Tampa Bay has emerged as Sportstown USA, home of champions. The Buccaneers are Super Bowl champions. The Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup hockey champions. The Rays are reigning American League baseball champions, and the Rowdies are division champions in the USL soccer league.

Tampa Bay beacons as mecca of sports, arts, culture

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play their games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

All of this is a three-hour drive from the Space Coast. Just about anytime of the year, you can make the trip and find championship-level sports action.

Tampa Bay beacons as mecca of sports, arts, culture

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, Tampa’s oldest professional sports franchise, plays at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. They won the USL soccer title.

The Bucs, Lightning and Rowdies all play in Tampa. The Rays play at the Tropicana Field dome in St. Petersburg. See the team websites for ticket information. Generally, tickets to the Rays and Rowdies are available. Lightning tickets can be acquired if you plan in advance. Bucs tickets are hard to come by, with a limited number of single-game tickets available.

The Bay is also home to three major-league baseball spring training sites: the Yankees in Tampa, the Phillies in Clearwater and the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

So you’re going to make that road trip for great sports action, plan on staying overnight, or even a couple nights, and take in the wonders Tampa Bay has to offer.

St. Petersburg/Clearwater offers more than 40 miles of coastline and some of the best beaches in Florida.

St. Pete is home to several prestigious museums and art venues. The Dali Museum is one of the top attractions. The Chihuly Collection is on permanent display in St. Pete. Emerging artists are found with murals on buildings downtown.

No trip to Tampa should go without visiting historic Ybor City and its choice of Spanish and Cuban nightlife and restaurants.

The original Columbia Restaurant is in Ybor City. Another top restaurant, Bern’s Steakhouse, is in south Tampa. You should also visit Hyde Park Village and its collection of shops and restaurants.

So where to stay? St. Pete offers historic hotels: the Don Cesar on St. Petersburg Beach and the Vinoy Bayside downtown. The Vinoy is within walking distance of the new St. Petersburg Pier.

Tampa offers its own historic hotel, the Le Meridien, in the old federal courthouse downtown. This is a boutique four-star property that is part of the Marriott chain. Just east of Tampa, off Interstate 4, you will find the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

If old hotels attract you, venture across the Courtney Campbell Causeway to the Belleview Inn in Bellaire. This is a highly renovated and relocated hotel that was once the Belleview Biltmore built in the 1890s.

If you like the outdoors, visit the Fort DeSoto Park in south Pinellas County, just before you cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The park is at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

On the north end of Pinellas County, visit Dunedin and make your way to two of Florida’s top state parks: Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island. Both are accessed by the Dunedin Causeway, but Caladesi can be reached only by boat. There is a ferry from Honeymoon Island, or adventurists can rent kayaks and paddle across the short channel to the island.