Wesley Chapel, or Riverview have longer drive times.

If you have to use air travel, you'll love the recently renovated Tampa International Airport. The airport is one of the easiest to navigate as an air traveler. Visit once, and you'll see why it ranks as North America's best medium-sized airport.

The Schools

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Hillsborough County School District services Tampa for K-12 education. Across the bay, the Pinellas County School District covers St. Petersburg. The Pasco County School District serves the suburbs of north Tampa.

The Hillsborough County School District is the 8th largest in the country. Its size gives students access to lots of resources and extracurricular activities. The district's Plant High school is ranked 39th within Florida; 82% of its students participate in AP exams. Other top-ranking district high schools include Brooks Debartolo Collegiate High School and Newsome High School.

Some outstanding private school options are in the Tampa area. These include Berkeley Preparatory School and Tampa Preparatory School, both known for a competitive application process.

The University of South Florida is one of the largest public universities in the state. The city is also home to the University of Tampa, whose Plant Hall and iconic minarets are a Tampa landmark.

The Cost of Living

Living in Florida has a few advantages to your wallet. A big one is no state income tax.[a] Property taxes are relatively affordable compared to other parts of the country. Flood insurance is one increased expense, but that can be mitigated by where you choose to live in Tampa.

Overall, Tampa's total cost of living is less than the national average. It's easier to find more affordable real estate. The median home value in December 2020 for Tampa was $245,794. This is one area where you can live close to the beach without a six-figure income.

Dining Scene

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Get ready for a real treat: the Tampa Bay dining scene. TripAdvisor listed Tampa as one of its seven up-and-coming food scenes, but the city has a century-long tradition of culinary excellence.

Start with the Cuban scene. Tampa claims to be home to the Cuban sandwich. Any Tampa resident will tell you, Cuban sandwiches made outside the city are simply not the same.

The Cuban culinary scene continues with the Columbia Restaurant and its original Ybor City venue. Opened in 1905, it is Florida's oldest operating restaurant and one of the world's largest Spanish restaurants. Culinary enthusiasts consider it one of the best restaurants for Spanish and Cuban cuisine in the nation.

Tampa is more than Cuban food. Bern's Steakhouse has been delivering fine dining for 60 years. It was farm-to-table before it was trendy. Bern's restaurant has one of the world's largest wine collections and has won a James Beard award for outstanding wine. Nation's Restaurant News deemed it a Top 50 All-American Icon.

Keep exploring the Tampa dining scene, and you will find more gems. A James Beard nominee whips up global-inspired cuisine at Haven. Brew Bus Brewing has won national awards, and Mise en Place delivers on the big-city swanky dining. Plus, there are venues like Sparkman's Wharf, Cigar City Brewing, Armature Works–in short, you'll never run out of places to try.

Where to Live for…

The Tampa Bay Area offers an array of dynamic neighborhoods and suburbs. All your choices can make finding the right place to live challenging, but NextBurb will help find your neighborhood match. Let's look at a few neighborhoods to start.

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Water Street Tampa

One of the largest redevelopment projects in Tampa history, Water Street Tampa is creating a vibrant community. One advantage residents have is walkability. Wander along the path from the Florida Aquarium to the Sparkman Wharf, stopping at attractions, dining, and shopping.

Commute to downtown: 4 minute drive/ 18 minute walk

Ybor City

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Founded in the 1880s by Spanish immigrants, modern Ybor City is a popular entertainment destination for college-aged and young professionals. Its character isn't just in the many shopping, dining, and entertainment choices; many homes here are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Commute to downtown: 6 minutes

Hyde Park

The tree-lined streets and brick sidewalks of historic Hyde Park district lead to a variety of restaurants, bars, and nightlife. It's also near the University of Tampa and is considered highly walkable.

Commute to downtown: 4 minute drive /20 minute walk

Downtown St. Petersburg

Create a live, work, and play lifestyle in the heart of a thriving city. Downtown Saint Petersburg is transforming into a vibrant and exciting nighttime destination, with new luxury apartments, restaurants, microbreweries, and retail to boot.

Commute to downtown: 24 minutes

Courier City/Oscawana

With an urban feel, Oscawana is packed with bars, restaurants, parks, and coffee shops. Not only is it close to Hyde Park, but it's highly rated is one of the best places to live in Florida.

Commute to downtown: 6 minutes

Family-oriented

Westchase

Located between downtown and Palm Harbor, Westchase is a master-planned dense suburban neighborhood with a range of housing options. Residents enjoy many lifestyle amenities and services, paired with access to the greater Tampa Bay area.

Commute to downtown: 24 minutes

Riverview

Riverview is a large suburban neighborhood southeast of Tampa. Residents are close to the Alafia River and nature preserves, plus the retail destination of Brandon. A city resident's average age is 35.

