Tampa is a diverse place like no other. Here, we like to celebrate our heritage and culture in a variety of exciting and delicious ways.
The food we eat, the things we appreciate, and the activities we do as Tampa residents says a lot about who we are and perhaps nowhere else does the magnitude of Tampa’s eclectic and proud culture accumulate than in its downtown district, which is quickly becoming one of the most celebrated and cultural areas in the region.
Yes, ever since revitalization has taken place in recent years, downtown has come to life and whether you are a resident or tourist with just a few days to spend in downtown, there is plenty to do and see; that’s why we’ve compiled this itinerary that will take you around downtown and “around the world” in three days.
Early morning: Work up an appetite with a walk or run along Tampa’s Riverwalk, a gorgeous pathway that runs along the Hillsborough River for over two miles. Start at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park downtown and make your way south toward the Platt Street Bridge.
Take in the sights of the alluring and ornate University of Tampa and enjoy the sounds of this lively city waking up to a new day.
Breakfast: International Cafe
Head back towards Curtis Hixon Park. Once there, journey 0.4 miles (or about 8 minutes) east down Twiggs Street to International Café, which opens at 7 a.m. and features a wide variety of satisfying breakfast options such as delicious omelets, a breakfast platter, croissants, and grits.
International Cafe’s signature dish is “The Champ” omelet which is a three egg omelet with grilled onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and shredded cheese. It comes with your choice of ham, bacon or sausage and is served with a side order of home fried and buttered Cuban toast; best enjoyed with a rich, delicious cup of Cuban coffee.
Late Morning: From International Café, make your way back toward Curtis Hixon Park.
Once there, head south on North Ashley Street toward the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (3 minute walk) at the corner of Ashley and Kennedy.
Spend some time at the museum taking in the current exhibitions which often feature historic and contemporary works by nationally and internationally known photographic artists.
Depending on your timing, you may also be able to take a photography class to enhance your skills. Class times vary, so be sure to check their schedule for more information.
Lunch: SPAIN Restaurant & TOMA Bar Walk 0.1 miles from the museum east on Kennedy and then make a left on North Tampa Street and enter Spain Restaurant and Toma Bar.
Walking into Spain Restaurant and Toma Bar is not unlike walking into a tapas restaurant inside the country itself. This beautiful restaurant features a cuisine-style representative of the northwest region of Spain known as Galicia and is authentic as it gets! Even the owners themselves emigrated to Tampa from Spain, opened the restaurant in 1980, and whip up traditional recipes that have been passed from one generation to another.
Featured items at Spain Restaurant and Toma Bar include Palomilla Steak, Milanese Steak, Boliche, Roast Pork, Picadillo, and of course Spanish staples such as Chicken and Yellow Rice.
Be sure to also order up some homemade sangria and enjoy one of their exquisite desserts. Also remember there are specials depending on the day, so be sure to ask one of the friendly staff what the deal of the day is!
Afternoon/Early Evening: University of Tampa Head south on North Tampa Street to Kennedy, then make a right on Kennedy and cross the bridge toward the University of Tampa, a 0.4 mile (or 10 minute walk) from Spain Restaurant and Toma Bar.
As you head down Kennedy toward the campus, you’ll begin to notice its incredible mystique and beauty.
Walk past the gates and into the main building (open to visitors) to see what once was the Tampa Bay Hotel, built in 1891.
Newspapers of the time described the Tampa Bay Hotel as "brightly illuminated, filled with sumptuous decorations, thrilling music and graced with turrets, domes and minarets towering heavenward and glistening in the sun”; not much has changed in that respect to this day, which is why so many still love this historic attraction today.
The hotel converted to a campus in 1931 but history permeates throughout the campus.
To learn more about the history of the hotel/university - which has hosted such guests as Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, Babe Ruth, and Sarah Bernhardt - check out the Henry B. Plant Museum, located in the university’s main building.
Also while at the campus, take a step back in time and imagine what Tampa was like at the turn of the century.
Can you visualize guests decked out in their suits and elegant dresses in 90 degree weather?
Can you see the bellhops helping guests get in and out of their horse drawn carriages?
Can you visualize Teddy Roosevelt, decked out in his military garb, walking the halls of this hotel with strength and purpose?
Tampa has such a rich history that is hidden in various pockets of the city and here at the University of Tampa, it’s nearly as historic as it gets!
Take it all in ... enjoy the beauty of this campus, and when you’re hungry, head on over to Edison Food + Drink Lab for some incredible cuisine!
Dinner: Edison: Food Drink Lab
Edison Food + Drink Lab is less than 500 feet from the University of Tampa, on the south side of Kennedy Boulevard.
This modern, world-class neighborhood joint provides guests with everyday familiarity and comfort by featuring an inventive menu which bridges the gap between modern cuisine and comfort food.
As a “lab”, Edison is always experimenting with new, eclectic food concoctions and drink mixes and keeping local foodies coming back to see what’s next.
Their current menu features the delicious craftings of Pro’s Pro Chef Jeannie Pierola with highlights that include:
- prosciutto di parma zeppole, rosemary doughnuts, shaved prosciutto, asiago snow, compressed melon spicy jamaican-fried organic chicken
- banana bacon waffle, collard greens, chayote, green tomatoes + chilies, rum curry coconut syrup wood-grilled wagyu culotte steak
- salted caramel bacon potatoes, roasted asparagus, royal trumpets,
- french onion crusted bone marrow, cognac au poivre
Try some of these “experiments” for yourself! Your tastebuds and stomach will thank you.
Late Evening: WXYZ Bar at Aloft
A 0.6 mile walk (about 13 minutes) from Edison Food + Drink lab is Downtown Tampa Aloft’s WXYZ Lounge.
Swanky but smooth, this modern lounge features a relaxed atmosphere, a simple-style bar and an incredible view of the Hillsborough River/Tampa Riverwalk; a great place to catch a late summer sunset or take in the beauty of Downtown Tampa’s architecture.
At WXYZ, there is a choice selection of liquor, wine, or beer and featured menu options as well; a great way to end an event-filled day!
Also, be sure to check out and take advantage of the Aloft's $99 anniversary special for the month of July!
Early morning: Welcome in the day at Tampa’s quaint but beautiful Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park; located immediately south of the Amalie Arena at 601 Old Water St, 33602.
As part of Tampa’s Riverwalk renovations, Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park has recently been given a facelift and now features an updated playground, a water play area and open areas for various types of recreation.
Start your day with a beautiful sunrise from Cotanchobee or just take in the beautiful sights and sounds of the calming waters and beauty of the bay.
Breakfast: Bizou Brasserie
A 16 minute walk or 0.7 miles from Cotanchobee Park is Bizou Brasserie, a French-themed brasserie/bar/café that serves up “a taste of France with the comfort of American favorites.”
Their delectable signature breakfast items include the Croque Madame (sliced ham, cheese, tomato, fried egg, and mornay sauce) and the Toasted Bronx Bagel (smoked salmon, cream cheese, and crispy capers).
Other favorites are the aptly named Breakfast in Paris, which includes a croissant, baguette, butter, jam and fresh seasonal fruit and also the Lifestyle Breakfast, which features fruit, yogurt, toast, and two hard-boiled eggs.
At Bizou Brasserie, you can also choose from a variety of egg-options, design your own omelet or choose from a variety of other breakfast options such as honey and granola parfait, steel-cut Irish oatmeal, or banana brulee oatmeal.
Don’t forget to enjoy a specialty coffee with your meal!
Late Morning: Tampa Museum of Art
The Tampa Museum of Art is just 0.2 miles (5 minute walk) away from Bizou Brasserie and features a variety of world-class traveling exhibitions, contemporary and classical art, educational programs and is known for its outdoor events that take place along Tampa’s Riverwalk.
The 66,000 square foot museum beautifully complements downtown’s Curtis Hixon Park with its unique, shimmering aluminum exterior with LED lighting.
Inside the museum are eight state-of-the-art gallery spaces that feature translucent ceilings, polished stone floors and an array of incredible artwork from all around the world.
For lunch, exit the Tampa Museum of Art and turn right. Once you get to the river, turn right again and head north one mile along the picturesque Riverwalk.
Continue along the Riverwalk until you reach Water Works Park, which hosts Ulele on its north side.
Ulele, located in the uniquely re-imagined 1903 Tampa Heights Water Works building, is a one-of-a-kind restaurant with lunch entrees that celebrate Florida’s native history.
Dishes include the Gouda Grouper (fresh from the Gulf of Mexico), Waterworks Meatloaf, and Grilled Chicken and Corn Salad with Jalapeño-Lime Dressing.
Appetizers and side dishes at Ulele are truly unique to the Tampa Bay Area and beyond with such rarities as Crab and Mac Cheese, Florida Jumpers (crispy fried frog legs), Country Fried Quail, Alligator Hush Puppies and Florida Native Chili, an incredible blend of alligator, wild boar, venison, duck, ground chuck, cranberry beans and chili spices. Yum!
After lunch, step outside Ulele into the neighboring Water Works Park - a $7.4 million project by the city that transformed an old police fuel depot into a beautiful, riverside park.
Water Works Park, which opened in August 2014, features open grassy areas, a dog park, tree-lined sidewalks, a playground, and - the coolest way to cool off - a sizeable “splash pad” area with built-in water cannons and a giant bucket that spills over every two minutes - a kid’s dream come true!
Many special events, concerts, and festivals are also held at Water Works Park throughout the year so be sure to check your calendar for what’s coming up.
Immediately east of Ulele at the corner of North Highland and West Henderson Avenues is one of Tampa’s newest and most fun additions, Coast Bike Share!
The bike share program is set up with numerous hubs throughout downtown and features sky-blue, grease free bikes that glide with ease.
Each bike has adjustable seats suitable for individuals from 4’ 8” to 6’ 7” and include GPS tracking and a basket on the handlebars.
Each rental allows for 60 minutes of riding time at $5 a day.
Historic Bayshore Boulevard
Not sure where to ride?
- Bike the full extent of the Tampa Riverwalk and explore Channelside.
- Ride down the Riverwalk to the Platt Street Bridge; cross it and turn left at Bayshore Boulevard. This historic and gorgeous thoroughfare features a spacious, bike-friendly path that traces along scenic Hillsborough Bay.
- Cross the Platt Street Bridge and take Bayshore Boulevard towards Davis Island. This historic residential archipelago features shops, cafes, and restaurants that create a small town feel less than 2 miles from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
Once you’ve begun to work up an appetite, head back to central downtown, and drop off your bike at the 6655 North Franklin Street hub and prepare to take your taste buds to the islands!
Dinner: Jerk Hut Downtown Cafe
From the Coast Bike Share hub, walk two minutes to Jerk Hut, a cuisine experience unlike any other!
As Jerk Hut explains, a visit to their restaurant “is like a quick trip to the islands.”
Enjoy authentic Jamaican cuisine such as jerk pork, jerk chicken, curried shrimp, chicken and goat, or Indian roti, all served with rice, beans, and fried plantains.
Also try some of their tantalizing appetizers which include shrimp specials, Jamaican meat patties, crab cakes, wings, and conch fritters.
Drink options include a wonderful selection of imported beers and rum drinks from the Caribbean.
Take in the uncanny, laid-back vibe Jerk Hut has to offer with their frequent steel-drum driven live entertainment.
As Jerk Hut encourages, “sit back, relax, and enjoy.”
Late Evening: The Hub Bar
If you’re looking to keep the party going, head over to The Hub Bar, about a 3 minute walk from Jerk Hut.
This alluring dive, which features choice drinks and frequent live entertainment, has been an essential part of Tampa’s history since 1946.
For years The Hub Bar was the choice hangout spot for local judges, bankers, boxing champions and mob bosses. Since then, the clientele has changed, but the quality of high-end service has not.
The Hub is nationally known for having some of the best, freely poured drinks anywhere; the same charisma that went into serving the “who’s whos” of Tampa elite in decades past still exists in both drink-style and service today.
Breakfast: Zudar's Deli
Today, start off with an early breakfast at Zudar’s Deli, just outside of downtown in Hyde Park.
Signature breakfast items at Zudar’s Deli include the exquisite Frittata, a three egg open-faced omelet served with potatoes or grits, scrumptious egg platters with choice of potatoes or grits, and a also a wide variety of delicious quiches, savory egg custards baked in a flaky pie crust with the freshest ingredients and served with a fresh fruit side and potatoes.
Don’t forget to keep in Tampa tradition by having a Cafe con Leche to start your day!
Zudar’s coffee is delicious and will get you pumped up for what’s next … biking on water!
Morning: Tampa Bay Water Bike Company
From Zudars, head east on Platt Street and walk 0.4 miles across the Platt Street Bridge and down the Tampa Riverwalk to Tampa Bay Water Bike Company.
Never heard of water biking? You’re in for quite the experience!
Water Bikes are the ultimate form of human powered watercraft that allow you to cruise at 5 miles per an hour.
“Bike” northward along the Hillsborough River toward downtown’s skyscrapers and the University of Tampa.
Feel the cool breeze as you glide effortlessly in an experience like no other!
