CARS.COM — A favorite destination for snowbirds from the north who annually retreat to Florida's west central coast at the first signs of winter, the Tampa Bay area has much more to offer than picturesque beaches and bustling theme parks. Three days of new-car unveilings, test drives and family fun will pull into the Tampa Convention Center Nov. 17-19 at the 2017 Tampa Bay New Car & Truck Show, aka the Tampa Bay International Auto Show.
Related: How to Shop at an Auto Show
One of the smaller auto shows in the U.S. when compared with some of the larger-scale events in major American cities, Tampa's auto show will still present an impressive lineup of more than 350 new 2018 model-year cars, SUVs and trucks from 35 brands.
While some of the larger auto shows focus on exotic vehicles that are out of reach for the average American car buyer, Tampa's version of the auto show offers a great opportunity for car buyers to test-drive multiple new models from various manufacturers under one roof, said Brenda DiFede, vice president of client services for the event.
"The show is great because it's a no-pressure setting for car shoppers," DiFede said. "Instead of driving to different dealerships, they can learn all about the cars in a more proficient manner."
If you live in West Central Florida or plan to visit the weekend before Thanksgiving, here are five reasons you should check out the show.
1. Test Drives
Car shoppers eager to hit the gas pedal can get on the open road in any of some 50 models that will be available for test drives during the event. Among the tech features expected to be showcased, drivers will have firsthand access to the ever-growing array of automated functions on vehicles made by Honda, Chevrolet and Ford, among others. Take the wheel to try out Ford's Active Park Assist for assisted parking or Teen Driver Technology in the Chevrolet Malibu. A full list of test-drive vehicles is available here.
Organizers of the Tampa Bay auto show know which vehicles appeal to Florida drivers — and cater to their desires accordingly. Americans love their trucks, and Florida is no exception. A variety of dealerships from central Florida will showcase the latest pickup truck models for the 2018 model year, including the Ford F-150, the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Kelley Blue Book data from 2016 showed Floridian drivers prefer the Toyota Corolla as their No. 1 vehicle, but pickups were most popular among all of Florida's neighboring states.
The Sunshine State has its fair share of exotic-auto dealers, and several will bring Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins and McLarens to the show for display. Ronnie Setser's Customs, DuPont Registry, Lamborghini Sarasota and Dimmitt Automotive Group's Aspire Autosports are slated to show high-end models the average person might otherwise never see.
4. Family Fun
Designated family days will be held Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Kids can test-drive mini electric cars in a display area sponsored by Citgo. No driver's licenses are needed for the indoor kids' test track, which will let youngsters get a feel for what it's like behind the wheel. Free Kid's Zone activities on both days will include face painting and balloon animals.
5. Futuristic Vehicles
Car show patrons can experience pre-production models and catch a glimpse of what the vehicles of tomorrow will look like. DiFede said the participating dealerships prefer to keep specifics about the models private until the first day of the show, but promised plenty of futuristic features will be on hand to wow the crowds.
Tickets at the door are $12 for adults and $5 for seniors age 62 or older, veterans, police and firefighters; kids age 12 or younger get in free. One-dollar discounts will be applied to adult tickets purchased online at www.autoshowtampa.com before the event.
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