General Question

lrk's avatar

Tampa versus Chicago?

Asked by lrk (757 points ) January 21st, 2010

I’m sort of jumping the gun on this—I MIGHT have a job interview soon, where I MIGHT have to indicate a preference between whether I’d rather relocate to Chicago and Tampa.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I also want to be prepared when they ask me where I’d rather go!

I was born and raised in NYC, and love it here. I love the size, the variety, the museums, the millions of restaurants, the fact that we’re the first ones to get movies, the amazing public transportation.

I also spent last summer living in San Francisco. I loved the weather, the natural beauty, the fact that I lived a mile from the ocean, the abundance of avocados. There’s a lot less about it that I can specifically point to about liking, but it also felt incredibly right to me, and ideally, I’d head back out there.

That being said, what are Chicago and Tampa like? What things might a New Yorker or a Bay Area Person like about both of them, or dislike about both of them? What type of people live in both? What are the politics like?

(Also, any thoughts about gay culture would be nice.)

Much love!

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38 Answers

grumpyfish's avatar

If you like NYC & SF, go for Chicago.

Tampa is hot & sweaty all summer. Oh, and Hurricanes.

Steve_A's avatar

I live in Tampa,Florida personally I think it blows, the only good thing here to me is probably Ybor city and the beaches.The music scene is decent I guess :|.... Oh the transportation systems SUCKS 30 mins to an hour for a bus and the times vary a lot depending on your bus route.It is kinda quite depending on where you live so thats kinda nice….

http://www.ybor.org/index.cfm?section=vs&page=11

The way you put NYC I would much rather live there than here.

heres a link with Ybor and did I mention its kind of in the ghetto? lol….been there couple times I mean its nice but eh…

Oh what noyesa said Bush Gardens is pretty sweet, its fun for sure, and there is Adventure Island as well pretty good water theme park.

noyesa's avatar

Chicago is an old city, so it’s much more like San Francisco or New York City. Chicago is one of the template cities of urban places in America, so it has that more distinctly urban look and feel to it. The skyscraper vistas you’re used to on Manhattan are in full force in Chicago.

Chicago also has a midwestern twist too it—much of the area out side of the loop largely consists of the single-family bungalows or 2–3 family flats you might find in Queens. Very similar to other midwestern cities and quite different from the brownstone/townhome/rowhome architecture you’ll find in most of NYC and the mid-Atlantic cities like Philadelphia.

And of course, it’s hard to beat Chicago for culture and attractions. It’s difficult to run out of things to do in Chicago as it’s one of the largest cities in the US.

Tampa… not so much.

Tampa has largely grown up in the era of the automobile. Much of Tampa, outside of the downtown, is indistinguishable from any other podunk gulf coast Florida town. It has most of the low-density build out characteristics of a suburb, except with a small downtown mass of skyscrapers on the bay. In terms of attractions there’s Busch Gardens, but anything else is largely popular with locals and isn’t the kind of attraction that draws people there from all around the world like Chicago has.

lrk's avatar

(I should add: I’ll be 22 years of age by the time I relocated.)

Snarp's avatar

Tampa will never meet your needs for museums, restaurants, movies, and public transit compared to Chicago, but it’s not a complete desert either. You will find some good restaurants and if you like seafood or Cuban food then it’s definitely a winner. It’s awfully darn hot compared to both New York and San Fransisco (and to Chicago) but really it’s just like the hottest part of summer in New York or Chicago goes on for most of the year. There is no snow. That may or may not be a bonus for you, but Chicago snow is a different beast from New York snow, so it’s important to consider. The cost of living in Tampa is much lower than NY, SF, or Chicago. But back to public transit in a way – all you get is a crappy bus system, you are going to need a car unless you are really willing to work to not have one. But if you do have one and are willing to drive you can live at the beach, you have access to restaurants and museums in St. Pete as well, or Orlando if you must.

Tampa does have a gay scene, but I was not a part of it so I can’t say too much about it, but based on my experiences and my gay friends in the area, it’s not San Fransisco, but it’s not a bad place to be gay.

