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Florida is known for its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and entertainment options. And two of the most popular (and my favorite) destinations in Florida are these two major cities. If you’re planning a vacation and are trying to decide between Orlando vs Tampa, then you’ll need to consider quite a few things!
Orlando is best known for its great family-friendly theme parks, while the Tampa area boasts some of the most stunning beaches in the country, in Clearwater Beach and St Pete.
Determining what you hope to do during your vacation will help you better decide which of these two Floridian cities you should plan a visit to.
In this post, we’ll uncover some of the differences and similarities between the two, to help you make your choice.
Orlando vs Tampa: Which Is Better?
It’s tough to say which city is better between Tampa vs Orlando, as each city has its own unique attractions and characteristics.
Orlando has been called the ‘theme park capital of the world,’ thanks to its large concentration of amusement parks.
While on the other hand, Tampa has plenty of beautiful beaches to relax on.
Both have plenty of great restaurants, shops, and things to keep you busy for days.
Each is worth a visit, but ultimately, whether Orlando or Tampa is better for you depends on what you personally want to get from your Florida vacation!
Orlando is a city located in Central Florida and is known for its many theme parks, such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld.
It is a popular tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year who all come to experience the thrilling and exciting theme parks.
After Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa, Orlando is the 4th most populated city in Florida.
It’s also home to Orlando International Airport, the largest airport in the state, and where most people take direct flights into.
Although it’s located in the central part of the state, rather than on the coast, Orlando is just a short distance from popular coastal cities like Cocoa Beach, Tampa, and Daytona Beach.
Everyone from kids to adults love Orlando because there is truly something for everyone. The thing I love about Orlando is that you’re just an hour away from the Atlantic Coast and 2 hours from the Gulf Coast, so you can easily throw in a beach day when you’ve had enough of the theme parks.
Tampa is a city located on the west coast of Florida, USA, and is known for its warm weather and beautiful beaches.
The city is home to numerous attractions and outdoor activities, including Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium, although it’s probably most well-known for being close to Clearwater Beach.
As the third most populated city in Florida, you can expect to see plenty of Tampa residents out strolling the beach, but you’ll also see many tourists, as this is a popular vacation destination.
Best Things To Do In Orlando
Disney World Resort
As one of the best theme parks in the world, a visit to Disney World Resort when you’re in Orlando is a must-do.
From meeting Disney characters to riding the rides, all ages will love a day spent in the park.
Choose between the four parks, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, or Epcot, to plan one of the best days ever in Disney. (If you have only one to pick from, my choice is Hollywood Studios!)
Disney also has two waterparks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon to hang out at in the hot summer months.
If you want to experience a little bit of Disney but aren’t wanting to go into the park, you can check out Downtown Disney.
Make a stop at the World of Disney where you can grab a few souvenirs.
Grab a scoop of ice cream at Salt & Straw, eat dinner, and trade a pin or two at Disney’s Pin Traders.
Another of Florida’s popular theme parks, Universal Studios is more suited towards older kids and adults, with sections of the park with Harry Potter, Transformers, and more.
Universal Studios and Island of Adventures are the two parks, each boasting thrilling rides, delicious park food, and opportunities to meet characters.
If you’re an animal lover, a trip to Sea World will be the highlight of your vacation.
Get up close and personal with marine life like dolphins, whales, and sea lions without ever having to step foot near the ocean.
You’ll be able to watch shows, dine with the creatures, and ride on the roller coasters.
Ride on a giant Ferris wheel, eat delicious food, visit with wax figures, and admire sea creatures, all within ICON Park in Orlando.
This large entertainment center located on International Drive is well worth the visit when you’re vacationing in Orlando.
Young kids and adults alike will have a blast on a visit to LEGOLAND.
Ride on thrilling coasters, splash around in the water park, and see your fair share of giant LEGO figurines.
Best Things To Do In Tampa
This theme park is located right in Tampa and provides fun for the entire family.
Ride on adventurous rides at the amusement park, or float down the lazy river at the waterpark.
You can even take a safari tour and visit with animals.
Florida Marine Aquarium
Marine life fills the waters surrounding Tampa, but at the Florida Marine Aquarium, you don’t have to go out searching for them!
Visit with animals like dolphins, and tropical fish, and see where the famous Winter the Dolphin was given her prosthetic fin.
Relax On The Beach
One of the best things to do in Florida is relaxing on the beach, and there are just a few beaches near Tampa that are perfect for this.
Ben T. Davis Park features a beach within Tampa Bay that is perfect for soaking up the sun, without having to drive too far out of the city.
Just near downtown Tampa, is the Tampa Riverwalk.
Wander along Hillsborough River and make a few stops at the waterfront restaurants and shops.
Things To Do Near Orlando
If you’ve done all of the great activities that are within the city or Orlando, venture out to some of these locations, which are all within 2 hours.
Kennedy Space Center
Just an hour away, near Port Canaveral, is the Kennedy Space Center.
This is one of NASA’s spaceports and is the home base for Space Shuttle launches and landing operations.
You can head inside to the museum and learn all about NASA and space.
Home to a beautiful beach and a large pier jutting out into the water, Cocoa Beach is a nice day trip, just an hour from Orlando.
Dine at some of the waterfront restaurants, or just spend time soaking up that Florida sunshine on the beach.
Just about 1.5 hours away from Orlando is Crystal River, which is well known for manatee sightings.
You can kayak in the Crystal River to get close to these beautiful sea creatures.
It’s well worth the day trip!
Things To Do Near Tampa
Once you’ve spent plenty of time on the beach, you might be looking to take a day trip from Tampa. These places are within 2 hours of the city.
