Art, Booze and Cigars The ABC’S of Historic Ybor City

If you are looking for an adult vacation complete with an active nightlife, historical sites, mafia secrets, multi-cultural cuisine, unique shops, comedy, ghosts, art, and cigars, then Ybor City is the place for you.

Historic Ybor City is an arts and entertainment district located just northeast of downtown Tampa and 3.4 miles from Port Tampa cruise terminals. A historic landmark city with brick-paved streets and over 950 buildings restored true to their original architecture.

Founded in 1885, the city was home to a booming cigar industry, with immigrant workers from Cuba, Spain, and Sicily being the majority of its residents. Today the entire city is a museum disguised as a thriving entertainment district, a city where every building has a story and every street corner a history lesson in the city’s Latin heritage. The city has a fascinating history with stories of secret tunnels and mafia influences, ghost stories, and stories of overcoming human struggle. The stories are told through the artwork, monuments, and museums located within the district.

A city that is different by night and day. By day you can walk the streets and enjoy the sights of Ybors past as everywhere you look, the city proudly displays monuments and signs, giving you a lesson in its history. You can stop by the visitor center and the Ybor city museum to learn the immigrants’ stories and the industry that built a city. Perhaps take one of the walking tours where you will hear about the dark secrets of the past with mafia influences, murder in the streets, and the legends of the secret tunnels where smuggling during prohibition is suspected, or the walking tour that explains in detail the historical significance of the buildings and sites of the city. Stop by a working cigar factory and watch as they roll a cigar by hand, just as it was done when the city was founded. Not surprising, there are several cafes where cigar smoking is not only allowed; it is encouraged.

Ybor City’s many restaurants offer menus that also reflect the city’s historic multicultural past giving you dining options of cuisines from Cuba, Spain, Italy, Greece, Jamaica, and New Orleans Creole, among others. Stop by one of the craft breweries for a Ybor-made brew and no visit to Ybor is complete without a cafe’ Con Leche (Cuban Coffee with milk) or a Cuban Sandwich both of which are specialties of the area.

A restaurant in Ybor that claims to have the best Cuban Sandwich is Carmines on 7th avenue. Perhaps you should have one and see if the claim is true? Or how about some authentic Spanish food from the Historic Columbia Restaurant, which was established in 1905 and is still operated by the 5th and 6th generation of the original family who started it. If you are in the mood for a craft brew and a little taste of New Orleans, try Zydeco for some out of this word shrimp and grits.

By night the city erupts into a party like atmosphere illuminated by the city lights on wrought iron arches over the streets. Late in the evening lines start to form in front of the numerous dance clubs and bars playing music across all genres. If you need a good laugh then perhaps the improv comedy club at Centro Ybor will give your funny bone a tickle. Or if it’s games you like try some game play at Game Time. Beware of the ghosts that come out at night, you can hear all about them on an Ybor City Ghost tour.

There are two parking garages in Ybor City, and there is also street parking; however, the street parking is time-restricted. Use of the Ybor streetcar is free, and it has stops in downtown Tampa which includes the cruise port terminal and the many hotels in the downtown area.