I will be moving from New Jersey to Tampa and I need help on how to go about this. Please let me know any tips on areas to live, places to visit, towns, great restaurants etc. I need to know it all!
A lot of it depends on what kind of lifestyle you're after...
If you are into more urban, I would choose one of five neighborhoods.
First, Channel District is an up and coming area. Lots of cool apartments and condos with more and more things to do getting added each month. The owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning is investing $1B over the next 7 years to grow the area. The area is between Downtown and Ybor City and like I said, an area that's growing quickly. This is actually where I live and Condos go from $175K - $4M+ and rents go from $1,500 -- $10,000+. A couple blocks from the river walk as well.
Second, Harbour Island is in roughly the same area, but a little more quiet. I would say prices are similar. On the water with great views of downtown.
Third, Downtown is growing as a place to live as well. And more and more things are opening up to support a community lifestyle. Most of the residential is on the river side of downtown.
Fourth, the Hyde Park and Soho areas of Tampa -- which are kind of blended. Lots of residential living with tons of bars, restaurants and shopping within walking distance and/or bike ride.
All four of these neighborhoods are within a few miles of one another.
Fifth, outside of the Tampa box, I would look into Downtown St. Pete / iLovetheBurg.com. It's across the bridge -- probably 25-30 minutes from Tampa with no traffic but it's a cool city. St. Pete gets the wrap of being where people go to retire, but that's more into the neighborhoods and beaches. The downtown area is young, vibrant and growing. As of today, I would say the St. Pete downtown is better than Tampa's downtown --- although Tampa is quickly catching up...
Hope that helps...
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If you like museums then I suggest Museum of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg (Florida) or the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. Both have their own charm. The one in St. Pete is right near the water so the view is great and some nice shops nearby. The Ringling Museum has a beautiful garden area as well as a circus museum and mansion that has tours. There is a vast art collection which I like second to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. The Tampa Museum of Art has some nice items but one visit would be enough.
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If you're going to be working on the east side of the Tampa Bay area, try looking for apartments in the Brandon (Florida) area or Riverview area. New home communities are constantly being built in the outskirts in the Riverview area and a few more apartment communities are in construction in the Brandon/Riverview area as well. Many apartment communities are in the area as well. A decent dining selection exists in the Brandon area as well as Hyde Park, a few places Downtown and many in the Wesley Chapel (northeast) area as well. If you can find someone renting out their condo I recommend that. People do that here. I hear lots more home development will be happening in and to the north of the Wesley Chapel area which is already saturated with home, apartment and condo communities. Hyde park is very classy, eloquent, quaint, but very expensive. If one can afford to live in Hyde Park, it would be enjoyable because it's a nice neighborhood with lots of dining and nightlife in parts of it. Greater Carrollwood is north-central Tampa with a lot of residential communities running along a main strip of road "Dale Mabry Highway" that's not too expensive generally. Northwest Tampa has a main toll highway running north of the Tampa airport going along miles of residential neighborhoods such as Citrus Park and Westchase. Citrus park has a pretty decent mall and is surrounded by many single-family home residential neighborhoods, Westchase is in the vicinity which is a similar type neighborhood. The purpose of your residence could determine where you would want to live because if you want to live in Saint Petersburg (Florida)/Clearwater but work in Tampa you would have to commute across the Tampa bay and traffic is a nightmare during rush hour. Construction is happening at this time to expand and widen a major interstate strip of highway that runs east to west through Tampa to ease commuting from the suburbs to the airport and across the 3 bridges to get to St. Pete/Clearwater. To the south of the Brandon/Riverview neighborhoods down I-75 and US-301 is much much more residential activity (newly built single family homes and some apartments). Living down in these areas such as Gibsonton and Sun City Center will give great commute to get to Tampa itself, while still hypothetically living in the greater Tampa bay area but it will be a drive but it's not that bad. It was all open space then they started building and they still are. The Gibsonton area and to the south of there would be a very good place to settle and perhaps retire, but it's at least a 30 minute commute to Tampa in good traffic and over an hour to get to St. Pete. Hope that helps. People are renting more these days and though countless homes are being built, several more apartment complexes are being built as well.
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I'll probably answer this in more detail later, but for now: learn the difference between Tampa & nearby Saint Petersburg (Florida). Some of us consider SP the superior town but they both have things to recommend them and they are both confused often by non locals.