Commute to downtown: 20 minutes

New Tampa

New Tampa is known for its outdoor recreational activities and active lifestyle. Its rapid growth is balanced with access to parks, nature trails, and playgrounds. A variety of public, charter, and private schools service the area.

Commute to downtown: 18 minutes

Wesley Chapel

Residents enjoy highly-ranked schools and an active youth community sports program. Wesley Chapel is a family-focused suburb with something to do all the time. The Shops of Wiregrass are a popular destination. In addition to its retail and dining, it offers events like open-air markets on the weekends.

Commute to downtown: 27 minutes

First-time home buyers

Carrollwood

A well-established community close to downtown, Carrollwood residents are close to locally-owned boutiques, local dining, public parks, and playgrounds. Enjoy a monthly outdoor market at the Carrollwood Cultural Center or hit the nearby links for golf.

Commute to downtown: 20 minutes

Seminole Heights/Riverside Heights

Enjoy easy access to downtown Tampa plus all the amenities of these established neighborhoods. Seminole Heights and nearby Riverside Heights are close to Tampa's countless restaurants, shopping venues, and outdoor recreational activities.

Commute to downtown: 8 minutes

Temple Terrace

Enjoy a strategic location between Tampa's three major interstates. Temple Terrace has a dense suburban feel and many parks to enjoy. It's close to the University of South Florida and provides convenient access to attractions like Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Commute to downtown: 17 minutes

Luxury Living

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Davis Island

South of downtown Tampa is the quiet and luxurious Davis Island. The streets are lined with oak trees, public parks, and charming sidewalk boutiques and cafes. This self-sustaining island offers a grocery store, hospital, and schools all in one place. Celebrities and pro athletes, attracted by its privacy, have built estates here.

Commute to downtown: 8 minutes

Bayshore

Besides the miles of sidewalk that makes up Bayshore Blvd, the strip along Bayshore is known for its opulent homes with water views. Residents also enjoy its proximity to countless amenities, excellent local schools, and a low crime rate.

Commute to downtown: 11 minutes

Retirement

Sun City Center

Located South of Tampa, Sun City Center is a self-sustained community with a high concentration of retirees. It's legal to drive golf carts on the roads here. Local activities include aquatic fitness, games, dances, and outdoor recreation.

Commute to downtown: 30 minutes

Dunedin

Dunedin is a coastal community north of Clearwater. It has proximity to some of Tampa's best beaches, plus an active downtown with art galleries, restaurants, and bars. A range of housing communities serve people over 55, making it easy to find the retirement home to suit your needs.

Commute to downtown: 31 minutes

The Tampa "Bucket List"

#1- Historic Ybor City

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Tampa's Historic Ybor City is pretty unique. Founded by a Spanish immigrant, the area became one of the world's top producers in cigar manufacturing. Today, it's an entertainment district loaded with museums, restaurants, shops, and bars.

#2- Gasparilla Invasion and Pirate Fest

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Every Tampa Bay resident must participate in the annual Gasparilla at least once. It's like Mardi Gras, but with Pirates. The ceremonial invasion of the mythical Gaspar is held in January. Boat-themed floats driven by pirates parade along Bayshore Blvd, tossing beads along the way. It's a crazy weekend of fun for the family.

#3- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

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The thrills here are death-defying, with roller coasters that turn and twist you in every which way. If roller coasters aren't your thing, that's okay. Busch Gardens is themed around a zoo. Explore the park's animals and learn about its conservation efforts.

#4- Dali Museum

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Located in St Petersburg, the Dali museum showcases the works of surrealist Salvador Dali. Even if art isn't particularly your thing, the museum is fascinating and worth a visit.

#5- Columbia Restaurant

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You must eat at the historic Columbia Restaurant location in Ybor City at least once. The entertainment, decor, and food will not disappoint. The expansive restaurant spans a city block with its uniquely decorated rooms. Live Flamenco shows are available every day except Sunday.

#6- Yankees Spring Training

Not everyone can afford a ticket to a New York Yankees game, but it's easier to catch them when they are spring training in Tampa. Go to see the iconic team at least once.

#7- Tampa Theater

The historic Tampa Theater in downtown was built in 1926 as one of America's most elaborate movie palaces. It's since been restored and continues to show movies throughout the year.

#8- Clearwater Beach

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Every Tampa Bay resident journeys to Clearwater Beach at least once. Its miles of pristine white sand offer touristy beach fun, like parasailing and speedboats. It's also an excellent location for people watching.

#9- Florida Aquarium

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Explore what's under the surface of the Tampa Bay waterways. The Florida Aquarium offers an up-close look at the creatures under the waves and estuaries that surround Florida.

Why move to Tampa

Tampa has something for everyone, making it one of the best areas to live in the South. The multiple neighborhoods across the Tampa Bay area are rich in history, low in the cost of living, and high in the quality of life. If you want a city that has a bit of everything without breaking the bank, explore Tampa.

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