Northeast of downtown, the city's historic Latin district takes its name from Don Vicente Martinez Ybor (Eeee-bore), a Spanish cigar maker who arrived here in 1886 via Cuba and Key West. Soon, his factory and others in Tampa were producing more than 300,000 hand-rolled stogies a day.
It may not be the cigar capital of the world anymore, but Ybor is still a smokin' part of Tampa, and it's one of the best places in Florida to buy hand- rolled cigars. It's not on par with New Orleans's Bourbon Street, Washington's Georgetown, or Miami's South Beach, but good food and great music dominate the scene, especially on weekends when the streets bustle until 4am. Live-music offerings run the gamut from jazz and blues to rock.
At the heart of it all is Centro Ybor, a dining-shopping-entertainment complex between 7th and 8th avenues and 16th and 17th streets (tel. 813/242-4660; www.centroybor.com). Here you'll find a multiscreen cinema, a comedy club, several restaurants, and a large open-air bar. The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce has its visitor center here, and the Ybor City State Museum's gift shop is here as well .
Check with the visitor center about walking tours of the historic district. Ghost Tours of Tampa Bay (tel. 727/398-5200; www.ghosttour.com) offers candlelight walking tours of Tampa Bay's most haunted locations with nightly tours in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and John's Pass Village. Gather your courage and scare up some fun on these uniquely entertaining haunted history tours. Reservations required. Cost is $15 per adult and $8 ages 4 to 12. For those who enjoy an even darker side, Secret Ybor: Scandals, Crimes, and Shady Ladies (tel. 813/831-5214; http://historicguides.com/secretybor.htm) explores the more scandalous side of the city. Tours depart at various times from locations throughout Ybor City. The tours are only for groups of 20 or more and are prearranged. Minimum fee is $200 for 20 people.
Even if you're not a cigar smoker, you'll enjoy a stroll through the Ybor City State Museum, 1818 9th Ave., between 18th and 19th streets (tel. 813/247-6323; www.ybormuseum.org), housed in the former Ferlita Bakery (1896-1973). You can take a self-guided tour to see the collection of cigar labels, cigar memorabilia, and works by local artisans. Admission is $4, free for children 6 and under. Walking tours of Ybor City are every Saturday morning at 10:30am, cost $8 (which includes admission to the museum), and start at the Ybor City Museum State Park. Depending on the availability of volunteer docents, admission includes a 15-minute guided tour of La Casita, a renovated cigar worker's cottage adjacent to the museum; it's furnished as it was at the turn of the 20th century. The museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm, but you have the best chance for the guided tour if you visit between 11am and 3pm. Better yet, plan to catch a cigar-rolling demonstration (ongoing; no specific schedule), held Friday through Sunday from 10am to 3pm.
Like any area with trendy bars and restaurants, things are always changing, opening, and going out of business, so you may want to check www.ybortimes.com for the latest in Ybor City.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.