Spectacular waterways, rich history, world-class beaches and abundant attractions make the upper west coast of Florida an ideal place to vacation. The region’s largest city is Tampa which sits across the bay from the peninsula that is home to Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Tampa is a Native American word meaning "sticks of fire." Famous Spanish explorers Ponce de León and Hernando de Soto passed through in the mid-1500s. The U.S. Army and civilian settlers arrived in 1824. Scenic barrier islands rim the peninsula's western periphery with beaches, quiet parks, and quaint, laid-back beach towns. To the north are communities that celebrate their ethnic heritage - such as Tarpon Springs, settled by Greek sponge-divers. Farther north the land is dotted with crystal-clear rivers, springs, and nature preserves. To the south lie resort towns, including Sarasota, which attract vacationers escaping the cold and looking for water-based recreation.
In Tampa you won’t want to miss the Florida Aquarium and the ethnic charm of Ybor City, where you can dine and stroll through the shops. At Busch Gardens you’ll experience thrilling rides and see animals in their natural settings. In St. Petersburg, you can enjoy the trendy eateries in the new BayWalk dining and entertainment complex as well as other shops and museums. Across from BayWalk is the Florida International Museum with the world's largest display of John F. Kennedy memorabilia. A few blocks east is the Florida Holocaust Museum. Visitors also love the beaches in Sarasota. The pristine Fort De Soto State Park is an ideal place to picnic or take in the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Art lovers and circus buffs flock to Sarasota for the museum at the Ringling Center for the Cultural Arts and the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, which displays antique cars and antique music boxes. Vacation rental accommodations are abundant throughout the upper west coast region, adding another dimension of convenience, quality and charm to your Tampa Bay area vacation.
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