Ybor City is Tampa's historic district — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
The Ybor City (pronouncedEe-bor) neighborhood was established in the mid-1800s and was largely responsible for Tampa's initial growth and prosperity through the development of a thriving cigar manufacturing industry.Attracting immigrants primarily from Spain,Cuba and Italy,the area became known as Tampa's "Latin Quarter" and still retains a strong ethnic flavor and vibrant culture.
To get to Ybor City from the port,just hop on one of Tampa's historic streetcars that stop right in front of Cruise Terminal 3.The streetcars run every 20 minutes and cost $5 for a round trip.You'll want to take the streetcar to the last stop,stop #1.Once on board,sit back,enjoy the scenery and prepare for a journey back in time to one of only two National Historic Landmark Districts in Florida.
Ybor City Museum illustrates the unique history and culture of the neighborhood — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
From here,head back half a block to Centennial Park.In addition to providing shade and seating,this park commemorates the immigrants who founded the neighborhood.On the park's north side is an evocative bronze statue of an immigrant family created by popular Tampa sculptor Steve Dickey.
To learn more about what life was like for these brave immigrants,cross the street and visitYbor City Museum.This museum hosts exhibits and interpretive displays featuring information about the founders of Ybor City,the history of the cigar industry,the immigrant ethnic groups and the unique tradition of mutual aid societies and ethnic social clubs.
Now that you have some history under your belt,you are free to explore on your own.You can head south a couple of blocks to La Septima,or 7th Avenue,the neighborhood's main street.Lined with historic brick buildings decorated with charming wrought iron balconies,the street appears much as it did a hundred years ago.
As you explore the sidewalk cafes and unique shops,imagine what it was like at the turn of the century when the streets were crowded with people heading out to dances at the social clubs,shopping or sitting at tables enjoying coffee and guava tarts.
Hungry?Try dining atCarne Chophouselocated in Centro Ybor (7th Avenue and 16th Street).This Cuban-themed restaurant features surprisingly affordable steaks,chops and Cuban favorites.Located in the historic El Centro Espanol,this building originally served as a social center for Spanish immigrants and retains its historic ambiance.
So eat well,relax and end your tour basking in the nostalgic remainders of Ybor's golden age.
Ybor's Carne Chophouse offers Cuban-inspired dishes — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers