If Tampa has crossed your mind in the past few years as a potential place to make a new start, you’re not alone. This Sunshine State hotspot has become the No. 1 most popular large-city destination in the nation for relocators. And who can blame them? Moving to Tampa means gaining an almost year-round outdoor lifestyle, a strong job market, thriving cultural community, and winning sports teams — Champa Bay, anyone? In just the first two months of 2022 alone, 9,000 more people moved to Tampa than moved away — compared to 3,000 in the same period a year earlier.
Want to know why they all want to be Tampeños? We’ll get to that. But first, a few common questions — and answers — about Florida’s favorite city by the bay.
Is moving to Tampa a good idea?
If you like mild winters and a rich cultural scene flavored with Cuban and Italian immigrant history, yes, moving to Tampa is a good idea. The city has come a long way in the past few decades to build a vibrant urban center that no longer shuts down after banking hours. For instance, the Tampa Riverwalk stretches 2.6 miles through downtown — parallel to the Hillsborough River — connecting pedestrians to museums, parks, restaurants, bars, shopping, and events. Not into hoofing it? No problem! There’s a Pirate Water Taxi there waiting for you!
Is Tampa, FL, a good place to live?
According to experts, yes. U.S. News & World Report has consistently bragged about Tampa, naming the city No. 39 among “Best Places to Live” and No. 4 among “Best Places to Retire” in 2022–2023. Niche gives it an overall grade of A, with equally high marks in categories including diversity, nightlife, health and fitness, and weather.
How much money do you need to live comfortably in Tampa?
This is subjective, of course, depending on how you define “comfortably.” But according to the MIT Living Wage calculator, a family of four in the Tampa Bay area with one person working full time outside the home needs to earn at least around $76,000 before taxes.
What are the downsides of living in Tampa?
Full disclosure: We are fans of this charming, vibrant Florida city. We’ve been headquartered in neighboring Clearwater for the past 25 years, after all. But if you’re asking “Should I move to Tampa?” and want the good, the bad, and the ugly, there are a few characteristics (and critters) we could do without. Here are the top three downsides to living in Tampa:
- Traffic: You have to have a car to get around — unless and until city leaders can agree on a better, more sustainable way to move all these people from points A to B. Give yourself extra time to account for traffic jams, especially during rush hours. The major interstates in town, I275 and I4 particularly, are notorious for long backups.
- Mosquitoes and cockroaches: OK, that’s two things. But annoying insects in general are a net negative to living in Tampa — and these top the list of pests.
- Weather: Although this comes with the enormous disclaimer that this only applies to the summer months, when the tropics can be a source of anxiety (not to mention massive destruction) and the heat keeps many Tampeños indoors. Luckily, the city offers a wealth of arts and cultural attractions and activities to keep people entertained and air conditioned, so technically the weather isn’t truly even a downside as much as a cause for a seasonal shift to indoor fun.
Now onto the good stuff…
About Tampa, FL
Once a sleepy railroad town on Florida’s West Coast, Tampa is now the cultural heart and economic engine of the sprawling Tampa Bay metro area, which stretches west into St. Petersburg and Clearwater along the Gulf of Mexico. And today, more than an estimated 3.2 million people call the region home.
Here are a few things to consider as you ponder moving to Tampa, Florida:
Cost of living: Tampa has been in the news a lot throughout 2022 — and not in a way city boosters might appreciate. Housing costs have soared compared to the rest of the country, rising more than $60,000 since the start of 2022 — less startling than the $68,000 jump the year before, but still formidable. Rents in Tampa also rose during the year — up $100 from 2021. Still, Tampa offers a variety of neighborhoods to fit practically every budget, making the area within reach for most.
Here’s how Tampa’s affordability fares compared to the rest of the U.S. in a few other categories:
- Food: 7% higher
- Utilities: Same
- Healthcare: 5% lower
- Transportation: 1% higher
Population: For the first time since 1957, Florida is the fastest-growing state in the U.S. — and Tampa is keeping pace. In 2022, the metro area grew 1.17%. And much of the city’s cultural richness is attributable to its diversity, with a 14.8% foreign-born population.
Climate: Floridians have a lot to love about fall and winter, when average temps are in the 70s and skies are crystal-clear blue. An occasional heatwave, to be sure, clouds the air with humidity, thunderstorms, and warmer temperatures. And severe cold snaps can do a number on the orange and strawberry crops. But those are few and far between in the golden season from November through March, when an average of just 2.35 inches of rain per month falls in Tampa. It’s not called the Sunshine State for nothing.
The summer, however, is a different story. Hot, wet, and humid is what you get. August alone drenches Tampa with more than nine inches of rain. Not to mention the season’s hurricanes, which can dump several feet of rain (on average), storm surge, and other calamities in the area. Tampa hasn’t seen a direct hit from a hurricane since 1921 (knock on wood, please, on behalf of all Tampeños). But the city has come too close for comfort several times — Charley in 2005, for instance, and its 2022 clone named Ian, both of which were forecasted to hit the city but took last-minute turns.
Even when the tropics aren’t in turmoil, Tampa summers can be brutal, with high temperatures in the 90s from May through October. Not to mention the thick humidity makes it worse.
But think about the winter — that’s what the locals do to survive the dog days. Imagine holiday boat parades in December. Golfing in January. Beautiful beaches just across the bridge in Pinellas County — instead of a long, costly flight from far away. All yours. All winter.
