Tampa at a Glance
With its laid-back beaches, theme park adventures and a strong love of pirate lore — Go, Buccaneers! — Tampa is a fun-in-the-sun-loving city on central Florida’s western shore. The shimmering waters of the coast are certainly a major asset in this tourist-centric town, but this coastal gem’s cultural riches are really what sparkle.
Broadway shows bring NYC attitude to the city at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Tampa’s Cuban history effervesces in Ybor City. And time melts away — literally, as you’re gazing at it — at the Dali Museum.
But that’s not all that’s drawing new residents to the city of Tampa. The thriving economy in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro has certainly played a role in the city’s surge in popularity. This city of 400,000 grew by more than 65,000 since 2010. And, unlike other major coastal cities, whose populations contracted during the pandemic, Tampa’s expanded by 3.5%. From financial and tech giants to restaurant conglomerates and global manufacturers, a diverse assortment of corporations has staked their claim in Tampa.
If you’re curious about living in Tampa, learn more about the city’s culture and character below. And, get the full picture of what life in the Sunshine State might be like for your family in our Moving Guide to Florida.
Tampa’s Cost of Living
When it comes to coastal living, Tampa is still one of the most affordable cities in the country, and your dollars will actually go farther in Tampa than in even some popular landlocked metropolises. Tampa’s cost of living is lower than the national average and beats out Florida cities like Orlando and Miami. Compared to their national counterparts Tampa residents save the most on health care costs and miscellaneous goods & services. Thanks to Florida’s tax laws, you won’t have to shell out a dime from your paycheck for personal income taxes, either.
But the rising cost of housing is making Tampa residents wince. From 2017-2021, the median house value in Tampa averaged $277,700 — just $30K above the U.S. median, according to the U.S. Census. But in 2023, Greater Tampa Realtors placed the median sale price for a single-family home in Tampa at $415,000 and the average sales price at a whopping $519,157. The pace of sales has dropped over the past year, but with inventory falling, buyers can’t be quite as choosy as they could in 2022, and sellers can’t unload their current homes at breakneck speed. Closed sales dropped 6.1% between July of 2023 and 2022.
The townhome/condo market in Tampa tells a similar tale. The median sales price for townhomes/condos bobbled only slightly in 2023, dipping 0.7% to $296,000 in the past year, while the average sale price saw a 5.1% decrease, landing at $371,424 in July 2023. Meanwhile, the median time to contract has increased sharply, from a mere nine days in July 2022 to 24 days in July 2023. Similarly, the median time to sale slowed to 67 days from 45, leaving owners impatient. Thanks to recent hurricanes, insurance rates have risen as steeply as the storm surge, leaving residents scrambling to sandbag.
Renters seem to fare better in the Tampa real estate market. According to the U.S. Census, the median gross rent in Tampa is more affordable than the state average, and between 2017-2021, median rent prices in Tampa averaged $1,249, compared to the Florida average of $1,301.
Note: We are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.
Finding a Job in Tampa
With low unemployment (3.2%), healthy job growth and a labor force of more than 1.7 million, Tampa has long been a desirable base for industry. The Tampa-St. Petersburg Clearwater metro population now exceeds 3.2 million, and diverse industries are eager to tap into a ready workforce, where nearly 42% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Nearby universities like the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa enroll more than 60,000 across their campuses in the area, fueling existing industries and bolstering burgeoning ones.
Over the past two decades, the city has made a name for itself as an incubator for new ventures. Tampa entrepreneurs have built a meaningful infrastructure for startups, and those business hubs and accelerators have been attracting big bucks from venture capitalists of late.
Strictly by the numbers, professional and business services is still Tampa metro’s largest industry, in which more than 300,000 individuals are employed. Trade, transportation and utilities employs nearly 281,000 tri-city residents, while leisure and hospitality employs 166,000. The Tourism industry keeps Tampa’s beaches, theme parks and arenas busy year-round.
Tampa’s financial sector rivals the Tourism industry, and JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bristol Myers Squibb, MetLife and USAA all have bases in the city. Tech companies like TD Synnex, manufacturers like Jabil Mosaic and Suzuki Marine USA and Bloomin’ Brands, the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, are headquartered here. Show of hands for some grouper on the barbie?
Choosing a Neighborhood in Tampa
When it comes to finding the perfect place to live in the capital of the Suncoast, Tampa is an embarrassment of riches. Well-appointed suburbs surround the city center, and families have easy access to all the cultural attractions downtown.
