Searching for America: Tampa & St. Petersburg
As Lucy starts her guide to some of America’s southern cities, she first plunges into the sister cities of Tampa and St Petersberg. Full of things to occupy any inquisitive traveller, they’re different enough to offer something to everyone who visits.
If Tampa and St Pete are sister cities, they ended up with very different genes. Tampa is the real city: all skyscrapers and finances and bars; but St Pete has the spirit: murals and independent shops and art. That’s not to diminish Tampa; there’s a reason it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the US. It’s an epicentre for sports, most notably American football being home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – especially now Tom Brady is returning from his foray into retirement. Game days fill the city with an electricity that brings it totally to life. I wish I’d been here for the Superbowl win and the crowds that flooded the streets. ‘Champa Bay‘ is also home to the ice hockey team, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Rays, a baseball team formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. And thanks to the weather home to, among others, the New York Yankees’ spring training grounds.
Tampa is also home to Gasparilla, the day-long pirate festival
Tampa is also home to Gasparilla, the day-long pirate festival where, as it sounds, the entire city gets dressed up, drinks on the street, and watches parades while frantically trying to catch beads that are launched out at you. It’s got the appeal of the nightlife, big city lights and an illuminated Riverwalk that makes a nice evening activity. There’s no doubt about it. Tampa is a fun city, it’s the life of the party, and the place for excitement, but it doesn’t have quite the same charm that I’ve found in St Pete.
St Pete Beach is the best spot for a sunset; clear skies, white sand, blue water
I have become a veritable connoisseur of the hidden gems downtown St Petersburg has to offer, often choosing to spend weekends wandering the streets that might not be lined with gold but are instead lined with pastel paints and crystals. Choose to spend your days slipping out of reality in the Dali Museum, or wandering the pier and browsing markets and fairs, but there is no question about spending the evening at the beach. St Pete Beach is the best spot for a sunset; clear skies, white sand, blue water, and you’re almost guaranteed a spectacular display of glowing orange and pink candyfloss skies. I have also had a very high success rate of sunset dolphin spotting.
St Pete really wears the Cuban influence that you find in Florida
St Pete really wears the Cuban influence that you find in Florida, adding hugely to the feeling that you aren’t in just another nondescript city, but somewhere unique. It may only be a bridge across the bay separating two cities, but the combination of the very different Tampa and St Petersburg gives you everything you could want from where you live.