Best Neighborhoods in Tampa, FL
The decision to make the move to Tampa may be a given. But which of the city’s many varied neighborhoods do you want to call home? Get just a taste of what Tampa offers with these three of our faves:
This neighborhood is the very definition of “comeback.” Not so long ago, many of the once-stately Victorian homes and Florida bungalows on Tampa Heights’ brick-lined streets were in need of some serious TLC. Enter urban pioneers, eager to renovate and rejuvenate what had been a thriving community of affluent local leaders. Today the district just north of downtown Tampa and bordered by the Hillsborough River is once again among the best neighborhoods in Tampa, bustling with activity anchored by Armature Works, a dining, shopping, and event space; Water Works Park; the restored Rialto Theatre; and a host of locally owned businesses.
Situated in South Tampa, Palma Ceia is one of the more affluent areas of the city and a favorite among the best neighborhoods in Tampa for families. Tree-lined streets, a walkable shopping and dining district, and highly rated schools add to the charm, as well as a quick commute to downtown Tampa and easy access to the bridges across the bay to points west and south. You’ll find a mix of estate homes, bungalows, and condos in Palma Ceia, dotted with some of the city’s finest restaurants and bars. For the foodies: Try Restaurant BT for an innovative, Michelin-recognized take on Vietnamese fusion.
Master-planned communities don’t always hit the mark. They can be too restrictive, too cookie-cutter, and surrounded by nondescript suburban sprawl. But Westchase is a plan that works — and it works for nearly 25,000 residents who call it home. About 30 separate subdivisions make up the 10-square-mile super-sized community, 30 minutes from downtown Tampa and 20 minutes from Tampa International Airport. There’s a mix of modest-to-luxury single-family homes, condos, and apartments, and the country club and golf course are year-round social and fitness hubs. Prefer solo exercise? Try the miles of paved walking and biking trails that snake through Westchase, or take a quick drive to one of the nearby county and state parks for a more rustic hiking experience. For shopping and dining, West Park Village in the center of the community offers a refreshing mix of local restaurants and boutiques, plus a few tried-and-true chains. Don’t miss: Tampa’s best homegrown coffeehouse, Blind Tiger.
Moving to Tampa
There’s no doubt about it: Moving is stressful. Even the super-organized among us will stumble on one or two things they’ve missed in the seemingly endless process of planning to relocate — particularly if you’re moving long-distance. But, of course, there are ways to mitigate the misery. Here’s a handy checklist — not comprehensive, but certainly a good start! — to help tamp down the worry and keep you on schedule:
- Pick a date: This is key, because everything flows from here: how soon you need to start packing, what day the movers should arrive, timing for clean-up at the old house — you get the picture.
- Choose a moving partner: Are you going full-service, with professionals to deliver all your belongings to Tampa? Or are you doing the DIY route with pals and a rental truck? Either way, make your decision early in the process and confirm your paid movers or pizza-and-beer-accepting friends on the calendar for the big day. Reconfirm a few times, too. Never hurts.
- Declutter: Such an important step — particularly if you’re not into unpacking random bits the movers packed up in your former home, like a stray price tag from a Christmas gift or an empty Coke can (true story — when they say everything goes in a box and onto the truck, they mean it). Beyond making sure the trash is picked up and taken out, this is an excellent time to really declutter and get rid of clothing, yard sale finds that seemed like such a good idea at the time, and other tchotchkes you really don’t want or need anymore. We recognize it can be difficult to discard things, so re-read our decluttering guidance on The PODS Blog and think about your new home: How much space do you have? Will you really wear that cashmere poncho again — in Tampa?
- Pack it up: You’ll find everything you need to know in our packing tips article. But the two main takeaways, if you follow no other advice, are these:
- Label everything. Get a marker and label those boxes. You will thank us when you’re in the new house on the first night and know exactly where your paper towels and toilet paper are hiding.
- And speaking of the first night: Pack a “first night” suitcase or backpack and keep it with you, particularly if you’re using professional movers. Include any medications you might need and the kids’ all-important lovies.
Finding the Best Moving Company - Tampa, FL
Although a long-distance move may spark some snafus along the way, no matter what, the experience is what you make of it — and the outcomes can be vastly different. Here’s a look at some options to help you get where you’re going.
Full-service Tampa movers
If you opt for full-service, chances are you’ll experience fewer headaches than with a rental truck deal. But you’re paying the price for that convenience, of course, with Tampa long-distance movers. Packing and moving can be a pricey option.
DIY with a rental truck
This route costs less and gives you more flexibility on dates and times, but it does mean you’ll be handling every aspect. For instance, you run into a snowstorm on your way south to Tampa, and besides reminding you exactly why you’re making the move in the first place, the weather keeps you in a hotel for two days while the roads thaw. But say you had full-service movers and they’re already in Florida. That would mean they’re totaling up new fees while they wait for you to arrive with the keys to the new house. Instead, with the rental, your stuff stays with you. Wherever that may be. And although you won’t have to worry about those extra waiting fees from the full-service moving company, you will have to worry about navigating that large moving truck through the winter storm remnants.
PODS portable moving containers
Affordability, flexibility, and control over your belongings — that’s what PODS is all about. Moving with PODS gives you the option to pack and load on your own schedule, in your own driveway. If your house isn’t quite ready when you arrive in Tampa, you can keep your container in a PODS Storage Center. And the best part? PODS will take care of the driving — a big bonus when you’re in a brand-new city.
|Insider Tip: Want more tips for making a smooth transition to Tampa? Check out these 10 Surefire Ways to Cut Moving Costs in 2023!
Shannon Jacobs is a Tampa-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to the PODS Blog. She has lived in Atlanta, the Berkshires, and Nashville, but always returns to the warmth of Florida’s Gulf Coast.