Florida Guide > Accommodation
So often on our way to Tampa and ultimately Clearwater I have seen the signs saying Ybor City and I have always been intrigued as to what it was and what went on ther.
One Sunday on our way to an overnighter in Clearwater and therefore had a bit more time to stop we turned off to see what we were missing.
Ybor City was once the cigar capital of Florida. Well sad to say that I thought the area was dying on it’s feet It reminds me very much of Havana in that it too has a neglected air of somewhere that has seen better times. Hard to believe that in this once grand street with it’s ornate architecture there had been up to 140 cigar factories in the surrounding area. Tampa had everything needed for a cigar manufacturing business a port, a railroad and a humid climate for the tobacco leaf. Although the cigar industry did go into a decline it has seen a resurgence since the 1990’s and cigar carts and shops are now in evidence.
Bearing that in mind we parked up and set out to explore.
No matter wherever we go and whatever time we land thereit is always lunchtime and that day was no exception. We hadn’t a clue of where to start-but further up the street we spotted a familiar sign saying Columbia Restaurant. We knew then we were on familiar turf as we had eaten at Columbia in St Augustine and Celebration so without more ado we went inside and all I can say that it was amazing. Forget St Augustine and Celebration-this place was in a league of it’s own. For a start it was huge. It was a rabbit warren of rooms all leading off one another and each one decorated differently, vibrantly, flamboyantly and if you go to Ybor City at all-it’s worth going just to see this amazing place. The place was packed to the rafters-obviously this was the place to be seen in. You could people watch till your hearts content and the food wasn’t too bad too.
Apparently at night is when it really comes in to it’s own with many thousands of people pouring into the clubs and bars in the area looking for a good night out. It also hosts a fantastic fiesta in February and throught the rest of the year it has other events scheduled in it’s calendar.
We saw it on a sleepy Sunday-so maybe it was not the best time to do it justice but even so I enjoyed our meal in the restaurant and looking through some of the most fabulous retro clothes, shoes and jeweelery in some of the shops. It was like going through a Hollywood dressing up box.
Do give it a go and explore-I’m sure you will find it a very interesting piece of living history.
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