Why do People Move to Tampa?
A onetime pirate’s harbor and a longtime haven for Cuban exiles, Tampa has one of the state’s most interesting and complex origin stories. This breezy, bayside city in western central Florida was originally inhabited by the Timucua and the Seminoles, but it had become a railroad hub by the late 19th century, bringing tourism and new industries to this now wildly popular area of the Gulf.
Since its early days, Tampa has transformed into hub for diverse cultures and business, from advanced manufacturing to finance. The city has established world-renowned collections of art and championship sports teams. And it’s created vital infrastructure to embrace the natural wonders of Tampa Bay and its barrier islands — two of the ecological assets that made the city a destination in the first place.
Tampa’s rapidly expanding population has shown little signs of waning, even with the increasing threat of hurricanes and flooding in the region. Some of the 60,000 newcomers have come for the promising job market, the family-friendly amenities or the relatively low cost of living, which pales in comparison to West Coast cities like L.A. Others have moved for the same reason the firsts tourists arrived: the mild climate, white sand beaches and the low-key, island vibe.
If you think the city of Tampa might be the right city for your family, check out all that makes this coastal gem shine below.
Living in Tampa – 11 Things You May Want to Know Before Moving
1.This is a city with culture.
Between the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the Tampa Museum of Art and the Tampa Bay History Center, you’ll never be left out of the cultural loop in this town.
2. Tampa has distinctive neighborhoods.
With a bustling downtown, artsy and historic districts, and great restaurants everywhere your hungry eyes may wander, this city is meant to be explored.
3. Yes, there are great beaches.
There are crowd-pleasers like Clearwater and there are remote getaways like Caladesi Island, but all of Tampa’s beaches will tempt you with the cooling waters of the Gulf.
4. But, it’s more than just a beach town.
With mild weather year-round (except the height of summer), Tampa has more than just beaches to tempt you out of doors. Grab your hiking boots, your bicycles and your love of adventure, and explore the wilds of the woods and the smaller waterways of the city.
5. Tampa has a funky side.
Sure, Tampa has a strong business community and is a solid place to raise a family, but more importantly, it can be a little weird — it’s annual pirate festival — Gasparilla — is proof positive.
6. The job market is strong.
Business is booming in Tampa with banking, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and agricultural power sectors. Nearly a quarter of the state’s finance businesses are located in the city.
7. The city is growing … fast.
Tampa’s population has increased by over 60,000 people in the last decade, which means there are more things to do in the city … and slightly less space to do them in. Still, as major cities go, this one still rests in the Goldilocks zone for size.
8. It’s still pretty affordable.
Real estate prices may have shot up over the last few years, but Tampa’s cost of living is actually below the national average. Not bad for a place with a beach view.
9. There’s great local food.
Thanks to the diverse cultural influences in the city, Tampa has incredible food from all over the planet, from Cuban pastries to za’atar short ribs.
10. This is a place to get your game on.
Whether you’re an MLB, NFL or NHL die-hard, pro sports have a tight hold on Tampa Bay. There’s a team full of Super Bowl champions in this town, ICYMI.
11. You’ll never be bored in Tampa.
Theme parks and ziplines, botanic gardens and zoos. There’s never any excuse to not be having fun in this city.
Affordable Cost of Living
With a below average cost of living and a high quality of life, Tampa has a lot to offer new residents. It may surprise you to learn that this city by the sea is so affordable, especially compared to other popular cities in Florida like Miami and Orlando, but Tampa’s cost of living is even lower than the current national average. Unfortunately, the median household income here doesn’t even break $60,000 — that’s nearly $2,000 below the state average and almost $10,000 below the national average.
Those lower income levels make it hard to afford real estate in Tampa. Only 50% of Tampa residents own their own home, compared to 64.6% of Florida residents overall and 66.5% nationally. Renters don’t have it easy, either — the median gross rent in the city averages $1,249 between 2017-2021, exceeding the national average.
According to Greater Tampa Realtors, the average sales price for a single-family home in Tampa in 2023 is $415,000 — a number that’s remained unchanged since 2022. What has changed over the last year is the inventory and speed of sale. There are now fewer homes on the market in Tampa, and the median number of days to contract (16) and closing (56) has substantially increased. This may eventually be good news for buyers, as homes are now also selling below their list price, and closed sales for single-family homes have been down 14.5% since 2022.
