No list of Tampa Florida attractions is complete without a prominent spot for our very own version of Bourbon St, New Orleans called Ybor City.
Pronounced “ee boar”, this Latin heart of Tampa was founded by Vincent Martinez-Ybor as a cigar manufacturing center, and those red brick buildings still remain. In fact, you may have even seen our Hav-a-Tampa cigar brand in your local stores up until just a few years ago. Ybor City is conveniently located, sandwiched between I-4 and the Leroy Selmon Expressway it’s minutes from downtown and a quick stop between Tampa Airport hotels and Disney World in the Orlando area.
Ybor City’s Cuban heritage is evident as you stroll down “La Septima” (7th Avenue), which is the City’s main thoroughfare. Start at one end in front of the famous Columbia Restaurant, one of the premiere restaurants in the Southeast, and head West past brick buildings and wrought iron balconies that give Ybor it’s old world charm. You’ll pass unique open air restaurants and bars where you can enjoy the Florida sunshine and sample great seafood, or run it for a quick slice of pizza and continue your tour. There are a few things you must do in order to get that real Cuban flavor during your Tampa Bay travel:
- Cigar Rolling – you will pass multiple places to buy fine, hand-rolled cigars. During late afternoons and evenings you’ll see crowded outdoor seating at café style cigar shops where the drink of choice is the Cuban Mojito. Several of the shops have cigar rolling demonstrations, or give you a window from the street into where the work is done.
- Cuban Coffee – Cuban coffee is dark, rich and strong. Order a cup of café con leche, (coffee and milk) and get a boost for the rest of your walk.
- Cuban Sandwich – Always made with Cuban bread, this filling lunch is made from ham, pork cheese, pickles and mustard and pressed to make a more manageable mouthful. Rumored to have originally been made in the 1800s as part of the Cigar factory’s lunchtime options, it’s become a Tampa staple.
7thAvenue is also home to Centro Ybor, a courtyard complex anchored by the Muvico Centro Ybor movie theater. This is the most family friendly spot in Ybor City, with an ice cream parlor and plenty of places to get your Tampa vacation souvenirs. GameWorks is a particularly good place to spend a few hours in the air conditioning with a variety of arcade games for the kids with a restaurant/bar overlooking the action for the adults.
After you’re cooled off, walk one block over to Ybor Centennial Park and enjoy one of the regular Latin Festivals or open markets held there every weekend. Spend some time in the Ybor City State Museum and learn why Ybor City is one of only 2 National Heritage Sites in Florida. The Museum is also where you’ll learn about Ybor City’s Italian heritage and pick up schedules for the annual Festa Italiana and the activities at the Italian Club (L’Unione Italiana) on East 7th Avenue.
When you’re finished with Ybor, hop the Trolley for a quick trip to Channelside Bay Plaza and the Florida Aquarium, Cruise ship terminal and the Victory Ship tour.
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