You don't have to look hard to see that the Tampa Bay area has much to offer the gay traveler. From the beautiful sunrises and romantic sunsets to the tropical weather (sometimes with awe-inspiring electrical storms) to the ever-changing nightlife, there is always something new to discover.
The Tampa Bay area is made up of two cities on opposite sides of the bay. On one side is Tampa, which has a long and interesting heritage. Across the bay is its sister city of St Petersburg. Not far away are Clearwater and other cities with visible gay communities. For Saint Pete listings click to that city.
Both Tampa and St Pete have international airports, which makes for easy access to both sides of the bay. in Tampa it's the Tampa International Airport, the larger of the two, and often with less expensive flights.
If you plan to drive, you will find easy access to both cities via the interstate highways.
You may be better off driving in the Tampa Bay area. Buses stop running fairly early, making them impractical for those interested in exploring gay nightlife. In downtown Tampa and Ybor City you can take advantage of the trolley rail lines, powered by overhead cables, but make other arrangements for your return trip if planning to stay out past their shut-down times. See HART for area transit schedule and route information. Taxis are usually readily available at all times day or night, but they can get quite costly.
Bicycles can be rented from either of the two downtown City Bike Rental shops, at 212 E Cass, or the shack on the Riverwalk at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina. Rates are $12/hour, or $32/day.
Hispanic immigrants have added much to the cultural heritage of Tampa, enriching the city's culinary, music, and architecture scenes. Many of the old cigar factories remain standing, some of them still producing stellar stogies.
Today's traveler will find that Tampa has a vast array of cultural offerings such as the lovingly restored Tampa Theater, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, the Florida Aquarium, and the modern new Tampa Museum of Art.
You will find a large concentration of gays in the South Tampa area, south of Interstate 275 with it's many gay bars, restaurants, galleries, shops and other businesses.
Once a mostly Cuban neighborhood, Ybor City has long been a favorite for gays. In the heart of Ybor City, you can’t miss Centro Ybor, a focal point of area shopping, dining and entertainment. The theaters, and the dozens of restaurants and shops are especially popular after dark, catering to everyone from goth to latin music fans, or country and western aficionados. The the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce at 1800 E 9th Avenue, is a good first stop for information and maps. Just down the street the Ybor Museum State Park, has an ornamental garden, a gift shop and a Museum in an old Italian bakery that tells the history of the city's founding and early years.
Just west of downtown is the University of Tampa, now ensconced in the grand building that was the original Tampa Bay Hotel. It has lovelty architecture and a star-studded history of its own.
Tampa Bay's best beaches
It's nearly impossible to think of Florida without imagining palm-shaded beaches. And many of the best happen to be on the gulf coast. In fact, three in the Tampa Bay area are consistently ranked among the country's top ten.
It's no coincidence that one of the country's most beautiful beaches, Fort DeSoto Park, is located at the entrance of Tampa Bay. It's a stunning destination, made up of five interconnected islands. From many vantage points you have fantastic views of the soaring Sunshine Skyway Bridge. You will also find secluded areas that many find alluring.
How to find the gay spots? Upon entering Fort DeSoto Park, just follow the signs to North Beach. Park in the last lot and cross the "rainbow bridge" and wade across the shallow lagoon. Once at the beach, head to your right until you see the gay folks sunning.
Pass-A-Grille is located south of St Pete Beach. Although only a block wide, this island has a long history within the gay community. Decades ago, Pass-A-Grille was one of the first beaches in the area where gay men and lesbians could feel comfortable. Although long closed now, The Lighted Tree was one of the first gay bars in the area. Pass-A-Grille is still a favorite retreat among gays for the laid-back atmosphere and pristine shoreline.
The area also includes numerous other beaches popular with gays. Sunset Beach, on Treasure Island, is considered by many to be the gay beach. Gays congregate at the south end of the beach. Madeira Beach, with a reputation as being "kinda gay, kinda redneck and kinda touristy" has one of the oldest gay bars in Florida, the Back Room Bar.
Other beaches of interest include Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island, just north of St Petersburg. The two state parks, featuring turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, are undeveloped nature refuges that are almost always rated among the top five in national beach rankings. Caladesi is the more secluded of the two, accessible only via ferry. Honeymoon Island's northern tip is also very remote and quite gay friendly.
