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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

HIstory of Tampa Bay

With it’s modern and efficient International airport, Tampa is a great place to visit.

The Pinellas County resorts including Clearwater and St. Petersburg are an easy drive from the airport, as well as the theme park Busch Gardens and the variety of theme parks in the Orlando area. It is not surprising that the state’s western portion has become so popular. Tampa has recently been nudging its way into position as a major cruise ship terminal – with over $177 million spent to deepen the port’s main channel, and a further $1. 3 million spent on Garrison Channel Cruise Ship Terminal. More money has been earmarked for a downtown terminal complete with restaurants, shops and a hotel.

Tampa was listed as an Indian settlement by early map-maker Fontenado in 1580 and shown on de Laet’s map of 1625. When Spanish explorer De Soto landed here in 1539, however, it was known as Espiritu Santo Bay. Tampa was established as an American settlement in 1823 when Fort Brooke was built; but as troops left to join the Confederacy in 1861, it was left with a dwindling population.

The new communications of the 1880s brought people and power back to Tampa including Spanish and Cuban immigrants who moved over to work for the cigar manufacturing industry in the district known as Ybor City.

When phosphate was discovered, the port proved beneficial to its export. Henry Plant saw the town’s potential as a winter tourist resort, and in competition with Flagler’s east coast successes, built the Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891.

During the last Century, Tampa has seen some resurgence as a holiday destination. In keeping with this image, the Tampa Performing Arts Center, a three-theatre complex on the banks of the Hillsborough River, is helping to make Tampa a major centre for the arts. The $140 million Tampa Convention Centre, comprising of five hotels, opened in 1990, and more projects have been completed since then including the Florida Aquarium.

Tampa is both sporty and festive. The Cincinnati Reds and other major baseball spring league teams carry out their spring training here and the Autumn sees American football with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers.

Being by the Bay, there are opportunities for motor boating, wind surfing or taking out a hobie cat (a small catamaran). As for the festivals, Tampa is at its liveliest during the annual revelry of the Gasparilla Festival in January/February and when it hosts the State Fair in February. During the berry season there is a Strawberry Fest in neighbouring Plant City and in Brandon, a balloon Festival is held during October each year.

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Page added on: 8 July 2009
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