City Living Guide: What is it like to live in Tampa, Florida?
Author: KAP Realty & Gloria Russell
If you are considering a move to Tampa, you’ll find plenty of information here to help you make a wise decision. This article will cover Tampa’s climate (here’s a sneak preview: hot, humid summers), standard of living, health care, education, employment, leisure-time activities and more.
Tampa’s livability score, as determined by areavibes.com, is 76 on a 100-point scale. It’s ranked in the 84th percentile nationwide—a very good rating.
Get ready to take a quick spin through Tampa!
Table of Contents:
- 1. Sprawling city with an array of transportation options
- 2. Tampa is a city of diversity, history and culture
- 3. Hot, humid summers and mild winters
- 4. A great place to live and work
- 5. Nationally ranked healthcare
- 6. Excellent educational opportunities
- 7. Local economy is growing
- 8. So much to see and do
- 9. A few drawbacks, but lots to love
- 10. A neighborhood that’s just right for you
- 11. Attractive, affordable housing
- 12. Work with experienced real estate professionals
1. Sprawling city with an array of transportation options
The city of Tampa, which sprawls across approximately 170 square miles, sits on Tampa Bay on Florida’s west coast. It is the largest city in a metropolitan area commonly referred to as the Tampa Bay Area, which also includes the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The area is served by 5 major highways, one of which, I-275, runs through downtown Tampa. Some of the highways are toll expressways.
Two dozen commercial airlines as well as some charter companies serve Tampa travelers at Tampa International Airport. Amtrak provides daily train service to and from cities around the country, starting at Tampa’s historic Union Station. For travel within the city, you can drive, hop on a city bus or the TECO Line Streetcar or enjoy one of the many scenic walkways.
Enjoy Bayshore Boulevard, touted as the world’s longest continuous waterfront sidewalk. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has big plans for an affordable, accessible, innovative transportation system for the city. Castor’s vision includes an extension of streetcar routes, rail and ride-share options, rapid-transit buses, and increased walkability and bike-ability.
2. Tampa is a city of diversity, history and culture
Tampa boasts a diverse population, with about one-quarter of its residents being of Hispanic or Latino heritage and one-quarter Black or African American. The population is nearly equally split between males and females, and the median age is 35.6.
The city’s culture has a strong Latino flavor. Ybor City, one of the earliest Tampa neighborhoods, was founded by Cuban immigrant cigar manufacturers and attracted workers from other parts of Latin America, Spain, Italy and Germany.
Ybor City is one of just two national historic landmark districts in all of Florida, with offices, residences and boutique hotels situated in historic buildings. The neighborhood has become a regional entertainment center, is home to many creative industries and has been called the Greenwich Village of Tampa.
Hillsborough County has an active Arts Council funded by individuals, foundations, corporations, and local and state government. The council not only promotes arts and culture but works to ensure a healthy arts and culture environment for generations to come. Council members note that their work is vital to making Tampa and the entire county more appealing to newcomers, tourists and employers.
3. Hot, humid summers and mild winters
Tampa and sunshine are practically synonymous. The city experiences an average of 246 sunny days per year, which is more than a month’s worth of days (41 to be exact) higher than the national average. When the sun goes behind the clouds, Tampa averages 51 inches of rain annually, 13 inches more than the U.S. average. Most likely you could guess that the average annual snowfall in Tampa is zero!
A Tampa resident offers this tidbit about Tampa’s climate: “Anyone who is looking to move here should know that the city climate is hot. Not a little bit hot, but really, really hot. It’s also quite humid.” The average high temp in August, Tampa’s hottest month, is 90.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tampa generally sees about 74 days each year when the temp soars over 90. The average low in January is 51.6, which makes for a very mild winter when combined with the lack of snow. You can plan to enjoy Tampa’s beaches for most of the year as Tampa’s weather has earned an “A” rating from AreaVibes.com.
Tampa’s allure includes coastal grasses and palm trees along with white sand, not to mention pine forests and orchards.
4. A great place to live and work
Nearly 400,000 people (392,890 as of July 2018, according to the U.S. government) live in Tampa, an increase of almost 17% in eight years. While Tampa is considered densely populated, its 3,000 people per square mile pales in comparison to New York City, with more than 28,000 human beings per square mile.
Local amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants, entertainment venues and parks are within an easy walk or short drive for most Tampa residents. In fact, Tampa has earned an A+ rating for its amenities.
If you are civic minded, you’ll find opportunities to get involved through the nationally accredited Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, which offers groups and programs designed to develop and provide leadership. Perhaps you’d like to run for city or county office, seek appointment to the Arts Council, or work to enhance your neighborhood through an association.
