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Your Guide to Moving to Tampa

Tampa, FL skyline from Hilsborough river
lunamarina / Shutterstock

Tampa at a glance:

  • Tampa is the third-fastest growing city in Florida, adding more than 6,000 new residents, year over year.
  • The Tampa cost of living is 5% below the national average.
  • The city ranks #1 for the small tech market. And if you’re looking for a job, know that Tampa’s other thriving industries include defense, healthcare, manufacturing and logistics, financial services, and information technology.
  • Ranked as one of the top 15 secret food scenes by Thrillist, Tampa has dining options focused on the hyperlocal. Look for Cuban sandwiches, street food, and high-end eats from James Beard award-winning chefs.
  • The city is home to both major tourist attractions such as Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and a packed calendar of events. Whether you prefer Gasparilla’s Pirate Festival or the Bay Area Renaissance Festival, there’s always something going on in the vibrant harborside city of Tampa.

Moving to Tampa: The basics

What’s the population of Tampa?

Tampa has a population of 392,890 (as of the last Census count in 2018). According to the Tampa Bay Economic Development Corporation, Hillsborough County, which includes the city of Tampa, is on track for 8.7% growth through 2024. This puts it ahead of the state of Florida overall, as well as the United States.

The population of Tampa is young and fairly diverse. Young professionals abound, bringing the median age to 34. There’s a pretty even gender split in the city, and 43% of residents are married. More than 17% were born in another country. The majority of foreign-born residents (64%) are from Latin America — but Asia and Europe are also well represented in the count.

What’s the cost of living in Tampa?

The cost of living in the city is 5% below the national average, Payscale reports.

According to Census data, the median value of a home in Tampa is $257,600 (which is slightly higher than the U.S. median of $229,700). The median rent is on par in the city, coming in at $1,082/mo. You can compare that to the national median of $1,023/mo.

If you’re wondering about food costs in Tampa, know that they’re about the same as the national averages. Expect to pay $3.33 for a loaf of bread, $1.94 for a gallon of milk, and $1.81 for a dozen eggs. Want to enjoy a burger out? You’ll pay about $4.24 for that meal.

The median per capita income in the city is $35,694, which is more than the national median. But when you look at the median household income, it’s $54,599 — a bit lower than the national numbers.

Here’s how the cost of living in Tampa compares to other U.S. cities:

City Name Population Cost of Living (Compared to National Average) Per Capita Income Median Home Price Median Rent
Tampa, FL 392,905 -5% $35,694 $257,600 $1,082/mo.
Orlando, FL 285,705 -5% $33,569 $262,700 $1,139/mo.
Tucson, AZ 545,987 -6% $23,553 $167,800 $825/mo.
New York, NY 8,398,748 +129% $39,589 $645,100 $1,396/mo,

*Data sourced from U.S. Census, Census Reporter, and Payscale

How’s the Tampa job market?

The Tampa Bay area is experiencing the second-highest rate of job growth in Florida, adding positions in such key sectors as defense, healthcare, and manufacturing. But wages remain relatively low: Florida still has a minimum wage of $8.56/hr. Across all industries, Tampa’s wages average $24.80/hr. for an average salary of $51,584 — making the city rank 15th out of the 20 biggest metro areas in the nation for growth in hourly wages.

Although the greater Tampa Bay area is home to seven Fortune 500 companies, only two are headquartered in the city proper. WellCare Health Plans has 12,000 employees and $20 billion in revenue, while the Bloomin’ Brands restaurant group has 93,000 employees and $4.2 billion in revenue.

Prior to the global outbreak of the coronavirus (and its subsequent economic impact), Tampa had been experiencing record-low unemployment rates. In January 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Tampa had an unemployment rate of 3.1% (which was lower than the national rate at the time). The latest numbers from March show the unemployment rate rising to 4.3%, a trend cities across the U.S. experienced due to COVID-19.

What do I need to know about Tampa education?

Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) is the seventh-largest school district in the nation, with more than 200,000 students in K-12. Most students attend schools based on their geographic location, but school choice is readily available. Options include magnet schools, career and technical institutes, homeschooling, and even virtual school. According to Niche, HCPS ranks #19 of 67 school districts in Florida overall, #4 in diversity, and #7 in school athletics.

The Tampa Bay area has more than four dozen charter schools and a plethora of highly-rated private schools, both independent and faith-based.

Area colleges and universities include a variety of two-year trade schools and community colleges, private four-year institutions, and major universities such as the University of South Florida.

Sunset shot over the Tampa Riverwalk with the University of Tampa in the background

Matt Carter Images / Shutterstock

What are the safest areas in Tampa?

An important part of moving to a new city is deciding where to live. Neighborhood Scout aggregates crime data from a variety of law enforcement agencies. According to that site, the safest neighborhoods in Tampa are near the following cross-streets:

  • Race Track Road/Nine Eagles Drive on the west side of the city near Palm Harbor
  • New Tampa Boulevard/Wood Sage Drive to the north near Lutz
  • North Boundary Boulevard/Radar Road to the south by MacDill Air Force Base

When compared to cities of similar population size, Tampa has a significantly lower crime rate. But that just gives you a high-level overview of the safety in the city. If you want to learn more, you can get detailed information from the local FBI crime statistics and the Tampa Police Department’s Interactive Crime Map.

How do I get around Tampa?

Moving to Tampa most likely means relying on a car. The average commuter spends just 24.5 minutes each way, but using public transportation can add significantly to your travel time. The exception is if you live and work in the downtown area — including Ybor City and Channelside — which is arguably one of the best places to live in the city.

Throughout downtown, travel options include everything from historic streetcars to pirate-themed water taxis. Outside of this area, the public buses will get you where you need to go, but not necessarily in a timely manner. The Tampa Bay Partnership is working on the transit issues, but so far, commute times are still pretty long.

Rideshare apps are a reasonable option, with both Uber and Lyft having a heavy presence in Tampa. Crosstown trips can be pricey, though, with a sample Uber ride from MacDill Air Force Base to the University of South Florida, averaging nearly $30 each way without surge pricing. Bicycle and scooter rentals are also easy to find throughout the city from companies such as Jump.

What’s the weather like in Tampa?

Tampa’s weather is generally warm and balmy but can surprise residents with bursts of temperature extremes. Average winter temperatures are in the 70s during the day and the 50s at night, but it’s common to experience sub-freezing weather for a few days at a time. Likewise, summertime highs are normally around 90, but can easily reach 100 degrees or more for a few days.

In addition, Tampa is no stranger to severe weather. June 1 through Nov. 30 is hurricane season, and tornadoes are common across central Florida, with an annual average of 66 (although they’re typically smaller than midwestern tornadoes). The Interstate 4 corridor, which starts in Tampa, is nicknamed Lightning Alley, and Florida is known as the lightning capital of the country.

Bayshore blvd in Tampa, FL

Mike Focus / Shutterstock

What are Tampa’s fastest-growing neighborhoods?

In Tampa:

Ybor City

A National Historic Landmark District just outside downtown, Ybor City has been a thriving, eclectic, highly diverse neighborhood for the past 135 years. From shopping to dining to entertainment, Ybor caters to a more indie lifestyle. Home prices are surprisingly reasonable, starting in the mid-$100,000s. The average rent in the area is $1,996/mo.

SoHo

SoHo (South Howard) is a tiny but bustling arts district within the larger Hyde Park neighborhood. A fascinating blend of old and new, upscale and divey, SoHo is especially attractive to millennials moving to Tampa. Homes are a bit pricey, averaging $400,000 and up, though you may be able to get a modest place a little outside the action for closer to $100,000. A rental in SoHo will set you back between $1,000/mo. and $3,000/mo. depending on the size and exact location.

Hunter’s Green

If you prefer the convenience of a planned community, Hunter’s Green may be for you. From well-manicured green spaces to community events, this is a neighborhood you may rarely want to leave. Hunter’s Green has home prices starting at less than $100,000. The average rent in this neighborhood is $1,343/mo.