Me, I would take Tampa, but I know it, I love the weather and the beaches, and the cost of living is so much better. Plus Chicago is grimy and dirty, the traffic is a beast, and the snow, good lord the colossal amount of snow.

marinelife's avatar

You would probably find things to like about both cities.

First, the climate in Tampa is much better than Chicago. You have no winter (it is pleasant and in the 70s and 80s), and the summer is humid, but not much worse than New York. As to the outdoors, there are gorgeoous neighborhoods along the Bay, you are close to the beach, you can’t beat it.

Next, the cultural amenities. Chicago clearly has the edge here. It is a great city with wonderful museums, a vibrant music scene, lovely neighborhoods with restaurants, shops, etc.

But Tampa is not a cultural desert. There is Ybor City (where the cigar factories once were), which is a haven of Cuban culture.

The people of Chicago are brisk.

Tampa has that laid-back Florida feel. It is in the Bible belt. Which means people are very polite, but their prejudices show. Because Tampa is a city, it has an active gay culture although again, not like Chicago or San Francisco or New York.

Snarp's avatar

@Marina Well, to be honest most of the Cuban culture has been pushed out of Ybor City to make room for clubs, bars, and retail.

CMaz's avatar

Being from NY and living in the city.
I wanted Chicago to be like and/or remind me of NYC.

Chicago does nothing for me. I find it kind of slow (my opinion) coming from New York City.
And, so frigin cold. Don’t get me wrong Chicago is a nice city. The north in general is beautiful in the summer.

Tampa… I have lived in Florida on and off for 22 years. I think you will have to adjust to the heat and it does have a bit of traffic during rush hour. I am not crazy about Tampa either.
But, Tampa is in Florida and Florida is beautiful with plenty to explore. It is a big change from living up north and a breath of fresh air.

You can always go back and visit the BIG city and up state. I love New York City. Sometimes I miss it. But you would have to pay me a hell of a lot to go back to that type of living.

So, I say go for Tampa. Unless you love the cold and NEED that city feeling.

janbb's avatar

I think Chicago is probably a more exciting city to be young in, but if you’re a beach and warm weather person and/or get depressed during long, cold winters than Tampa might be a better choice.

zephyr826's avatar

I love Chicago! I strongly recommend it. Even though the weather is a little rough (Chicago winters are not for the faint of heart), the museums, the culture, and the vibe is just wonderful.

deni's avatar

If you love deep dish pizza go to Chicago! I hate deep dish pizza though, and avoid it like the plague.

Sorry I am no help. I just moved to Colorado from Pennsylvania and I miss the pizza back east SO MUCH ITS ALL THATS ON MY MIND.

occ's avatar

I’m a New Yorker (grew up in Manhattan) who now lives in San Francisco. I’ve been to Chicago multiple times, and spent 5 weeks in the St. Pete area (close to Tampa) a few years ago. I think if you like big cities, you’ll definitely want to live in Chicago. There’s great culture, history, museums, stuff to do. It has a much more urban, hip vibe. Tampa is spread out and you’ll definitely need a car to get around (as a New Yorker, I never feel like I“m in a “real” city if I need a car to get around and if all my shopping is done at big box stores). The main reason for picking Tampa over Chicago would be if you a) want to buy a house (I’m guessing housing is a lot cheaper there than in Chicago) or b) You love the ocean and think you’ll spend a lot of time at the beach. The beaches in St. Pete (close to Tampa) are really lovely.

Narl's avatar

I’ve lived in Chicago and Tampa, and I would suggest Chicago for you… unless you hate cold weather. The gay scene in uptown Chicago is amazing.

DavidKRock's avatar

Been to every place you mentioned. You would like Chicago. It wont take much adjusting .

editingdiva's avatar

I have also lived in both areas. I’ll add my vote for Chicago. I agree that unless sun is your major deciding factor, or you have a love for bugs, Chi is your answer. The Tampa area has little sense of community. I lived there 13 years and never felt “at home.” You can’t survive without a car, and the traffic is ridiculous—lots of old men in hats (a local joke).
I have gay friends in long-term relationships in Tampa who are doing fine. My younger friends, who are still looking, are trying to escape the scene there. Better to live in Chicago and visit Florida when on vacation.

