They say your college years will be some of the best years of your life. If you’re choosing your first apartment near The University of South Florida, consider yourself one of the lucky ones! You’re packing your bags to live less than 30 minutes from Downtown Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg beaches, areas that are a popular vacation destination—for good reason!
You might only be in the Tampa area for 2-4 years, depending on the length of your degree program at USF. Between a busy school and work schedule, and a few trips to see Mom and Dad, we hope you’ll find time to get out and explore Tampa! You also might want to check out our USF student discounts article to save money on your Tampa adventures. To help you get started, we asked one of our favorite Tampa locals for the top 10 things you must do when you first move to Tampa.
Cheer On A Tampa Sports Team!
If you’re an avid sports fan, Tampa Bay is full of opportunities to catch a game. For fans of football, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers call this city home. If you’re a transplant from the Northeast you’ll even that some players have moved south to join the team for some fun in the sun. Many of the teams in Tampa offer discounts to USF students on tickets, so be sure to check to check their websites for current deals and bring your student ID!
If football is not your thing, then baseball is in abundance in Tampa Bay. In addition to being home to the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa is also home to many spring training facilities as well for the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, and the Detroit Tigers. Not to mention the minor league teams here.
While baseball and football are definitely a hot ticket, also check out our hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Amalie Arena is one of the “coolest” spots in Tampa Bay, where you can escape the Tampa heat with the other 20,000 hockey fans seated around the ice.
Dress Up as A Pirate for Gasparilla
Each year, Tampa hosts The Gasparilla Pirate Festival – a massive pirate-themed parade and party in Downtown Tampa. Get a group of your new college friends together, dress up in your best pirate themed garb, and head to Downtown Tampa to experience this Tampa tradition! There is usually a full calendar of Gasparilla-themed events that happen throughout the month of January, but the main event is the Parade of Pirates, which typically occurs on the last Saturday in January. Heed our pirate warning, a lot of people come out to the Gasparilla parade and Downtown Tampa will be packed. You’ll want to create a plan before attending the parade, thinking about things like where to park, where you want to watch the parade, and who is driving home.
Relax at Clearwater Beach
Known as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Clearwater Beach is a must-see. Located about 1 hour from USF, this Gulf of Mexico beach spans 2.5 miles and includes hotels, shops, and yummy restaurants to enjoy. Be sure to stop by Frenchy’s for some crab soup. Pier 60 has a stunning view of the sunset too. You can easily drive from campus and find metered parking at one of the public lots near the shore - it’s the perfect day trip!
Explore Hyde Park
Hyde Park is a neighborhood to visit and spend the whole day. You can start your day by grabbing a coffee from local coffee shop Buddy Brew. Continue your day by going shopping at Hyde Park Village. The open-air shopping mall features top retailers and also has outdoor pop-ups on the first Sunday of every month featuring organic food and local vendors. Grab some lunch at any of the local spots, one of our favorites is Datz. Everything on the menu is delicious! After lunch, you may want to walk off that fullness on the world’s longest sidewalk, Bayshore Boulevard. The view is unbeatable. At night try out the many bars and clubs within walking distance, like Hyde Park Café and MacDintons Irish Pub!
Spend An Afternoon at MoSI
We’re sure you’ve seen MoSI (Museum of Science and Industry) looming just south of The University of South Florida campus. At MoSI, there’s always something new to see. The Museum of Science and Industry has constant rotating exhibits to keep you coming back to be amazed. It’s not just for kids, we can all appreciate the Planetarium!
Ride a Coaster at Busch Gardens
If you needed another reason to get excited about your upcoming college adventure, Busch Gardens is about 6 minutes from The University of South Florida campus. Honestly, the park is so close that you could go for a quick coaster ride between your morning and evening class. Busch Gardens combines exotic animals with some of the best coasters in the United States. And let’s not forget the beer tasting! Craft brews and domestic, they’ve got you covered. Throughout the year, Busch Gardens hosts events that help keep the park interesting, like Howl-O-Scream in October or the Food and Wine Festival each spring.
Explore Historic Ybor City (Day or Night)
Ybor City is a must-see. This is a historic district is rich with culture and big on fun. Known for the amazing coffee and signature cigars, you can visit during the day to walk the streets and immerse yourself in the Latin quarter. Try the historic Columbia restaurant for the best Cuban sandwich you’ll ever have and the famous 1905 Salad! At night, Ybor transforms into one of Tampa’s main districts for nightlife and you’ll find clubs, karaoke bars, and live music peppering the main strip, along with plenty of other USF students out for drinks and dancing.
Tour The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is located in Downtown Tampa, about 20 minutes from USF. With new exhibits all the time, from land to sea, you might want to visit once a year to see what is new! The aquarium is home to habitat exhibits including a wetlands trail that is home to animals like alligators and river otters and Journey to Madagascar where you can stroll past Madagascar reefs and meet a ring tailed lemur.
So. Many. Craft Breweries
Of course, you’ll need to be 21+ to explore the breweries of Tampa, so maybe save this one for your senior year as a USF Bull! If you’re not 21 yet, head to TampaBay Brewing Company… just not for the beer. Their menu is packed with delicious creations like beer cheese and cider wings in a fun environment on Ybor’s main strip, which are enjoyed by patrons of all ages!
Known for its enormous amount of craft breweries, Tampa has exploded with tons of places to try. With more than 70 breweries, it’s hard to know where to begin. But a good first step is to take a hop on the Brew Bus. Their tours take you to multiple breweries to give you a little taste of Tampa, all aboard a bus! If you're on the other side of the bridge try to pedal your way to earning a drink. Take a ride on the Pedal Pub adventure to visit many of St. Pete’s breweries as well.
Take a Stroll on Bayshore Boulevard
You can’t rightfully say you lived in the Tampa Bay area without spending some time by the bay. One of our favorite spots for taking in bay views while getting our steps in is Bayshore Boulevard. Located in South Tampa, Bayshore Boulevard is a waterfront road with a 4.5 mile sidewalk that provides gorgeous views of the bay. Choose your favorite method of transportation, whether it be by foot, bike, or skateboard, and head to Bayshore Boulevard for your daily workout. Keep an eye out for extras along the path, like benches where you can stop to enjoy the views and workout stations. As our final and best tip, plan your visit to Bayshore Boulevard around sundown for cooler temps and sunset colored views of the Downtown Tampa skyline. < Back: USF Student Guide