The news is similar for townhouses and condos in Tampa, where the median sales price slid from $298,148 to $296,000 (-.07%), and the median time to contract increased to 24 days (up from nine) and the median time to sale jumped from 45 to 67 days. New listings are down 16.5%, and there is a 66.7% increase in the monthly supply of inventory.
Because the state of Florida is a self-proclaimed pro-business, right-to-work state, it won’t be surprising to learn that there is no personal income taxes in Tampa or any other of Florida’s cities.
Note: We are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.
Thriving Job Market
The greater Tampa metro area is the commercial hub of the central Florida region, where tourists flock to the beaches and entrepreneurs arrive with big ideas and the capital to back them. Diverse corporations like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bristol Myers Squibb, MetLife and USAA all have major bases in Tampa. Many companies have even made Tampa their headquarters, like agricultural giant Mosaic, Suzuki Marine USA, tech powerhouse TD Synnex, semi-conductor manufacturer Jabil, Cybersecurity company OPSWAT, and Bloomin’ Brands — the parent company of food chains like Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area has maintained low unemployment for all of 2023, and the unemployment rate stood at 3.2% in August 2023, a little below the national average. Over the past 12 months, all industries in the area have grown or sustained their volume except for the Information and Financial Activities sectors, which saw small decreases of 1.7% and 3.9%, respectively.
Professional & Business Services remains the largest industry in the tri-city region, supporting more than 300,000 employees. Trade, Transportation & Utilities is a close second, employing nearly 281,000 individuals in the area, followed by Leisure & Hospitality (166,000 employees) and Financial Activities (135,000). The total number of non-farm jobs grew by more than 3% over the past year.
These businesses have a ready workforce, too, thanks to area colleges like the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa, along with top state schools nearby like the University of Florida (Gainesville), the University of Miami, and Florida State University (Tallahassee) — all are within a five-hour drive from the city.
Best Neighborhoods in Tampa
When it comes to neighborhoods, Tampa is a city that you just cannot pin down. Every district has its own distinct vibe, and you’ll find so many of the areas appealing it may be disappointing when you have to choose just one place to live.
On the northwest edge of the Hillsborough Bay, the SOHO/Hyde Park Village area is a recreational haven by day and a trendy dining spot by night. Pedestrians have 4.5 miles of uninterrupted sidewalk to travel here, which makes for a perfect early morning jog along the water. Residents also have easy access to the popular River Walk District, where lots of cultural attractions lie. The University of Tampa is just north of Hyde Park, as is the Henry B. Plant Museum, where you can step back in time to see what Tampa was like in its early days. With the cool, blue waters of the Bay in sight, real estate prices in Hyde Park are red hot. A modest bungalow — or even just an empty lot — could easily set you back more than a million dollars.
Once known as the Cigar Capital of the World, Ybor City is Tampa’s most vibrant area, where you’ll still smell fragrant smoke wafting from cigar shops and the aromas of Cuban bread and flaky quesitos spilling from the windows of red brick buildings. The district, which was established by Cuban immigrants and has been populated by diverse ethnic groups since its founding, is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Housing in Ybor City runs the gamut. Ybor has mid-century dwellings with modern charm, Victorian-inspired clapboard cottages, well-appointed Craftsman bungalows and contemporary condos off the main drag. Pricing is more affordable here than in the waterfront districts.
On the city’s north side, stylish Seminole Heights is a foodie’s paradise and an architectural treasure trove. Deep lots and tree-lined streets set off the charming homes here, which are well-appointed inside and out. Interspersed among the residences, you’ll find comfort food from country establishments and finer fare from Michelin Gourmand recipients. There’s even a kava bar — Bula Kavananda — when you really need to relax.
Adjacent to Downtown’s buzzing business quarters, the Channel District has undergone a major renovation designed to bring more fun to residents and tourists alike. The new Sparkman’s Wharf follows the Live-Work-Play model adopted by so many cities around the country to combine the comforts of a food hall with the conveniences demanded by the rest of corporate life, all with a festive, forward-looking vibe. This area is right off the River Walk and contains the Tampa Convention Center and the Amalie Arena. Condo living is the norm here, whether you’re looking for a luxe high-rise with water views or a loft-style low-rise with a Venice Beach vibe.
Note: If you’re thinking of moving to the Tampa area, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.
Where the Locals Have Fun
With public makerspaces, manatee viewing, museums and theme parks, Tampa is built for family fun. Get a local look at the best Tampa beaches and entertainment venues below.
