Relocating to or within Tampa Bay but unsure which city you should call home? St. Pete and Tampa both have so much to offer. These two anchor cities of the Tampa Bay area offer a great quality of life, sunshine, beaches, and excitement, but they differ in many ways.
Tampa is larger which means more diversity and job opportunities – and more traffic. St. Pete has a more condensed, exciting downtown and it’s closer to the beach. Both have among the best schools in Tampa Bay. Here’s a complete guide to the top pros and cons of living in Tampa vs St. Pete to help you decide which city is calling your name.
Pros & Cons of Living in Tampa vs St. Petersburg
Despite so many similarities, St. Pete and Tampa can feel worlds apart. Here are the top pros and cons of living in Tampa versus St. Pete to help you decide which city is right for you!
Living in Tampa Pros
Tampa has unique neighborhoods with personality
A common complaint about St. Pete is its urban density and excitement ends at its downtown. The rest of the city feels like the suburbs without much personality, walkability, or amenities. One of the upsides of living in Tampa is you can choose from tons of fun and historic Tampa neighborhoods, each with their own personality and attractions.
Ybor City is a trendy and historic area in the northeast. This diverse neighborhood is known for its trendy shops, GaYBOR district with clubs and bars, and amazing Cuban food. Want to be near the action? The Channelside District east of downtown is an entertainment, shopping, and dining center with high-rise condos and Sparkman Wharf complete with a biergarten, lawn, and waterfront views.
Hyde Park near the University of Tampa is walkable and a top Tampa neighborhood for families thanks to its quiet, tree-lined streets, cute bungalows, and brick sidewalks. Meanwhile, Palma Ceia is one of the safest neighborhoods in Tampa and popular with families thanks to Plant High School, ranked the best in Tampa Bay.
That’s not to say you won’t find great places to live in St. Pete with a fun vibe and attractions. Here are some of the best St. Petersburg neighborhoods.
Tampa has an amazing food scene
One of the benefits of living in Tampa is enjoying not just world-famous Cuban sandwiches but so much more. When you stack up Tampa versus St. Petersburg, you’ll notice that Tampa isn’t just larger and more diverse: so is its food scene. In the University area alone, you’ll find cuisine from around the world including Cuban, Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, Russian, and Caribbean food. Tampa has been ranked as one of the best foodie cities in America, beating out St. Pete which lacks the diversity in cuisine options.
Living in Tampa Cons
Tampa isn’t close to the beach
While we’ll discuss beaches in more detail later, it’s worth mentioning now that one of the biggest negatives of living in Tampa is you’re far from the beach. Sure, Tampa has bay beaches within the city limits, but they aren’t the beautiful white sand beaches on the gulf you’re after. When you want to spend the day at the beach, you’ll need to cross over to the Pinellas peninsula and the St. Pete area. During the wrong time of day, crossing the bridge can take an hour instead of 20 minutes!
Living in St. Petersburg Pros
St. Pete has an exciting nightlife
When you compare the St. Petersburg vs Tampa nightlife, you’ll see a clear winner. St. Pete’s nightlife is fun and centralized in its walkable downtown area. You can easily go bar hopping and enjoy a more laid-back scene with eclectic microbreweries, bars, lounges, and music venues. This is a clear advantage of living in St. Pete that makes it more attractive for singles and millennials.
By comparison, Tampa’s nightlife is more sedate. There are fewer options, they tend to be more upscale, and you will find yourself needing to drive or Uber between spots. However, Tampa has made a lot of effort to draw in millennials and young professionals to its Channelside District which is definitely starting to compete with St. Pete for nightlife.
St. Petersburg is more walkable
One of the advantages of living in St. Pete, FL is its walkable downtown. In fact, it’s one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Florida with a Walk Score of 90.9! It’s the only Tampa Bay area to make the top 10.
Most of St. Petersburg is suburban, but the T-shaped area created by downtown and neighborhoods to the north and south and along Central to Kenwood is easy to navigate on foot. You can also use the Pinellas trail to bike or walk to Treasure Island and West St. Pete. There are nearly 100 bars and restaurants and two grocery stores downtown plus one of the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront sidewalks.
When it comes to walkability in downtown St. Petersburg vs Tampa, there’s simply no comparison. Only certain areas of Tampa offer much walkability like the Marina District.
St. Pete has a strong arts and culture scene
No one calls St. Petersburg “God’s Waiting Room” anymore. While St. Pete is still a great place for retirees, it’s also attracting millennials and young professionals who have transformed it with a vibrant arts scene.
St. Pete is home to world-class art galleries, museums, and public art. There are more than 600 murals in St. Petersburg and it’s been named One of the Best Street Art Cities in the World.
St. Pete’s crown jewel is the Dalí Museum, a granite and glass geodesic dome structure on the waterfront. Other top attractions include the James Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, and the Chihuly Collection of glass artwork.