The railroad brought the Cuban cigar industry to Tampa, and with it came the founding of Ybor City, a 111-acre enclave that is now one of the most popular destinations in the city. Cigar shops still perfume the area with a heady aroma, as do the neighborhood bakeries and restaurants. One of the area’s most notable landmarks is the El Círculo Cubano, a community center dating back to the turn of the last century. Ybor’s main drag is often crowded with tourists, but housing in the neighborhood is less spendy than in districts near the water, offsetting the annoyance of the crowds. Ybor is no cookie-cutter neighborhood. Homes here adhere to no rigid style and most have loads of character. So, whether you are looking for a cozy bungalow, a stately Victorian revival or an ultra-modern condo, Ybor City is bound to have something that suits your taste.
Downtown Tampa is a busy commercial area bubbling with cultural attractions, from the buzzy restaurants to the inviting Riverwalk connecting some of the area’s best museums and historical monuments. The workweek brings a predictable beat of corporate commuters, but the Channel District puts the fun in downtown’s funkier side. This compact area across from the Historic District is home to Sparkman Wharf, a live-work-play extravaganza where you can satisfy your craving for tacos, superfoods and artisan chocolate in between workouts and shopping ventures. Housing here has a decidedly swanky, urban vibe, and you’ll find condos, lofts and contemporary apartments, all with fancy pricing to match.
If bayside living is what you seek, you’ll want to check out the SOHO/Hyde Park Village area. But…be prepared to pay for the views. Charming cottages near the water easily top $3 million, and even 750-square-foot condos can set you back $500+ a foot. There are also lavish new townhomes in the area, that meld Tuscan impulses with Spanish Colonial traditions. Even if you can’t see the Bay from your home, you can take your daily constitution along the water’s edge. A 4.5-mile-long pathway gives pedestrians a heavenly periphery, but be warned, noonday jogging warriors — those uninterrupted sea views are also not disrupted by pesky trees (ick!) which would have provided some welcome shade. The district is also close to the University of Tampa, but not so close that you’ll be inundated with noisy coeds.
But, let’s be honest. There are advantages to being away from the water in Tampa, and when hurricane season rolls around, you might be glad you settled in Seminole Heights. This charming district north of the city has an artsy vibe and a great food scene, and it’s walkable and bikeable enough to often leave your car in the garage. The Hillsborough River forms the western edge of the larger area known as The Heights, which extends from Riverside Heights in the south to Old Seminole Heights in the north. The river borders the lovely Lowry Park, where Zoo Tampa is located, and where you’ll find yourself with some frequency if there are people under the age of 10 in your house. Unlike Hyde Park, housing in Seminole Heights is within reach of mere mortals, and if you can settle for a clapboard cottage with oodles of architectural charm, or a stuccoed two-story beneath a canopy of live oaks, you may wonder why anyone wants to live anywhere else.
Note: If you’re thinking of moving to the Tampa area, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.
Getting to Know Tampa
This financial giant may be all business in the front, but there’s a party in the back. With wacky events like Gasparilla, Tampa’s Mardi Gras-esque pirate festival, and even odder oddities — looking at you, spaceship parked on a strip joint — Tampa is anything but buttoned up.
Theme Parks and Museums
As your energetic children will constantly remind you, there are theme parks in Tampa, and They! Are! Fun! At Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, there are gentler rides for the roller coaster-averse, like the Sesame Street-themed Air Grover, but the iron-gutted thrill-seeker will want to strap into the steel-tracked SheiKra, which will plunge, invert, tunnel and dunk you before depositing you back on terra firma. An annual pass to the park will give you the opportunity to spill your lunch every weekend — don’t waste it.
Feeling creative? Stop by “the Hive” at the Hillsborough Public Library Cooperative to show off your design skills on the 3D printers, create your next fashion line with the sewing machines, or record an episode of your soon-to-be hit podcast, “Only Manatees in the Building.”
Whether your little one is a budding artist, entrepreneur or scientist, the Glazer Children’s Museum will make all the world’s wonders come alive. An ice cream shop, a veterinary clinic, a bank and a firehouse are just some of the interactive playscapes that will make their imaginations bloom.