If you’re moving to Tampa for the beaches, you’ll find white-sand shores up and down the Gulf Coast as well as pleasant spots near downtown Tampa, like Cypress Point Park.
Directly across Tampa Bay you’ll find the inviting waters of St. Petersburg/Clearwater Beach, a seaside community that spans the mainland and several keys, connected to the shore by short causeways. The barrier islands are packed with hotels, resorts and seafood shacks, where condominiums offer year-round residents an enviable oceanfront perch. The area also has a thriving art scene, so in between parasailing and paddleboarding, you can check out the Chihuly Collection, the Dali Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg, as well as work by local artists at the Studio 1212 Art Gallery, the Red Cloud Indian Arts Gallery and the Morean Arts Center, a ceramics-based establishment.
St. Pete/Clearwater is known for its calm, almost lake-like waters — perfect for those who are still getting their sea legs and those hoping for a good haul on a shelling expedition. The northern island of Tarpon Springs is famous for another marine creature, though: sea sponges. Befitting Professor Aronnax in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Divers on the Sponge Capital of the World still don their ancient-looking, weighted suits before plumbing the depths and emerge with their hands full of this useful saltwater curiosity.
Honeymoon Island State Park marks the last of the keys in the Clearwater chain, and this special place is a treat for all the senses. Your eyes can take in 360° of wild waters and forest, where ospreys, eagles and owls make their home among the slash pines, filling the air with their curious calls. The south end of the island is great for fishing, if you like trout, pompano and snook, and kayaks are available to rent for anyone who simply wants to feel the gentle rocking of the surf and smell the fresh sea air.
The Great Outdoors
The Tampa Riverwalk marries the best of nature and culture, creating a pathway between venues like the Straz Center for the Performing Arts the Florida Aquarium and the historic American Victory Ship. Along the way, you’ll find parks, restaurants, coffee shops and even a pirate ship called the Lost Pearl.
With meandering trails through the wetlands and the only Class II rapids in the state of Florida, Hillsborough River State Park is a near-city natural wonder. Located just outside the suburb of Zephyrhills, the park has treks for all levels of hiker. Wooden boardwalks wind their way between cypress knees and boulders, and the sound of the cool waters will transport you from your work week to a healthier headspace in minutes.
South of the city, you’ll know Edgemont Key State Park by its historic lighthouse, which has weathered many a storm in its 165-year lifetime. Edgemont is also a wildlife refuge, so you can expect to find flora and fauna here that will be absent from the crowded beaches near the city. Saltwater fishing is excellent on this remote barrier island, and snorkelers will enjoy searching not just for marine life but sunken structures, too.
If you’re up for a longer-distance adventure, check out one of the state’s national parks. There’s no better introduction to the ecology of the region than Everglades National Park. Around three hours from Tampa, the Everglades contains all the wild wonder the southern half of the state affords — gators and grasses and great egrets (oh, my!).
One park you won’t be able to reach by car is Dry Tortugas. This historic fortress and snorkeler’s idyll can only be accessed by sea plane, ferry or private boat. The visitor’s center can provide you with a laminated map of the most popular snorkeling spot — the Windjammer Shipwreck — so you can more easily navigate the waters around the ill-fated ship, which wrecked in 1901. 30 varieties of coral live in these waters, along with spiky urchins, angelfish and yellowtail snappers and many other delights.
Biscayne National Park encompasses a wide swath of oceanfront south of Miami. You can drive to the park’s main entrance, due east of Homestead, and then boat to the keys off the coast, where you’ll find campsites and fellow fisherman, some even looking for lobsters.
Learn more about natural wonders in your backyard in our guide to National Parks of the Southeast.
Entertainment for All Ages
Orlando may have the greatest concentration of theme parks in the state, but Busch Gardens gives them a run for their money. Part zoo and part amusement park, Busch Gardens has immersive animal tours, where you can see what it’s like to be an animal keeper for a day. But you can just hang out with your favorite wild friends, like hippos, hyenas and wallaroos. Thrill-seekers will find some of the most rollicking coasters around. The new Serengeti Flyer is a 135-foot-tall, 68-mph, negative-G swing that glides through the air to the squeal of 40 delighted/terrified gondoliers. Other park favorites include the Montu, which promises seven total inversions (some of them twisty) or the wood-steel hybrid roller coaster, the Iron Gwazi, which has a 91° plunge and other pulse-pumping surprises. Anyone with an aversion to inversions will enjoy the kid-sized thrills of the Cobra’s Curse, whose snaky track slides you — spinning — at a mostly bearable 40 mph.
