Florida is packed with vacation-worthy cities that can make deciding where to live (and possibly retire) a difficult choice. However, there are so many reasons to consider moving to Tampa, starting with — the weather.
Temps rarely rise above 100F in the summer and usually dip no lower than 30F in the winter. History and charm set the tone in Tampa, welcoming many Florida transplants.
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.
What else do you need to know about Tampa before choosing to live here? Read on for some points to ponder. Already know you’ll be moving to here soon? Jump to our moving to Tampa checklist.
1. Tampa neighborhoods include many charming and historic options.
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 northeast of downtown and was once the “Cigar Capital of the World.” The area was founded in the 1880s by immigrants and has become one of the leading neighborhoods in Tampa. If you buy a historic home here, it might be on the National Register of Historic Places, which means you’ll need to abide by restoration codes. Ybor attracts a lot of college-aged people, so this area’s residential options might appeal more to the younger demographic.
- Channelside District — Located just east of downtown, Channelside District is filled with lots of local businesses and entertainment complexes. Nestled right in the heart of Tampa, this neighborhood has plenty of restaurants and shops. Sparkman Wharf is a park situated in the middle of Channelside, providing waterfront views, a lawn for play and relaxation, and a biergarten filled with refreshing local craft options. 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. Near the University of Tampa, this highly desirable neighborhood has a multitude of restaurants, bars, and nightlife for all ages.
- Seminole Heights — This up-and-coming neighborhood is on the west side of Tampa, with a hearty art scene and delicious hole-in-the-wall restaurants. This neighborhood has its pros and cons, but it’s booming with new businesses, bars, restaurants, and nightlife. Many homes around the area are bungalow style, giving it a unique charm. Plus, with its central location, you’re minutes from the action in downtown.
The best suburbs of Tampa offer space to spread out and have a decent commute. Many of them are planned communities with homeowners’ associations (HOA) 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 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 HOA, which gives you more variety when choosing between homes.
- Westchase — This close-knit community is located between Tampa and Palm Harbor. The area has a wide range of price points and a variety of living options from condos and 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. As the largest suburb on this list, Riverview offers its residents a wide range of shopping, dining and activities.
2. The job market in Tampa is growing.
Tampa’s job market is growing slightly faster than the U.S. average. Average individual earnings are slightly higher than national averages, although average household earnings are slightly less.
The fact of the matter is, many families relocate to Tampa for irresistible jobs, even if that means making less than they might make in cities like Austin, Texas. Just look at the downtown skyline of Tampa. The skyscrapers exude a sense that this city means business.
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.
Top industries in Tampa include:
- Healthcare — Top employers include BayCare Health System, Tampa General Hospital, Greenway Health, and Wellcare.
- Finance — Top employers include Raymond James, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Bankers Financial Corp, and Amscot Financial Inc.
- Supply chain — Top employers include The Port of Tampa, Pak Mail, Jabil, iQor, and OSG Ship Management.
- Technology — Top employers include ConnectWise, TechData, Validity, AgileThought, and Accusoft.
3. 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. School 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.
One of the most popular high schools in the area is Tampa Prep, a school for children grades 6-12 that focuses on college preparedness. The school is known for its competitive application process, as it’s one of the only private schools in Tampa.
5. Transportation can be a nightmare at the wrong times.
The commute in Tampa varies greatly depending on where you’re going to and coming from. Rush hour generally starts around 4 p.m. and ends around 7 p.m.
If spending more than 20 minutes on your commute to work seems intolerable, Tampa might not be the right city for you. The more populated Tampa becomes, the more residents complain about the traffic.
Tampa can be a challenge for commuters, especially those who work on different sides of the bridge that separates Tampa from St. Petersburg. People who live in Tampa and travel to St. Pete for work commute on the Howard Frankland Bridge, which can take over an hour during busy times, for what should be a 20-30 minute ride.
Some new resident traffic tips include:
- Avoid Dale Mabry Highway when events are happening downtown.
- Steer clear of the Howard Frankland, Gandy, or Courtney Campbell bridges if you’re headed to Tampa between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
- 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 Tampa International Airport (TPA) is fantastic. If you travel a lot, getting to and from various destinations is a breeze. With renovations completed in 2019, the airport is a destination in itself. TPA is bursting at the seams with 69 restaurants, shops, and spas within its walls.
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 tip of the iceberg when it comes to 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 with ease.
