I’m from New York. I feel this is an important fact that must be stated up front. I am not a native Floridian. I moved to Tampa two years ago to attend USF. I figured I’d do my two and a half years I had left to finish my degree, and then I’d move on. Well, I’d move an hour to the east, to Orlando.
With this mindset, I viewed Tampa as a temporary destination. I didn’t get too attached to anything. I knew I wouldn’t be here forever, just because … well, I wouldn’t. I went to school, work and occasionally, the mall. I still remember how I excited I was the day I ventured to Brandon and found Joann’s Etc. (Chuckle all you want, but for a craft-lover, that place is a mecca.)
Just recently, I discovered there is more to Tampa than USF, the Bucs, Busch Gardens and easy access to St. Pete, Clearwater and Orlando. Not only is Tampa located on a beautiful bay, but it has one of the best aquariums in the state, a world-class performing arts center and more museums and culture than you can imagine.
I figured, coming from New York, culture in Tampa might be an afterthought. But with the Museum of Fine Arts, the Dali Museum and the history of Ybor, the city is overflowing with fine art and culture.
This isn’t a sanctioned column by Tampa’s Visitor Bureau, don’t worry. I just came to the conclusion that so many people, regardless of the city in which they live in, never really explore it. How many people who live in Tampa know about Zudar’s, a hole-in-the-wall deli downtown? Or know about the chance to take an hour- an-a-half boat tour into Tampa Bay to see dolphins? These are the things about a city that separate it from everywhere else. These are the reasons we are lucky to live in Tampa. After all, there is more to life than theme parks.
I still don’t know if I’ll hang around Tampa once I graduate in December. I still have a strong drive to return to the Northeast, maybe Boston. But I will have to think harder about that decision.
Maybe Florida isn’t so bad. Maybe Tampa has enough to do to keep me busy and to entertain my friends and family when they come to visit.
Even Tampa’s nature is more than the beach. Lettuce Lake Park, right down the road off Fletcher Avenue, is an amazing refuge from the technology of the city.
Even though you can still hear honking horns and sirens, the stillness of the setting is incomparable. In a city overrun with industry and a state bursting with roadways, Lettuce Lake offers Tampa residents a place to take a break; a place that most people have to travel miles to see in other states.
People always take the things right in front of them for granted. But talk to former Tampa residents who have moved away, or people who moved away and then chose to move back.
They’ll tell you why people like me come to Tampa and get hooked. Why it’s hard to live somewhere else once you’ve lived here and why you should explore what Tampa has to offer, because life is more than sandy beaches and palm trees.
Megan Sullivan is The Oracle’s opinion email@example.com