Located just east of Downtown Tampa, Channelside is a fast-growing area filled with bars, restaurants and live music. Cargo and cruise ship watching at the Tampa Port Authority can be a great pastime. If you want to make a day of this area the Florida Aquarium and the American Victory Museum are close by. The most popular bars and restaurants include Margarita Mama’s, Spiltsville bowling alley, Howl at the Moon piano bar and Stumps Supper Club.
Founded in the 1880’s by cigar manufacturers and immigrants from Spain, Cuba and Italy, Ybor City is a historic neighborhood known originally for producing cigars. Today, Ybor is an infamous nightclub and entertainment district, attracting nearby college students, visitors and Tampa locals alike. Expect the unexpected in Ybor. The main street, 7th Avenue, houses all the bars and restaurants.
Nominated as one of the top five concert halls in the United States by a nationwide industry poll of artists and their management, Ruth Eckerd is a long-standing tradition in Pinellas County. Highlights include performances by the Florida Orchestra and The Chocolate Nutcracker during the holidays.
Starting as a small community theatre in the late 1970’s, American Stage has evolved and for over a decade has been voted “Best of the Bay” by local residents. If in the area during March-April, a treat is one of the performances in a nearby park, often a play by Shakespeare. Bring your blankets and wine to enjoy theatre outside among the trees.
For an entertainment experience that will go into the wee hours, check out the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. This is the only place in the Tampa Bay area that offers table games such as blackjack and baccarat. For the non-gamblers, there is a spa, large pool with surrounding cabanas, various bars and Floyd’s Nightclub.
The largest theme park in the area, Busch Gardens’ hallmarks are its roller coasters and nearly 3,000 live animals, incorporated into various exhibits and shows. SheiKra will give you all the thrills you can handle with a 200-foot drop, 90 degrees straight down, or for the traditionalists there is Gwazi, a wooden roller coaster with speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. Jungala is an attraction where guests can get face-to-face with orangutans or play tug-of-war with tigers.
Adventure Island is a water park that borders Busch Gardens in Tampa. With over 30 acres of water-related activities including waterslides, corkscrew slides, a rambling river, and a giant wave pool, Adventure Island has something for everyone, including cabanas to just lounge around in the sun.
Known best for its live greyhound racing, Derby Lane has expanded its repertoire to include simulcasts of other races as well as poker in recent years. The races run six evenings a week, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday. Derby Lane also has a full restaurant on the premises, where reservations are recommended.
Tampa Bay Downs is the only thoroughbred racetrack on the west coast of Florida, with a rich history dating back to 1926. The track is known as one of the most popular turf tracks in the U.S. In addition to the racing, Tampa Bay Downs is also home to the Silks Poker Room, as well as a full golf practice facility. While simulcast racing is offered year-round, the season for live racing spans December through early May.
The Florida Aquarium is a 200,000 square-foot facility that is the largest in the Tampa Bay area. Visitors not only get to see the many varieties of fish, but for certified Scuba divers, there is also the opportunity to swim with live sharks. The Florida Aquarium has many unique touches, such as the “Penguin Promenade”, where penguins meet and greet all guests daily.
Originally opened in the land boom of the 1920’s as the Million Dollar Pier, today’s version offers more than just fishing. In addition to smaller gift shops, the Pier has a two-story vertical aquarium, as well as a food court and four different waterfront restaurants. Located on the roof, Cha Cha Coconuts serves lunch and dinner, as well as a breathtaking setting for after-dinner drinks.
More than 200,000 visitors from all over the world frequent the Salvador Dali Museum each year. While the collection of one of the world’s most eccentric and unique artists opened in Cleveland in 1942, it was moved to St. Petersburg in 1982. Dali’s career spans several themes, from the Impressionist and Cubist styles of his early years to his transition to Surrealism, and is represented here not only by almost 100 oil paintings, but photographs, sculptures, and watercolors as well.
The Sponge Docks are a nod to the once-thriving sponge industry that helped make Tarpon Springs famous. Today, this area is home to many family-owned Greek restaurants, bakeries, and markets, but also offers visitors live entertainment, sightseeing cruises, shopping, an aquarium, as well as lots of local Greek touches, such as hand-rolled cigars.
The Museum of Fine Arts, located in St. Petersburg, has the only comprehensive art collection on the west coast of Florida. The museum has both an extensive permanent collection, as well as exhibitions from notables such as Dale Chihuly and Andy Warhol. After taking in a collection, browse the shops of Beach Drive or enjoy the waterfront at nearby Straub Park.
