Tampa's Ybor City: Cigars, Chickens and Charm
Although I’ve been living in the Tampa Bay area for almost two years, I just visited Ybor City for the first time this weekend. Ybor City is an historic neighborhood a bit northeast of downtown Tampa.
From Belfast, Maine to Hollywood, Florida, I love cute, historic downtown areas. Here in Florida, and probably other sunny places, there have been attempts to create outdoor malls that mimic the feel of a vibrant downtown. Although I love CityPlace in West Palm Beach, to me, a good downtown has some history.
Ybor does have an outdoor mall area called “Centro,” with a Muvico, an Improv, and many restaurants. Centro blends effortlessly into the historic area. Centro also boasts a stop on TECO Line, Tampa’s electric streetcar transportation system.
Named after a cigar manufacturer, Ybor City was founded in the 1880s. For more than fifty years, immigrants from Spain, Cuba and Italy lived and worked there together, primarily in the cigar industry.
Today, Ybor City is recovering from the urban blight that has claimed so many once-prosperous neighborhoods.
The afternoon I visited, I met friends at the Blind Tiger, a coffee shop in a building that was once a speakeasy. In the park was a festival honoring the Cuban sandwich.
Of all the new things I have discovered since moving to Florida, the Cuban sandwich is perhaps the most disappointing. It contains a pickle, and very little else worth mentioning. The Cuban Sandwich Festival, however, was a lot of fun.
One look at Ybor City’s website will tell you there is always something happening here. Mediterranean food, art galleries, museums, shops and nightclubs line the colorful streets. Live music drifts from courtyards and open-air stages, even in the afternoon.
The rich culture of Ybor City is evident in it’s architecture and its museums. The part of the Ybor City vibe I didn’t expect was the chickens! In the convenient parking lots were colorful roosters and chickens, obviously at home in the city streets.
While so much of Florida is jokingly called “God’s Waiting Room,” Ybor City is youthful. Co-working opportunities and open mics provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and artists.
If you are interested in art, culture, history, food or fun, Ybor City has everything you might want, and chickens, too!