Welcome to Tampa from the 2019 Forum Community Committee! We’ve compiled some tips from local DLF-ers to help Forum attendees.
Florida weather is unpredictable, and Tampa is no exception. But you can plan on warm weather as a constant: average highs in October range from the mid to upper 80s and lows range from the mid to upper 70s. Be sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and your favorite water bottle! You can’t count out afternoon thunderstorms this time of year, so stay mindful of the forecast before heading outside.
To compensate for the heat, indoor spaces tend to blast the AC, so bring your favorite light layers to be prepared for anything.
Downtown Tampa is relatively walkable, if you can handle the heat. There are some options for public transportation, provided by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART). For access to Downtown Tampa, Channelside, and Ybor City, try the TECO Streetcar. Generally, a car is going to be your best bet for getting around.
Uber and Lyft work to and from Tampa International Airport, and will take you around the Tampa Bay area.
Duckweed Urban Grocery – Small upscale grocery store featuring a cafe with vegan options.
Oxford Exchange – Come here to enjoy a delicious lunch/brunch (reservations recommended), to people-watch with a drink from Buddy Brew or TeBella Tea Company, to browse for a new book, to sample some Aesop goods, or to try on some Warby Parker frames. Something for everyone here, though it can get spendy.
Columbia Restaurant – Enjoy upscale Cuban food in a lushly decorated setting with live flamenco dancing on certain nights! Expect a wait/reservations recommended.
The Bricks – Casual space in Ybor City for food and drinks. Excellent sandwiches, coffee, and cocktails after hours.
The Bunker – Great lattes and even better pastries in a funky setting.
Queen of Sheba – Really good Ethiopian food in a low-key space. Fun to go with a group to share multiple dishes!
Caffeine Roasters – Local roaster with two locations in downtown Tampa. The Kennedy Boulevard location serves light lunch options. The Cass Street location is about a mile from the Forum hotel, and close to the Waterfront Arts District.
Armature Works – Located on the Hillsborough River is the newest thing in Tampa: an eclectic mix of food markets, bars and restaurants inside an old industrial warehouse. A 10-minute drive from downtown Tampa, it is worth the visit for a bite or a drink.
Sparkman Wharf – In the Channelside Bay Plaza, just east of the large indoor ‘Amalie Arena’, next door to the Marriott Waterside hotel (which hosts our event), within walking distance. It has a few freight containers converted into sort of food trucks. Great ambiance and lots of fun food to choose from. On the river.
Tampa Bay microbreweries – For those who like good beer, Tampa Bay has emerged as one of the nation’s top destinations for craft beer in recent years. Just click and check out the Map! If you can drive or get a rideshare, the small coastal town of Dunedin (about 45 minutes away) alone packs 8 or 9 of them, all within walking/crawling distance from one another.
Coppertail Brewing – Great beer, great food, great tours. Worth the drive, especially if you’re already in or near Ybor City.
Garagiste Meadery – Small, brightly lit space serving creative mead flavors.
Cigar City Brewing Company – One of the biggest local breweries in the area.
Tampa Theatre – Need a break from the heat? Try to catch a show at the Tampa Theatre. This historic theatre has an eclectic mix of showings, from indie films to classic movies to live shows. Check their website for their current and future films and events.
Jose Marti Park – This site is an interesting example of Tampa’s relationship with Cuba. While you probably won’t be able to get inside the park (it’s almost always locked), it’s still worth a visit, especially when paired with a trip to the Ybor City Museum.
Tampa Bay Water Bike Company – For a unique way to stretch your legs, try water-biking along the Hillsborough River, or (for the brave) into Hillsborough Bay.
Lettuce Lake Park – Get out of the city and into the swamp at Lettuce Lake Park. About a 30-minute drive from downtown Tampa, Lettuce Lake is a beautiful example of wild Florida. Explore the park from wooded trails, a 1.25-mile paved loop, a boardwalk, or even the water (via rentable kayaks and canoes).
