Tampa Bay, Florida, has much to recommend it: Busch Gardens (which predates Disney World), impressive museums, winning sports teams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning), fishing charters, state and local parks, one of the country's largest ports, rocking nightlife and a wealth of tourist attractions.

Tampa has sharks and rays at the Florida Aquarium and the more lovable manatees at the zoo. At Busch Gardens, you can ride across re-created African plains in a safari truck, stopping to hand-feed roaming giraffes. Or you can go to sea on a fishing charter and try to catch your own wildlife.

In Ybor City, the historic Cuban neighborhood, you can amble down brick streets, following your nose to bakeries to buy fragrant loaves of Cuban bread or to shops where tabaqueros hand-roll fine cigars. Lively Spanish conversation might lead you to an old-fashioned domino parlor where grandfathers with gnarled hands gather to play in friendly neighborhood matches. Antiques shops, boutiques and art galleries beckon. After dark, the nightclubs throw open their doors, and Ybor City metamorphoses into a hip nightlife spot.

St. Pete (the local name for St. Petersburg, Florida) is only a 30-minute drive away, and the gorgeous Gulf Coast beaches are about a 45-minute drive. The theme parks of Orlando, Florida, are about 90 minutes to the east.

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