Favorite places to eat in Tampa :
- Berns Steakhouse — With over 60 years experience in fine dining, this Tampa gem won the James Beard award for outstanding wine, but their steaks should not go unmentioned. This dining experience is an educational one to boot, where the wait staff is trained to explain the different cuts and sears of meat on the menu.
- Datz — As the most reviewed business in Tampa Bay on Yelp, this restaurant offers a raving brunch people can’t help but write about. With a unique menu featuring The Cheesy Todd, a juicy burger surrounded by mac’n’cheese buns, this restaurant has been featured on The Food Network.
- Armature Works — Located in Tampa Heights, Armature Works is a fully restored mixed-use building that houses a multitude of restaurants in a marketplace style atmosphere. Choose from pizza, BBQ, sushi, ramen, and more, then place your order and take a seat at one of the many family-style tables lining the open walk space.
7. There are a lot of things to do all year round.
In Tampa, Fla., 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 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 event is a Mardis Gras of sorts for the Tampa Bay area.
Tampa is also a very family-friendly destination. A visit to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo offers children a unique experience whether it be with a nighttime sleepover or by feeding the giraffes. Busch Gardens is right around the corner, providing thrills for the whole family. 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 and gaze at the mansions lining the streets.
- 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. The park is situated directly next to the Tampa Museum of Art and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, so entertainment is just footsteps away.
8. A quality beach is always under an hour away in Tampa.
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!
Best Florida Beaches:
- St. Pete 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. While there are spots to relax, the beach is lined with dozens of restaurants and bars that are open for daily entertainment to tourists and locals alike.
- 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. Visit this beach to feel like a local, but be wary of open parking as most of this area is residential.
- 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 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 Lightning
- 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:
- Urban Kai — If you’re a water bug, you might want to try stand up paddleboarding (SUP). Urban Kai has locations on the waterfront throughout the bay area for paddleboard rentals. They even offer a SUP yoga class for those more experienced.
- Pedal Pub St. Pete — If you’re an active person who loves to check out new bars, try the Pedal Pub in St. Petersburg. Locals from all around come to pedal down the streets and explore the city’s breweries, bars, and more.
- Run Tampa — If running is more your speed, check out the Tampa Area Race Calendar to find a race that suits your lifestyle. In addition, there are 5Ks nearly every weekend.
10. Art and music are the heartbeats of the city.
If you are interested in music and art, Tampa is thriving with creatives in every corner. From museums to festivals and performances every weekend, there’s always something going on in the area.
Here are some of the best places to enjoy the art and music scene in Tampa Bay:
- Dali Museum — Located a hop and a skip away in St. Petersburg, the Dali Museum showcases beautiful paintings from the surrealist, Salvador Dali. The museum hosts different exhibitions to highlight other artists’ work alongside the surrealist creator.
- Tampa Museum of Art — This art museum is nestled in the center of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Whether you want to stop in for a bite to eat with a lovely view or explore the unique exhibitions rotating each month, this is a prime destination for art lovers.
- Straz Center for the Performing Arts — The Straz is located steps away from Curtis Hixon, offering performances every week for those who enjoy Broadway musicals and plays alike.
- Jannus Live — Located just over the bridge in St. Petersburg, Jannus Live is an intimate concert venue that locals drive to from all over the bay area. The venue hosts artists big and small, and with only general admission standing room, there’s a good chance to get up and personal with the band.
- Amalie Arena — While this venue is home to the Tampa Bay Lightning, it also hosts multiple events per year. From Cirque de Soleil and the Trans Siberian Orchestra to Jeff Dunham and Elton John, this venue is the go-to spot for concerts, comedians, shows, and sporting events.
Moving to Tampa Checklist
Once you’ve decided to move to Tampa, the next part is more about planning your move to make it as seamless as possible. Here are some things to remember before you relocate.
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. Tampa runs on Tampa Electric, while anywhere in surrounding areas like St. Petersburg typically run on Duke Energy.
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. The most popular ones in the area are Spectrum and Verizon.
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. You might want to store your cold-weather clothes or ski gear for fall and winter trips up north, too.
7. Get your new and old home ready.
There are a variety of things to do 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.
While Tampa Bay has avoided a direct hit from every major hurricane since 1921, every Florida resident needs to have an emergency plan for evacuation if necessary. Make sure you’re prepared for hurricane season with the state’s 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? Follow us on Facebook and share your experiences!
Update: This post was originally published on September 29, 2017, and was revised on December 21, 2019, with new information from Tampa expert, Ashley Spencer.