5. Nationally ranked healthcare
Minute clinics, walk-in clinics, urgent care centers and both primary and specialty care outpatient centers abound in the Tampa area. Need a shot of Botox or a mole removed? You’ll find plenty of dermatology options. Pregnant or hoping to become so? There are lots of ob/gyn and fertility specialists in the metro area. Are you or a loved one facing a serious diagnosis? You’ll find an array of compassionate, skilled, highly trained healthcare providers to treat you and help you cope.
Four hospitals in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area scored particularly well in the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings, which are based on a combination of objective data and reputational surveys completed by physicians. Tampa General Hospital, nationally ranked in six adult specialties, is listed as #1 in Tampa-St. Petersburg and #2 in Central Florida.
Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater is #2 in the metro area but is not nationally ranked in any specialties; St. Joseph’s Hospital – Tampa is #3 and is cited as a high performer in five procedures/conditions. Mease Countryside Hospital in nearby Safety Harbor is #4 and is high performing in three procedures/conditions.
Increasingly around the country, healthcare systems provide a continuum of care, with services for all ages and nearly every imaginable illness or condition. BayCare Health System in the Tampa Bay area, for example, operates 14 hospitals and hundreds of specialty clinics, including care for sleep disorders, behavioral health diagnoses, wounds and much more.
More than 80 home health agencies serve Tampa, helping to ensure that those who need assistance with activities of daily living can remain in their own houses or apartments.
6. Excellent educational opportunities
Public and private pre-K through grade 12 schools are located throughout the city. Many earn high marks from parents and independent organizations.
Plant High School in Tampa is one of the best high schools in America, according to the 2019 U.S. News & World Report ranking of high schools across the country. Of the more than 17,000 schools ranked, Plant is #582. Among Florida high schools, it is #36. U.S. News assesses schools on their performance on state-required tests, graduation rates and how well students are prepared for college.
Plant, which is one of 64 high schools in Hillsborough County, has a total minority enrollment of 33 percent; 84 percent of Plant’s students take Advanced Placement coursework. Land O’ Lakes High School ranked #141 among Magnet high schools nationally; Brooks Debartolo Collegiate High School ranked #188 among charter schools.
Berkeley Preparatory School is the #1 private pre-K-12 school in the Tampa area, according to niche.com. With 1,340 students, and a 9:1 student-teacher ratio, Berkeley earned an A+ rating. Coming in at #2, also with an A+, is Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, with 974 students and a 10:1 student-teacher ratio.
What about higher education? You’ll have many excellent colleges and universities to choose from, whether you or a family member are looking for technical, undergraduate or graduate studies. In fact, Tampa has 25 colleges with a total of more than 75,000 students. Consider this sampling:
A. University of Tampa, a small private school in the heart of downtown
B. University of South Florida, a pre-eminent research university
C. Everglades University, a private university with programs ranging from alternative medicine to energy management
D. Hillsborough Community College, a two-year school with five campuses in Hillsborough County
E. The Art Institute of Tampa, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design
F. Southern Technical College, a career-training college, offering programs in health, business, technology and the trades
G. Center for Advanced Medical Learning & Simulation, one of the world’s largest, free-standing simulation facilities exclusively dedicated to training healthcare professionals
7. Local economy is growing
The Tampa Bay Area’s economy has been rebounding, thanks in part to new business development and emergence as a location for information processing for the financial industry. The economy has diversified significantly since Tampa’s early days when cigar manufacturing was the main show in town. The metro area now is known not only for cigars, but is the industrial, commercial and financial hub of western Florida, with tourism, food processing, healthcare and high-tech businesses creating a strong base.
City planners have no intention of letting Tampa become stagnant. They are looking to attract additional business and industry. Agribusiness also is strong in Hillsborough County, where farmers produce vegetables, fruit, dairy products, eggs, beef and more. Two nationally known breweries operate in Tampa.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the Tampa area’s unemployment rate has been between 2.9% and 3.9% over the past several months. That compares with the national rate of about 3.6%. If you have not already secured employment in Tampa or the surrounding metro area, the outlook is good for you to find what you’re seeking. The tourism industry is a major employer, along with real estate, retail, healthcare and national defense.
8. So much to see and do
Fine dining? Ethnic restaurants? Cute cafés and coffee shops? Yes, you’ll find so many, many venues in and around Tampa. Theatre and music? Yes. Art galleries? Definitely. Historical exhibits? Of course. Activities for kids? You know it. Let’s take a little spin through the Tampa Bay Area’s arts and entertainment scene, beginning with just 10 of the myriad restaurants/coffee shops.
a) Shelly’s Café is cute and gets rave reviews for its breakfasts.
b) The Independent bar and café have something for everyone, including PB&J for the kids.
c) The three Foundation Coffee Co. locations offer robust coffee and baked goods in a modern, industrial-style setting—and outdoor seating extraordinaire.
d) The Lab’s coffee offerings keep changing; patrons are encouraged to talk with the baristas to help create special drinks.
a) The Chop Chop Shop prepares Asian-inspired dishes—in a big hurry.
b) For Hawaiian food (and Aloha Hour), check out Roy’s Restaurant.
c) The Ybor City neighborhood teems with ethnic eateries, including the Acropolis Greek Taverna, Carmine’s for old world Italian as well as Cuban and Spanish fare, and The Bricks, featuring locally roasted coffee, cocktails and diverse, creative entrees served in an edgy, yet classy, environment.
a) Ocean Prime, voted one of the best seafood restaurants in the bay area by Creative Loafing, also specializes in steak, wine and cocktails.
b) Donatello is known for authentic Italian cuisine and its live jazz lounge.
c) Bern’s Steak House has been operating for more than 60 years, features extravagant decor and has won the James Beard award for outstanding wine.
