The hip, urban heart of Florida’s west coast beats in Tampa Bay.
Located west of Orlando on the Sunshine State’s Gulf coast, Tampa Bay ranks at Florida’s Most diverse vacation destination, with family fun for every adrenaline level — from thrill rides at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay and eye-to-eye encounters with manatees and giraffes at ZooTampa to quiet moments beneath the waves at The Florida Aquarium. Four cruise lines make Port Tampa Bay the key embarkation point for trips to Mexico, the western Caribbean, and Cuba. The Gulf’s sugar sand beaches lie a short drive away. Shopping options range from luxury items to bargain brands.https://www.youtube.com/embed/DZpDegenvtwFood and drink lovers will find Florida’s Most creative chefs, as well as deep-rooted, iconic favorites such as award-winning Bern’s Steak House and The Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant and a pillar of historic Ybor City, Tampa’s Latin quarter. Food halls put the destination’s most delicious offerings close at hand in vibrant setting buzzing with activity. More than two dozen tasting rooms have earned Tampa Bay international acclaim as a hub for craft brewing.
For more than 130 years, Ybor (EE-bore) City’s Cuban masters have rolled cigars by hand inside the historic neighborhood’s cigar shops. Outside, Spanish-speaking locals solve the world’s problems over strong Cuban café con leche and authentic Cuban sandwiches. Ybor City is the open and welcoming home to Tampa Bay’s LGBT community, along with exciting nightclubs and funky shopping venues.
Steeped in Florida’s year-round sunshine and warm weather, the 4 km Tampa Riverwalk links downtown’s most popular hotels, restaurants, cultural attractions and parks like gems on a string. As it winds its way along Garrison Channel and the Hillsborough River, the Riverwalk provides beautiful space for a morning jog, after-lunch walk or hand-in-hand sunset stroll. Rental bikes, electric shuttles and the Pirate Water Taxi make moving through downtown simple and easy. The sparkling waterfront offers exciting options for exploring that include self-drive electric boats and self-propelled water bikes.
Tampa Bay also has some of Florida’s Most important cultural institutions. Tampa Museum of Art houses a diverse collection of ancient and modern art in a striking jewel-box building that seems to float above the Hillsborough River. At night, the museum becomes a work of art itself as the colors of Leo Villareal’s “Sky: Tampa” swirl across the façade. Nearby, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the largest theater complex in the Southeast, hosts Broadway shows, Opera Tampa, and the Florida Orchestra as well as home-grown theater.
Always evolving, Tampa Bay is busy adding nearly 3,000 new or re-invented hotel rooms over the next two years. The offerings include new waterfront properties such as the Current, a Marriott Autograph Collection property opening in 2019, along with luxury brands such as a new JW Marriott opening in 2020 and 5-star Edition Tampa opening in 2021 – the same year Tampa Bay hosts Super Bowl LV!
Top Tampa Bay Experiences
1. Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay
Take a white-knuckle ride at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, among the world’s top-rated theme parks. Cheetah Hunt® gives you the feel of chasing prey across the Serengeti. Cobra’s Curse brings you eye-to-eye with the Snake King before hurtling through an amazing ride. In 2019, Tigris opens as Florida’s tallest triple-launch coaster. Tampa Bay CityPASS makes access a bargain.
2. Tampa Riverwalk
Running 2.4 miles (4 km) along Garrison Channel and the sparkling Hillsborough River, the Tampa Riverwalk provides a pedestrian-only path linking popular hotels, restaurants, museums, and performance venues like gems on a string. It is the perfect place for a morning jog, an afternoon bike ride, or a hand-in-hand sunset stroll.
3. Dolphin spotting
Thrill to the sight of a fin breaking the water during The Florida Aquarium’s Dolphin Quest excursion aboard the Bay Spirit II. Tampa Bay is home to bottlenose dolphins, manatees and other sea creatures all year round and an important nursery ground for their young. For a close-up encounter, step inside the Florida Aquarium to discover the connections that unite Florida’s delicate ecosystem from springs and wetlands to reefs and the Gulf of Mexico.
