From amazing art to Cuban culture, seven reasons to visit Tampa in FloridaFebruary 24, 2019
Here's seven reasons why you should take a city break trip to this contemporary and dynamic place.
1. AMAZING ART
Stroll along Tampa’s Riverwalk, a 2.5-mile raised walkway that traces the curves of Hillsborough River.
The striking path is dotted with public art, from glass sculptures to ceramic panels forming a “wave”.
Pass them en route to Tampa Museum of Art – the shimmering mesh-fronted building showcases rare antiquities and modern installations, entry £12 (Tampamuseum.org).
Nearby, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts displays vintage images on subjects such as road trips and Americana, entry £7.50 (Fmopa.org).
For a stylish sleep on the waterside, check in to Aloft Tampa Downtown, from £110 a night for a double room (Marriott.com).
2. CUBAN CULTURE
Like Miami’s cool neighbourhood Little Havana, historic Ybor City – a 20-minute ride from downtown Tampa on the free streetcar – is a beguiling mix of Latino culture past and present.
Ybor City was founded by cigar magnates in 1885, and you can still watch the tobacco being meticulously hand-rolled into fat cylinders at Tabanero (Tabanerocigars.com) and La Faraona (Lafaraonacigars.com).
Walk past putty-coloured former factories and fading frescoes, browse shops in Centro Ybor (Centroybor.com) and learn about the area’s heritage at the Ybor City Museum, which is housed inside Ferlita Bakery, entry £3 (Ybormuseum.org).
3. MEAT-PACKED SANDWICHES
Tampanians claim that the Cuban sandwich – stuffed with smoked ham, roast pork, salami, cheese and mustard – was invented here. Miami residents beg to differ, but either way, it’s delicious.
Try one for around £7 at La Segunda Bakery, which makes its fluffy yet crisp bread in-house (Lasegundabakery.com).
The city’s rich heritage is also reflected in the eclectic menu at Anise Global Gastrobar, where ramen, burgers and “stinky bunz” – fluffy white buns filled with pork belly or crispy courgette – are served in a cosy, low-lit space.
Mains cost around £12 (Aniseglobal.com). Or catch a 15-minute water taxi, £12 return, from downtown to upscale Ulele restaurant for chilli soup and, erm, alligator hush puppies (Ulele.com).
4. BUNGALOW BOUTIQUES
Independent stores nestle alongside ‘20s bungalows in open-air shopping mall Hyde Park Village, around half an hour’s walk or a £5 Uber from downtown.
Browse relaxed beach fashion at Salt Pines (Saltpines.com) or pick up pet gifts from Downtown Dogs (Shopdowntowndogs.com).
Refuel on charcuterie and small plates at On Swann, an airy space with dishes from around £10 (Onswann.com).
In downtown, get your souvenir fix at Unlock Tampa Bay Visitor Center, whose gift store sells retro posters and jewellery crafted from Ybor City bricks (Visittampabay.com).
5. LATE-NIGHT LIQUOR
Despite its name, Hotel Bar isn’t in a hotel. It is, however, definitely a bar – and exactly the kind you wish was just an elevator ride from your room.
Tucked a few blocks back from the Riverwalk, this cosy nightcap spot serves classic stiffeners. Try a cognac-heavy Sidecar or a Moonwalk, made with rosewater, grapefruit and Grand Marnier, £9.50 (Hotelbartampa.com).
More of a beer lover? Tampa is overflowing with craft breweries. Sip beers infused with coffee, chipotle or mango, £4.50 a pint, at Hidden Springs Ale Works in hip Tampa Heights, just north of downtown (Hiddenspringsaleworks.com).
Or try citrusy ales, £5, at Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s lively Ybor City pub (Tbbc.beer).
Our top tips
- Flight time: 9hrs 50mins
- Average temperature: 25C
- Time difference: -5 hours
- Currency: US dollar
Return flights from the UK to Tampa start from £330 (Norwegian.com).
Plan your trip at Visittampabay.com.
6. FOODIE HANGOUTS
A brick building where streetcars used to park for the night is now one of the city’s trendiest nightspots. Armature Works, perched by the river in Tampa Heights, is a bright, airy space filled with food stalls and bars perfect for, well, perching (Armatureworks.com).
At The Hall on Franklin, a five-minute walk away, vendors serve poke bowls, pizza and perfectly crisp fried chicken (Thehallonfranklin.com).
On the opposite riverbank, Oxford Exchange is a restaurant, cafe and shopping destination all in one elegant, ivory-brick package.
Weekend brunch, with puffy pancakes, scrambled eggs or fat breakfast sandwiches served until 4pm, is a must. Plates cost from £7 (Oxfordexchange.com).
7. SWIMMING WITH MANATEES
Crystal River, just over an hour’s drive from Tampa, is one of only a few places in Florida where you can swim with manatees – sometimes called sea cows – in their natural environment.
Meander down the river on an open-sided boat before snorkelling up close to the gentle giants. Stay overnight at the charming, old-fashioned Plantation Inn, which runs early morning tours from its grounds.
Doubles cost from £150, while tours are £50 for around two hours, including equipment and post-swim hot chocolate (Plantationoncrystalriver.com).
Feeling active? Rent a kayak or SUP and paddle on the river, from £15 for two hours. Back in Tampa, be enchanted by marine creatures at the Florida Aquarium, entry £20 (Flaquarium.org).
Residents include otters, pelicans and sea dragons!
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