The Tampa Bay Times is an area newspaper that includes gay coverage.
The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce website puts the focus on Tampa’s Latin Quarter, along with the gay businesses here.
You may be surprised to learn that the largest Pride celebration in Florida takes place in St Petersburg. Known as "Pride in Paradise," St Pete throws a party that draws 100,000 participants for the whole Tampa Bay area, at the end of each June. See StPetePride.
The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival offers some of the best new films by and about gays and lesbians from around the world. There are screenings for the full festival over a 9-day period in early October, and a film series that runs throughout the spring and summer months.
Bars and clubs, Tampa
2606 (2606 North Armenia Ave) popular men's cruise bar, leather, bears, underwear nights.
Baxter's Lounge (1519 S Dale Mabry Hwy) neighborhood bar, mostly men, male dancers Wednesday and Saturday.
Body Shop (14905 N Nebraska Ave) former Keith's Bar, northside neighborhood bar, darts, karaoke, bingo, cheap drinks.
Chelsea (1502 N Florida Ave) has seven nights of dancing, strippers and drag shows, and never cover charges or attitude.
City Side Lounge (3703 Henderson Blvd) thrives as one of Tampa's friendliest, with video and sports lounges, outdoor patio, and dance floor. Special nights include Thursday amateur strip, and sports on the tube each Sunday, with free BBQ from 5pm. They have free Wi-Fi access too.
Ki Ki Ki III (1908 W Kennedy Blvd) old school unadorned gay drinking and pick-up bar with juke box and pool games.
Metro (2606 N Armenia, basement), men's neighborhood bar formerly on Dale Mabry, now below the 2606, drinks specials, Sunday football, holiday events with hot male dancers.
Valentine's (7522 N Armenia Ave), nightclub and showbar, Latin nights Saturdays; Monday, Tuesday and Thursday go-go boys; and Fridays for women. Hip hop and drag shows pack the house on Sundays
Bars and clubs, Ybor
In Ybor City (known here as GaYbor!) there are several gay spots to check out.
Bradley's on 7th (1510 East 7th Ave), every night dance club, hot male dancers, 18+ amateur strip contests.
Crowbar (1812 N 17th St), mixed crowd, live music concerts, 18+ nights.
G Bar (1401 E 7th Ave), Tuesday amateur 18+ strip contests, CD release parties, all-gay male Sunday revues, and other special theme events in an every-day weekly schedule.
Hamburger Mary's (1600 E. 7th Ave), gay bar, restaurant and cabaret, drag queen brunch, bingo, talent shows.
Honey Pot (1507 E 7th Ave) Steam Fridays, three floors of dancing, one of the area's biggest 18+ gay nights, male dancers, drag shows, porn star guests, roaming performers, plush lounge and great sound and lights.
Liquid Lounge (1811 N 15th St), cocktail and video lounge, male go-go dancers nightly.
Reservoir Bar (1518 E 7th Ave), "hole in the wall" neighborhood bar mixes a diverse crowd of locals of every kind.
The Ybor City Social Club (1909 N 15th St), 18+ cocktail lounge and dance club, Friday night "Gorgeous Guys" dancers and Saturday drinks discounts for leathermen; open 5pm to 3am.
The Hampton Inn (1301 E 7th Ave; 813-247-6700) is a gay-friendly general public hotel, convenient to the local gay scene.
Sawmill Camping Resort (Dade City), on the road to Orlando, is a gay co-op, campsite, cabins, resort with dance club, bars, swimming pool, and food options.
Steam Heat, Tampa
Rainbow Cabaret (4421 N Hubert Ave) men's club, has a sauna, jacuzzi, TV lounges, internet access and patio with an outdoor maze.
Tampa Men's Club (4061 W Crest Ave), 10,000 sq foot, all-male fitness & baths, video maze, hot-tub, steam room, whirlpool, huge gang showers, full gym, lighted secure parking, 145 executive lockers, LCD TV's in all rooms. Twink Tuesdays, Sunday brunch.
The Ybor Resort & Spa (1512 E 8th Ave; 813-242-0900), all-gay private club and resort, clothing-optional courtyard, hot tub, dark room with maze, sauna and steam room. Their "Bunk House" dorm-style room has beds, private showers and a big-screen TV.
Urban Body (715 S Howard Ave) is the area's premier clothing and accessory boutique with all the top desinger labels.
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