PrancingUrchin's avatar

@deni, I’m sorry but if I could revoke a great answer from you I would. How in the world do you not like deep dish???????? (I know too many question marks, but really) :)

LethalCupcake's avatar

Chicago man! The music scene is soooo much better!!

Steve_A's avatar

Well Irk, I think choice is a little obvious but thats still up to you….so what is it? :)

lrk's avatar

@snarp: Is Tampa disgustingly humid, or just hot? Is living “at the beach” actually an option for someone just moving to the area, living on an entry-level position salary? (If you know NYC or SF/Bay areas to compare to, what are sample rents for certain neighborhoods of Tampa versus comparable neighborhoods of NYC or SF?)

Is the cost of living better just for rent, or all around (groceries, eating out, etc.)?

Also, how is Chicago snow different?

@chazmaz So was Chicago essentially like a shitty version of NY, for you?

@occ @narl my vague concern is that i DO hate cold weather. snow just annoyes the crap out of me.

All: This mostly confirmed what I had already thought: Tampa sucks, except for the weather, which still sort of sucks. What concerns me is that either way I’d be moving to a place where I don’t know anyone and a place that might disappoint me and my expectations, and it’s easier to get over that when I can walk around and see pretty things, and not be freezing…

janbb's avatar

@lrk Tampa’s weather is absolutely gorgeous from October or so through early May. It can have “cold” spells where it gets down to around 50 degrees, but mainly is in the 70–80 degree range in the winter and not humid. Summers are hot and humid. It is my understanding that in Chicago it is not so much the snow, but the wind and frigid temperatures that are the winter problems; others may correct me. You will need a car in Tampa.

Snarp's avatar

@lrk Tampa is pretty darn humid as well as hot. But as @janbb said above, much of the year is gorgeous, mostly dry, very little rain, not too hot and not too cold. But summers are pretty brutal. The closer you are to the ocean, the better off you will be weather wise thanks to the breeze off the gulf/bay. I lived in St. Pete, and that was about 10 years ago (sheesh I’m old). I lived in Downtown St. Pete, about five blocks from the bay, it was really a nice location. I could walk to some decent restaurants and to my job. It would be about a half hour commute to downtown Tampa from there. I paid $400 a month for a good sized one bedroom on the third floor with a shared balcony/deck. So ten years ago in Astoria closet sized studios were going for $700. Both those neighborhoods have come up since then, not just in inflation, but also in gentrification. I don’t really know want rents are like in Tampa or at the beach proper. I do have a friend who bought a house on Indian Rocks beach, which is a fantastic location (not too far from where Hulk Hogan and Ron Jeremy have houses), and he’s pretty broke, so I know he didn’t pay a lot for it. Some locations are definitely high priced, but I’d bet that at a prime beach front location you are still paying less for a large apartment than you would in New York or San Fransisco anywhere. Maybe less than Chicago too. I’ll put it this way, I moved from St. Pete to Norfolk, VA and got a smaller apartment with higher rent. My wife moved to Norfolk from Chicago at the same time and was floored by how low rent was. So Chicago will almost certainly cost you more than almost anywhere in or around Tampa. Also the real estate market in Tampa was hit particularly hard, so everything is cheaper now.

Snarp's avatar

Here’s my sum up:

Tampa doesn’t suck, it just can’t really compare for big city amenities to New York, San Fransisco, or Chicago.

Tampa might as well not have public transit for all the good it does.

Tampa’s traffic is 200% better than the other three cities. If you actually drive in NY, SF, or Chi, you are going to see traffic that makes Tampa look like a walk in the park. Which is not to say that Tampa doesn’t have traffic problems.

