The city of Tampa has been on the rise since the 16th century and a boom town since the 1880s. As a result, there are a lot of historic sights to see when visiting—let’s go over just a few.
The railroad played a huge part in the eventual success of the city and a great place to learn more about that is the Henry B. Plant Museum. Henry B. Plant was a successful businessman who helped to open up Tampa to the outside world when he connected his railway system to the foundling town in 1884. The building now housing the museum began its life as the Tampa Bay Hotel, a $3 million resort at the terminus of the railway, built in 1891. As the hotel was constructed to compliment the rail line, the location attracted many notable figures of the day, including singers and other performers. The original furnishings and architecture of the 511 room resort have been fully restored and maintained to offer a genuine impression of the hotel’s heyday. U.S. National Historic Landmark status was awarded to the structure in 1972.
Ybor City, the next suggested destination also relied on the railroad for its success by opening the area up to imported tobacco and allowed exportation of cigars. Vincente Martinez Ybor, a cigar manufacturer originally from Cuba, saw the potential of a flourishing Tampa and moved his operations there from Tampa in 1885. The area soon drew much attention from other cigar manufacturers and associated businesses, moving their own efforts to the area, soon to become known as Ybor City. Spanish, German, Italian and Cuban immigrants flooded into the area, making Ybor a melting pot which had great influence on local culture. It was known as the “Cigar Capital of the World” until the embargo of Cuban tobacco once Fidel Castro gained power in the 1950s. Ybor City has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark for the state of Florida and efforts have been taken to preserve the area’s culture in a variety of galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants.
Speaking of restaurants, the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City is known as the oldest restaurant in the state, operating as a family owned business since 1905. The Columbia is a great place to take in some Flamenco dancing while you sample the restaurant’s menu of Cuban influenced Spanish cuisine.
Before leaving Ybor City, visitors should make cure to visit Seventh Avenue, recognized by the American Planning Association as one of the “10 Greatest Streets in America” in 2008, where cigars are still being hand-rolled.
As for famous streets, Bayshore Boulevard is another recommended destination, known for its scenic waterfront roadway on Hillsborough Bay in South Tampa. Bayshore Boulevard’s accompanying sidewalk has been known as the longest continuous sidewalk in the world, running a length of 4.5 miles and a width of 10 feet. The road is lined by many impressive homes and luxury condominiums, as well as businesses, including the Colonnade Restaurant. The Colonnade has been in operation since 1935 and earned a reputation as one of the best seafood restaurants in the city of Tampa.