Each of us has a different image in mind when we hear the name “Florida”. To some people, the Sunshine State is all about sandy beaches amid swaying palm trees, while others envision theme parks crowded with thrill rides and Disney characters, or even swampy nature reserves housing gators…
Narrow it down, you still have some hard choices to make. Just the Central Florida region is home to many tourist attractions. Among them, the most notable ones are Tampa – a city steeped in Spanish and Cuban culture, or Orlando – the family-friendly theme-park capital. So, where would you like to start your Florida adventure? Our guide on how far is Tampa from Orlando will make it much easier to plan your trip!
Which One To Stop, Orlando Or Tampa?
On TripAdvisor, you will find plenty of users asking whether they should visit Tampa or Orlando on the next trip. In fact, despite being in the same state, these two might yield very different travel experiences. Both of them are amazing in their own rights.
So, to plan a truly magical Florida getaway for you and your family, the first thing is to look at what each city has to offer and see which one suits your interest!
Tampa: The Eclectic Mix Of Ethnicity And Cultures
Tampa will make an ideal destination if you are seeking breath-taking natural beauty, swampy waters housing turtles, and the pristine beaches of the Florida Suncoast. All of these are packed in this bustling metropolis, but what sets the city apart is its rich and unique culture.
This is, in large part, thanks to the history dating back to the days of Spanish exploration. Ponce de Leon set his foot on Tampa Bay in 1513, but like other parts of western Florida, the area was overlooked as the expedition team focused on the east coast.
The cultural scene kept broadening and diversifying as the area developed. In 1886, Vicente Martinez Ybor founded a cigar factory, kicking off Tampa’s reign as the “Cigar City”. To this day, the neighborhood of Ybor is still home to many Cuban cigar manufacturers. Visitors can have a taste of Hispanic flavor through local cigar factories, restaurants, and historic buildings. Years after years, Ybor also holds many events to commemorate its Cuban heritage, like Ybor Aficionado Days, Cuban Cultural Days, and the Cuban Sandwich Festival, for example.
While most areas in Tampa are greatly influenced by Cuban culture, the city is diverse in terms of nations and cultures. Its residents range from Irish to Puerto Rican to Indian to Vietnamese. That said, if you are a history and culture buff, it’s a good idea to begin your Florida journey here.
In case you travel on a budget, Tampa also makes a better destination. As seen on Numbeo, the average cost of a typical double-occupancy room is $120, much cheaper than Orlando’s which comes at $224. Transportation is more affordable, too: Visitors spend approximately $38 per person per day on transportation in Tampa, while in Orlando this amount is $48 per day.
The weather is the only big consideration here. Located on the peninsula along Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa is more prone to hurricanes than other parts of Florida. Statistics show that hurricane season kicks in full gear around September and October. According to residents, the city rarely gets a direct hit, but hurricanes still can cause flooding, mostly along Bayshore Boulevard. During this time, you can enjoy cheaper prices for accommodations and flight tickets, but it is best to plan your trip carefully to avoid any unexpected incident.
Orlando: The World’s Theme Park Capital
Orlando has long been a haven for visitors from all over the U.S and abroad. Home to 7 legendary theme parks, world-class water parks, outdoor roller coasters, and countless activities in nature, it is always the perfect family vacation destination.
While there is nothing quite like seeing the magic through a child’s eyes, even grown-ups can have a lot of fun at one of Orlando’s many theme parks. Just by spending a day in Walt Disney World, you already have 4 uniquely different parks to explore.
Meanwhile, thrill-seekers and Potterheads alike will be wowed at Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure. For families, SeaWorld Orlando is the perfect destination thanks to its relaxing atmosphere and a large collection of animal exhibits. Looking to escape the heat? You can pick one of the water parks to chill out, such as Universal’s brand-new Volcano Bay. No matter who you are, Orlando has something amazing for your inner child!
But Orlando isn’t all about the parks. What would you prefer, enjoying sushi like a Japanese or sampling authentic Cuban foods? Once you are in O-Town, you can expect to be taken on a gastronomical experience as flavors from all around the world come alive. While most people would drop by EPCOT to taste a variety of cuisine from around the world, you might take on a culinary journey everywhere. There are countless dining options for everyone, from romantic couples or families to large, corporate groups.