4. On the Waterfront
Take to the water along Tampa Bay’s sparkling downtown waterfront. Sporty types will want to try out their sea legs atop a rented paddleboard. Captain your own Tampa e-boat for a slow cruise through downtown. Hop on and off the Pirate Water Taxi as it travels up and down the waterfront. Or bring your own crew and brews for a pedal-powered exploration above the Kraken Cycleboat.
5. Luxury and discount shopping
Shop ‘til you drop among International Plaza’s 200 luxury brands, including Tiffany’s, Hugo Boss and Apple. Tampa International Airport is moments away, so you won’t have far to tote your bags. Bargain hunters will treasure the high-end brands at bargain prices at Tampa Premium Outlets – definitely worth the 20-minute drive north of downtown.
6. Brew Bus
Join your friends (and make new ones) on an afternoon tour of Tampa Bay’s amazing craft breweries and leave the driving to this crew when you do. They’ll get you from Coppertail to Cigar City to Angry Chair and back with plenty of restaurant stops along the way so you can also soak up the superb food scene here in Florida’s hub for craft brewing.
7. Tampa Bay History Center
People have called Tampa Bay home for more than 12,000 years, leaving behind a legacy written in wood, steel, and cigar smoke. Hands-on exhibits let visitors trace the history of the region from its earliest days to the 21st Century. Explore the inner working of the factories that make Tampa Bay the Cigar Capital of the World. The newest addition includes a life-sized pirate ship, sunken treasure and exciting tales of discovery. Sample a piece of culinary history when you bite into an authentic Cuban sandwich at the museum’s Columbia Café.
8. Ybor City
Stroll the brick streets beneath iron balconies that preserve the unique flavor of Tampa Bay’s historic Latin Quarter. Savor Spanish and Cuban favorites at the Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant. Stop in a cigar shop to see Cuban masters still rolling smokes as they have for 130 years. Listen for the crowing of Tampa Bay’s wild chickens – a direct connection to the waves of Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants that built Tampa Bay into the Cigar Capital of the World. Step into Cuban territory at the park dedicated to the original Cuban revolutionary, poet and journalist José Martí.
9. Bern’s Steak House
Florida’s top steak house also houses the world’s largest private wine collection at more than a million bottles. Located in the heart of toney Hyde Park, Bern’s has spent 60 years perfecting the kind of style and service that has lifted it into highest echelons of dining in the U.S. After your sumptuous main course, be sure to step upstairs to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room for their famously decadent macadamia nut ice cream.
10. Food Halls
Mix and match the plethora of local pleasures at two new food halls – Sparkman Wharf and Heights Public Market at Armature Works. Located at opposite ends of the Tampa Riverwalk, both eateries offer flavorful combinations of local restaurants created by some of Tampa Bay’s most dynamic chefs. Enjoy your meal while basking in the Florida sun at waterfront Sparkman Wharf. Watch boats bob on the Hillsborough River at Heights Public Market, which has your taste buds covered from Cuban sandwiches to ramen to breakfast and beyond.
11. Tampa International Airport
We know, it’s exceeding rare than an airport makes the list of memorable experiences. But, trust us on this. With flights from Europe on British Airways, Icelandair, Norwegian and (soon) Delta, TPA consistently ranks among the best airports in the U.S. for efficiency and all-around experience. A recent $1 billion expansion has added even more local restaurants, the country’s only in-airport brewery, and a new rental car facility that gets visitors on to their holiday in record time. Coming or going, it’s something to text home about.
12. Tampa Bay CityPASS
As the only Florida destination in the CityPASS system, Tampa Bay gives families the perfect way to explore everyone’s favorite attractions without breaking the bank. For a single, steeply discounted price, CityPASS provides access to Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, the Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, and MOSI – the Museum of Science and Industry. Take your time – each booklet is good for 9 days.
Tampa Premium Outlets® Tampa Premium Outlets® is located 20 miles north of downtown Tampa. Shop more than 110 designer and name-brand outlet stores at savings of 25% to 65% every day in a relaxed, contemporary “Key West”-style complete with palm trees throughout common area and water features to enhance the outdoor shopping experience. Relax and enjoy lunch in the Food Pavilion offering multiple dining options.
Area Attractions include Adventure Island, Busch Gardens, Glazer Children’s Museum, Lowry Park Zoo and MOSI – Museum of Science & Industry.