If coasters aren’t your speed, the Glazer Children’s Museum will afford plenty of oohs and ahhs of its own. Stand eye to eye socket with Big John, the museum’s 10-foot-tall, fossilized triceratops. Or, learn to care for smaller, furrier friends in the vet clinic. Budding finance gurus can learn how to make (ahem) sense of their dollars in the Central Bank, while pint-sized architects can make a space all their own in the Engineer’s Workshop.
With rivers, lakes and the Gulf of Mexico right in your backyard, the Florida Aquarium will bring the underwater worlds to light. Located in the popular Channel District in downtown Tampa, this aquarium recreates exotic and native habitats, from the Journey to Madagascar to the Florida Wetlands exhibit. You can “pet” a cownose stingray, make pals with a penguin and even take a naturalist’s cruise through Tampa Bay to see dolphins in the wild.
One unexpected venue for wildlife wonder is Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center. Thanks to the warm water generated by the power station, Manatees flock to the electric company’s canal — now a designated wildlife sanctuary — when ocean temperatures cool in the winter.
Sports in Tampa Bay Area
Tampa residents have a lot of bragging rights when it comes to sports. Hockey fans will be fast out on the ice for the Tampa Bay Lighting — the city’s NHL team — which was third in its division last year.
Although the Tampa Bay Rays have never earned a World Series title, they have competed for it twice. In 2023, they were second in their division and clinched a wildcard spot for the playoffs.
But, really, everyone needs to just scoot down the bench and make way for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Super Bowl-winning Bucs didn’t have a stellar start — they still hold the record for the longest losing streak in history — but they certainly made up for that when they trounced the Raiders in 2003 and the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021, thanks in part to superstar Tom Brady. Every time the Bucs score, cannons fire from the team’s 80-foot pirate ship.
Plenty of Great Food Choices
From the Greeks who made their home in Tarpon Springs to the Cuban-centric Ybor City, Tampa is a place to eat food from all over the world. The steady influx of new residents has broadened the culinary repertoire of this city on the bay by the day.
If you’re looking for Southern-inflected delights, try one of Tampa’s homey holdovers like the M&R Café, a classic cafeteria where you cannot steer wrong with a plate of steaming oxtails and a side of collards and candied yams.
For inventive new flavors you need look no further than the Edison: Food + Drink Lab in Sparkman’s Wharf, where you find the unusual suspects, like roasted bone marrow with violet mustard, octopus Bolognese and potato-crusted oysters with dill pickle “nectar.” What could be sweeter than that?
You’ve probably heard about Tampa’s legendary Cuban spots, like the La Segunda bakery and The Columbia, which now has seven locations across the state. But La Teresita — founded by Cuban refugees — has been a stronghold in the city since 1972, starting as a market and growing into a thriving restaurant where Spanish and Cuban staples like Bistec de Palomilla and Arroz con Calamares make every customer a regular.
Tips for Moving to Tampa
Research Moving Companies
If you’re ready to move to Tampa, it’s time to start looking for the right professional moving company and to start gathering moving quotes. When you work with United Van Lines — America’s #1 Mover® — you’ll know you’ve made your relocation easier.
If you’re moving cross-country to Tampa, we can provide you with a customized, full-service moving package tailored to your relocation needs. United Van Lines can take care of packing, unpacking, debris removal, car shipping, storage and other essential moving services. The MyUnited Move Portal will keep everything on track and organized.
If you’re moving to Tampa/St. Petersburg from another city in Florida, we can assist you with local movers in Orlando and local moves in Florida. Our interstate Florida movers and Tampa movers provide local moving services in the state of Florida independently under their own brands and business names.
If you’re making a DIY move to Tampa, United Van Lines can assist you with any task that’s too much to handle on your own.
Have a Moving Checklist
Whether you’re moving with a professional mover like United Van Lines or you’re moving on your own, creating a moving checklist will help you keep organized and make it easier to move into your new home. We have all the pro tips you’ll need for packing, moving day and settling in. Check out United Van Lines’ moving resources.
(Try to) Enjoy the Process
Still not sure where you’re moving in the Sunshine State? Get essential information about popular cities and sights in our Guide to Moving to Florida.