Harbour Island

A planned community within walking distance of downtown, Harbour Island is an excellent choice for those who want to live near the water. Everything you need is close by — you can enjoy the bustle of downtown whenever you like, then escape to your quiet oasis. Home prices start in the mid-$300,000s and run to well over $2.5 million. The average rent in this area is $2,074/mo.

Carver City/Lincoln Gardens

Earning an A+ grade from Niche, this is a top spot for young professionals seeking an urban environment. Though most residents rent at an average price of $1,680/mo., homebuyers can find options starting at around $140,000.

In the Greater Tampa Metro Area:

St. Petersburg

Located on the coast just west of Tampa, St. Pete was founded as a resort town in 1875. Today, it’s a thriving year-round city known for its arts and culture, as well as its natural beauty. St. Pete is about a half-hour drive from downtown Tampa, depending on traffic. The median home value in the area is around $230,000, and the median rent is about $1,500/mo.

Clearwater

North of St. Pete and also on the coast, Clearwater is known for its white-sand beaches and thriving downtown corridor. Commuting to downtown Tampa takes about 40 minutes or so, depending on the time of day. The median home value is about $235,000, and the median rent is $1,750/mo.

Brandon

Located east of Tampa, Brandon is ideal for those who prefer a home base in a smaller community. It tends to draw residents who are younger residents. Your commute to downtown Tampa will be around 20 minutes, though it can take longer at rush hour. The median home value in Brandon is about $230,000, and the median rent is $1,495/mo.

Living in Tampa: The fun part

For the sports fan

Sports fans will be happy to know that Tampa is home to three professional sports teams: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL), the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL), and the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB).

For the culture-seeker

Whether your interests include children’s museums, living history, science, or photography, you won’t run out of cultural spots to explore in Tampa. Annual don’t-miss events include the Gasparilla Pirate Festival and the Bay Area Renaissance Festival. Tampa Magazine will keep you up to date with everything you need to know.

For the foodie

West Tampa and Ybor City are home to a strong Cuban culture, and mouthwatering, authentic Cuban cuisine can be found there. But Tampa’s food scene is growing rapidly. With an emphasis on hyperlocal recipes, dining options in Tampa are full of tasty surprises.

For the traveler

Tampa International Airport is on the west side of the city, making it easy for Tampa residents to explore the globe. If you want to stay closer to home, though, just head west to the legendary white sand beaches of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Or for something completely different, hop on Interstate 4 to the Orlando-area theme parks, from Walt Disney World to Universal Orlando.

White sand beach and clear blue sky in Clearwater, FL

Gabriele Maltinti / Shutterstock

For the outdoor explorer

Outdoor enthusiasts will love golfing, kayaking, jogging, and fishing throughout the Tampa Bay area. Camping, biking, and hiking are also popular choices. Visit Hillsborough County’s outdoor recreation page for details on where to go for your favorite outdoor activities.

What you probably didn’t know about Tampa

When moving to Tampa, you probably want to know as much as possible to help you think like a local. Here are a few fun facts:

  • Tampa is a local Native American word for “sticks of fire,” likely a reference to the city’s frequent lightning.
  • Tampa was one of the biggest cities in the nation for illegal liquor sales during Prohibition.
  • “Cigar City” got its nickname from all of the hand-rolled cigars that were once Tampa’s core industry.
  • The first scheduled passenger flight in the world took place in 1914 when barnstormer Tony Jannus flew the mayor of St. Petersburg to Tampa. It took 23 minutes to complete the journey.
  • Want to visit Cuba without leaving Tampa? Jose Marti Park was gifted to Cuba three years before the revolution, and the donation was properly recorded. Therefore, the park is actually on Cuban soil.

The bottom line

While an in-depth guide can be a useful resource for any move, one article can only scratch the surface. When moving to Tampa, it’s important to consult local resources such as Visit Tampa Bay, the Tampa Bay Times, and Tampa Magazine for more in-depth information.


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