Visit Tampa Bay
Chapters
1
2
3
4
Share this story
back
Lights, Camera, Tampa Bay!
chapter
share

Lights, Camera, Tampa!

Get into the action at locations you’ve seen on the big screen

By Kevin Tall

read more

Ah, the picturesque locale that is Tampa Bay in sunny Florida. It's got more than palm trees, sunsets and one heck of a skyline. The Bay Area is full of beauty—glistening water, historic neighborhoods, modern architecture—and the locals aren't the only ones who know it.

For decades, Hollywood has relied on Tampa Bay to set the scene for laugh-riot comedies, action-packed thrill rides, fantasy, suspense, period pieces and more. Filmmakers love the city’s bold personality and warm, always-sunny scenery. And when the credits roll, audiences are left wanting more of that Florida sunshine.

If you want the adventures, fast-paced nights and contemplative mornings to become the scenes of your life, let this guide act as your script. Lucky for you, Tampa Bay is just as exciting in person as it is on-screen.

Saddle up for a tour of some of Tampa Bay's photogenic film locations and discover how you can make your visit something out of the movies.

Find some magic

Recent film ventures in Tampa Bay include the dark and mysterious tale, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Director Tim Burton returned to Tampa Bay’s historic neighborhoods (the brightly colored neighborhood from Edward Scissorhands isn’t far away) for his trademark magic. Take the Gandy Bridge, one of three passages that will take you flying across Tampa Bay’s sparkling blue waters, and you’ll be following the same roads as the film’s characters. Then, explore some of the beautiful, historic residential districts, as main character Jake does. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to a restaurant peculiar to Tampa Bay.  

©Amy Pezzicara
Tampa Bay’s fine dining restaurants get two big thumbs up even from the toughest critics.
Steak, wine and other fine dining delights are stars of the show in Tampa, Florida.
©Amy Pezzicara
Steak, wine and other fine dining delights are stars of the show in Tampa, Florida.
Tampa Bay’s fine dining restaurants get two big thumbs up even from the toughest critics.

A different kind of magic was found when Tampa Bay set the stage for Steven Soderbergh's sexy striptease dramedy, Magic Mike. This film’s theme was more real-life than you might expect—it’s based on star Channing Tatum's actual experience working in Tampa Bay as an exotic dancer. No clubs here! Tatum’s tale brings you to Ybor City, specifically a lovely restaurant called The Bricks. You can eat where Magic Mike characters Adam, his sister Brooke, and her boyfriend Tall Paul, went for a night out. But Ybor City’s nightlife isn’t just found at The Bricks. The Cuban enclave’s historic brick buildings and colorfully painted exteriors buzz with live music and neon signs from the entrances of almost every bar, restaurant and Cuban social club. As with every excursion with Magic Mike, your night out is whatever you make of it.

Where the action is

Tampa Bay has plenty of action to offer fans of the big screen. Recent crime drama The Infiltrator, starring Bryan Cranston and John Leguizamo, features plenty of Tampa Bay's most picturesque places in heart-pounding scenes. Although many scenes were shot in downtown Tampa, the Tampa Theatre stands out from the rest. The theater wasn’t originally part of the movie. But, then a producer saw it, fell in love with it and had an entire scene written so that the Tampa Theatre could be included in The Infiltrator. Later, the film’s world premiere took place there. The Tampa Theatre holds regular events, from movies to live concerts, on its grand stage under a realistic, twinkling night sky—check it out! Drive a little farther south to Port Tampa Bay, another scenic location found in The Infiltrator, where you can take a harbor tour to learn more about Florida’s largest and most diversified seaport. No smuggling, please.

©Florida Aquarium
This shark is ready for his closeup at The Florida Aquarium.
Spot this shark at The Florida Aquarium at the Riverwalk in Tampa, Florida
©Florida Aquarium
Spot this shark at The Florida Aquarium at the Riverwalk in Tampa, Florida
This shark is ready for his closeup at The Florida Aquarium.

Marvel Comics' The Punisher also filmed a scene at Port Tampa Bay: The incident—no spoilers!—that gets Thomas Jane's character, Frank Castle, tangled up with John Travolta's villainous Howard Saint. Port Tampa Bay is adjacent to downtown, the Tampa Riverwalk and the Channel District, which includes The Florida Aquarium, Amalie Arena and lots of restaurants and watering holes for additional entertainment. Make your daring escape in a powerboat launched from the Riverwalk. When safely back on land, make your way undetected to 100 N. Tampa Street to see the towering, mirrored skyscraper and penthouse that served as Howard Saint's office and vault in The Punisher. You’ll recognize the skyline even without Frank Castle making millions rain from the sky. Before you go back to your hideout, see the Cube at Rivergate Plaza, which was also featured in the film. If you need a refresher, head inside the architectural dynamo to see stills from the film on display and check out the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts while you’re there.

Timeless fun

Tampa Bay’s historic side has also served as the setting of several period films. Mob classic Goodfellas featured a Tampa Bay landmark as one of the filming locations: Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. Explore a world of creatures and show some respect, as this is their territory. Ray Liotta's Henry Hill and Robert De Niro's Jimmy Conway used the zoo’s large cats, threatening to feed a debtor to some of the zoo’s biggest enforcers.

The latest period piece set in Tampa Bay is Ben Affleck's crime drama, Live By Night. Full disclosure: Live By Night wasn't actually shot in Tampa Bay. Affleck re-created Prohibition-era Ybor City for filming in Georgia. But, you can enjoy the real thing in Tampa Bay. Stroll its brick streets, smoke a cigar, slip into a bar and eat authentic Cuban food at restaurants such as the famous Columbia Restaurant. Return in the evening for a night on the town filled with live music and social clubs.

Experience authentic cigar rolling in Ybor City.
A professional shows guests how to roll a cigar at Tabanero Cigars in Ybor City in Tampa Bay, Florida
A professional shows guests how to roll a cigar at Tabanero Cigars in Ybor City in Tampa Bay, Florida
Experience authentic cigar rolling in Ybor City.

If it’s the vibe of the Roaring 20s you seek, find it just a short trip from modern-day Ybor. Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club on Bayshore Boulevard harkens to the Prohibition backrooms of Live by Night with a true-to-form 20s-style speakeasy with Depression-Era values—password and all. Put on your finest suit or dress, order up an Old Fashioned or a Gin Rickey, and relax in one of the cozy, dark booths.

Tampa Bay—it’s where your perfect scene begins; you just need to start production for your next trip.  

Experience the draw of Tampa Bay for yourself with these tours.