The Straz Performing Arts Center, in downtown Tampa on the banks of the historic Hillsborough River, is the 4th largest performing arts institution in the United States, offering theatrical performances, concerts, comedy acts and more. It is home to 4 theaters, 3 restaurants and a coffee shop. The Straz offers award-winning programs that take the arts to under-served children in area schools and operates the Patel Conservatory performing arts school.
The renowned Tampa Museum of Art features a large collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, contemporary photography and new media, and a 14,000-square-foot LED installation on the building’s south façade that is a Tampa landmark. The museum’s café overlooks the Hillsborough River.
The history and culture of Tampa Bay and the entire state of Florida are covered at the Tampa Bay History Center, a 60,000-square-foot facility on Tampa’s Riverwalk. The History Center features 3 floors of exhibition galleries as well as the Touchton Map Library/Florida Center for Cartographic Education. The museum’s Columbia Café features Spanish-Cuban cuisines.
Still looking for more to see and do? How about these?
A. Busch Gardens (rides, animals, shows)
B. The Florida Aquarium (enough sea life, exhibits and activities to fill an entire day)
C. Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park (the usual zoo experience plus yoga in the wild)
D. Tampa Bay’s professional sports teams (baseball, basketball, football and more)
9. A few drawbacks, but lots to love
Tampa residents’ primary complaints are traffic and crime. The average commute time for city residents is 24 minutes, compared to 26.6 minutes nationally. The Tampa Police Department has exceeded state and national crime reduction averages for 12 consecutive years. The police have achieved this, in part, by building partnerships with citizens to enhance neighborhood quality of life.
If you’re not fond of heat and humidity, you won’t be a fan of Tampa in the summertime. But if you’re one of those folks who love to sweat, you’ll absolutely adore the city in July and August.
There’s plenty to love in the Tampa Bay area, not the least of which are mild winters, historic neighborhoods, cultural diversity and varied employment, education and recreation opportunities.
10. A neighborhood that’s just right for you
Whether you’re looking for a charming, older neighborhood, a sleek, ultra-modern high-rise, or something in between, you will find your dream home in Tampa or one of its suburbs. Consider this sampling:
a) Ybor City, which we mentioned earlier, is both historic and trendy. Many homes here are on the National Register of Historic Places.
b) High-rises and converted lofts are common in the Channel District near downtown, as are shops and entertainment venues.
c) Hyde Park is family friendly and historic, featuring lots of trees, bungalows and brick sidewalks.
d) Carrollwood is a suburb described as a premier residential community in which each section has its own homeowners’ association.
e) Riverview is the largest suburb, featuring quiet and diverse neighborhoods.
We all love finding our dream home—a house that fits perfectly with what we wanted—but is that enough? There’s another factor to consider as well: your neighborhood. We might be clear on which cities we’d like to live in, but let’s think carefully about this question: Is this particular neighborhood a good fit? Here are 5 things that you should consider.
11. Attractive, affordable housing
Tampa is a city in which you don’t need to earn six figures to buy a home near the beach. In fact, housing costs overall in Tampa generally are lower than in metro areas in other parts of the country. The median house price, depending on the source you consult, is between $172,00 and $227,000. Median rent is less than $1,000 per month.
It doesn’t matter whether you are looking for student housing, a studio apartment, condo, loft, three-bedroom rambler, a duplex house for sale or a five-bedroom, five-bath dream home, you will find it in Tampa. The same is true if you’re in search of independent, assisted living or skilled nursing care for yourself or an older relative.
12. Work with experienced real estate professionals
Sure, you can find homes for sale online or by driving around looking for yard signs, but your buying experience will be infinitely better if you connect early with an experienced real estate agent. Not only can a trusted agent help you narrow your search and schedule showings, s/he can help you navigate the mysteries of loan terms, property taxes and private mortgage insurance. Buying a home is a very big deal and working with the best real estate agents at your side will be a very big asset.
Good luck in your search and with your move! If you find this article helpful, please share it on your Facebook page so others can benefit from it as well. Thanks in advance!
In this article, we’ll discuss ways to lessen the worries by creating an alliance with your realtor — and knowing when to trust your own judgment. Let’s explore!