Tampa Bay as a Tourist (From a Local)

Local Laziness Problems

Have you noticed how complacency can so easily creep in when you live somewhere? Your desire for exploration and adventure can wane dramatically as you become comfortable with where you live. While I sit and daydream about international adventure, I neglect to step outside and explore my own backyard that is the Tampa Bay area.

Last week my sister was visiting, so I got to see Tampa Bay as a tourist. It was amazing how many places I had wanted to go to but had never gotten around to until now.

Exploring the City of Tampa Bay

Downtown Tampa

Of course if you are coming to Tampa, you will want to visit downtown. Unlike the cities of the Northeast, Tampa is spread out with lots of greenspaces and is easily walkable. Since it is the Sunshine State, take time to just get lost in the city. The arts area is the best place to explore. There are lots of iconic Tampa buildings (Straz Center, Children’s Museum, Sykes building, etc.) as well as my favorite greenspace, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. If you go on the weekend, there is a good chance that there will be some event going on in the park. You can also walk the streets and find lots of cafes, bars, and restaurants. Eddie & Sam’s N.Y. Pizza (they have gelato too!) is a Tampa favorite. Fair warning, it is closed on Mondays. We grabbed a smoothie at a cafe and continued walking.

The Riverwalk

Walking the Tampa Riverwalk
Photo by Jaimie Bailey

If you come to Tampa, the Riverwalk is a must. You can choose to walk, run, bike, even take your dog along with you. The Riverwalk is a scenic path along the water from the Florida Aquarium in Channelside to Armature Works. You can walk the length of it or just pick a section. Stop by the Sail Pavilion for a drink by the water. Along the way, there are monuments, benches, swings, plaques, and more. Just keep walking and find out what is next. You can use Tampa’s bike share or hop a water taxi from one end to another. But that is just the beginning…

Armature Works

Lunch at Armature Works Tampa
Photo by Jaimie Bailey

Armature Works is an upscale food court featuring various local food vendors. They have everything from sushi to ice cream. We grabbed lunch there one day and sat outside to enjoy the view.  I grabbed tacos and my sister had a pizza. You can also get a drink from the bar. On the weekends, they sometimes have a market with vendors selling handmade crafts in the other rooms.

Oxford Exchange

Oxford Exchange Downtown Tampa
Photo by Jaimie Bailey

The Oxford Exchange is a neat older building that turns into a great workspace or study place during the week. The bibliophile that I am, my favorite part of the Oxford Exchange is the little bookstore with its antique-looking books. There is also another small shop area with cute knick-knacks. I recommend stopping by and grabbing a coffee or eating in the restaurant.

 

 

University of TampaUT Spartans Plant Museum

I never went to the University of Tampa, but if you are walking around town it’s worth a stop. It is across the street from the Oxford Exchange. There are some unique looking buildings like the Plant Museum. We peeped inside but decided to just walk around outside instead toward the water. We then crossed the bridge to go toward Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the Riverwalk.

Ybor City

Visiting Ybor City
Photo by Jaimie Bailey

Ybor City is famous in Tampa for its Cuban influence. It is the home of the original Cuban sandwich and has Cuban cigar shops lining the streets. Grab some food at the famous Colombia Restaurant or stop by one of the bars for a happy hour. If you are near Centennial Park, you will likely hear roosters, and you may even be lucky enough to see them wandering the streets. Late at night Ybor City turns into a party scene. You will see lots of drunk people stumbling from one club or bar to the next. Be careful; the area isn’t the safest late at night.

 

 

Soho

Soho features a strip of bars and restaurants with various forms of happy hours and drink specials. Start the night by grabbing dinner at one of the many restaurants like Green Lemon (order a margarona to pregame) or Daily Eats (breakfast all day). Then hit the streets on a Friday or Saturday night and have your own personal bar crawl. If you go on a less popular night, it won’t be quite as crowded, but some of the bars may have events or drink specials. MacDinton’s is big with the college students for their all-you-can-drink $10 happy hour from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday nights. Yard of Ale has giant Connect 4 and giant Jenga. The Dubliner usually has live music outside.

 

Hyde Park

Hyde Park in a nice area in Tampa for shopping and restaurants. Hyde Park Village in particular is a cute outdoor shopping area. A lot of the area is very dog friendly featuring stores with water bowls outside or restaurants with dog-friendly outdoor seating. Take a scenic walk along Bayshore Boulevard to see the water.

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