What's living in Tampa like?
September 4, 2017 5:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm considering moving to Tampa or somewhere near it to be closer to my mom, who is moving there this year. Tell me what it's like!

My mother used to lived in the outskirts of Tampa (I believe it was an area called New Tampa) a few years ago. From the few visits I made there, I generally didn't have the best impression of it: What I remember was heat, strip malls, cars everywhere , new housing developments. It didn't seem very walkable or like it really had a "soul", but I didn't explore much and barely went to the downtown area. What's it like: culture, education and job? Are there any other good areas 1-2 hours from Tampa that I should maybe look into?
posted by watrlily to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Check out St. Pete. I had a strong negative attitude (based on no experience or facts) against Florida and St. Pete did a lot to change my view. There is a good age mix, strong arts community and nice restaurants.
posted by InkaLomax at 5:32 AM on September 4 [7 favorites]


I live in St Pete and LOVE it. The downtown area is walkable but more expensive than its outskirts. Our mayor is very progressive, openly inclusive and loudly against the actions of our current president.

I could go on and on about St Pete. Shoot me a MeMail if you’d like me rhapsodize for a while.
posted by _Mona_ at 7:30 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


It's been a while since I lived there but the neighborhoods in the south end of Tampa near Hyde Park are quite charming , as is Ybor City. Downtown is beautiful. There's an old movie palace with a pipe organ, a nice public library and the University of Tampa campus with its onion domes.

A lot of Tampa, especially to the north, is seedy in that special Florida way, but there really is a lot of loveliness to the older parts of the city. Give it another look, if you can.
posted by Brain Sturgeon at 7:32 AM on September 4


St. Pete, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs - all close to the beach, within a reasonable driving distance of Tampa, and with better air quality and more "soul." I wouldn't want to live in Tampa itself, due to the traffic and the city vibe. It's hard to describe. It's like there is a custom of people being one thing and saying they are another. I worked for a long time in Tampa in a very liberal environment, and I worked with many many customers, many of them local, a smaller percentage born and raised. It's... strange. A small-town feel but in a big-city kind of way, if that makes any sense.

The majority of jobs being advertised for, so far as I can tell, are in service or healthcare. There is also a growing market for paralegals, there are law firms everywhere - way more around here than I remember noticing anywhere else.

Driving in Saint Pete requires patience, but on the plus side you can walk to a lot of nice places there instead.

Education - depending on your needs, you have several options. There is the University of Tampa downtown. Clearwater and Saint Pete have Saint Pete College, various courses of study available, some better than others, but if you've been in Florida for one year and are a resident, the cost of SPC courses is considerably less than I've seen elsewhere. There is also Eckerd College, though I don't know much about it other than they get some fairly famous people to play their venues. There is Stetson University in the Gulf Port area as well, they have a fairly expensive law school that feeds lawyers to the local firms and is supposed to be pretty good for its tier.

Finally, I notice "season" less in the Tampa area (Tampa plus all the cities I mentioned above) than I do in other parts of Florida - meaning the area is more or less always crowded, rather than emptier in the summer like some other parts of Florida, when all the snowbirds go north. The crowding is not as bad (yet) as the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.
posted by Crystal Fox at 7:40 AM on September 4


Tampa on the whole is one of the least walkable places in the United States, but you can get a little taste of a pleasant urban existence in some (pricey) neighborhoods like Hyde Park. Clearwater has nowhere walkable since the downtown is dominated by scientology fronts. Dunedin has a nice little downtown although you'll run out of new places to try in about a week. I like Safety Harbor a lot, it has a more walkable vibe, and it's very close to causeway access so you could get to Tampa easily from there. Living in St. Pete you can also get a more urban feel but it's also going to be disappointingly limited.

On the whole, you'll live a car-dominated life there, especially when it comes to going to the store or hanging out with anyone you might meet, who, chances are, will live in some development 10 car-minutes away from the nearest sidewalk.

