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50 reasons to love the Tampa Bay area

We asked, you answered. Here’s why our readers enjoy living here so much.

For Valentine’s Day, we asked our readers to help us write a love letter to Tampa Bay.

We wanted to know the reasons — big or small — you love living in the region. So, we asked followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to weigh in. We also inquired in two local Facebook groups, I Love St. Pete and You Know You’re From Tampa When.

Here are 50 reasons you love Tampa Bay. Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

1. “The sense of community here is the best! Local businesses work together. Our markets (Saturday Morning Market, indie markets, etc.) support farmers and small businesses.” — Audrey Ferguson

2. “Riverwalk appeals to everyone at any age. It’s free, great for exercise, perfect for people-watching, with food to tempt any palate, and it welcomes kids and dogs.” — Carolyn Otis

3. “I love the bike bridge and ride from Cypress Point Park to Safety Harbor. What a great way to enjoy Tampa’s beauty.” — Mary Geraci

4. “The literary community — Keep St. Pete Lit, Tombolo Books, and the wider Tampa Bay area’s thriving community of children’s book authors and illustrators.” — Erica Sirotich

Tombolo Books features staff picks, photographed Thursday, December 19, 2019. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]

5. “All the different neighborhoods, from Ybor City to Palma Ceia to West Tampa to Port Tampa to North Tampa.” — Larry Schmauss

6. “There is always something going on and the weather is great year round.” — Garvarossa GA

Related: Be our Tampa Bae with these Valentine’s Day cards

7. “It’s not Miami.” — LeRoy Alaways

8. “Caladesi State Park. One of very last pristine undeveloped barrier islands on the Gulf Coast, full of wildlife and dolphins.” — JP Abello

9. “I’ve loved living in Dunedin since 1991 because it’s a beautiful town that values its history. There’s always something going on each weekend, and yet the town is small enough to feel like home.” — Maggie Hall

10. “There’s so much I love about St Pete! The historic open-air post office, how cool is that?” — Ester Venouziou

11. “Dog-friendly restaurants.” — Nicole Nowogrodzki

Clyde, a west highland terrier, begs for some food at Mad Dogs and Englishmen in south Tampa. [ Times (2009) ]

12. “I love Honeymoon Island. The water is just calm and beautiful. I love all the shells.” — Sarah Pearsall

13. “The traffic. It allows me to expand my vocabulary … ” — Thomas Hofts

14. “I live and work as a snowbird. But it doesn’t feel like work when my job locations change every day from a yacht to a dining room. The fun never ends.” — Michael James Dreyer

15. “Picnic Island is wonderful! It is a wonderful place to find hermit and fiddler crabs and canoe through the mangroves.” — John Godwin

16. “Boca Ciega Bay at night when the full moon is shining on the water.” — Lucy Bishop

17. “People are so friendly and welcoming.”— Debbie Henderson Bernhard

18. “I really enjoy Ybor City. The rich history is incredible, and you still see signs of it with the old cigar factories, rail cars and Centro. There are also new places to check out in Ybor, which makes for a perfect blend of past and present.” — Nolan Brown

The Tampa trolley connects downtown and Ybor City.

19. “It’s not NEW YORK.”— David Brennan

20. “Tampa is continually attracting young people with its job growth and the visionaries initiating Riverwalk and all of the neighborhood partnerships. People used to ask me, ‘Why Tampa?’ Now they say, ‘Wow Tampa!’" — Carolyn Otis

21. “Cuban sandwiches.” — Instagram user @alexandresivolella

22. “From an exercise point of view, it’s great. Northshore Pool to swim laps or the bay for open water swimming; running along the waterfront or wonderful neighborhood; biking south along the waterfront all the way to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge rest stop. ... This is a triathletes paradise!” — David Longacre

23. “I love being in the city and close to so many things — parks, malls, shopping, doctors —and yet I am allowed to have horses and run my business of teaching horseback-riding lessons without having to be out in the country." — Jasmin Doolittle

24.“There’s a more relaxed feeling. Since moving here from Boston, I truly have ‘decompressed!’” — Kirk Hazlett