Another thing that makes me love Orlando so much is its exciting nightlife – which makes it the No.1 city for group travels. There are dozens of rooftop bars, open-air dance clubs, and live music venues to explore. While Tampa mostly closes down at night except for some late-night eateries and a handful of entertaining spots, one advantage of Orlando is that you can always get up to something exciting, even in the wee hours of the morning.
For all of those reasons, if you are traveling with kids in tow, or if you are all about dining, shopping, and entertainment, the City Beautiful will not disappoint. That’s why it hosts the largest number of visitors to Florida each year, welcoming around 75 million domestic and international tourists on average.
This leads to a setback, though: Orlando’s average daily cost per visitor comes at $240, including accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. This is much more expensive than Tampa’s, which is only $119 on average. Nonetheless, if you’re traveling as a family of three or four people, the price person often goes down because kid’s tickets are cheaper.
The best time to visit Orlando is between March and May. During this time of the year, visitors will find the most pleasant weather and reasonable costs on accommodations. Autumn’s months mark the peak of Florida’s hurricane season, which falls between June and November. Summertime is the worst season to plan a trip to the area – that’s when the state’s heat and humidity are borderline unbearable and hotels take advantage of the school break to raise room rates.
How Far Is Tampa From Orlando?
So, after taking a peek at Tampa and Orlando, you might be tempted to go on a road trip and explore both cities now! Each of them is amazing on its own, but committing to a bit of travel time will open up a whole new universe of entertainment and relaxation possibilities.
In that case, you might want to know how far is Tampa from Orlando. Well, not as far as you think! The quick answer is 85 miles or 137 km, which is a relatively short distance. To make your trip even more comfortable, there is more than one option to travel between Tampa and Orlando
How Far Is Tampa From Orlando – Travel By Car
All the major car rental agencies are available in Orlando. Rent a car or use your own, the trip from Orlando to Tampa by car is a straight shot on beautiful I-4. Just about 1 hour and 23 minutes, this trip is quick and easy.
As for me, driving from Orlando to Tampa is always the top choice, not only because of how fast and convenient it is. There are plenty of things for you to see and stop by along the way, such as Universal Studio, Epcot, or Tampa’s Ybor City (we will look at them in a minute, I promise!). Of course, it will take you more time, but that’s how driving helps you make the most out of your Orlando – Tampa road trip.
Travel By Plane
Traveling by plane is often considered the quickest and most convenient option for families, but it isn’t the case here. Now let’s assume you have a private jet and you can fly the fastest possible straight line from Orlando to Tampa, it will only take you 39 minutes.
Unfortunately, there are no airlines that offer non-stop flights between Orlando and Tampa. You can find connecting flights through other airports with prices starting at about $264, but it will take up to 7 hours for a distance of only 85 miles. It doesn’t sound so amazing, does it?
That said, flying is a better choice if you travel from Tampa to Miami. In case you wonder ‘How far is Tampa from Miami?’, the distance between the two cities is 205 miles. While you will have to drive 3 hours and 55 minutes to get there, there are plenty of non-stop flights that will make it to Miami in just an hour. The prices range from $78 to $188, depending on the airline you choose, but it’s much more agreeable than the flights’ cost between Orlando and Tampa.
Travel By Bus
Budget travelers will be glad to know that Greyhound Bus Lines offers roundtrip service between Orlando and Tampa for as low as $10 one way. Depending on stops, the trip can take between one and half an hour to two hours. With early morning departures and evening returns, this can make a good choice for business travelers as well.
A more expensive choice is the service from Florida Express Bus. A ticket comes at $55 per person, including a fee for one carry-on and one checked bag. For more luggage, the price is $10/per piece with a maximum of 5 pieces.
How Far Is Tampa From Orlando – Travel By Train
Amtrak provides train service between Orlando and Tampa on the 91 Silver Star. Ticket prices for a 2-hour trip range from $12 for a coach seat to $186 for a Viewliner Bedroom with a separate bathroom.
There is no dining car on this train, but a café/lounge car serves up sandwiches, pizza, and other snacks. Soft drinks, beer, liquor, and wine are available. If you want to take your bicycle on the train, the cost of transporting is $20. It is best to reserve your spot early since tickets might run out fast, especially during peek season.
So, What To See During Your Trip?
