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Tampa vs. St. Petersburg: Where would you rather live?

Local leaders like to talk about Tampa Bay as one big, happy community that sees no city boundaries. But we all know the truth: Tampa and St. Pete have their loyalists, people eager to debate the merits over a few beers — or several. So in honor of that civic-minded citizenry, tbt* decided to pit the two cities against each other to see which place prevails. Feel free to contact us if you agree. — Susan Thurston sthurston@tampabay.com

Arts

St. Pete always had the lead but broke away in a sprint with the recent additions of the Chihuly Collection and new Salvador Dalí Museum. Combined with the Museum of Fine Arts and Morean Arts Center, these creative powerhouses cemented St. Pete's reputation as a city of the arts here and beyond. Tampa upped its culture quotient with the Tampa Museum of Art but lags behind. Winner: St. Pete

Downtown

Tampa has been jealous of St. Pete's downtown for years. Its parks, museums, shops and restaurants beckon morning, noon and night, not just from 9 to 5. Tampa has worked hard to shed its commuter city image but isn't quite there yet. St. Pete's relaxed, artsy vibe appeals to all walks. Winner: St. Pete

Eats

Fortunately, you don't have to go far for good food, no matter what you crave. Tampa and St. Pete have restaurants for every taste and cuisine. Be adventurous, and you may never have to eat at the same place twice. Winner: Draw

History

You might frown upon the thuggish nightlife in Tampa's Ybor City, but you can't argue that it has a rich history. Founded by cigarmaker Vicente Martinez Ybor, the area became home to thousands of immigrants from Spain, Cuba and Italy and, at one point, rolled out millions of cigars every year. You can see the evidence in the old cigar factories and historic brick streets. Winner: Tampa

Leadership

Both cities have relatively new mayors still working in their leather chairs but, so far, Tampa's Bob Buckhorn has a slight lead. St. Pete's Bill Foster hasn't made a lot of friends sticking his fingers in his ears when it comes to talk about new stadium sites. Besides, Buckhorn drives a big, black Yukon Denali that police took from an alleged pimp. Foster prefers to tool around on an orange scooter. Winner: Tampa

Nightlife

The party crowd long preferred Tampa, if only because the bars stayed open until 3 a.m., an hour later than clubs in St. Pete. That changed last year, leveling the playing field for those wanting every last minute to party. But Tampa still wins. The large concentration of bars on South Howard Avenue and Ybor City guarantee a high-energy good time most days of the week. Winner: Tampa

Parking

As much as people like the idea of mass transit, it's not happening here any time soon. Instead, we're left with getting in our cars and hoping there's a parking space within no-sweating distance of our destination. In downtown St. Pete, that's not too hard. Parking is plentiful and, in a lot of places, free. And it doesn't have solar parking meters, like the ones in Tampa, which require an MBA to operate. Winner: St. Pete

Recreation

If you think recreation in Florida means anything you can do outdoors near the water, then St. Pete is for you. Its beaches are utopia for kayaking, paddleboarding and soaking up the sun in general. A short boat ride to Shell Island, and you might think you're on vacation. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach, named Fort De Soto Park the nation's top beach in 2005, so we don't dispute it. Winner: St. Pete

Shopping

This one is so obvious, we hesitated to even include it. But we all like to load up on stuff, especially when a trip to a food court is involved. Tampa dominates with WestShore and International plazas, where shopping is just part of the experience. Even if you can't buy a sock at Saks or Neiman Marcus, it's nice just to walk through with your head held high. Poor chumps in St. Pete have to drive for the privilege. Winner: Tampa

Sports

Sure, the local sports teams are named after the region of residence, not the city. But let's skip the semantics. Tampa Bay's pro football and hockey teams play in Tampa. St. Pete has the Tampa Bay Rays, but the team's future there hardly seems permanent. If some people get their way, the Rays will hop across the bay to Hillsborough and Little League will become the dominant sport in St. Pete. Winner: Tampa

Waterfront

St. Pete knew long ago its waterfront was its greatest asset. Tampa? Not so much. St. Pete's waterfront parks, restaurants and museums give locals and tourists alike plenty of reasons to break away from the beaches for a few hours — or a weekend. And it's bound to get even better when the Pier gets a full makeover. Overlooking Tampa Bay beats the Hillsborough River any day. It's a no-brainer. Winner: St. Pete

The scorecard

Surprise, surprise. We've arrived at a tie. It seems our fair cities have their pros and cons. To experience them is to appreciate them.

Tampa vs. St. Petersburg: Where would you rather live? 09/29/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 29, 2011 7:37pm]

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