5. Tampa is home to Florida’s largest port

Starship dinner cruise in downtown Tampa

Port Tampa Bay is the largest port in Florida. It’s the closest full service port to the Panama Canal. It also happens to be one of the top cruise ports in the US with 4 cruise lines homeporting here including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line.

6. Tampa Bay is the lightning capital of the world

Minutes before a major storm rolled into Siesta Key Beach

Minutes before a major storm rolled into Siesta Key Beach

If you have ever visited the Tampa region during the summer season, it will come as no surprise to you that Tampa is known to be the lighting capital of the world. These storms can get pretty intense and can come on with no advance warning. One minute you are sitting at a beach enjoying the sunny skies, only to have to pack up all your stuff and run to your car before the torrential downpour starts. I have had this happen to me so many times I cannot count – both at beaches and while on hiking trails. On the bright side, these storms provide a much needed cool down from the blazing heat.

Florida averages more than 10 deaths per year from lightning strikes. On an interesting note, only 10% of those struck by lightning die and men account for 80% of all lightning deaths. “Lightning Alley”, an interesting nickname given to the region between Tampa and Orlando, sees more than 50 strikes per square mile – more than anywhere else in the country. Be safe and prepared for a thunderstorm possibility every day in the summer.

7. There is much more to the region than simply beaches & theme parks

A gorgeous walk along the swamps at John Chestnut Park

Walking along the mangrove swamps at John Chestnut Park in Palm Harbor.

The Tampa Bay area really offers a bit of everything – a top ranked family zoo, a wide range of interesting museums (the Tampa Museum of Art is wonderful), the Tampa Theater (one of the top rated theaters in the world), gorgeous nature preserves everywhere you turn (check out Weedon Island & John Chestnut for starters), and on and on. Additionally, the area is home to fantastic local restaurants and coffee shops, despite the perception as it being a chain only destination…this is simply not true! It’s one of the top rated cities for fitness and nature lovers, and after a visit it will not be hard to see why. Check out my list of 50 fun things to do in Tampa to get started!

8. Birdwatching is a popular past time

Bird watching at Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg, Florida

The natural landscapes of Florida make it home to a diverse range of bird species. The Great Florida Birding Trail is a network of over 500 birding sites designed to protect Florida’s natural bird habitat. Pinellas County is a favorite spot for birdwatchers due to the mild climate, diverse ecosystems, and variety of trails and parks scattered all around the region. Some of the top include John Chestnut Park in Palm Harbor, Boyd Hill Nature Center in St. Petersburg, Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs, Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, and Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. Birding is becoming more and more popular with both locals & tourists, and fortunately, there are many, many parks in the region for everyone to enjoy this fun past time without overcrowding.

9. A massive pirate festival has been taking place for over 100 years!

Gasparilla pirate ship in downtown Tampa

The Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a large festival celebrating the legend of pirate Jose Gaspar, dates back over 100 years. The festive pirate themed lineup features the Gasparilla Invasion (arrival of the Gasparilla ship downtown), pre invasion live entertainment, a special brunch, and the 3rd largest parade in the country.

10. Tampa ranks as one of the best cities for coffee lovers

Americano and mocha at Chill St. Pete Beach

Chill St. Pete Beach is one of my favorite coffee shops in the region! Plus, it’s just a short drive from gorgeous beaches and nature preserves!

Looking to skip the standard chain coffee shops like Starbucks and Peet’s? You are in luck as Tampa is home to so many eclectic coffee shops. Out of the dozens of coffee shops I have tested out, only 1 was a let down. While most associate Tampa with endless chains, one would be surprised at how many independent shops are lurking in each and every city. In fact, Tampa ranks amongst the best cities for coffee lovers!Tampa is home to so many wonderful laid-back shops, each offering their own unique vibe, that it would be difficult to pick amongst the bunch. To get started, check out my list of the 5 best coffee shops in Tampa Bay!