Browse the shelves and have a bite at the Oxford Exchange Bookstore. (Photo: Rafael Tongol)
Stunning beaches and crazy fun theme parks aren’t the only reason people flock to Tampa, Florida. These days, there’s a growing food and arts scene to go with that year round sunshine.
To ensure you crush your next trip to The Big Guava, here are the must-sees, must-dos and, of course, must-eats in Tampa.
What to See in Tampa
If you want to sit and relax for an entire afternoon, the gorgeous Oxford Exchange bookstore, restaurant and cafe is one of the most charming spots in the city to do so.
Its large and airy space is filled with natural light — as well as Tampa locals looking for their next book or bite.
After perusing the shelves, sample some brunch-time favorites from the restaurant, such as the fried brussels sprouts, spicy sweet potato fries and eggs Benedict, composed of a griddled biscuit, house-made chicken sausage, poached egg, black pepper caraway crème and micro greens.
Touristy, yes — but also worth it.
Take a guided walking tour with Ybor Historic Walking Tours along brick streets, and learn all about this neighborhood’s fascinating history of cigar factories and immigration.
Today, it’s home to some of Tampa’s rowdiest nightlife. Try Gaspar’s Grotto, a pub that pays homage to the city’s pirate-filled history, or The Honey Pot, an LGBTQ-hotspot that’s got the best dance floor around. If you appreciate a good cigar, don’t leave without stopping for a smoke at one of the area’s many cigar bars.
A perfect way to spend an evening is by catching a show at Tampa Theatre, the bay’s most storied theatre, which has a diverse roster of performances and movies. Recent offerings have run the gamut from “Magic Men Live” (yup, just like Magic Mike) to Loving, the film about the landmark Supreme Court case, to Amos Lee.
This historic theatre is also hauntingly beautiful at night… Rightfully so, since they also offer ghost tours.
What to Eat in Tampa
Bern’s Steak House
In the late evening, take a sunset stroll along Bayshore Boulevard, admiring the water on one side and the area’s historic homes on the other. Then head to one of Tampa’s most iconic restaurants: Bern’s Steak House.
And the only thing more famous than its steak might be its wine: It boasts the largest wine cellar in the world.
Insider tip? Eat dinner elsewhere, then make a special trip to the restaurant’s “Henry Waugh Dessert Room.” You’ll enjoy intimate wood-paneled booths , a retro jukebox and the famed macadamia nut sundae. In other words, the Bern’s experience — without the price tag.
Just north of downtown Tampa, tucked into the banks of the Hillsborough River and right along the Riverwalk, you’ll find Ulele. This trendy restaurant is super popular with locals, mostly due to its on-site brewery serving a tasty selection of fresh-brewed lagers and ales that you won’t find elsewhere in the city. The restaurant equally melds modern, high-end decor with a convival atmosphere. Its unique menu celebrates Native American culture and cuisine with items like alligator hush puppies, okra fries and charbroiled oysters.
If you’re ready for your cheat day, then Datz is ready for you.
Specializing in comfort food with a twist, its menu has everything from tempura reuben rolls to a cheeseburger with mac n’ cheese “buns.”
Don’t know what that means? Guess you’ll just have to find out for yourself.
What to Do in Tampa
Paddle Through the Bay
Tampa’s in love with stand-up paddleboarding. And with year-round warm weather, it’s the perfect place to try it — without being afraid of falling in.
Try WhatSUP Paddle Sports, which is one of the only outfitters on the Tampa side of the bridge.
Stroll Through Hyde Park Village
When the locals want to get fancy, they head straight to Hyde Park.
This open-air shopping district is home to high-end stores (equal parts U.S. mall staples and local gems) and restaurants — but even if you’re just window shopping, it’s great for a wander.
Oh, and if you needed more convincing: There’s a cupcake ATM from Sprinkles Cupcake.
This article was published through a partnership with Visit the USA, inspiring travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities.