Planning Your Time
Given that the Tampa Bay area, like most of Florida, is a region that grew up in the age of the automobile, you’re likely to be doing a whole lot of driving here regardless of how focused your itinerary is. Thankfully, you’ll seldom be much more than a half hour’s drive away from the city of Tampa, which makes it the ideal home base; and although traffic on I-4 and I-275 in the city is a nightmare at rush hour, both freeways are generally easy to navigate.
Allow yourself at least three days to take in major sights like Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium, the museums of St. Petersburg, a night out in Ybor City, and a day at the beaches near Clearwater to recover. A snorkeling excursion with the manatees in Crystal River requires about 185 miles (three hours) of driving roundtrip but is well worth it.
While this may seem like an ideal way to maximize your time, it’s unadvisable for two reasons. One: A visit to Tampa Bay isn’t very “attraction”-based and is much better enjoyed at a leisurely pace that allows you to soak in the culture and outdoor activities; rushing through the region and ticking sights off a list would be supremely unrewarding. Two: The stretch of interstate between Tampa and Walt Disney World is a soul-crushing stretch of road that manages to make a 60-mile drive seem like 600.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition