Florida is packed with vacation-worthy cities that can make deciding where to live (and possibly retire) a difficult choice. Moving to Tampa is likely an option on your short list, even though other cities might be close contenders.
So how can one decide? Living in Tampa, Florida isn’t without its concessions. Common complaints include a relatively flat landscape and streets that are lined with a multitude of chain retail plazas. Traffic can also be a nightmare. As the lightning capital, you can expect daily thunderstorms throughout the summer, and you’ll most certainly want a hurricane emergency plan.
But with temps that rarely rise above 100, maybe the cool breezes and fresh air will make living so close to the beach worth it. History and charm abound, Tampa is a welcoming place to call home for many city transplants and expats.
Is moving to Tampa right for you? This mid-sized city is a good place to live if you are looking for a Florida destination with character and a respectable mix of blue and white collar careers.
We have some more Tampa pros and cons for you to consider before making your choice. However, if you have already made your decision, skip ahead to our essential moving to Tampa guide packed with everything you need to know and do to make your move stress-free.
1. There are charming and historic neighborhoods in Tampa.
As Florida’s third largest city, Tampa is home to nearly 380,000 residents and makes up a decent chunk of the metropolitan known as the Tampa Bay Area. Other adjoining cities, towns and suburbs nestled along Tampa Bay expand this greater metro to over 4 million inhabitants. So many options can make finding a place to live a little daunting.
The best neighborhoods in Tampa are the ones that are filled with hidden gems and character. If you look in the right spots, you might be surprised to find thriving local businesses and restaurants galore. Where to live in Tampa will depend entirely on the quality of life you desire. Here are some of the best places to start your search.
- Ybor City — This historic and trendy section of Tampa is located northeast of downtown and was once the “Cigar Capital of the World.” The area was founded in the 1880’s by immigrants and has thrived to become one of the leading neighborhoods in Tampa. Just be aware if you buy a historic home here, it might be on the National Register of Historic Places, meaning you’ll need to abide by strict restoration codes.
- Channel District — Located just east of downtown, the Channel District is filled with lots of local businesses and entertainment complexes. You’ll find an assortment of high-rise condos, converted lofts and quaint boutique shops in this neighborhood.
- Hyde Park — This section of Tampa is highly walkable and family-friendly. The historic district was founded in the late 19th century and is packed with bungalows, tree-lined streets and brick sidewalks.
The best suburbs of Tampa offer space to spread out and have a decent commute. Many of them are planned communities with Home Owners Associations and board members that ensure residents’ needs are met. This type of community might be different than what you’re used to, but they are also ideal for young families, retirees and snowbirds looking to get away for the winter. We’ve gathered a few that had raving reviews from current and past residents.
- Carrollwood — Located about 9 miles northwest of downtown Tampa, this suburb is coined as one of Tampa’s premier residential communities. Each section is governed by a different Home Owners Association, which gives you more variety when choosing between homes.
- Westchase — This close-knit community is located between Tampa and Palm Harbour. The area has a wide range of price points and a variety of living options from condos to villas, to single-family houses. The neighborhood is a deed restricted community which means you will be part of an HOA and will have to pay monthly dues for community-specific amenities and services.
- Riverview — With quiet and diverse neighborhoods, Riverview is a relatively safe and family-friendly community that is experiencing a growth spurt. As the largest suburb on this list, Riverview offers its residents a wide range of shopping, dining and activities.
2. Tampa jobs might not pay as well as other cities.
Tampa is not the most progressive city when it comes to job opportunities, but the job market is growing. Just look at the downtown skyline of Tampa. The skyscrapers exude a sense that this city means business. Despite excellent opportunities for employment, some complain that a lot of the corporate culture in Tampa is stuck in a time warp.
The job opportunities and benefits you find here might be more run-of-the-mill than you desire. But the fact of the matter is, many families that relocate to Tampa do so for an irresistible job, even if that means making less than they might make in cities like Austin.
If you decide moving to Tampa is right for you, make sure you accurately assess how available careers are in your line of work. Will your salary increase, decrease or stay the same? Will you be relocating with a job in hand? If you move to Florida without a job, you might find yourself quickly settling for something that is low paying with little room for advancement, which is a mistake you don’t want to make if you can help it.
One bonus to finding a job in Tampa is the cultural diversity available. With such a large Spanish speaking population, there are a lot more bilingual job opportunities than you might find elsewhere.
A few industries of note in Tampa include:
- Healthcare — Top employers include BayCare Health System, Tampa General Hospital and Wellcare.
- Finance — Top employers include JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Bankers Financial Corp and Amscot Financial Inc.
- Shipping — Top employers include The Port of Tampa, Pak Mail and OSG Ship Management.
3. But there’s no state income tax and houses are relatively inexpensive.
The cost of living in Tampa is reasonable when you consider what you get for the money. For those of us who desire living close to the beach, buying a home in Tampa can make that dream a reality without needing a six-figure income.
Some money-related pros and cons to living in Tampa include:
- There is no state income tax.
- Property taxes are around the 2% mark.
- Insurance costs can be more expensive, particularly because of flood insurance.
- Tampa has relatively inexpensive housing costs compared to other parts of the country.
4. Schools districts are large and diverse.
Worried about sending your kids to school in Tampa? Don’t be. College-age students have dozens of worthwhile options in Tampa, including the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa.
For younger students, Tampa is serviced by the Hillsborough County School District, which is the 8th largest in the country. Such an expansive network means your students will have access to tons of resources and extracurricular activities.
If you’re moving with children, make sure you research varying schools within the district well before you choose a neighborhood to live in. Plan a walkthrough, talk with teachers and staff and do your part to make an informed decision.
5. Transportation can be a nightmare at the wrong times.
If spending more than 20 minutes on your commute to work seems intolerable, Tampa might not be the right city for you. It seems the more populated Tampa becomes, the more residents complain about the traffic.
Some new resident traffic tips include:
- Avoid Dale Mabry Highway when events are happening downtown.
- Be aware of various speed traps and red light cameras throughout the city.
- Create alternate routes that stay off the interstates during rush hour.
Getting around Tampa without a car might be difficult, but it’s not impossible. If you’re commuting around the downtown area, there is a streetcar and trolley car as well as a bus system. One thing the city is missing? A rail system to improve the daily commute in and out of the city.
Moving around in Tampa isn’t all bad. The airport is fantastic. If you travel a lot, getting to and from various destinations is easy via the Tampa International Airport.
6. Locally owned restaurants are popping up if you know where to look.
Perhaps Tampa’s claim to fame in the culinary world is the Cuban sandwich. But that’s just the beginning when it comes to multi-ethnic food choices. The top restaurants in Tampa offer culinary diversity you should expect from such a melting pot. Whether it’s a newly opened farm-to-table spot or a Latin-inspired food truck, you’ll find whatever it is you’re craving.
Places you need to dine in at least once in Tampa:
- Berns Steakhouse — With over 60 years experience in fine dining, this Tampa gem won the James Beard award for Outstanding Wine.
- Datz — As the most reviewed business in Tampa Bay on Yelp, this restaurant offers a raving brunch people can’t help but write about.
- The Refinery — Founded in 2010, this James Beard nominated eatery puts farm-to-table to action. Unless the food was grown in Florida by ethical means, it’s not served here.
7. There are a lot of things to do all year round.
In Tampa, Fl, there are things to do outside all year round. Sure, you might need a jacket in 60-degree weather (because 60 feels cold in Florida). But Floridians make sure to take advantage of their nicest days with various festivals and celebrations.
In Tampa, some of the most lively festivals include Tampapolooza, the Sunset Music Festival and the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival. If you love pirates, don’t miss the Gasparilla Pirate Fest. This family-friendly event is a Mardis Gras of sorts for the Tampa Bay area.
Tampa is also a very family-friendly destination. A visit to the Tampa Lowry Park Zoo offers your child a unique experience whether it be with a nighttime sleepover or by feeding the giraffes. The Tampa Bay History Center is another great option for children and families looking to learn more about the area.
If you prefer saving some cash and desire a more leisurely way to spend your time outside, visit one of the over 150 parks in the Tampa area.
Some parks of choice include:
- Bayshore Boulevard Linear Trail — People refer to this trail as the world’s longest continuous sidewalk. This isn’t just any sidewalk; it’s 10 feet wide! Enjoy a 4.5-mile stroll of scenic views along the bay.
- Snow Park — Parks don’t have to be large to be worth visiting, even if it’s just a walk by. Snow Park is considered the world’s smallest park and is dedicated to Major E. Henry Snow, an influential figure in Tampa’s history.
- Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park — This 8-acre park is an urban oasis in Tampa. Be sure to visit their two interactive fountains: the Louver fountain and the Mist fountain.
8. A quality beach is under an hour away.
One of the best pros about living in Tampa could be its proximity to clear, clean beaches. Whether in Tampa or a neighboring city, a quality beach will usually be just under an hour away. Pick one that has amenities suited to your family or visit them all!
