How to discover Tampa, one of Florida’s hottest destinations for 2023

It’s not all about plush hotels and big money developments. New rooftop bars, food halls and cultural exhibitions are giving this coastal city in Florida a fresh, welcoming facelift.

The Tampa Museum of Art in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, at the heart of downtown Tampa.

Photograph by Visit Tampa
By David Whitley
Published 7 Apr 2023, 10:00 BST

Dotted with lakes, rippled through by rivers and sitting beside western Florida’s greatest bay, Tampa’s initial appeal comes from its setting. Yet, it doesn’t take long before more strings to its bow begin to emerge; this is a coastal city that defies easy pigeonholing, with strong Latin American heritage, a buzzing food scene and unashamedly big visitor attractions. More to the point, it’s evolving rapidly, with a host of new and upcoming openings to show for it — and thanks to new direct fights from the UK, it’s now all easier to explore. 

Where to go 

Tracing the Hillsborough River, Tampa’s Riverwalk reels off many of the city’s greatest hits. A series of cultural venues fight for attention along its 2.6-mile strip, including the Tampa Museum of Art, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2020. Momentum continued in 2021 as the institution announced a £56m renovation and expansion that, when completed in 2024, will add a four-storey structure to the waterfront. In the meantime, visitors can enjoy the museum’s busy calendar of exhibitions; on now, among others, are a collection of vintage photographs of Italy and a survey of artist Salmon Toor’s work. The Tampa Museum of Art and six more riverfront attractions, including the Tampa Bay History Center and Henry B. Plant Museum, can be visited at a discounted price with the Riverwalk Attraction Pass, launched in January 2022.

Left: Top:

Cuban cigar rollers in Ybor City.

Right: Bottom:

The historic TECO Streetcar running by the Jose Marti park in Ybor City.

photographs by Keir Magoulas, Visit Tampa

What to do 

Tampa Bay is a destination with a strong Cuban heritage, and nowhere is this more evident than in Ybor City. This neighbourhood is where the former town became a city in 1887, as a large influx of Latin American migrants arrived to work in its cigar factories. Learn more about this history at JC Newman: established in 1895 as the US’s first family-owned cigar company, it has unveiled a new three-floor museum inside El Reloj — the last of Tampa’s 150 original cigar factories. Highlights include guided factory tours and new cigar hand-rolling classes under the guidance of a master cigarmaker. Afterwards, visit Ybor City's new Roast on 7th deli and onsite Madame Fortune Taylor’s Speakeasy for some classic Southern comfort food. 

Where to sleep

With over 2,500 new rooms, Tampa Bay’s hotel scene has boomed over the past two years. Architect Ian Schrager’s signature bright, white minimalism brings distinct style to the Tampa EDITION, which opened in October 2022 to become the city’s first five-star hotel. The figurehead of the new multi-million-dollar Water Street Tampa development, it’s deliberately presented as a place to hang out, with seven different on-site food and drink venues. The hip neighbourhood is also home to ROOST Tampa, downtown’s first and only apartment hotel. Open since July 2022, it’s ideal for digital nomads, with weekly housekeeping and co-working spaces. The two hotels join a series of new dual-branded properties in Tampa — same company, same building, shared facilities, different pitches. A 2021 opening, the Hyatt Place/Hyatt House is a stylish case in point: pick Place for Latin-inspired design, while the more spacious House is a good option for longer stays. 

Where to eat

Florida was included in the Michelin Guide for the first time in 2022. Tampa made its presence felt in the Bib Gourmand section, aimed at less formal restaurants with distinctive cooking, becoming the fifth US destination to feature in the prestigious culinary guide. Entrants include Seminole Heights neighbourhood farm-to-table specialist Rooster and the Till and nearby Ichicoro Ramen, which pairs hearty dishes with a serious sake collection. Elsewhere, Sicilian favourite Casa Santo Stefano in Ybor City has a new rooftop bar, while at the new Water Street Tampa development, sushi specialist Noble Rice revels in its eight course omakase menu.

Armature Works, a food hall on the Riverwalk, celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2023.

Armature Works, a food hall on the Riverwalk, celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2023. 

Photograph by Keir Magoulas, Visit Tampa

We like

There are highly enjoyable food halls at either end of the Riverwalk. Try the shipping container-based Sparkman Wharf at the southern end or Armature Works, further north. The latter is celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2023, with various enhancements and new offerings to celebrate the occasion, including a new mural and art installations.

Plan your trip 

As of 2022, Virgin Atlantic operates flights from Heathrow to Tampa, joining British Airways in offering a direct service to the destination. Once there, try the heritage TECO Line Streetcar between downtown Tampa, Channelside and Ybor City.  

For more information, visit 

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