25 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Tampa

The mental_floss team has spent the last few days at a retreat in Tampa, and we love it! Here are our favorite things we learned about the Big Guava.

1. The name Tampa is believed to come from the Calusa phrase “Sticks of Fire.”

2. That’s probably because Tampa sees some nasty lightning each summer, which is how the local hockey team got its name.

3. When it comes to sports, the city is no stranger to futility. It took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 years to return a kickoff for a touchdown.

4. Babe Ruth hit his longest home run during an exhibition game in Tampa—it sailed 587 feet.

5. The Salvador Dali Museum in nearby St. Petersburg is an incredible place. To test the strength of its freestanding staircase, two rugby teams danced on it—to disco. Dali would have been proud.

6. During Prohibition, Tampa was one of the top sellers of illegal liquor in the country.

7. In the 1980s, the city moved on to other hobbies. It was widely considered the death metal capital of the music world.

8. Tampa’s number one export? Phosphate.

9. Farmers love Tampa because all that phosphate is invaluable for fertilizer production.

10. Although back in the day, it was probably cigars—it’s still known as the “Cigar City.”

11. In 1929, the factory at Ybor City rolled approximately 500 million stogies!

12. It can get hot in Florida, but the temperature in Tampa has never hit 100 degrees.

13. Still, it’s nice to stay cool. In 1851, Tampa native John Gorrie invented the first mechanical refrigeration system—paving the way for air conditioning.

14. The delicious Cuban sandwich? Not Cuban. It was likely invented in Tampa.

15. Want to visit Cuba without leaving Florida? Visit Jose Marti Park. It’s technically Cuban soil.

16. Each year, “pirates” attack Tampa during the Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

17. The world’s first scheduled passenger flight flew from St. Pete to Tampa in 1914.

18. Tickets cost $5!

19. Tampa Bay may be Florida’s biggest port, but the waterway is surprisingly shallow—only 12 feet deep.

20. Manmade channels had to be dredged to allow ships in.

21. When Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were waiting to ship out for the Spanish-American War in 1898, they were stationed in Tampa.

22. Roosevelt wasn’t the only big name who came to Tampa during the conflict. Clara Barton arrived in town to help organize medical relief efforts.

23. Tampa is home to the world’s longest continuous sidewalk, Bayshore Boulevard. It’s 4.5 miles long!

24. Tampa is also home to Big Cat Rescue, an accredited sanctuary for big cats.

Image credit: Big Cat Rescue

25. Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base may be the second most important government building outside of the Pentagon. It’s home to U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. action in the Middle East.

Now that you're a Tampa expert, sign up for the Great Urban Race on March 1, 2014 for the smartest, most active way to test your knowledge!


Correction: In an earlier version of this post, we incorrectly said visitors could play with the animals at the big cat sanctuary. People are not allowed to cuddle with the big cats. We regret the error. All images courtesy of ThinkStock.

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