Monday, May 22

Quick Trip to Tampa

Itinerary for a 2-day weekend in Tampa


If you're looking for a quick weekend getaway, Tampa is an awesome place to explore, get a little sand in your toes, and taste some of that authentic Cuban flavor. I recently flew down to Tampa for a quick trip, and really loved this laid back but totally filling itinerary.



Friday

I landed in Tampa during mid afternoon and rented a car for the weekend. To find a good deal on a rental car, I use kayak.com to search and sort for the best options for my trip. Instead of going to the hotel to check in, I decided to drive around Tampa to get a lay of the land. I drove downtown by the convention center and found this fun area by the water called The Sail Pavilion. There were tons of people there for happy hour sipping on fruity cocktails, playing life-size Jenga and corn hole as well as people sitting on the dock and paddle boarding.

Photo credit: Facebook
Tip: Parking is limited by the Pavilion. There is a parking garage by the Convention center and a parking deck by the hotel across the bridge. You can pay to park at either of those locations and it's a short walk to the Sail Pavilion.

After having a cocktail and soaking up a few rays, I went down to Ybor City which was just about a 5-minute drive from 'downtown Tampa'. It's definitely got a Cuban flare. It's really seeing an up-and-coming vibe with lots of bars, restaurants and clubs at night. Don't venture too far off the main drag though, it can get a bit dodgy.


Ybor City Streets

I parked on the street and just walked around the streets absorbing it in. You can definitely tell there is a college presence in the town, very geared towards partying and drinking but nonetheless, there are still some cool spots to stop and snap a picture of some photo murals and random roosters running around.

I decided to come back to Ybor City for dinner but wanted to go check into my hotel and change. For dinner I'd suggest to head to the famous Columbia restaurant for some classic Cuban flavors and entertainment.
Columbia Restaurant
Gaspar's Grotto
 Or if you're looking for something a little more casual with live music, check out Gaspar's Grotto. You'll find your typical bar food with a Cuban flare- definitely sit outside for some chill vibes and sounds. 


Saturday

One of my favorite spots for brunch in Tampa is the Oxford Exchange. It's absolutely charming inside and the food is fabulous. I had the lavendar earl gray lemonade last time and it was like springtime in a drink. Get there early though, as they are quite popular and get full quickly. 

Photo credit: Google
After brunch you can spend time shopping around the Oxford Exchange and stock up on unique and ecclectic items such as books, jewelry, kitchen towels, candles and local-made goods. 




After a little shopping and bumming around, it'd be a perfect time to go back towards the Sail Pavilion and rent a paddle board, a 2-passenger boat, or hitch a ride on the water taxi for a view of Tampa by the water. 

Once you've worked off your breakfast-- it's time to eat again! If you want an authentic and local Cuban sandwhich, look no further than Brocato's. Whenever we come to Tampa, we have to stop here. It's truly a whole-in-the-wall-nothing kind of place but there is always a ridiculously long line. Order inside and then grab a bunch of napkins and a picnic table under the shaded shed and enjoy. 


After lunch take the short drive to Clearwater Beach and soak up some sandy rays. Clearwater is an adorable ocean town. Be patient getting onto the island because there is always traffic. Grab a public parking spot, your towel, a water bottle and sun screen and park your rear in the sand. 



After hanging at the beach in the afternoon, head back to your hotel to change and for dinner head to Whiskey Joe's. It's a tiki-inspired restaurant with an awesome view. You can have dinner inside or on the outside deck and then after dinner head down to the sandy tiki pit for a spot by the firepit on the water. It's the perfect way to end an evening! 



Sunday 

Grab a coffee and some fresh fruit and head out to the Manatee Viewing Center in the morning.
Physical address: 6990 Dicman Rd. Apollo Beach, FL 33572
It's literally right next to a power plant, so it may seem like you're driving into a place you're not supposed to be...but you'll be ok! Depending on the time of the year you may or may not see the manatee's in action but it's still a pretty view and hey, it's free (donations welcomed). There is a nice little walking path around the area to spot nature and learn more about the Florida ecosystem that is worth a leisurely stroll!





Finally before your flight in the afternoon, go to the Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple and food market. It's one of the coolest things I've stumbled across while visiting Tampa over the years. It's a Thai temple but on Sunday there is also a Thai food market right on the river. Tons of Thai vendors are there with traditional food, drinks and crafts for you to enjoy. Bring cash! 



Enjoy your time in the Tampa area! Let me know if you have hit up any of these spots.