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Tampa is a kaleidoscope -- from its bustling port brimming with shrimp boats, banana barges and cruise ships, to its festive marketplaces, to its multi- ethnic restaurants and shops. Quaint, historic villages contrast with sleek, glistening skyscrapers. It's all part of one of the nation's fastest growing cities -- Tampa by the Bay.
To absorb the "flavor" of the area, stroll down the quaint streets of Ybor City and breathe in the aroma of freshly baked Cuban bread drifting out of the local bakeries and restaurants here. Visit Ybor Square where Cuban cigar makers demonstrate their ancestors' craft. These ancestors, along with Vincente Martinez Ybor, were responsible for founding this city-within-a-city in the 1800s. Galleries, mom-and-pop stores, wrought iron balconies and brick sidewalks enhance this delightful glimpse at Cuban culture.
Busch Gardens is listed among the nation's top four zoos. Besides exotic animals, Busch Gardens also features live entertainment and a variety of mechanical rides including Kumba, the largest and fastest rollercoaster in the southeast. The water park Adventure Island offers breathtaking flumes and slides and a relaxing tubing trail. For even more family- oriented amusements, visit the Lowry Park Zoo, the Fun Forest at Lowry Park or the Museum of Science and Industry. The Florida Aquarium displays marine life and natural Florida habitats in an educational and entertaining fashion. The Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa also offers an interesting glimpse at the past. For contemporary cultural experiences -- try the Museum of Art and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. If you enjoy spectator sports, the Buccaneers NFL football, the Lightning NHL hockey, the Storm in Arena Football, Jai Alai Fronton, Tampa Bay Downs and Greyhound Track offer a wide variety of excitement.
For the food lover who enjoys international cuisine, you'll find that restaurants reflect its cosmopolitan character. Spanish, Southwestern, Italian, Oriental, continental and seafood restaurants abound. Shopping, a favorite visitor pastime, can be enjoyed in a variety of settings. Old Hyde Park Village, nestled in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods off Bayshore Blvd., is an elite shopping area. Brandon is home to a large shopping district and mall. The Bay is surrounded by several notable communities including, Dover, Hamilton, Plant City, Riverview, Ruskin, Apollo Beach and Thonotasassa.
Photo courtesy of the Tampa/Hillsborough Convention and Visitor's Association