As one of the best beaches near Tampa, a day trip to Clearwater is well worth the drive.
Experience white sand and crystal-clear water, as you soak up the sun. You can also visit St. Pete Beach, just a short distance away.
Honeymoon Island State Park
This beautiful state park is just west of Tampa and features some of the softest, most beautiful beaches in the area.
Take in the sunset here with fewer beaches than at Clearwater Beach, and bird lovers will love to watch the array of native birds.
Lettuce Lake Park
If you’re searching for alligators on your visit to Florida, then a quick visit to Lettuce Lake Park will make that wish come true.
Wander around the boardwalks and keep an eye out for alligators in the swamps. They’re often seen here!
Go here for more day trips from Tampa!
Events Throughout The Year In Orlando And Tampa
When looking at Orlando vs. Tampa, we can see that both have great events throughout the year, and during your visit, there may be some that you can participate in!
Depending on what you enjoy, you can attend these events, some of which happen annually, some of which are just one-time events.
Most are family-friendly and are great for everyone. Here are some of the best in each city.
Some of the top events in Orlando are held at Disney World, which has seasonal events throughout the year.
At Christmas, head to Mickey’s Christmas Party, and around Halloween, visit Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
Epcot also has the International Flower and Garden Festival each spring.
Universal Studios also has events, such as its annual Mardi Gras party.
Aside from these theme park events, the Citrus Bowl is a college football game that happens every year, and the Central Florida Fair takes place in March.
The Florida State Fair takes place in Tampa every year.
Other events include the Winter Village Festival, which is to celebrate Christmas, and the Boom by the Bay Independence Day Festival, which takes place every July.
One of my favorite events is the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, which is just a half-hour from Tampa. This festival takes place in March and is similar to a state fair with vendors, food, rides, and popular musical acts.
Other events happen throughout the year that aren’t annual, and you can typically find them on the city of Tampa’s event calendar.
Which Is Better For Couples: Orlando Or Tampa?
Both Orlando and Tampa are beautiful locations for a couple’s vacation. Where you choose to travel to should be determined by what you prefer to do.
If you’re thrill seekers and get a kick out of riding roller coasters, eating fair-style food, and meeting movie characters, then Orlando is the place for you.
But if you prefer relaxing on the beach, sipping on a tropical drink, and doing water sports, then you may prefer Tampa.
Which Is Better For Families: Tampa Or Orlando?
Because of the multiple theme parks that you’ll find in Orlando, it’s pretty easy to say that between Tampa or Orlando, Orlando wins for being the best for families.
Families can enjoy Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and more during a vacation to Orlando.
The city is also just a short drive from popular beaches, so if relaxing by the ocean is on your must-do list, you can definitely make it happen.
Orlando vs Tampa: Best Food
While there are great restaurants in both cities, if you’re a foodie looking for the best places to eat, then you should head to Orlando.
There are great restaurants all over Orlando, including diverse places, such as those in the Disney Park of Epcot.
Best Restaurants In Orlando
There are tons of great places to eat in Orlando, of all different cuisines.
For southern comfort food, head to Se7en Bites, and for some of the best Mexican food, head to Hunger Street Tacos.
Winter Park Biscuit Company features great vegan food, and some of the best pizza can be found at Posto Pizza.
You can also head into Downtown Disney and grab a bite to eat at places like Tortilla Jo’s or Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer.
Icon Park has over 40 restaurants and bars, with one of my favorites being Tin Roof. Another one of my favorite restaurants in Orlando is Firebirds.
Best Restaurants In Tampa
When you’re in Tampa, be sure to dine at a few of the beautiful waterfront restaurants.
Ulele offers gorgeous views of the Hillsborough River.
If you’re wanting something a bit fancier, head to Bern’s Steakhouse for a romantic night out.
The Deviled Pig sells Cuban sandwiches, which are some of the area’s most well-known foods.
Hattricks is a great bar & grill to get some classic bar food.
Looking for more restaurants nearby? Check out these waterfront restaurants around St. Pete Beach.
Is Orlando Or Tampa Better?
When trying to decide, Orlando vs Tampa, we can see they are both great, and feature very different attractions.
Which you prefer to visit will depend on the activities that you like to do on vacation.
Is Orlando More Expensive Than Tampa?
The cost for visiting each of these places will depend on what you’re wanting to do. Orlando is more expensive than Tampa if you visit all of the theme parks.
If you visit Tampa and just relax on the beach, this will be a pretty affordable destination.
The cost of living in Tampa is less than in Orlando.
Is Orlando Bigger Than Tampa?
Based on population, Tampa’s population is larger than Orlando, but Orlando has larger suburbs.
As for size in physical size, Tampa is larger, at 175 square miles, compared to Orlando at 119 square miles.
Is Traffic Worse In Orlando Or Tampa?
Orlando is typically worse in terms of traffic than Tampa, because there are more tourists and the theme parks can cause a lot of back-ups.
Wrap-Up: Tampa vs Orlando
Both Orlando and Tampa offer unique experiences and attractions to visitors, and it can be hard to choose which one to visit.
If you’re looking for time spent at amusement parks, then a trip to Orlando will be best for you, but on the other hand, if you want to visit the beaches, plan a visit to Tampa.
When looking at Orlando vs Tampa, we can see that both cities have a whole lot to offer, and either way, will make a great Florida vacation.
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Where To Stay In St. Petersburg FL: Best Areas & Hotels For Every Vacationer
7 Best St. Pete Sunset Cruises & Boat Tours!
9 Best Places To Stay In Clearwater, Florida
5 Best Clearwater Beach Sunset Cruises & Boat Tours
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