(Mirror) There’s no better place to cure the wintertime blues than in Florida. Making a visit to the state’s Bay Area on the Gulf Coast is just what you need for a change of pace, without a change in climate.
Here we give our top 5 favorite reasons to visit the city of Tampa for a weekend getaway—it’s a short distance for a road trip, or even a quick flight if you don’t want the temptation of loading up on snacks from 711.
First on the list is one of the city’s most unique places, the Tampa Riverwalk. This 2.4-mile walk lines the Hillsborough River with museums, restaurants and sites to see. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to capture the beautiful views. Festivals and events take place here year round, like the notorious Gasparilla Pirate and Margarita Festivals.
Just a peek at what’s along the walk: the Florida Aquarium, Tampa History Museum, Tampa Museum of Art, Glazer Children’s Museum and Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. (Riverwalk is considered a “wet zone” with 10 locations that are permitted to sell adult beverages in specially designed cups to be enjoyed along the route!)Stephanie Fred, Public Relations for Visit Tampa Bay, shared her favorite activity at the Riverwalk. “Taking an e-boat from the Tampa Convention Center Basin and boating up the Hillsborough River along The Tampa Riverwalk. This allows you to watch the people enjoying the Riverwalk while taking in all of the sites of the beautiful Tampa waterfront.”
The 137-room gem sits in Tampa’s trendy Hyde Park district of South Tampa, locally known as SoHo. The boutique property is in close proximity to the waterfront, surrounded by restaurants and the buzz of the city’s nightlife. The atmosphere at the hotel is carefully put together, creating unique flavors just for the hotel and a decidedly particular focus on wine, food, art and culture. As part of the Autograph Collection of Marriott International, guests here can expect complimentary wireless Internet, flat-screen HDTVs, heavenly rain showerheads and locally crafted reclaimed wooden doors.
Each room has a personal artisan pantry stocked with premium liquors, local craft beer, Perrier, a selection of San Pellegrino and five, half-bottle varietals with suggested pairings likeprosciutto, chocolateor sea salt caramels. The hotel’s restaurantÉlevage is helmed by James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Best Chef: South semi-finalistChef Chad Johnson, and features a menu with a mix of Southern hospitality and French techniques. For a unique hangout filled with local art, lounge in the hotel’s cozy, casual neighborhood Lobby Bar and check out the lovely view at the rooftop bar Edge. An even bigger draw for foodie travelers is the hotel’s reputed neighbor across the street, Bern’s Steak House.
Osteria Bar + Kitchen
Located right in the heart of downtown, this Tampa delight is described as “a rustic and refined approach, and Italian in spirit.” As a collaborative creation by “Top Chef’s” Fabio Viviani and local Nocturnal Group, patrons can look forward to exquisite homemade dishes, an extensive wine list and handcrafted cocktails. A few menu staples are the 12 oz. Kobe Meatball, Rigatoni in a Jar and semi-boneless roasted chicken. The restaurant recently debuted a new full lunch and weekend brunch menu, with delicious options like mustard crusted salmon; coccoli platter with puffed crispy dough, smoked prosciutto, stracchino cheese, truffled honey and herb oil; and burrata caprese panini with sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic glaze, basil and arugula.
A highlight on the Tampa Riverwalk is the Florida Aquarium. Besides giving guests a chance to get a close up look at Florida’s (and the world’s) aquatic and terrestrial life, the aquarium also works to protect and conserve wildlife habitats. The Florida Aquarium spearheads research and rescue efforts focused onFlorida’s sea turtles, coral populations and sharks. A favorite activity of guests to the Aquarium include a special shark swim—a snorkel-like experience swimming in one of the aquarium’s tanks with more than 1,000 fish, including stingrays, barracudas, a sea turtle, and of course, sand tiger sharks! The swim is appropriate for anyone over the age of 9 and no scuba certification is required. (The aquarium does offer a certification-required shark dive as well.)
Hall on Franklin
Another exciting must-stop on your trip to Tampa is a visit to the city’s full-service collective eatery. It’s Tampa’s first food hall and the first full-service one in the country. Housed in an 8,000-square-foot Tampa Heights building from 1922, which has had previous turns as both a Plymouth car dealership and a gay club, the open concept of this friendly neighborhood joint offers up several restaurant options, along with coffee and liquor bars all in a shared space. So whether you’re craving a delectable spicy ahi tuna poke bowl, Mexican street food, pizza, pasta or good ol’ Southern fried chicken, you have your choice.
And no, it’s not weird to order a dish from each if you want a little bit of everything! Hall on Franklin serves brunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a long happy hour from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and it turns into a lounge-like atmosphere with a live DJ on Fridays and Saturday evenings until 2 a.m.