Located in Tampa, the Museum of Science & Industry has something for visitors of all ages. From its IMAX Dome Theater to its Planetarium to the 3D Science Works Theater, plan to spend the entire afternoon. The Science Works Theater offers guests an up-close look at the sun in 3D.
Once inhabited by Tocobanga Indians and Spanish settlers, today this beach has been voted “America’s Top Beach” by TripAdvisor. Fort De Soto has the ideal blend of wide stretches of soft sand, clear water and a casual vibe. North Beach is a local favorite. Though it is packed during the weekends in season, the crowds leave during the week. Rent canoes or kayaks here too and don’t forget to tour the fort which has the only four 12-inch seacoast rifled mortars in the United States. Also check out the two 6-inch Armstrong rapid-fire rifled guns.
Once called Hog Island by settlers, it became Honeymoon Island in 1939 when a developer built 50 palm thatched bungalows for honeymooners. Today, it is considered one of the most well-preserved beaches in Florida. Shorebirds, osprey nests, mangrove swamps, and slash pine tree forests are some of the sites to behold.
The Bucs are the most popular team in the Tampa Bay area. They play their home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, an exciting venue whether the game on the field is competitive or not. Fans begin game days (usually Sunday afternoon) with tailgating in various areas around the stadium, before making their way into the stadium, which seats 65,000 and boasts a life-size pirate ship.
Long regarded as the worst franchise in Major League Baseball, the Rays completed a stunning turnaround last year to make the World Series, finishing as the second best team in the league. The team plays its home games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, a domed stadium which features relief from the summer heat, as well as a large tank near centerfield with live sting rays.
The Lightning was one of the first professional hockey franchises to call a state in the southern U.S. home, and quickly built a passionate fan base. The team plays its home games at the St. Pete Times Forum, located in the Channelside district in Tampa. After an exciting contest on the ice, fans can spill into the neighboring restaurants and bars to continue the evening.
The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is an annual race in the Indy Car Series, an international open-wheel racing circuit. The course winds through downtown St. Petersburg, and abuts the gorgeous waterfront. Many fans take the opportunity to make the race a long weekend, with the chance to mingle with drivers and get an up-close look at the cars that will approach 200 miles per hour on race day.
An old favorite on the beaches, the Wine Cellar, originally opened in 1975, before moving to its current location just a year later. European food and outstanding service are the hallmarks of The Wine Cellar. Diners can enjoy Beef Wellington, onion-crusted tilapia, or Wiener schnitzel.
One of the finest seafood restaurants in the entire area, Salt Rock Grill offers everything from raw oysters to lobster tail to Alaskan king crab, as well as other favorites such as steak and veal. Located on the intercoastal waterway in Indian Shores, diners can take in spectacular views while enjoying an entrée that was probably swimming in the Gulf of Mexico the day before. Reservations are recommended.
Originally opened in 1956, Bern’s is an internationally renowned steakhouse, and possibly the Tampa Bay area’s best-known restaurant. Bern’s specializes in prime steaks cut-to-order, but also boasts a wine list that numbers over 6,500 labels. After dinner, the dessert room is the perfect place to cap off the evening. Bern’s has a neighboring restaurant, SideBern’s, which specializes in Mediterranean dishes and caters to the younger crowd. Reservations are recommended at Bern’s, sometimes well in advance.
The Columbia traces its roots back to 1905, when the original location was opened in Tampa’s Ybor City, earning it the designation of Florida’s oldest Spanish-themed restaurant. The 1905 salad should kick off every diner’s experience, and can be followed by black bean crab cakes, scallops “casamiro”, or empanadas de picadillo, which are spiced ground beef-filled pastry turnovers with roasted corn and black bean salsa. Columbia currently has four locations in the area, two on each side of Tampa Bay.
In Clearwater Beach, the Beachcomber has been a staple since 1948. Offering both steaks and seafood, the Beachcomber is also noted for its fine service and unique touches, such as the relish tray with fresh baked banana bread. The Seafood Mélange is a hit, with its combination of Gulf shrimp, scallops, fresh fish, and Maryland deviled crab cake. Reservations are recommended.
Jackson’s Bistro is located in the Harbour Island section of downtown Tampa. With a great waterfront location, Jackson’s is open every day for lunch and dinner, and also features a delicious, and affordable Sunday brunch. In the later hours, Jackson’s night club comes alive, with two large rooms inside and outdoor cabanas outside on the waterfront terrace. Jackson’s also offers a full sushi menu to go along with its more traditional fare.
