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The city of Tampa, situated on an inlet reaching far into the west coast of Florida, is the economic centre of western Florida. The city centre is an area of high-rise office blocks, but Tampa also has historic old quarters such as Ybor City and Old Hyde Park.The maps drawn by the Spanish conquistadors show a number of Indian settlements around Tampa Bay. In 1824 the Americans built a fort at the mouth of the Hillsborough River directed against the Seminole Indians. After the Second Seminole War a port and trading center were established here, and this soon developed into a regional center. The Civil War brought a period of stagnation, until a boost was given to the town by the construction of the South Florida Railroad

Towards the end of the 19th century Tampa became a fashionable winter resort. In 1886 the Cuban cigar manufacturer Vincente Martinez Ybor moved his business to Tampa and a new quarter, Ybor City, was built for his Spanish-speaking employees. The mining of phosphates in the surrounding area also gave a stimulus to the city’s development.

Franklin Street is the pedestrian center of downtown Tampa. The area is bordered by I-275 in the north, Meridian Avenue in the east, Garrison Channel in the south and the Hillsborough River in the west.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens is a 335 acre African-themed family entertainment and adventure park featuring thrill rides, live music, craft performances and a multitude of exotic animals in natural habitat settings. This is one of the must see attractions in the Tampa area for visiting families.

Also, visitors can take a safari to see animals grazing on the plains with reproductions of African villages and camps. Visitors can experience close up encounters with some of the animals.

The Serengeti Night Safari is another popular option at Busch Gardens.

Address: 10165 North McKinley Drive

Florida Aquarium

Lowry Park Zoo

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo features more than 2,000 animals in natural habitats. Some of the exhibits include Asian Gardens, Primate World, Free-Flight Aviaries, Florida Wildlife Center, Florida Manatee and Aquatic Center, Wallaroo Station children’s zoo, and Safari Africa.

This is a zoo that has grown over the years and developed into a quality facility that is very popular with locals. Visitors can feed some of the animals, including giraffes. In addition to the animals there are also rides and play areas for children.

Address: 1101 West Sligh Avenue, Tampa, FL 33604-4756, United States

Adventure Island

Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue is a wildlife sanctuary for abused and abandoned big cats. It is a non profit organization that is home to hundreds of animals which include Geoffroy Cats, Jungle Cats, Clouded Leopard, Tigers, Servals, Caracals, Snow Leopards, Bobcats, and Lynx.

The facility offers guided tours only. You cannot wander the grounds freely like in a zoo setting. Nonetheless, this is a popular outing. If you are visiting with a child under the age of 10 you must take the “Kids Tour” which is only available on certain days.

Address: 12802 Easy Street, Tampa, FL 33625-3702, United States

Henry B. Plant Museum

Part of the former Tampa Bay Hotel, once owned by railroad tycoon Henry Plant, was turned into a museum in 1933. It is a luxurious Victorian palace with distinctive Moorish features. The Henry B. Plant Museum traces the history of the hotel and Plant’s contribution to the development of Tampa and Florida.

The various rooms, such as the Grand Hall, the Reading and Writing Room, and the Garden room, feature fine period furnishings and offer a glimpse into the lifestyle of Henry B. Plant.

An avid gardener, Plant hired a prominent landscape architect to design the grounds, which are known for their lovely tropical gardens. The rest of the old hotel now houses the University of Tampa.

Address: 401 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33606-1450, United States

SS American Victory