Ybor City is a must-visit on your trip to Tampa. (Photo: Rafael Tongol)
Tampa, Florida, isn’t just Busch Gardens and the Buccaneers. The city has plenty to offer the discerning traveler — like cigar bars, local eats and historical houses—all you have to know is where to look.
And these hidden neighborhoods of Tampa are the perfect place to start.
1. Seminole Heights
Welcome to the funkiest neighborhood in Tampa.
In this up-and-coming hipster enclave, you’ll find lots of beards and skateboards within its borders. Although it’s mostly residential (you’ve got to see the historic bungalows!), it’s also a great spot for tourists to wet their whistle.
Because, also available in abundance, are locally-loved restaurants and bars — like The Independent, a standby watering hole in a converted gas station. It’s most famous for its reuben sandwich, wide selection of craft beers and laid-back, open-air vibe.
The Refinery, too, is worth a stop; it’s one of the most authentically farm-to-table restaurants in the area. The menu’s constantly changing, depending on what’s in season, but favorites include the skirt steak, roasted chicken and various pork dishes.
2. Ybor City
Although this neighborhood gets a lot of visitors (which gives it a more touristy vibe), it deserves to: In the early 20th century, it was a bustling immigrant hub filled with cigar factories, and is thus chock-full of history and culture.
After taking a walking tour along brick streets to get your bearings, visit The Ybor City Museum, where you can explore a traditional cigar worker’s home and beautiful garden, then puff your way through King Corona, a cigar bar with a wide selection of stogies and delicious coffee.
Finish your time with a meal at Columbia, the oldest restaurant in Florida that’s been serving authentic Cuban food since 1905. Sit down and admire the massive, airy space that’s ornately decorated with mosaics, chandeliers and palm trees. And when you decide to order, you’ve got to try the—what else?—Cuban, a hot sandwich layered with ham, pork loin, salami, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, as well as the restaurant’s black bean soup and homemade sangria.
Stay for the raucous nightlife that unfolds on the strip after dark—at bars like Crowbar, a nightclub and beer garden with live music or DJs, and The Brass Tap, an airy pub with an expansive selection of rotating draft beers. Or, if you’re tired, hop on a historic streetcar and let it whisk you back downtown.
3. Davis Islands
Let’s go upscale, shall we? From downtown Tampa, it’s a 2-mile drive, bike or taxi ride to Davis Islands, which is home to retired Yankees baseball star Derek Jeter (and a wealth of other wealthy people).
Its pedestrian-friendly streets make for a perfect afternoon of meandering.
It has a small selection of restaurants, like OGGI, an Italian favorite that makes its own mozzarella daily, has wine on tap and offers complimentary espresso to all customers; or 220 East, a cozy and kitschy American joint famed for its french onion soup.
Before leaving, don’t miss two of life’s greatest pleasures, ice cream and coffee: the former at Farrell’s, which serves old-fashioned cones in a laid-back environment, and the latter at DI Coffee Bar, a cute spot with plentiful seating and delicious brews.
If you’re up for it after all that eating, take a run along Bayshore Boulevard, a waterfront sidewalk that starts near the bridge to Davis Islands and continues for 4.5 miles all the way to Ballast Point Park, where you can watch people fish, relax at the cafe or simply take in great views of the city.
This article was published through a partnership with Visit the USA, inspiring travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities.