Not everybody appreciates Tampa’s hip aspect, and even notices it. They may use the town as a base for close by Busch Gardens, or as a spot to remain whereas exploring Orlando’s theme parks, round an hour away.

Not that the locals thoughts. As a result of, although Tampa ticks just about all of the containers for a cool metropolis break – walkable neighbourhoods, engrossing museums, a dynamic meals scene, and tucked-away bars – it’s all geared in direction of those that reside and work there, moderately than attempting to draw vacationers.

Which is what makes it so charming. It’s like a mini, extra manageable Miami, proper right down to the Cuban heritage.

Be a part of Unbiased Minds
For unique articles, occasions and an advertising-free learn for simply
a month
Begin your free trial

Get the perfect of The Unbiased
With an Unbiased Minds subscription for simply
a month
Begin your free trial

Get the perfect of The Unbiased
With out the advertisements – for simply
a month
Begin your free trial

Norwegian launched direct flights from London Gatwick to Tampa in October 2018, opening up the town for a brief break, as the start line for a street journey down the Gulf Coast, or – for those who like – as a base for exploring these aforementioned theme parks.

What to do in Tampa

Discover the Riverwalk

There’s water all over the place in Tampa. The downtown space and surrounding neighbourhoods sprawl out from the Hillsborough River, whereas a community of canals ultimately trickle into Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Tampa Riverwalk makes the many of the metropolis’s proximity to water (Getty Photos/iStockphoto)

The Riverwalk, a 2.5-mile (and increasing) raised walkway connecting downtown museums and parks, makes the many of the waterfront location. It’s a hub for reside music occasions and festivals. On a “regular” day, you would possibly see canine walkers, impromptu band rehearsals and penny farthing pedallers. Look out for telltale splashes, too – dolphins typically play within the water. 

Uncover a Cuban authentic

Miami has Little Havana; Tampa has Ybor Metropolis, reached through a 20-minute streetcar trip from downtown. The district, based by Cuban, Spanish and Italian cigar magnates in 1885, seems sepia tinted. It’s all putty-coloured buildings, authentic 3D signage and fading frescoes. 

You’ll be able to nonetheless watch cigars being hand-rolled at spots like Tabanero and La Faraona. Staff have tip jars at their stations, so count on to place in a couple of {dollars} for the demonstration.

Tampanians declare the Cuban sandwich, made with meat, meat, cheese, mustard, and extra meat (normally ham, salami and pork), was invented right here, although Miami makes the identical declare. Strive it at La Segunda Bakery, the place they’ve been elevating the sandwiches’ crisp but fluffy Cuban bread since 1915.

Pay a go to to Ybor Metropolis (Getty Photos)

Be taken for a trip

In case you get pleasure from a superb scream and belly-flip, head 15 minutes out of city to Busch Gardens. It’s really fairly cool, as theme parks go. You’ll be able to take a “safari” across the African wildlife protect (with the prospect to hand-feed giraffes), or wander previous meerkats and tigers between rides. It tends to be a little bit quieter than Orlando’s parks, so you may spend much less time queuing and extra time yelling (and searching dodgy in trip photographs). Tickets from $80 (£62).

Get an artwork repair

The Tampa Museum of Artwork’s constructing is a hanging characteristic in itself, with a mesh exterior that shimmers within the daylight and, on the south facade, illuminates with multi-coloured LED lights at night time. Entrance to see collections together with uncommon antiquities and fashionable artwork is $15 (£11.75).

Occupying two flooring of the distinctive “Dice” constructing, the Florida Museum of Photograpic Arts must be far busier. However you would possibly discover it’s simply you wandering round exhibitions on absorbing matters like retro street journeys. Tickets $10 (£7.80).

The place to remain

A number of huge resorts perch by the water, together with Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk. Rooms are easy and cozy, however the perfect bit is the pool space with bar, the place you may swim (and sip) with views throughout the river. Doubles from £120, room solely.

Aloft Tampa Downtown is a millennial-friendly hang-out (Aloft Tampa Downtown)

Subsequent door, Aloft Tampa Downtown exudes a high-tech, millennial vibe. The beds are like marshmallows, and the foyer bar is a cool spot for a nightcap. Doubles from £110, room solely.

Stepping up the luxurious a little bit, Le Méridien Tampa has a serene, palm-fringed pool, elegant bedrooms and an onsite brasserie within the metropolis’s grand outdated courthouse. Downtown’s artwork galleries, eating places and bars are all simply walkable. Doubles from £160, room solely.

The place to eat

Columbia Restaurant, in Ybor Metropolis, opened in 1905 as a sandwich store. Now it looms massive over a whole block, with three eating rooms and greater than 1,700 seats. It fills most of them, particularly across the stage the place flamenco reveals are held every night time. The primarily Spanish menu consists of Cuban sandwiches and paella.

Take a brief water taxi-ride from downtown to Ulele, which serves Native American-inspired dishes together with jalapeno corn muffins and “native chilli”, with alligator, venison and wild boar. It even has an onsite brewery. This vacation spot restaurant, which opened in 2014, has since sparked different developments, together with Armature Works, a couple of minutes’ stroll away. Good for a extra informal chunk, this shiny, open area has craft beer, cocktails, sushi and glorious Cuban meals.

Locals declare the Cuban sandwich was invented in Tampa (Getty Photos/iStockphoto)

Anise International Gastrobar is an actual success story, and testomony to Tampanians’ love of fine meals. It gained reputation as a truck promoting “pungent bunz”, fluffy, sticky, white buns stuffed with mushy pork stomach, crispy rooster or courgette. They’re nonetheless on the menu on the cosy downtown restaurant, together with ramen, burgers and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. If there’s an overarching theme, it’s “all the good things”.

The place to drink

Tampa has considered one of Florida’s finest craft beer scenes, and Armature Works is a superb place to pattern a couple of sours and porters. 

Cigar Metropolis Brewing’s tasting room, in northwest Tampa, pours saisons, IPAs and ingenious infusions like coriander and orange peel.

Downtown has Hidden Springs Ale Works, identified for ales brewed in bourbon barrels, whereas Tampa Bay Brewing Firm has a well-liked Ybor Metropolis pub.

Armature Works is a part of Tampa’s swinging craft beer scene (Armature Works)

It’s also possible to drink whereas strolling alongside the Riverwalk, supplied the alcohol was bought at considered one of a string of permitted bars alongside the stretch (they’ll give you an official “go cup”). On Fourth Fridays, when many museums provide free entry, it’s also possible to drink (permitted drinks) on the water taxis.

Tucked on a quiet avenue parallel to the Riverwalk, don’t let Lodge Bar’s unprepossessing location (or title) put you off. That is the lodge bar of goals, albeit not in a lodge. A spot to perch whereas the bartenders repair you one thing stiff and dangerously sippable; the outdated fashioneds, manhattans and martinis are all impeccable, or ask for one thing off-menu and tailor-made to your tastes.

The place to buy

Whereas selecting up your maps at Unlock Tampa Bay Customer Heart, pop into the present store. From retro slogan Ts to jewelry handcrafted from Ybor Metropolis bricks, that is approach higher than the everyday tacky souvenirs. 

Decide up first editions at Oxford Trade (Oxford Trade)

It’s an identical story at Oxford Trade, a grand constructing the place eating places, bars and cafes share open area. The cool retailer has all of the first-edition books, canine collages and fluffy sheep toys you by no means knew you needed.

The most effective vacation spot procuring is in Hyde Park Village, an open-air shopping center in an space identified for 1920s Arts and Crafts bungalows. Native boutiques embody Salt Pines and Downtown Canine (for the four-legged trend lover).

Architectural spotlight

Dominating the west financial institution of the river, the College of Tampa is a beguiling meld of kinds, with Moorish influences and silver minarets. It was initially the opulent Tampa Bay Lodge, opened by transport pioneer Henry B. Plant on the terminus of his railway line. The onsite museum, free entry, reveals extra in regards to the constructing’s historical past.

College of Tampa has moorish influences (Getty Photos/iStockphoto)

Nuts and bolts

What foreign money do I would like?

US {dollars} (USD).

What language do they converse?

English. Spanish is broadly spoken in Ybor Metropolis.

Ought to I tip? 

Tipping is customary within the US, with 18-20 per cent normal in eating places and $1 (80p) a drink in bars. For tour guides, $5-10 (round £4-8) is predicted.

What’s the time distinction?

5 hours behind the UK.

What’s the common flight time from the UK?

Round 10 hours.

Public transport

The TECO Historic Streetcar runs between Downtown Tampa and Ybor Metropolis, and has been free to trip since late 2018.

Greatest view

The recessed, riverfront terrace on the Tampa Museum of Artwork is likely one of the finest spots to gaze over the water.

Insider tip?

Mid-January to March is Gasparilla season, a collection of fiestas, arts occasions and parades beloved by locals. The climax is the flowery Parade of Pirates on 19 January, held since 1904 in honour of legendary pirate José Gaspar (often known as Gasparilla).