Haslam’s Bookstore – Probably the largest used & new bookstore in Florida. Located in St. Petersburg (a 45-minute drive West from downtown Tampa), where you would frequently see a local Jack Kerouac way back when…
Tampa Museum of Art – Small but mighty! Home to several permanent collections as well as interesting rotating exhibitions (check out the current list here: https://tampamuseum.org/current-exhibitions/). Pro tip: check out the view of the Hillsborough River from the second-floor balcony.
Ybor City Museum – A great way to dig deep to a fascinating part of Tampa history. They occasionally offer guided tours.
Glazer Children’s Museum – A children’s museum that encourages its visitors to “play with purpose.”
Henry B. Plant Museum – This Victorian railroad baron’s mansion turned museum is actually part of the University of Tampa. Come stroll the grounds and admire the curios.
American Victory Ship and Museum – A maritime museum that is also one of four operational WWII ships in the country.
The Florida Aquarium – Fish and sealife in a spectacular setting.
The Clearwarter Marine Aquarium – Home of Winter, the dolphin star of the ‘Dolphin Tale’ movies, which were filmed in the Clearwater Beach area.
At the other side of the Bay, in downtown St. Petersburg (a 45-minute drive west from downtown Tampa), you have the spectacular ‘Dali Museum’, the Chihuly Collection and others.
Pinellas County, on the Gulf Coast section of the Tampa Bay Area (a 45-minute drive from downtown Tampa), is a long peninsula that separates the actual bay from the Gulf of Mexico, or actually from the ‘intracoastal waterway’, a beautiful waterway protected by a string of narrow keys parallel to the coast.
Year after year, some of Pinellas County beaches are chosen as the 10 best in the whole USA, like Caladesi Island State Park (Dunedin), Clearwater Beach and Fort DeSoto State Park (St. Petersburg). If you have a chance, do not miss the fabulous sunsets from the beach at Honeymoon Island State Park (Dunedin), or from any Gulf beach facing West. Entry fee for all Florida State Parks is $8 per vehicle.
Historic Ybor City – A stone’s throw away from downtown Tampa, with very lively evening/night scene: live music, bars, restaurants, shops, galleries, etc.
Self-Guided Walking Tour of Ybor City: take yourself on a walking tour of Ybor City! It’s more than chickens and cigar bars. Visit Tampa Bay has a great selection of must-see historical sights:https://www.visittampabay.com/a-guide-through-historic-ybor-city/.
The Tampa Riverwalk trail – Follows the last couple of miles of the Hillsborough river, as it flows into Tampa Bay. The downtown Tampa section (between Curtis Hixon Park and the Marriott Waterside hotel, our conference host) is the nicest and safest.
Historic Hyde Park neighborhood – Worth visiting if you are fond of unique local architecture and good taste. It lies between W. Kennedy Blvd. and Bayshore Drive, just south of the University of Tampa (worth visiting too, even if only to see the main building and the gardens by the Hillsborough River).
Downtown St. Petersburg – A 45-minute drive west from downtown Tampa, with a very active nightlife too, especially around Central Avenue and Bayshore Drive (on the Bay): museums, bars, restaurants, art galleries, etc.
Clearwater Beach – A 45-minute drive west from downtown Tampa, a top tourist beach destination in Florida. A lot to do and see at any time of the day.
Dunedin – A small town on the Gulf (a 45-minute drive west from downtown Tampa), with a lovely historic downtown area and the marina and pier by the intracoastal waterway within walking distance.
Malls and shopping centers are very similar to everywhere else, but if interested, ‘International Plaza’ Mall (next to the TPA airport) is probably the nicest in the whole Tampa Bay area.
If you have time and you are a thrill seeker, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (next door to the University of South Florida main campus) has probably one of the largest and most exciting collection of roller-coasters in the country. Really.
Lowry Park Zoo – On the East side of Tampa. It’s worth the visit, if you have time.
If you’re still looking for more to do, check out Downtown Tampa’s local events calendar!