As the previous part mentions, a road trip from Orlando to Tampa might be the most exciting adventure you can embark on. From Orlando’s roster of exciting, family-friendly theme parks to Tampa’s myriad attractions, let’s take a look at some of the best stops during your trip!
Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios®, And Volcano Bay
At this theme park, adrenaline-pumping rides, shows, and interactive activities bring the magic of movies, cartoons, and comic books to life. You can immerse yourself in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, The Simpsons, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and more!
Volcano Bay is Universal Orlando’s newish water park with a simulated volcano, wave pool, winding rivers, and endless aquatic fun for the whole family.
Universal Studio Walking Tour
Walt Disney World Resort
Walt Disney World Resort is perhaps one of the most well-known tourist attractions in the world – and probably the biggest reason why you are visiting Orlando in the first place!
Being every children’s dreamland, the resort combines 2 water parks and 4 theme parks in one place. You can scoot through EPCOT on a Segway, or try out a backstage tour after enjoying the various facilities the parks have to offer. The place also offers four golf courses, a selection of entertainment and dining options, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
That makes it the perfect choice for the family – everyone will find something exciting here!
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Orlando
Each Ripley’s Odditorium picks up a different theme. While the one in Hollywood stands out with the giant tyrannosaurus rex that looms out of the red-tile roof, the Ripley’s Odditorium in Orlando is built deliberately to appear as if it is disappearing into one of Florida’s famous sinkholes. Just by looking at the building, you shall know that there is plenty of bizarreness waiting ahead!
The Odditorium describes itself as “The only place in Orlando where you’ll find shrunken heads, an authentic vampire killing kit, a shooting gallery, and a wild spinning vortex tunnel.” For those interested in all things strange and curious, Ripley’s is a one-stop-shop filled to the brim with weird and wonderful oddities.
Just a short drive northeast of downtown you can find Ybor City; a historic district with plenty to see and do. Formerly the heart of Tampa’s cigar industry, it’s a vibrant area nowadays, boasting numerous art galleries, unique boutiques, and endless dining options.
In the 80s, many immigrants from Cuba, Spain, and Italy were drawn to Ybor’s red-brick factories. Even though the cigar industry has collapsed for decades, the neighborhood remains at the heart of Tampa’s Latino community. Salsa clubs, flamenco nights, and Cuban cuisine are just some of the things you can enjoy here.
Ybor City Experience
Though standing out thanks to fine dining and vibrant nightlife, the neighborhood is also home to some beautiful architecture and intriguing historical buildings. It has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark District by the United States government.
Tampa Bay History Center
As you already know, Tampa has a rich culture, and the best place to begin exploring is the Tampa Bay History Center. This popular history museum is dedicated to discovering, presenting, and conserving the heritage of the region.
Located on the waterfront in Tampa’s Channelside District, the museum features three floors of permanent and temporary exhibitions spanning 12,000 years of Florida history, as well as various interactive, family-friendly activities and displays, cutting-edge presentations, and state-of-the-art theaters.
Inside the History Center, you can also find a museum store and the Columbia Cafe, where guests can stop by to get some rest and treat themselves to some snacks. The Tampa Bay History Center welcomes visitors all year round.
You got tired of theme parks after spending a day in Orlando, you say? But wait, a trip to Tampa would be incomplete without exploring the world-renowned Busch Garden! The African-themed park is located just 15 minutes drive northeast of downtown. Since the 1950s, it has been pleasing numerous generations of visitors with its never-ending array of amusement rides, animal exhibitions, and live performances.
Top Things To Do At Busch Garden Tampa You Can’t Miss
Busch Garden features 10 different zones for visitors to explore. While the Serengeti Plain is home to hundreds of free-roaming animals such as giraffes, rhinos, and zebras, the Egypt and Congo zones both boast thrill rides and rollercoasters. Additionally, you can find superb shopping and dining, captivating shows, and music performances at the Pantopia or Morocco sections!
How Far Is Tampa From Orlando – Wrapping Up
Now that you know how far is Tampa from Orlando, you might want to fly into Orlando International Airport, rent a car, and embark on this exciting adventure right away! A trip from Orlando to Tampa will help you grab all the fun things to see and do in Florida, making you know why it is called the Sunshine State. Visit our Amazing Findings section for more astonishing attractions and guides.