Our recent attendance at the 2018 Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism was inspiring, to say the very least. Based on the information we gathered at the event, we have selected a few highlighted locations to spotlight on a virtual “tour” of Florida. These articles will be released in a series – each featuring a different location. For more information on the destinations we’re featuring, please click here. For now, please enjoy our previous features on Amelia Island, Bradenton/Gulf Islands, HistoricCoast, and Treasure Coast. Please note – information contained in this feature is not based on firsthand experience, but from promotional materials put out by representatives of the featured location at the 2018 Governor’s Conference.
– HIGHLIGHTS FROM ORLANDO’S NEIGHBOR TO THE WEST –
Tampa Bay is experiencing a hotel boom. Two luxury properties — the five-star, 173-room Tampa EDITION (opening in 2021) and 4-star, 519-room JW Marriott Hotel & Resort (opening in 2020) – are on track for downtown. In 2019, a co-branded Home2Suites and Hampton Inn will grace the Channel District, a few minutes from Port Tampa Bay’s cruise terminals. In trendy West Shore, the Current, a new Marriott Autograph hotel, adds to the area’s waterfront luxury. New in 2018, AC Hotel by Marriott opened in the heart of the West Shore District, and the Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas offers waterfront boutique features minutes from the airport.
New in 2018, food halls bring a dynamic vibe to historic Tampa Heights. Sample mouth-watering fare at Hall on Franklin or at Heights Public Market located inside the fully restored Armature Works, both iconic buildings reborn as stylish, modern venues. In Seminole Heights, Chef Farrell Alvarez brings his exciting culinary vision to new in 2018 Nebraska Mini-Mart, a funky hangout with great food and shuffleboard. Waterfront dining grows with new in 2018 seafood-focused Blue Harbour. Our favorite eateries imbue their menus with local flavor are La Segunda Central Bakery, Oxford Exchange, and the Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant.
In Florida’s hub for craft brewing, great drinks are part of life like sunshine and hand-rolled cigars. Find your favorite at nationally known Cigar City Brewing Co., Coppertail, or Angry Chair. Or let Brew Bus do the driving on a beer-tasting tour across the region. New in 2018, Rock Brothers Brewing blends beer and music at its Ybor City site.
Discover Tampa Bay’s cocktail culture by sampling iconic spots like the all-new CW’s Gin Joint and Ciro’s Speakeasy (be sure to call ahead for the password). New in 2018, the spirit of the Emerald Isle lives at Four Green Fields, an authentic Irish pub in the middle of Cuban-infused Tampa Bay. Mingle with the locals in the intimate confines of Ybor City’s Cigar City Cider & Mead where the menu of smallbatch specialties changes regularly.
Indulge your sweet tooth with new in 2018 spots specializing in delicacies. Ybor City, land of hand-rolled cigars, now has Snobachi hand-rolled ice cream. New in 2018, Dough Nation blends raw cookie dough into ice cream to benefit local charity. For true decadence, reserve a table at Bern’s Steak House’s opulent Harry Waugh Dessert Room, a landmark of fine dining for 60 years. Order the macadamia nut ice cream!
For an after-dinner espresso, try local coffeehouses such as new in 2018 Foundation Coffee or Kôfē at the Hall on Franklin. They’ll also be ready for you in the morning.
Discover Tampa Bay’s link to piracy and the high seas at the Tampa Bay History Center’s new in 2018 permanent exhibit highlighting the lives and times of privateers, conquistadors, and treasure seekers in Florida. Explore a replica pirate ship and learn about life below decks in the 18th Century. The museum’s new in 2018 cartographic center will be the first of its kind in the Southeast U.S.
Dress the part of a scurvy scalawag each January, when legendary pirate José Gaspar sails into Tampa Bay with cannons blazing. Join Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla for the country’s third-largest parade down scenic Bayshore Boulevard. The invasion kicks off Gasparilla Season: 8 weeks of parades, festivals, and sports events.
Day or night, the 2.4-mile (4km) Tampa Riverwalk is the perfect, pedestrian-friendly way to move among downtown’s popular hotels, restaurants, museums, and festival parks.
New in 2018 a complete redesign of Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park provides boaters, kayakers, and paddleboarders with new access to the sparkling Hillsborough River and the treasures that line the Riverwalk.
New in 2018, the dramatic Tampa Museum of Art hosts Florida’s first exhibition of famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s “Love Is Calling” Infinity Room Sept. 28 through Feb. 13, 2019.
Where the river meets the bay, downtown abounds in ways to get out on the water. New in 2018, rent a ride from Urban Kai Stand Up Paddleboards at Armature Works and explore the waterfront in a whole new way.
Pirate Water Taxi stops at downtown’s popular spots on its daily runs up and down the Hillsborough River.
