Discover the heart of Florida’s Gulf coast, now just a short flight from SAV.
By Addy Codispoti
Known as the heart of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tampa is home to blue skies, year-round sunshine and a gorgeous waterfront. The diverse range of activities and the close proximity to top-rated beaches make Tampa an ideal vacation destination. Now, Cigar City is even more accessible to Lowcountry locals. On April 1, Silver Airways launched a direct flight from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport to Tampa. From the rich and unique cuisine to five-star hotels, Tampa has something for everyone. Here are some of the best spots in the city.
Duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Airline: Silver Airways
Availability: Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday
What to do
This is the best way to explore Tampa’s downtown and visit some of Tampa’s best attractions along the way. Walk, bike or ride a Segway down the 2.4-mile path and explore the Florida Aquarium, Port Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay History Center. Start at the south end and take a look at the Riverwall, a collage of more than 550 photographs by artist Bruce Marsh. Take a break from exploring with a relaxing drink and snack at the Sail Pavilion, Tampa Bay’s only 360-degree, open-air waterfront bar.
Hyde Park Village
Looking for a fun place to take an afternoon stroll? This charming open-air shopping center houses local shops, restaurants, indie brands and the best names in fashion and fitness. Take a break from shopping and do some people watching at staple eateries such as Buddy Brew Coffee, Bartaco, or Forbici. The center offers free parking in designated garages, and all of the outdoor spaces and patios are pet-friendly, so feel free to bring your furry friends along for the fun.
Put on your adventure cap and get ready to explore. Hop in a canoe and paddle down the Hillsborough River through 16,000 acres of wilderness park in a unique Florida experience. Tours ranging from two hours to a full day are where you’ll see birds, turtles and alligators in their natural habitat. With all the different types of wildlife, you’ll see something different every time.
Where to eat
Did you know Tampa is the birthplace of the Cuban sandwich? This eatery, located in the Ybor City Historic District, is the oldest restaurant in Florida, established in 1905 and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. Owned by a 5th-generation Spanish Cuban family and widely known for its legendary Cuban sandwich, this unique Tampa spot is a must on your visit. Enjoy a wide variety of Columbia favorites, but be sure to make a reservation because even though this place seats 1,700, it fills up quickly.
This 21+ bar and lounge is Tampa’s premier rooftop destination atop historic Armature Works in the Heights. Take in panoramic views of the waterfront and downtown Tampa in this deco-inspired oasis. The cocktail menu features tropical libations such as Mai Tais, daiquiris and sangria. The food menu includes handheld favorites such as sliders, eggrolls, tacos, flatbreads and more. Have yourself a celebration with a refreshing glass of rose sangria and the best views in Tampa.
Pronounced you-lay-lee, this restaurant is one of the many on Tampa’s Riverwalk and one of the best in Tampa. The Native American-inspired dishes are prepared on a round 10-inch barbacoa grill. Ulele sources its fruits, vegetables, seafood, and other proteins from Florida’s farms and waters. Sit outside and enjoy waterfront views all year round. Once you’ve finished your lunch or dinner, order some drinks to go, and take a stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk.
Where to stay
Le Meridien Tampa
Marriott transformed this century-old Historic Federal Courthouse into a unique Tampa hotel experience. The hotel is located in the heart of downtown Tampa and features marble hallways and original oak doors from when the building was built in 1905. Even the concierge desk is a repurposed judge’s desk. The hotel is home to Bizou Brasserie, a restaurant offering New American cuisine with French inspiration. Explore a bit of Tampa history and receive impeccable hospitality at this one-of-a-kind hotel.
Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay
If you’re looking for a resort-style hotel, escape to the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. The 35 waterfront acres are designed to help you relax and recharge on your vacation or business trip. Watch birds along the boardwalk, spot manatees on the dock, and walk or bike along the scenic 9.5-mile trail. You also can rent kayaks, wave runners and paddleboards through the hotel. The rooms feature luxury accommodations and spectacular views of Tampa Bay.
Ybor City, which was once the cigar capital of the world, offers a rich and diverse culture. Hotel Haya embodies that culture and is described as “Old Ybor City charm meets modern flair.” Several of the rooms have balconies so guests can look over the vibrant activities on 7th Avenue. Take a break from your busy day with a drink at the Haya Pool Bar and enjoy delicious Latin cuisine at Flor Fina, the hotel’s restaurant.