Tampa Bay Water Bike Company features bikes safe for all ages. Children as young as six can experience the excitement. It’s nearly impossible to tip, you won’t get wet, and it’s even easier than riding a bike!
Lunch: Jackson's Bistro Bar & Sushi (5 min walk)
From the docks of Tampa Bay Water Bike Company, walk east to South Harbor Island Boulevard, then head south across the bridge. Once you’ve crossed it, turn right and enjoy a delicious lunch at Jackson’s Bistro Bar and Sushi, known for its welcoming and knowledgable staff and incredible cuisine.
Featured dishes at Jackson’s Bistro Bar include:
- Seared Atlantic Salmon, Wild Mushroom Marsala, Chicken Penne Pasta, Shrimp and Chicken
- Maryland Crab Melt, French Dip, Cuban, and Blackened Grouper Sandwiches
- Flatbreads: Clam with garlic, parmesan, and romano cheese; Portobello with rosemary and fontina
- Endless Nigiri and Sashimi Sushi options
Jacksons, renowned for their delicious seafood and incredible service, also features covered outdoor seating that overlooks the beautiful bay and a relaxed atmosphere; perfect for unwinding after an energetic morning!
Afternoon/Early Evening: Harbor Island
Once a port facility, Harbor Island was developed in 1985 into a high-end residential neighborhood that features a bustling waterfront with offices, shops, and restaurants.
Inspired by Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the island’s cozy main strip is a stone’s throw from Jackson’s and features such local favorites as Cafe Dufrain, That's Amore, and Pizza Pazza, all great places to enjoy an afternoon snack or drink.
Walk along Harbor Island’s waterfront walkway, which provides some of the most incredible, front row views of Tampa’s skyline.
Take a rest by sitting on one of the many benches along the path and watch the procession of different dog breeds meandering along with their owners.
After checking out the flavors, sights, and sounds of Harbor Island, amble north along the Riverwalk toward Curtis Hixon Park, then head east on East Twiggs Street for an early dinner at The Anchor Bar (about 1.5 miles).
Dinner: The Anchor Bar (Downtown Location at 514 N. Franklin St.)
While the Anchor Bar has a number of signature barbecue and burger options, a variety of delicious flatbreads, and enticing appetizers such as jalapeno poppers and soft pretzel bites, one of their most popular menu items is their wings.
Order up your choice of mild, sweet BBQ, teriyaki, hoisin honey, original BBQ, cajun dry rub, medium, hot, chipotle BBQ, and garlic parmesan wings and enjoy a cold drink from The Anchor Bar’s replete drink menu that is renown for its quality and selection.
Hang out for a bit and watch the game on one of their many TV screens, enjoy the lively atmosphere, or just relax with friends and family all while enjoying some of the best food and drinks downtown Tampa has to offer.
Later, take a four minute walk over to the Tampa Theatre for a movie experience like no other!
Since 1926, the Tampa Theatre has been enchanting guests with its incredible charm and sense of wonder.
At the theater, guests are welcomed into a romantic Mediterranean setting that is complemented by old world statues, flowers, gargoyles and a painting overhead of a nighttime sky with gleaming stars and floating clouds.
Named one of the “Top 10 Best Movie Theaters in the World” by the Motion Picture Association of America, Tampa Theater is one of the best-preserved examples of grand movie palace architecture and has been a community treasure for decades.
Today, the theater hosts more than 650 events annually, including its Summer Classic Movie Series, BeerFest, and other community-oriented celebrations.
After visiting the charming Tampa Theatre, take a five minute walk over to Fly Bar, one of Tampa’s most vibrant and eclectic bars/restaurants for some late night snacks or signature cocktails.
Fly Bar and Restaurant
Featured menu items include:
- Ceviche mango with watermelon puree and yucca chips.
- Braised Rabbit Tacos with beer washed queso fresco and habanero gastrique.
- Panko Crusted Goat Cheese with charred cherry pomodoro.
- Open Face Ravioli featuring braised beef with fava beans and housemade ricotta.
Signature cocktails are created with unique liquors and all fresh ingredients.
There is also a selection of microbrews, imports and an eclectic wine list that’s hard to find elsewhere!
Great a bite and something to drink and hang out on the roof at Fly Bar, a Tampa experience unlike any other!
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Didn’t think you could do so much all in Downtown Tampa in three days? Imagine what a week would look like!
Yes, whether you’re a visitor or a local looking for stay-cation ideas, there is plenty to do downtown.
Be sure to try it out for yourself and let us know what you think!
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