Vibrant Ybor City is Tampa's historic district — Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers
One of Tampa’s favorite areas for visitors is Ybor City. Known as Tampa’s "Latin Quarter," the historic district attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Many visitors come for the shops, dining and entertainment, but this itinerary will take you off the beaten path on a walking tour to experience the area’s living history.
If you are truly ready to immerse yourself in Ybor City history, the best place to start is by reserving a room at the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn. Originally home to the Ybor Land and Improvement Company, it was from here that Ybor City founder, Don Vicente de Ybor, developed the neighborhood to meet the needs of his growing population of cigar factory workers. Later, the building became a public health care clinic before being abandoned for decades until its painstaking restoration by the current owners. Beware, though: The Inn is said to be haunted.
After a good night’s sleep (hopefully without any ghostly encounters), you should start your tour with a traditional Ybor breakfast at La Segunda Central Bakery. Just head north from the Inn on 15th Street. The Bakery is located between 14th and 15th Avenue on your left (It's about an eight-minute walk from the hotel.). La Segunda is a fourth generation, family-owned landmark that has provided area residents with their morning Cuban toast and café con leche since the early 1900s.
The landmark J.C. Newman Cigar factory is the last operating cigar factory in Tampa — Photo courtesy of Infrogmation
Just a few blocks away from the bakery is the next stop, the last operating cigar factory in Ybor: J.C. Newman Cigar Company. Head north on 15th Street another 1.5 blocks to Columbus Avenue, make a right and look for the factory’s landmark clock tower. Here you will find a small museum and cigar store. Tours are available if you call ahead.
Early immigrants to Ybor City came from Spain, Italy and Cuba. In order to maintain their cultural identity and to support each other as a community, they built social clubs. Usually consisting of a theatre, cantina and ballroom, these clubs were the focal point for community events.
If you retrace your steps and turn right on Palm Avenue, you can see the Circulo Cubano de Tampa (or Cuban Club) on the left just off the Avenida Republica de Cuba. If the doors are open, you can take a quick look around. Today, the Club is still in use as a special events venue.
Jose Marti Park visitors can step onto Cuban soil without leaving Tampa — Photo courtesy of Dougtone
Keep going down Palm Avenue to 13th Street, then turn left and go two blocks to the corner of 8th Avenue. Here, you will see a pretty little park dominated by a statue of the famous Cuban revolutionary, Jose Marti. Marti spent a good amount of time in Ybor City inciting the relatively well-educated and prosperous Cuban immigrants to fight Spanish control of their motherland.
Many workers donated money and some even went with Marti to Cuba to fight. This park sits where the boarding house that Marti stayed in used to be located. In the 1950s, a couple bought the land and donated it to the independent Republic of Cuba as a memorial to Jose Marti. Thus, the park is actually a part of the country of Cuba.
Here ends your short, off-the-beaten-path walking tour of Ybor City, but there is much more to explore. Stop by the Ybor City Visitor Information Center at 1600 8th Avenue for maps and advice on how to get the most out of your stay in this unique historic community.