We suggest checking out these Florida beaches:
- St. Pete’s Beach — If you are looking for the most scenic beach, this one might be it. The beach includes the longest undeveloped stretch of public beach in the country.
- Treasure Island — White sandy beaches and picturesque sunsets can be found at Treasure Island, along with an assortment of dining options within walking distance.
- Indian Rocks Beach — Compared to the more famous Clearwater Beach, Indian Rocks feels like a private retreat. There are fewer tourist attractions which means more time for relaxation.
- Fort Desoto — Part park, part beach, this Tampa Bay destination has an incredible 1,136 acres to explore across five interconnected islands. Appreciate nature and all the creatures in it. Fort Desoto has 328 different species of birds on its grounds.
9. There are four professional sports teams to cheer on.
What’s one reason you might choose to live in Tampa over moving to Orlando? Tampa has more professional sports teams to cheer on, with a large fan base to boot. Grab a jersey and tickets to any of the following teams’ home games:
- NHL’s Tampa Bay Lighting
- MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays
- NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- USL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies
One of the best things you can do for yourself while living in Tampa is staying as active as your favorite sports players.
Here are some of our favorite ways to keep moving:
- Tampa Bay Water Bike Company — Sure, there are a lot of trails to ride your bike on in Tampa. But take that workout to the next level on a waterbike!
- Kraken Cycleboats — To keep with the cycling theme, try biking on a boat! Much like pedal tours that are popping up in cities all over, this takes the pedaling party to the bay.
- Run Tampa — If running is more your speed, check out the Tampa Area Race Calendar to find a race that suits your lifestyle.
10. Relocating to Tampa doesn’t have to be stressful.
Moving to Tampa Checklist
1. Find a reputable moving company in Tampa.
The first step to making a successful move is to pick a competent mover. While doing your research, make sure your mover has an AMSA membership. AMSA trains and certifies all of its member companies under strict ethical, legal and safety standards. Start your search with College Hunks Hauling Junk or Brothers EZ Moving.
2. Switch over utilities and internet service.
Moving to a new city is an excellent opportunity to renegotiate all your monthly contracts. About three weeks before your move, make it a point to call your local utility provider to schedule a shut-off/turn on date. Next, figure out who the best internet providers are in the area. If it’s the same company you already have, call them and try to renegotiate your contract for your new address. If not, sign up with a new company and take advantage of one of their specials.
3. Handle all automotive paperwork.
If you’re moving from out of state, you will need to re-register your vehicle with the DMV. You’ll also need to update your driver’s license as well as your car insurance. Now might be a good time to switch car insurance providers if it will save you money.
4. Transfer medical and school records.
Once you select a new doctor and school system, make sure everything is to be transferred. You may need to visit your current office to sign a release form.
5. Complete a change of address.
Two weeks before you move, visit your local post office (it doesn’t have to be in Tampa), and complete a change-of-address card or do it online.
6. Rent a storage unit for excess belongings.
Sometimes relocation dates don’t match up exactly. If your belongings arrive before you have access to your home, consider temporary self storage in Tampa.
7. Get your new and old home ready.
There are a variety of things to do to before you move. This moving checklist for your home will get both your old and new residence ready for the transition.
8. Create a hurricane emergency plan.
Hurricane Irma was a reminder for all Florida residents of the importance of maintaining and reviewing your family’s hurricane plan. If you’re new to Florida, read Tampa’s 2017 Hurricane Preparedness Guide.
Read Also: 5 Essential Tips for a Less Stressful Move
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Tampa Tips to Remember
- Is Tampa safe? That depends on who you ask. Every city has areas with higher concentrations of crime and Tampa is no different. Before you move, explore the Tampa crime rate using this map. Find out which areas you wish to avoid and remain vigilant.
- Looking for a job? Start your job hunt in Tampa with a simple Google Search. Once you’ve found your ideal job, research competitive salaries in the Tampa area. It’s very important to know your worth before the interview phase. Next, update your resume and have it proofread.
- Do I need a Realtor®? Even if you plan on renting in Tampa, it is essential to have a licensed Realtor® on your team. There are a lot of HOA’s and planned neighborhoods in the Tampa Bay Area. Find a realtor you can trust who will be able to accurately explain the differences among communities.
- Which Florida city is for me? Living in Tampa offers a different feel than other popular Florida cities. Not so sure? Decide for yourself by reading our moving to guides for Jacksonville and Orlando.
Moving to Tampa has pros and cons, but for many residents, the good far outweighs the bad. What do you think about living in Tampa? Share your experiences in the comments below!