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Pirates in the Sant' Yago Illuminated Knight Parade during Gasparilla Season in Tampa
Pirates in the Sant' Yago Illuminated Knight Parade during Gasparilla Season in Tampa | © Rob Bixby / Flickr
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15 Things You Didn't Know About Tampa, FL

Picture of Diann Corbett Johnson
Updated: 23 April 2018
At first glance Tampa might seem ordinary, but there are some surprising facts about the area that you may not know. Here are 15 of them.

Cuban cigars were made in Tampa

Though Cuban cigars are associated with Cuba, they were made here in Tampa for many years, earning the city one of its popular nicknames, the Cigar City.

Tampa is home to famous authors

Two famous authors have lived in the area: Jack Kerouac the beat poet and novelist of the 1960s who lived in St Petersburg, and Stephen King, the popular horror writer who lives in Sarasota. Both authors were originally from New England.

Jack Kerouac, famed beat poet and author, lived in St Petersburg for a time.
Jack Kerouac, famed beat poet and author, lived in St Petersburg for a time. | © By Kerouac_by_Palumbo.jpg / Wikicommons

You can visit Cuba in Tampa

Jose Marti Park officially belongs to Cuba, it was given as a gift in 1956 to the island nation. Located in Ybor City, it is only .14 acres in size.

Pirates invade the city annually

Since 1904, every year pirates sail their ship into Tampa during Gasparilla. The whole city dresses in costume and attends the celebration.

Pirate Ship Invasion at Annual Gasparilla Festival in Tampa
Pirate Ship Invasion at Annual Gasparilla Festival in Tampa | © Christopher Hollis / Wikicommons

The Cuban sandwich was invented in Tampa

The difference between a Cuban sandwich in Tampa and a Cuban sandwich in Miami is that in Tampa they added Genoa salami due to the large population of Italian immigrants involved in the cigar trade.

The oldest Florida restaurant is in Tampa

The Columbia is Florida’s oldest restaurant as well as the biggest Spanish restaurant in the world, capable of seating 1,700 people in various dining rooms.

Tampa Bay is incredibly shallow

At only 12-feet deep, Tampa Bay is shallow and it is also the largest estuary in Florida – defined as having both salt and fresh water mixed together. Channels are dredged to allow ships to navigate the water.

Sunshine Skyway, Tampa Bay
Sunshine Skyway, Tampa Bay | © Zword97 / Wikicommons

Tampa has never gone over 100 degrees

The temperature has never been known to go over 100, and thank goodness because it’s not a dry heat in Florida.

Port Tampa Bay is the largest in Florida

It is situated 25 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and generates over $15 billion in revenue.

Cowboys came to Florida

Teddy Roosevelt and his private army known as the Rough Riders sailed from Tampa to fight in the Spanish-American War.

Tampa’s famous mascot is only a legend

Jose Gaspar the infamous pirate—Tampa’s famous city mascot—is only a legend, but an enduring one.

Bayshore Boulevard has the longest sidewalk at 4.5 miles

This path runs entirely along the water. It’s a great place to walk, run or bike. You will see old manor homes and feel fresh sea breezes.

Infamously long sidewalk along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.
Infamously long sidewalk along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. | © Ebyabe / Wikicommons

Tampa holds a flight history record

Tampa is home to the first scheduled commercial flight in 1914, which landed here after taking off from St. Petersburg.

A tale of two Henrys, famous railroad & hotel magnates

When Henry Plant was building his railroad across central Florida to Tampa, along with building his historic hotels, Henry Flagler was doing the same on the east coast of Florida from St Augustine to Palm Beach, all the way to Key West.

Henry Plant’s Old Tampa Bay Hotel in Tampa
Henry Plant’s Old Tampa Bay Hotel in Tampa | © Ebyabe / Wikicommons

The Tamiami Trail is partially named for Tampa

The Tamiami Trail, though quite a bit south of Tampa, is named for the both Tampa and Miami on either side. It is not to be confused with Alligator Alley, the other road that runs east-west through the Everglades.