A small, stimulating city with an infectious, upbeat mood, Tampa, the business hub of the west coast, is well worth a stop. As one of the major beneficiaries of the flood of people and money into Florida, Tampa boasts an impressive cultural infrastructure envied by many larger rivals. In addition to its fine museums and Busch Gardens, one of the most popular theme parks in the state, the city holds, in the Cuban-influenced Ybor City, just northeast of the city center, the west coast's hippest and most culturally eclectic quarter.
Tampa began as a small settlement beside a US Army base that was built in the 1820s to keep an eye on the Seminoles. In the 1880s, the railroad arrived, and the Hillsborough River, on which the city stands, was dredged to allow seagoing vessels to dock. Tampa became a booming port, simultaneously acquiring a major tobacco industry as thousands of Cubans moved north from Key West to the new cigar factories of neighbouring Ybor City. The Depression ended the economic surge, but the port remained one of the busiest in the country and tempered Tampa's postwar decline. Today, little seems to stand in the way of Tampa's continued emergence as a forward-thinking and financially secure community.