25. “I love everything about Tampa; I grew up there on Davis Island, graduated from Plant High...still hang out in Ybor, devour strawberries from Plant City (and) remain a diehard Bucs Fan.” — Instagram user @juliangert

26. “I’ve lived here since the 80′s, so I remember when St Pete was dead as a door nail. I have loved watching it become a vibrant town. The absolute best thing, though, is that we can keep our waterfront parks for everyone to enjoy, no matter how much we grow!” — Julia Fisher Toomajanian

27. “Location... access to other coast, Disney and Miami within hours.” — Dori Law

28. “(St. Pete) is a lifestyle city, not a sightseeing city....For now, it still intersperses the past with the present maintaining quirky venues like the Shuffleboard Club that give it a unique vibe." — Barbara Katz

First time shuffleboard player Missa Kes, 29, St. Petersburg, front, left, shoots her disc during an open shuffle event at the club, Friday, December 6, 2019. The club has open shuffle events for the public each Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights in St. Petersburg from 7-10pm. [ SCOTT KEELER ]

29. “Best fishing in the state. Also Rays baseball.” — Instagram user @noah_clifford123

30. “You never have to be cooped up inside during any season, even summer. I miss the ability to wear whatever I want and prance around Tampa.” — Maximilian Site

31. “Dairy Joy!” — Steve Meadows

32. “The water everywhere. The palm trees. The friendly folks everywhere. What’s not to love?” — Laura Duncan Simmons

33. “Munch’s Restaurant and Sundries, and The Chattaway — two St. Pete icons." — Lauri Ann Frazer

34. “Oxford Exchange and the Sandpearl Resort.” — Chelsey Visic

35. “It is now the number two beer city in the country and, due to that, a foodie city as well.” — David Hardingham

Customers drink beer at the bar at Rapp Brewing, 10930 Endeavour Way, in Seminole on a Wednesday afternoon in 2013. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2013) ]

36. “Being able to be near the water or a gorgeous sunset and remember there is so much more in the world and you are just a blip. I take so much solace in that humbling experience.” — Instagram user @stellar_sars

37. “St. Pete has all the amenities of a big city but with a wonderfully friendly small-town feel. Love the biking trails, too, and all the beautiful parks.” — Stephanie Rivoire Sowell

38. “Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach.” — Tim Springer

39. “The puppies ... everywhere! And seeing dolphins, manatees and pelicans on the regular always puts me in a happy place.” — Cheyanne Ouellette

40. “Sitting outside a wonderful restaurant on Beach Drive watching people and animals go by.” — Winnie Silverman Sell

41. “Bike riding with my family on the Riverwalk.” — Instagram user @sauernichole

42. “You can choose the lifestyle that fits you. If you prefer relaxed, laid back, there are beautiful parks and beaches to enjoy. If you want exciting adventure, there are so many things happening all of the time and so many places to go.” — Teresa Sheeran Cheshire

43. “Bayshore Boulevard.” — Jackie Windham Jewell

44. “I love that if I want a city day, I can go downtown and experience Sparkman Wharf, still be in the city but go to the water by Ulele and Armature Works. If we want a quick boat day, we can go out to Beer Can Island.” — Chelsey Visic

45. “Paintings by local artists and art shows.” — Joy Sieggreen

Mural artist Ricardo Delgado, Mexico City, grabs an umbrella to cover himself, Monday, October 21, 2019 near 2 Ave South and 22 St. South, St. Petersburg, as storm clouds move in from the west. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]

46. “(Being) surrounded by beautiful water.” — Jackie Windham Jewell

47. “Devil crabs.” — Geri Bussey

48. “The Columbia Restaurant is my favorite place to eat in Tampa. It’s definitely for special occasions, but it feels so special to Tampa being in Ybor and how every room is different.” — Alexandra Booth

49. “Gasparilla and the Strawberry Festival.” — Sally Reilly

50. Mike Baluja loves Tampa so much that he wrote a song about it in Dec. 2018. “They say that home is where your heart is," he said. “Well, my heart is in Tampa."

Have another reason to love Tampa Bay? Tell us in the comments.