If by education you mean the public schools, they are pretty bad in the area. They were bad when I was a kid, and they're even worse now (thanks, Jeb and Scott).

Culturally there are a few nice high points. You've got the Dali museum, and some nice museums in Tampa. You get a lot of musical acts coming through there, both arena fillers and smaller indy artists. I saw a lot of great shows as a teenager. There's a fair amount of artistic happenings going on in general, and The Florida Orchestra is pretty good.

Having access to some of the best beaches in the world can't be overrated, even if they've gotten crowded now compared to my childhood.

Publix rocks.

I dunno. I'd never move back there out of choice, but if I had to for my family, I know I'd be able to make a good life for myself out of it.

One thing to keep in mind, after Harvey, is how precarious Tampa is to a major disaster. We've been spared for about 100 years now of a real major hurricane, but if it hits, the whole damn place is going to drown and be washed away to sea.
posted by dis_integration at 8:00 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Hi. I'm from Philly, lived in SF for 10 years, now living in the eastern Tampa burbs (Brandon) for the past 4 years. I could write you a novel.

Basically, the area surrounding Tampa is unplanned sprawl. You can't get anywhere without a car. But you can get to most places quickly. There is good food everywhere. People are generally nice, schools are decent, and nature spots are plentiful. Very family friendly. Tampa downtown is growing massively and is really primed to blow up in the next 5-10 years. Great food scene, huge investment in downtown urban centers are taking shape.

St. Pete is awesome. Great downtown and arts scene, close to beaches. Much more walkable, especially downtown and little enclaves like Dunedin. Schools are generally fucked unless you live in a high income area.

Florida, for all its faults, does some great things with education in terms of school choice and magnet programs, though.

My general experience has been good here. It's a slower, more outdoor focused way of life. You find almost everything you need, but you may have to search a little harder or travel a little farther than some other cities. Memail if you have questions!
posted by gnutron at 8:27 AM on September 4


Where will you be moving from? If it's someplace like Boston, Chicago, or SF, you may find the change quite shocking. I grew up in Tampa and still have ageing parents who live there. I left Florida after college to seek out city life in places that had public transport, better infrastructure, more culture, and generally a less car-centered culture. Tampa was, and continues to be, a place where you really cannot walk anywhere, and many activities require a drive of 40 minutes or more, especially if you live on the outskirts.

The Tampa landscape is indeed dominated by unplanned sprawl. Strip malls and subdivisions after strip malls and subdivisions. The good: there is a strong local Cuban and Puerto Rican culture, and that brings some interesting cultural tradition and foodways. There's a half-way decent food scene generally, but you really have to know where to go, because the average strip will have nothing but national fast food chains. The arts are struggling, and don't get the patronage that areas like Sarasota and Miami enjoy, but there are some decent museums and a local arts scenes that try very hard to remain vibrant. The cost of living remains relatively low. Yes, Publix is awesome.

The bad: you'll have to drive to do anything worth doing, and traffic is often pretty terrible, especially anything that involves the main thoroughfares like Dale Mabry or Hillsborough Ave. The weather can be pretty oppressive if you're not used to that kind of heat. And it's uncomfortably hot for a good part of the year. My impression of the local job market, based on the experience of high school friends who stayed in the area, is not very good. It's a very service-based economy, with a lot of jobs tied to tourism, call centers, and retail.

Everything people are saying here about St Pete/Pinellas is true—it's probably a preferable area to live in and superior to Tampa in many ways. But if you are planning to work in Tampa, I'd have strong reservations about the commute over the Howard Frankland bridge every day.
posted by amusebuche at 11:12 AM on September 4


Admittedly my experience of Tampa was brief - a few months 16 years ago (I was there on 9/11). Mostly I remember two things - the lightning and visiting Big Cat Rescue.

The lightning can be spectacular - as in right overhead or hitting the road in front of your car.

Big Cat Rescue was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I didn't realize how incredibly gorgeous mountain lions are. Wow!
posted by Altomentis at 8:02 PM on September 4


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