Tampa wins on weather. A hot summer in Chicago is actually worse than a hot summer in Tampa, at least in part because if you are getting a cheap apartment in Chicago it might not have AC, but in Tampa it will.

Tamps wins on cost of living. Everything, especially housing, is drastically cheaper than the other cities. Also, no state or local income tax.

The bay area does have a decent professional Opera company, symphony, and ballet. It does not have a mid size to large regional theatre company, but it does have a great small theater in St. Pete called American Stage, and in Tampa there is the Jobsite theatre and Guerilla theatre both doing all the avant garde stuff you could want. There are Broadway tours and plenty of concerts of all sorts, particularly if you are willing to cross the bridge. Tampa really is a package deal with St. Pete. There are quite an assortment of bars and night clubs as well. I was always a big fan of the restaurants in St. Pete, and there are some good ones in Tampa as well. And you will definitely get the best seafood.

All that said, if big city amenities are really your thing, and you think you’ll be bored without literally tons of theatre, arts, restaurants, and nightlife, then Chicago is the way to go, and that does seem to be your priority.

CMaz's avatar

@lrk – “So was Chicago essentially like a shitty version of NY, for you?”

I do not like the word “shitty” it has a New Yorkish flavor.
First time I visited Chicago (being from NYC) I figured it would be like NYC.
Those were the visuals I got. There is culture and places to go and things to see.
Chicago is like a toy New York City. Just how it feels to me.

I lived on west 57th. There was enough within a few blocks to keep be busy at any time of day and/or night. Chicago did not offer that.
I guess I am just a spoiled (not snobby) NYC person.

Sort of like the feeling I got the first time I visited down town LA. It looks like a city, smells like a city. But for the mots part after hours is a ghost town.
Not comparing Down town LA to Chicago. In comparison Chicago is Mecca.

janbb's avatar

@lrk Will you have the opportunity to spend time in each before deciding? A couple of weekend trips – one to each city – might help make your mind up.

BTW, my son had the chance to live in either Chicago or San Fran. He gets SAD so he chose San Fran. But I know Tampa is not S.F.

CMaz's avatar

@janbb – GA. Probably the best answer. :-)

janbb's avatar

@ChazMaz Sometimes one is hit by a blinding stroke of the obvious.

deni's avatar

@PrancingUrchin because compared to thin crust…..deep dish pizza should not even be considered pizza!

CMaz's avatar

So… Sicilian pizza (with the thick crust) is not considered pizza? :-)

deni's avatar

Nope. Get those nasty thoughts out of your head and instead envision a pizza with crust so thin you barely know its there…dripping cheese…oh my god drooooool

lrk's avatar

Oh. Should I have added that I think Chicago-style pizza is an abomination of real pizza?

deni's avatar

I <3 you ;)

CMaz's avatar

“Nope. Get those nasty thoughts out of your head”

Brooklyn, NY would be a bad place for you to visit. With such radical thoughts. :-)

Snarp's avatar

All pizza is good. Unless it is bad. But crust thickness matters not.

deni's avatar

Chimona. I can’t talk about pizza anymore. I’m laying in bed flopping around and drooling everywhere.

Snarp's avatar

I just had pizza for lunch. All you can eat. Have we just hijacked this thread? To bring it back on topic – there is a great New York style pizza by the slice joint in downtown St. Pete, about a half hour drive from Tampa. And an Italian restaurant across the street with authentic Italian style pizza. Deep dish not so much. Unless you think Uno’s is an acceptable substitute.

CMaz's avatar

Chimona?! LOL :-)

I spit up my soda again!

deni's avatar

Chimona, yes! Chckabtdahh, owwww!

GrumpyGram's avatar

Could you compromise and live in the chicago suburbs? I adore
Oakbrook and Hinsdale and the spring and summer in Chicago are fabulous, IMO. The winters are rough. Tampa is another sauna; stuck in a car in dreadful heat w/bad traffic. No thanks. But, if you Must have an ocean ? Tampa. Want big city character and great Italian food? Chicago. Hope I don’t sound Too stupid.

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