See the city from a new angle when you rent a water bike, biyak or e-boat for a self-guided and selfpropelled trip on the sparkling waterfront.
Canoe Escape will guide you among ancient cypress forests filled with wildlife minutes from the city.
Make a splash on “Roaring Springs” at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, for less than half the cost of a regular ticket when you pick up CityPASS. The booklet gets you into some of Tampa Bay’s most popular family-friendly attractions.
Along with ZooTampa’s animal adventures, you can race like a savannah cat on Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, or the new 4-D theater and splash pad at The Florida Aquarium.
Tampa Bay CityPASS offers a 51% saving compared to buying all the tickets at full price.
New in 2018, the Unlock Tampa Bay Visitors Center puts hundreds of uniquely Tampa Bay items at your fingertips in the heart of downtown.
Luxury brands abound at open-air Hyde Park Village, newly expanded for 2018 in fashionable Hyde Park. At International Plaza, Bay Street’s collection of restaurants is the perfect spot for a break while shopping at more than 200 high-end stores.
Looking for something crafty or unique? A multitude of weekend markets make Tampa Bay a shopping centerpiece.
The charm of Old Havana lies within easy reach of Port Tampa Bay aboard Royal Caribbean or Carnival ships. Before you leave, visit Cuban soil here in Tampa Bay with a stop at historic Ybor City’s José Martí Park, owned by the Cuban people in honor of the Apostle of Freedom.
Port Tampa Bay hosts four cruise lines: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Holland America. They make Tampa Bay the ideal point of departure for the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Cuba.
Add a day to your stay to enjoy the destination “Porthole” magazine named its Best Kept Secret.
– ACCOLADES – FOOD & DRINK
No. 4 (best), Best & Worst Foodie Cities – wallethub.com
Bern’s Steak House, “Top 10 Steakhouses in the United States” – GAYOT
Bern’s Steak House, Top Five Steakhouses in America – Yahoo! Finance
The Independent, “America’s Best Bars for Beer Lovers” – USA Today Travel
No. 2 “Best Beer Town” – 10Best Reader’s Choice Award –USA Today
Top 20 Cities for Beer‐Centric Travel – USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice ‐ 2014
TAMPA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
No. 1 (best large airport) Best and Worst TSA Checkpoints in the U.S. – Condé Nast Traveler
No. 2, 2016 Travelers’ Choice, Favorites for U.S. Airports – Trip Advisor
“Top 5 Airports in the United States” – Travel & Leisure
No. 6 “Favorite Airport in the World” – CNNGo
No. 9 in U.S. in on‐time arrivals – U.S. Department of Transportation
SUNSHINE SKYWAY BRIDGE
No. 3 “Top 10 World’s Best Bridges” – Travel Channel
“Top 10 Great Places to Cross the Water” – USA Today
Gasparilla, “Top 20 Community Celebrations in the Southeastern U.S.” – Southeast Tourism Commission
Tampa Theatre, No. 3, Ten Best Movie Theaters in the World – The Credits, MPAA
Tampa Theatre, 10 Most Beautiful Cinemas in the World – BBC Cinema
Ybor City, “Ten Best Places to Spot a Ghost in Florida” – onlyinyourstate.com
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, Top 25 Amusement Parks in the World in 2015 – Trip Advisor
Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, 8 Amusement Parks that Do Halloween Right – msn.com
Lowry Park Zoo, “No. 1 Zoo in America for Kids” – Parent’s Magazine
Florida Aquarium, “Top‐10 Aquariums in North America” – Coastal Living Magazine
No. 4 Most Pet‐friendly City for Travelers in America – Priceline.com
Sail Pavilion, No. 1 “Best Dog‐friendly Bar or Restaurant” 10Best Readers’ Choice – USA Today
2016’s Most Fun Cities in America – wallethub.com
SPORTS & OUTDOORS
“Best Sports Cities in North America” – Sporting News Magazine • No. 2 in “Beach Getaway” – Travel + Leisure America’s Favorite Cities
No. 5 “Best outdoor city” – Forbes • No. 6 in “Best Cities for an Active Lifestyle” ‐ ‐ WalletHub.com • No. 4 “Top 20 Cities for Golf” – Golf Digest
No. 7 out of the top 10 spring break destinations – Orbitz
HOME, BUSINESS, TOURISM
25 Cities Where Pay Goes Furthest – glassdoor.com
No. 13, Fastest‐Growing U.S. Cities (2016) ‐‐ Forbes
“Top Spots in the Country for Business” – Forbes Magazine
“10 Great Cities in the U.S. to Start a Business” – Kiplinger
Best big city in the Southeast to live – Money
Most Hospitable City – Airbnb
No. 3, “Top 10 Value Destinations” that offer the most “Vacation‐on‐the‐Dollar” – Hotwire
“America’s Quirkiest Cities” – Travel + Leisure America’s Favorite Cities