Part of the Hyatt hotel, Oystercatchers blends a gorgeous waterfront location with exquisite local cuisine. The restaurant specializes in seafood, featuring fresh wild and line-caught fish. Sunday brunch is quite a treat, as the buffet features everything from fresh sushi to stone crab to a full dessert bar. Reservations are recommended.
Located downtown directly across from the University of Tampa, Mise en Place specializes in Modern American cuisine. The menu at Mise en Place is ever-changing, as the head chef enjoys keeping things fresh. Among the favorites at Mise en Place is the tasting menu, which is a five-course dinner featuring a sample of Blitz’ favorite dishes of the week. Reservations are recommended.
Notorious as much for its stunning sunsets as its fresh grouper sandwich, The Hurricane is a must for any visitor to the Tampa Bay area. Located in the Pass-a-Grille section of St. Pete Beach, The Hurricane offers both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a rooftop bar to capture picturesque views of both the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the intercoastal waterway to the east. Just across the street from the beach, feel free to come in your beach attire.
Any traveler who makes it to the Clearwater Beach area must stop at one of the four Frenchy’s locations. The Rockaway Grill, directly on Clearwater Beach, is Frenchy’s largest location, and has basic fare for the entire family, highlighted by the “World Famous Grouper Sandwich”. Don’t worry about dressing up - in fact, you may want to bring your shorts for a game of beach volleyball at the outdoor court just steps from the restaurant.
Ted Peters is a local favorite between mainland St. Petersburg and the Gulf beaches. Famous for its unique smoked fish spread, many diners swing by just to pick some up to augment their own meals or have on hand for snacks. Don’t expect white tablecloths here, as you will probably be sitting on a bench outside. One of the best local secrets in the St. Petersburg area.
When only the best will do, shoppers head to International Plaza. The newest of the super malls in the area, International Plaza offers the best of the best. Nordstrom’s shoe department and its service are legendary. Other highlights include stores such as Betsey Johnson, BCBG, J Crew, Burberry, Tiffany and Co., Neiman Marcus and Louis Vuitton. This is truly a designer’s paradise. After a long day of shopping, head over to Bay Street where you can grab a bite at the Cheesecake Factory or a martini at Bar Louie or Blue Martini.
A favorite mall for locals, this is a few minutes from International Plaza but continues to hold its own. With Saks, Macy’s, Ann Taylor and Old Navy just to name a few, this mall will always be busy. Have dinner at Mitchell’s Fish Market or Maggianno’s Little Italy when you need a break.
This St. Petersburg entertainment center is close to downtown bars and restaurants and the perfect spot for catching a flick and then following up with ice cream. The people-watching in the square is superb thanks to the salsa dancing nights with free lessons and the various bands that perform on weekends. Visitors can enjoy a wide selection of food choices, from grabbing a quick pizza or burger to a having a traditional sit-down Italian dinner.
Tampa International Airport (TIA) is the main airport serving the Tampa Bay area. There are four main terminals, serving a variety of airlines, including domestic carriers Continental, Northwest, American, Jet Blue, Delta, Southwest, United, and US Airways, as well as international carriers Air Canada, British Airways, KLM, and Cayman Airways. The airport is located just 5 miles west of downtown Tampa on the east shore of Tampa Bay. In addition to various rental car options and taxis, there are also bus service as well as airport limousines that can transport passengers to any destination in the Bay Area. The beaches in the western part of the area are only about a 40-minute drive from the airport, the first half of which is spent traversing Tampa Bay over the Howard Franklin Bridge. St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport (PIE) is located 4 miles north of St. Petersburg, this is a smaller airport which only serves a few regional airlines. The largest of these is Allegiant Air, which serves 20 destinations in the eastern and Midwestern U.S. There are no international flights into St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport at the present time.
Tampa's bus service is known as HART, and it services all areas of Hillsborough County. Visitors can buy a 3-day pass to really explore the city, which gives them access to all local buses, as well as the Tecoline Streetcar. Route 30 goes straight from the airport to downtown Tampa.
Various taxicab options are available on both sides of the bay, including: Tampa United Cab Company +1 813 253 2424 A-1 Taxi +1 813 964 8000 Executive Taxi +1 813 229 8294 Payless Taxi +1 813 886 7777 Tampa Bay Cab Company +1 813 251 5555 Yellow Cab +1 813 253 8871 St. Petersburg Florida Taxi +1 727 896 5008 St. Pete Taxi +1 727 327 3600 Yellow Limo +1 727 525 3333 Clearwater Beach Taxi +1 727 797 2230 Checker Cab +1 727 595 7433 Airport Plus Transportation +1 727 535 2222