Tampa is sometimes regarded as the gritter and less polished sibling of glamorous gay Miami or bustling gay Orlando, however, recent years have seen a wave of regeneration and development wash over the city, transforming it into a sleek and stylish coastal destination.
With swathes of green space, a tropical climate and crystal clear blue ocean, Tampa is a luscious and beautiful destination that is brimming with opportunity for discovery. Closely connected with the sea, Tampa is home to the largest port in Florida and the harbour area is a hub of entertainment, dining and nightlife.
Tampa is also home to a growing and fresh gay scene that is largely fuelled by the city’s large student population and creative community. There is a wealth of gay venues in Tampa’s gay district of Ybor City, a historic and diverse area that is known for its thriving nightlife and unique architecture.
The majority of the gay nightlife on offer in Tampa can be found along 7th Avenue in Ybor City, Tampa’s unofficial gay neighbourhood. A coalition of local LGBT+ business owners set up the ‘Gaybor’ group which serves as an LGBT+ chamber of commerce in the city. The area boasts a vibrant and concentrated collection of gay bars and clubs.
The highlight of Tampa’s gay nightlife is undoubtedly Bradley’s, the city’s most popular gay bar and a staple of the local gay scene. Like many of the bars and clubs, Bradley’s is open and busy most nights of the week thanks to the active and large LGBT+ student population. The bar has a large dancefloor and regularly hosts live performances and drag shows.
The best place to catch live performances in Tampa’s gay scene is at City Side Lounge. Boasting three bars, a large dancefloor and even a stage, there are daily themed events and competitions, which are extremely popular amongst the diverse and eclectic crowd that frequents City Side Lounge. The spacious outdoor patio is the perfect place to sip a delicious cocktail as you watch the sunset.
The busiest club on Friday nights is always Honey Pot. A young, student crowd is routinely drawn to the club by the world-class drag performances, spacious dancefloor and in-house catwalk. The vibe is always fun and care-free.
For the best oceanfront location and unfiltered views of the Atlantic, consider staying at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. The hotel’s central location makes it the perfect base from which to explore the city and is perfect for gay travelers looking to see all of Tampa’s top attractions. The three on-site restaurants at the hotel include Oystercatchers, a popular seafood eatery where you can enjoy the freshest caught fish and great wine. The hotel is popular amongst gay travelers and the staff at the Grand Hyatt are friendly and inclusive of all guests.
Just a 10-minute drive from the Ybor City gay scene, Aloft Tampa is a trendy and modern hotel that is situated in the heart of the city’s downtown. The hotel targets a design-orientated crowd with its exposed concrete walls, live DJ in the foyer and stunning rooftop pool. Perfect for those seeking a boutique stay close to the action, the rooms in Aloft all have sweeping views across Tampa’s skyline, river and oceanfront.
Tampa can get busy, and if you’re looking for somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle then look no further than the Crowne Plaza Hotel Tampa Westshore. Situated outside of the city amongst luscious greenery, the hotel is a quiet slice of paradise. The large pool is the focal point of this hotel and is the ideal place to cool down in Tampa’s sunny climate. The on-site restaurant is a popular eatery amongst locals and travelers and the hotel offers a free shuttle service, meaning you can get into town with efficiency and ease.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Florida is a mecca for thrill-seekers, with an abundance of world-class theme and amusement parks, and Busch Gardens is not only one of the state’s favorite attractions but it’s also one of the USA’s most visited amusement parks. Welcoming upwards of 4.1 million guests a year, the park features a range of high-adrenaline rides, a water park and an expansive zoo and safari.
The highlight of Busch Gardens is the zoo, Tampa’s largest and boasting a large open “Serengeti Plains” habitat, home to a variety of animals that wander freely and guests can drive amongst the creatures on an immersive safari experience. The Big Gay Busch Gardens Day takes place every year in October and sees hundred of gay men flock to the park.
Pride happens annually in March and is a totally unique and exciting event. The celebrations begin with Tampa Zoo-la and evening party at Zoo Tampa, where LGBT+ individuals and allies append an evening partying amongst animals from around the globe – a true one-of-a-kind experience. The festivities also include other events such as the Mr and Miss Tampa Pride Pageant and the Grand Marshall Gala.
The epicentre of the city’s pride celebrations is the Tampa Diversity Parade, a pride march that celebrates the diversity within the local gay community and centres equality, inclusion and respect as core principles. The parade attracts over 20,000 people, who line the streets of Ybor City to show love and pride for the LGBT+ community.
Gay rights in Tampa
Parts of Florida are socially conservative, however, Tampa recently achieved a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, which rates how well cities support the LGBT+ community. The city is one of a handful in the country that have a designated LGBT+ chamber of commerce that supports the business ventures of LGBT+ people and protects the local community.
Same-sex sexual activity was legalised in 2003 but since then there have been a slowly growing number of legislative bills that have given increased liberties and equality to LGBT+ individuals. Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2015 and in 2010, Florida’s thirty-three year ban on same-sex adoption was overturned.
by George Pizani | On: Gay Tampa