The popular Tampa Riverwalk, with its miles of public art, provides an idyllic pathway for cyclists and pedestrians while connecting residents to the best museums and performance venues in the city. Walk, bike or scoot your way from the Tampa Bay History Center to the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Aquarium. The aquarium has exciting hands-on and hands-off exhibits — please, don’t pet the sharks — that bring the depths of the ocean up to earth. The moray eels may eye you and the gentle anemones will pulse at you, but there’s no better conversationalist in the sea than the octopus, who are so smart they can even play puzzles with you. (They do the New York Times crossword in squid ink.) You can meet them all on a trip to this aquatic wonderland.
Sports fanatics will be thrilled with the athletic empire that is the Suncoast. Though the city hasn’t completely frozen over in a millennium or two, the Tampa Bay Lightning knows how to dominate the ice, and this NHL team has brought home the Stanley Cup three times this century, and twice just in the last three years. But if you prefer pigskin to pucks, fly your NFL pirate flag high at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers games. Raymond James Stadium is outfitted with cannons that fire every time the Bucs score. Yes, the guy running the cannons does have the best job in the entire known universe.
Whether you are a dedicated bodysurfer or a pro with a rod and reel, Tampa’s beaches are a haven for lounging and leisure. Within the city, Davis Island offers a convenient, salt-aired retreat from the workweek. If your family includes four-legged members, check out Davis Island’s Dog Beach, where pups are free to frolic on the shore and perfect their wet dog aroma. To show their appreciation for having been allowed to roam free on the surf, your pet will reward you with the Human of the Year award, bestowed not with trophies but a surprise shower of saltwater, freshly shaken from their sea-soaked coat.
A short drive from the city, the Gulf Coast awaits. Clearwater Beach, St. Pete’s and Treasure Island are well-loved destinations with white sands, sunset views, and crystalline waves. Surfers shouldn’t expect to catch any epic ones out here, but there are more than just ankle-busters at Honeymoon Island State Park, particularly on the north end. Thanks to its pristine slash pine forest, the island is also an Eden for nature-lovers and birdwatchers. Renting bicycles will allow you to really explore the island — be sure to bring a bag for shelling (but don’t remove anything that still has a resident in it!).
Far away from the Clearwater crowds, Fort DeSoto Park is a remote spot for family fun. Kayaking among the mangroves and the sea turtles and hiking to the historic fort are just some of the activities that keep a trip to this barrier island from being another ordinary day at the beach. A concession stand will allow you to refuel and travel light — there is no fun in lugging a picnic lunch around all day in the sun.
Those hoping to reel in some redfish or sheepshead should check out St. Pete Beach, where you can simply wade into the surf and try your luck. If you don’t want to get your feet wet, try one of the piers, or hire a charter for a full morning of fishing fun.
After all the cannon fire, deep sea fishing and roller coasters, you’ll have undoubtedly worked up an appetite, and the city that brought you the Bloomin Onion is growing its reputation as the culinary destination in the state.
Restaurants like the Rooster & the Till and Lilac — which earned a Michelin star for its contemporary Mediterranean menu — are bringing even more prestige to longstanding establishments like The Columbia in Ybor City, where you can savor cocktails and tapas while enjoying the Flamenco dinner show.
In the heart of the city, Armature Works: The Heights Public Market is a showcase showdown of Tampa’s greatest culinary hits. It’s impossible not to bid on a winner in this food hall, where you’ll be encircled in drool-worthy delights from Empamamas’ Cuban splendors to the inspired sips at Bar Aw.
Grouper is to Tampa what lobster is to Maine — the fish is its own food group (pun intended). You’ll find grilled grouper, blackened grouper, fried grouper and tender grouper cheeks—think of them as the nuggets of the sea. But the iconic grouper dish of the region is the grouper sandwich. Big Ray’s Fish Camp serves them all. Try their smoked fish dip as a starter and save room for a sack of doughnuts after your meal.
Remember to allow 30 minutes after groupering before returning to the water, the fishing boat and — especially — the roller coasters.
Relocating to Tampa, Florida
The earlier you plan for your move to Tampa, the better, and Mayflower will be here for you Every Step of the Way®. Don’t hesitate to start researching the right mover for your moving needs and getting moving quotes. Our trusted movers can assist you whether you’re making a local move or a long-distance move to Tampa.
Unsure where to start? Let Mayflower help get you where you want to be.
Whether you move with a reputable mover like Mayflower or on your own, using a week-by-week moving checklist will help you stay on task. Our helpful moving checklists and packing tips are designed for anyone hoping to streamline their move.
Still not sure which city in the Sunshine State is right for you? Check out Mayflower’s Moving Guide to Florida to get a taste of the biggest cities and most popular attractions in the state, along with tips from locals about living in Florida.