Charlotte vs. Tampa Bay: Presidential Conventions

With election year in full swing, Republicans are heading to Tampa Bay, and Democrats to Charlotte. Which city has the most to offer travelers of all stripes? You decide with our City vs. City guide.

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Tampa Bay: Nightlife

A designated National Historic Landmark District, Ybor City is a lively neighborhood: It developed into a nightclub and entertainment district after its days as home to Florida’s Spanish, Cuban and Italian immigrants, as well as to its many cigar factories.

Charlotte: Nightlife

Easily accessible with its own stop on Charlotte’s light rail, EpiCentre is a hub for upscale dining, entertainment and nightlife. Along with restaurants, nightclubs and even bowling surrounding an open-air pavilion, EpiCentre offers amazing views of the Charlotte skyline.

Tampa Bay: Outdoors

Hop across the bay for the broad swaths of white sand at Clearwater Beach, which offers plenty of outdoor activities including jet skiing, parasailing and water biking. Don’t worry -- we’d never heard of water biking either, but it’s worth a Google.

Charlotte: Outdoors

The US National Whitewater Center just happens to be home to the world’s largest man-made recirculating river, providing rafting enthusiasts the chance to try their hand at Class II, III or IV white-water rapids.

Tampa Bay: Museum

Located in downtown Tampa’s River Arts District on the Riverwalk, the Tampa Museum of Art showcases 20th-century art, as well as Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. Grab a table at the museum’s SONO Café overlooking the Hillsborough River for Italian cuisine that embraces the “Slow Food” movement.

Charlotte: Museum

Located in uptown Charlotte, Discovery Place isn’t just for kids. A science and technology museum, Discovery Place offers visitors interactive exhibits, activities, experiments and an IMAX Dome Theatre that provides an immersive movie experience. The museum recently underwent a $31.6 million renovation, enhancing its status as a state-of-the-art, must-see attraction in Charlotte.

Tampa Bay: Neighborhood

An upscale, open-air shopping district, Hyde Park Village is a trendy stop for anyone looking for the best of Tampa’s arts and entertainment. Among Tampa’s best restaurants and shops, a CineBistro recently opened, combining a movie theater with fine dining.

Charlotte: Neighborhood

North Davidson, or NoDa for short, is the hub of Charlotte’s arts scene. Formerly made up of textile factories and mill workers’ homes, it is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood is currently home to Charlotte’s trendy residents, as well as art galleries, music venues and hip restaurants.

Tampa Bay: Park

A neighborhood oasis, Ballast Point Park offers stunning views of downtown Tampa. Perfect for picnics under the shady trees, jogging and even rollerblading, this park dates back to 1894.

Charlotte: Park

Known as the “Central Park” of Charlotte, the 98-acre Freedom Park has trails, tennis and volleyball courts, athletic fields and an indoor shelter (complete with a fireplace) that is available to rent for parties and even weddings. Visit in September for the 5-day Festival in the Park, overlooking the park’s center attraction: a 7-acre lake.

Tampa Bay: Sports

Tampa Bay loves its baseball, with the Tampa Bay Rays being their pride and joy. A state famous for being the home of Major League Baseball’s spring training, Florida named its team the Rays to represent the idea of the team being “a beacon that radiates throughout Tampa Bay and across the entire state of Florida.” Catch a game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, a half-hour jaunt from Tampa.

Charlotte: Sports

As home to the recently opened NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte is proud of its racing culture. The Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts prestigious NASCAR events, including Memorial Day weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 and the Sprint All-Star Race.

Tampa Bay: Transportation

Tampa first had electric streetcars in 1892, but the line was shut down in 1946. The streetcars returned in 2002, making it easy to get around Tampa, like back in the good ol’ days. The TECO Line Streetcar System connects downtown and Channelside to the historic Ybor City district.

Charlotte: Transportation

Public transportation is relatively new to Charlotte, with the LYNX light rail line opening in 2007. The light rail comprises 15 stations over 9.6 miles. The city hopes to expand its public transportations services completely by the year 2034.

Tampa Bay: Landmark

At 214 feet tall, the Sulphur Springs Water Tower is visible from Interstate 275 as well as much of the rest of the Sulphur Springs Historic District. The water tower was built in 1927 where a lighthouse once existed that, according to local lore, guided European ships from the bay up through Hillsborough River to replenish their fresh water tanks from the local springs.

Charlotte: Landmark

A water fountain designed by Czech sculptor David Černý, Metalmorphosis stands at the Whitehall Technology Park in Charlotte. At 14 tons, the massive sculpture is split into layers that rotate 360 degrees, occasionally aligning to form a face. It’s so mesmerizing that it has its own webcam.

Tampa Bay: Food

When in a state surrounded on nearly all sides by miles and miles of water, it would be a shame to miss out on some of the freshest seafood around. From Apalachicola oysters to spiny lobster, you can’t go wrong when it comes to Tampa’s seafood.

Charlotte: Food

From ribs to pulled pork, there’s nothing quite like North Carolina’s barbecue. While in Charlotte, pile your barbecue sandwiches high with coleslaw just like the locals do.

Tampa Bay: Shopping

Conveniently located near Tampa International Airport, International Plaza and Bay Street makes it simple for visitors to do some major shopping. This mall in Tampa’s Westshore business district opened in 2001, and happens to have a hotel on its campus -- one of only a handful of US malls to have such an amenity.

Charlotte: Shopping

The 1,621,000 square feet of SouthPark Mall make it the largest mall in the Carolinas, not to mention the 10th largest on the East Coast and the 28th largest in the US. Located approximately 5 miles from uptown Charlotte, the mall is a central part of the upscale SouthPark neighborhood.