Living in St. Petersburg Cons
St. Petersburg doesn’t have the most diverse jobs market
One of the downsides of living in St. Petersburg is that job options are more limited in the city. The primary economic center of Pinellas County is the Gateway district overlapping Largo, Pinellas Park, and North St. Petersburg. You’ll find most jobs are in the Gateway area in retail, health care, and professional services. St. Pete also has many jobs in manufacturing and marine research.
When you compare and contrast Tampa, don’t overlook the economic opportunities of living in Tampa. The city has a larger and more diverse economy with the Tampa International Airport and Port Tampa Bay, Florida’s largest port and located right near downtown. Tampa’s economy is driven by maritime, tourism, health care, finance, technology, construction, and insurance plus it currently leads the state in STEM jobs.
Cost of Living in Tampa vs St. Petersburg
How much does it cost to live in Tampa vs St. Petersburg? The two cities are very comparable with a cost of living right around the national average. However, you’ll have a lower cost of living in St. Petersburg vs Tampa. You’ll pay less in utilities in Tampa compared to St. Pete, but transportation costs and housing are more affordable in St. Petersburg.
Both cities have very competitive real estate markets. Homes sell with an average of 7 days on the market and more than 40% of homes sell for over list price! In Tampa, the average home price is $327,500 while St. Pete has an average home price of $310,000.
Compared to other areas of Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg homes for sale are usually older but renovated. You’ll get less square footage, but an unbeatable location near the water.
Don’t forget to consider HOA fees and property taxes when comparing home prices between the two cities! Tampa is in Hillsborough County with one of the highest property tax rates in the state. St. Pete is in Pinellas County with lower property taxes AND lower home prices. Property taxes help push the Tampa cost of living higher.
When it comes to average rent in Tampa vs St. Pete, you’ll find they’re similar at first glance. Average apartment rent is $1,450 in both cities, but Tampa apartments are a bit larger on average. Want to live downtown? Rent is $2,140 on average in downtown Tampa compared to $2,276 in downtown St. Petersburg. Of course, downtown St. Pete is arguably the more exciting with its walkability and nightlife.
Additional Things to Consider – Tampa Versus St. Petersburg
Tampa and St. Petersburg are both part of the Tampa Bay metro area which has a population of 3.1 million. The cities are separated by Tampa Bay and connected by three bridges. Tampa is located on Tampa Bay with a population of 400,000. St. Petersburg is the second-largest city in the metro area with a population of 265,000. However, St. Pete is more densely populated than Tampa.
Tampa vs St. Petersburg Crime
Crime is probably a big factor when determining where to live. The Tampa crime rate is 2,034 total crimes per 100,000 people with 405 violent crimes and 1,629 property crimes per capita. By comparison, the St. Petersburg crime rate is 3,805 total crimes per 100,000 people with 595 violent crimes and 3,210 property crimes per capita.
When you compare crime in Tampa versus St. Petersburg, Tampa definitely comes out ahead with 61% less crime!
Tampa vs St. Petersburg Beaches
Planning to spend a lot of time on the beach? One of the perks of living in St. Petersburg over Tampa is easier access to the beach.
From St. Petersburg, you’re just 10 to 15 minutes from St Pete Beach, the resort city on the barrier island just to the west. The white sand beach by the same name is frequently voted one of the best beaches in the U.S. with frequent dolphin sightings. You’ll also find other gems like Upham Beach Park and Treasure Island Beach with gentle waves and water stays waist deep for hundreds of feet.
Just 15-20 minutes away is Fort De Soto Park, a huge county park covering five islands at the mouth of Tampa Bay. It’s one of the country’s top beaches with swim centers, kayaking, an historic fort, fishing, trails, and more than 3 miles of sandy beaches.
By comparison, a drawback of living in Tampa is the beach isn’t as close as you hope. You’re at least 30 to 45 minutes from the beach depending on where you live. From South Tampa, you’re 30 minutes from Clearwater Beach and a bit farther from Fort De Soto Park. From North Tampa, it’ll take you 45 minutes to get to either beach. Tampa does have the Ben T Davis Beach near the airport and in the city limits, but it’s at the end of the causeway and on the bay, not the gulf.
Tampa vs St. Petersburg Distance
Struggling to choose one city over the other? The good news is you can enjoy both, no matter where you settle in Tampa Bay. How far is it from Tampa to St. Petersburg? Just 24 miles along I-275. Here’s how to get from Tampa to St. Petersburg.
Tampa vs St. Petersburg: Which City Is Right for You?
Looking for walkable, urban living with an exciting nightlife and nearby beaches? Living in St. Petersburg may be ideal for you. If you prefer a shorter commute, more diverse job opportunities, and neighborhoods with more personality, moving to Tampa may be the better choice.
Once you’ve settled on a Tampa Bay city to call home, give us a call at 2 College Brothers for a free moving quote. We can help you relocate to or within the Tampa Bay area with the hassle-free transition you deserve.