Whether you’re from Riverview, Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Gibsonton, or anywhere within the area, when you travel more than a couple of hours away, you’ll likely say that you’re from Tampa. And, we all take pride in the great things in Tampa and the surrounding area. What better way to impress out-of-towners with how awesome our home area is than learning a few cool and fun facts to share.
Tampa is renowned for its beautiful beaches, recreational trails, and diversity of waterfront activities. Originating from the Calusa phrase “sticks of fire”, our lightning conductive city is the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida and is a commercial hub with an abundance of things to do.
From pirates to ghosts — and even wild chickens — here are Five Fun Facts You May Not Know About Tampa Bay:
Annual Pirate Attacks
Argh maties! Be warned of plundering pirates!
Each year, buccaneers pillage the city during the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a celebration that dates back over 100 years. The festival is named for pirate Jose Gaspar, who formerly terrorized the coastal waters off Florida during the late 18th century.
The themed festivities of “pleasures ’n treasures” begin with the arrival of the Gasparilla ship downtown, with 750 lively swashbucklers on board the only fully-rigged pirate ship in the world. After docking at the Tampa Convention Center, the Mayor of our city surrenders the Key to the City to the captain.
To celebrate their conquest, the motley crew leads a four-mile-long Parade of Pirates across Hillsborough Bay and into Seddon Channel. The third-largest parade in the country is attended by over 300,000 onlookers, many roleplaying as pirates themselves.
Wild Chickens Are Protected By The Law
Signs around Ybor City read “do not feed the city-protected chickens”.
There are roughly 150 feathered flocking friends that can legally call Tampa Bay home. They are protected under Tampa’s Bird Sanctuary Law; this also covers any and all wild birds in the city limits, especially beneficial since there are over 500 birding sites designated for preservation.
The chickens are divisive in the city; considered by some as a state treasure, others dismiss them as a fowl nuisance. Chickens freely roam around Tampa’s Latin Quarter, roosting in residential areas and even crowing loudly in the early morning hours. Some complain about the steady defecation, destruction of grass, and unwanted early wake-up calls. Regardless of the discontent, chickens are still protected by a decades-old ordinance that states it is illegal to “hunt, kill, maim or trap… or otherwise molest” birds.
All wild chickens are descendants of chickens bred for their eggs and meat for generations of Ybor City residents.
And speaking of Ybor City…
Ybor City May Be The Most Fascinating Tampa Area
This cigar hub once produced 500 million cigars a year, earning the nickname “Cigar City”. Founder Vincent Martinez Ybor sided with Cuban revolutionaries and permitted his cigar factors as a safe refuge for Cubans fleeing the wars.
Jose Martí Park — located in the heart of Ybor City — is protected by international treaty and still belongs to the Cuban people. When you pass through its gates, you’re standing on Cuban soil… no passport is needed.
Ybor City is also called one of the most haunted places in the world, world-renowned for an abundance of grim grinning ghosts. Area staple Ybor Cuban Club was named by Travel Channel as one of the “Top 10 Most Haunted Places In The United States” and selected by USA Today as a top ghost tour site. Ybor City’s haunted history has also been featured in Discovery Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” and Travel Channel’s “The Dead Files”.
Home Of Fine Wines
Bern’s Steak House is home to the largest private wine collection in the world. There are 600,000 bottles at this Tampa location, including 100,000 in a cellar below the actual restaurant. The remainder is stored in a massive temperature-regulated warehouse across the street, preserved at 50 degrees.
Opened since 1956, Bern’s Steak House was converted from a business block that housed a grocer, barbershop, and dine house. Outside of fantastic steaks, guests can indulge in a variety of several hundred wine selections by the glass. Additional options are available in vintage releases and rarer offerings.
Three sommeliers take guests on a guided tour of this self-declared “Home Depot of Wine.” Incredibly rare bottles are wrapped in plastic to prevent condensation on the labels and corks; the majority of these offerings are over a century old. The collection’s crown jewel is a Saint-Louis crystal decanter — one of five made in the world and the only one available in the United States.
It’s A City Of Champions, But It Took A While
Tampa Bay has claimed three championships in pro sports during this decade alone, more than any other city.
However, things weren’t always golden in The Big Guava.
The Lightening started as the worst-run franchise in sports. Rumored to be run by a Yakuza mob boss, the team was plagued by hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, and placed last or second to last in their division for eight of their first nine seasons. Obviously, things have turned around since then. The Lightning won back-to-back Stanley Cups — one of only eight NHL teams to accomplish this feat. The team has now made the postseason in seven of their last eight seasons.
After joining the NFL in 1976 as an expansion team, the Buccaneers suffered 26 consecutive losses in their first two seasons (including a winless inaugural season) and 14 consecutive losing seasons from 1983 to 1996. Known as a perennial losing franchise for most of their first two decades, it somehow took the team 25 years to return a kickoff for a touchdown.
Despite the glut of defeats, the Bucs are the first post-merger expansion team to clinch a division title, win a playoff game, host a conference championship, and win a Super Bowl. From their first championship in 2002 to their second Super Bowl season in 2020, the team did not win a single playoff game. The Bucs’ hold the NFL’s lowest winning percentage at .401.
From 1998-2004, the Rays finished last place in the AL East in all but the 2004 season, when they finished second to last. Since 2008, the the Rays have competed in the postseason seven times, including two AL Pennant victories, though a World Series title has still eluded them.