If you’re planning a trip to Tampa, welcome to my home city! When my friends are visiting from out of town, they always ask where to stay in Tampa, so I figured I’d put together a blog post with answers to everyone’s burning question. Funnily enough, I’ve spent all of my time here living in the suburbs. Even though I have a Tampa zip code, it takes me a cool 25 to 30 minutes to get to the cool restaurants and bars. If you want to be near all the action, you should look for Airbnbs and hotels in the neighborhoods I’m going to discuss below.
Downtown St. Pete
Ok, so this isn’t technically in Tampa, but hear me out. If you’re willing to drive an extra 20 minutes or so, you’ll be immersed in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the country. St. Pete is one of those places that makes me forget I’m still in Florida. We love staying at the Vinoy Renaissance or Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, and there are also a million Airbnbs to pick from. A few of my faves, in no particular order: Black Crow, Intermezzo, or Bandit for coffee, La V for incredible banh mi, Oak and Stone for pizza, Sushi Inc for pizza, Sea Salt for seafood, Mandarin Hide for drinks. Walk the St. Pete Pier and stop at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar for a well-deserved cocktail. I’ve also heard amazing things about Mazzaro’s Italian Market but haven’t visited myself yet.
When I was growing up, South Tampa had a reputation for being where rich people hung out. Honestly, that’s kind of still the case — but the vibes are immaculate. I love driving down here for date night, and I’d stay in this part of town in a heartbeat. Stay at the Epicurean and go downstairs to Elevage for dinner — or walk to Bern’s for a high-end dining experience. Go to Bulla for incredible tapas and get a drink at the Luna Lounge upstairs. Check out Cask Social for Southern food, or visit a Ciccio restaurant for a delicious healthy meal (Green Lemon, Daily Eats, Taco Dirty, and so on). Wander around Hyde Park Village and grab a margarita at bartaco.
In my humble opinion, downtown Tampa is less lively than the downtown areas of other major cities. Some nights, the streets are practically deserted. But if you want to stay somewhere central, you can’t beat it, and there are some really gorgeous spots. In no particular order, I recommend staying at the JW Marriott Water Street or Le Méridien Tampa. Wander around Armature Works or the Riverwalk if you’re looking for things to do. Get breakfast at Yolk White & Associates, which is my favorite food truck in down. Go to The Sail Plaza for waterside cocktails. Visit Jerk Hut for incredible Jamaican food.
Ten years ago, Seminole Heights was decidedly uncool. My parents have pastored a church in the area for years, so I’m pretty familiar with the area. These days, a lot of businesses are flocking to the neighborhood. We go to church in Seminole Heights, and I’m obsessed with the charm. This is decidedly not the area of town if you’re a chain hotel person — instead, I recommend renting a cozy cottage or apartment and living like a local for a few days. There are too many amazing spots to count, so here are a few of my favorite places: Trip’s Diner for breakfast, Gangchu for Korean, The C House for new American (one of my fave spots in town), Ichicoro Ramen for ramen. Revolution Ice Cream and The Chocolate Pi for dessert, King of the Coop for hot chicken, Ebisu for sushi, Mandarin Heights for cocktails. I could go on, but I’ll stop while I’m ahead!
Ybor City sometimes gets a bad rap. Yes, it gets rowdy on the weekends, but it’s also home to a few of my favorite restaurants and bars. If you want an authentic Tampa experience, this is the neighborhood to hang out in. A few of my favorite recs: Hotel Haya for lodging, Copper Shaker for drinks, Flor Fina, Casa Santo Stefano, or 7th + Grove for dinner. Hit up Blind Tiger for coffee, and visit Chill Bros for the best ice cream in town.