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Surfboards in Tampa

Cool as a cucumber Tampa, on the west coast of holiday-favourite Florida, pulsates with a Latin spirit and attracts visitors looking for beaches, museums, family-friendly attractions, theme parks, and a bevy of natural beauties.

Sprawling around Tampa Bay in the Sunshine State of the United States of America, Tampa would be the playground of Florida, were it not for fun-time favourites such as Orlando and the Florida Keys. But it's hard to narrow down a list of top five Tampa attractions when you've got a directory that includes the Florida Aquarium, Ybor City, Busch Gardens, Lowry Park Zoo, the Tampa Museum of Art, the Henry B Plant Museum, Bayshore Boulevard, plus a hearty mix of entertainment venues that are open every day and night. While it can't rival the Disney-inspired magic of Orlando, Tampa sure has a lot going for it.

Typical of American accommodation standards, even the most basic Tampa hotels offer oodles of space and good amenities. The best hotels - and the city is home to many fine four- and five-star hotels - offer much more besides. At these palaces of sumptuousness you'll find spa treatments, golf courses, swimming pools, gyms, and top-class service.

Budget hotels in Tampa are easy to come by, with many cheap hotels and motels dotting the main roads in and out of the city.

Well-known brands are easy to find in the area and you can check in to hotels from the likes of Best Western, Quality Inn, Marriott, Hampton Inn, Fairfield, Hilton, Wyndham, Westin, Comfort Inn, Days Inn and Clarion.

The attractions of Tampa are spread far and wide around this city, so it might not be a concern as to where you stay. Most visitors hire cars to get about - it's a doddle to get from A-B in your own vehicle in the States. If you don't plan to drive, and want to be close to nightlife, consider booking hotels in Downtown, Ybor City, or SoHo, all of which feature restaurants, bars, and nightly entertainment.

If you can't find your ideal hotel in Tampa, consider a stay across the bay in beautiful St Petersburg or a little further north in Clearwater.

Top five attractions

Ybor City

Feel the Hispanic vibe in one of the oldest parts of Tampa, which was founded on the cigar industry established by Cuban and Spanish migrants.

Busch Gardens

Thrills and spills abound in 335 acres of fun-packed theme park. It's one of America's best.

Bayshore Boulevard

Home to what is claimed to be the world's longest sidewalk - 4.5 miles of sea to one side, and a huge city on the other.

Tampa Museum of Art

This is a superbly though-out art space housing some wonderful pieces from all over the world.

Henry B Plant Museum

Genius museum focusing on the swanky lifestyles of former guests at this one-time plush hotel.

Events

Gasparilla Pirate Fest; January: Quite simply the ultimate pirate event in the civilised world. If you're a fan of pirates then this is a must. Buy an eye-patch, stick a toy parrot on your shoulder and join in the whacky, but brilliant, fun.

Sant'Yago Knight Parade; February: Spin-off event from the previous month's Pirate Fest, but no less fun. Thousands turn out to cheer on a parade of illuminated floats and then party the night away.

Strawberry Festival; March: Eleven days are spent worshipping that tastiest of fruits - the strawberry. Harvest time across Florida brings much of the produce to the city with contests, cultural shows and demonstrations on how to get the best out of Tampa's favourite fruit.