Heading to Tampa and looking for the best things to do? I recently spent a few days in downtown Tampa, Florida with my husband for a conference, and we were delighted with our time in this revitalized Florida city! I have compiled a list of the best things to do in downtown Tampa Bay for you based on our research and experience.
Since my blog focuses on pairing books with lifestyle, some of my recommendations are geared towards book lovers — and downtown Tampa Bay truly did have some great spots for book lovers!
Tampa is the third-largest city in Florida, on the West coast of Florida on Tampa Bay, near the Gulf of Mexico. Downtown Tampa, Florida, has the feel of a larger city with the bustling business but the benefits of a mid-sized city, as it is very clean and getting around is easy. There was a lot of construction underway, and there were newer hot spots, both of which gave the impression that it’s a city on an upswing economically. It’s a great place to spend a few days, especially if you are there on business!
Where to Stay in Downtown Tampa Bay
We stayed at the Tampa Marriott Water Street, which has a waterfront view. It was clean and had a nice pool area and an outdoor restaurant along the Riverwalk, Anchor & Brine, which was very delicious. There’s also a Starbucks right inside the hotel, which was convenient, and it was a great location in terms of walkability.
How to Get Around Downtown Tampa, Florida
There’s a Riverwalk along the bay that is very clean and feels safe to traverse on foot, scooter or bike, and it provides easy access to many hot spots in Tampa.
I also commuted via Uber a few times and found the drivers to be great and very friendly.
What to Do in Downtown Tampa Bay
Below are things to do in downtown Tampa Bay that I did and would recommend.
Read a book at the Oxford Exchange
The Oxford Exchange is a book lover’s paradise. It’s not just a bookstore, but also a coffee shop, tea shop, restaurant, gift shop, eyewear store and co-working space. It was absolutely gorgeous, and the shops were so perfectly curated.
I spent so much time enjoying this spot. It was very busy with people meeting on business when I was there and, although I only ate a croissant with a coffee, my Uber driver told me it had the best food in Tampa. I recommend this spot as a must-do! It’s perfect for a literary bucket list!
Exercise along the Riverwalk and the University of Tampa Campus
As I mentioned, the Riverwalk is a great way to get around Tampa, but it is also a great place to exercise. There were always many runners, bikers and rollerblade skaters exercising along this scenic pathway.
It also provided easy access to exercise around the University of Tampa’s campus, which was absolutely gorgeous with its majestic Spanish-style buildings.
Visit Ybor City
If you’re looking for even more unique Tampa Bay things to do, Ybor City is a small cultural neighborhood in Tampa that has the feel of New Orleans mixed with Key West. It’s fun for a drink, a cigar or window shopping at some unique Cuban places.
While in Ybor City, we ate at the famed Columbia Restaurant, which has been owned and operated by five generations for over one hundred and ten years. Its detailed Cuban style was both eye-catching and charming, and the food was delicious!
I especially loved their award-winning Original “1905” signature salad. if you are heading out for a sit-down lunch or dinner in Tampa, the Columbia Restaurant is a must-do!
Eat at Bern’s Steakhouse
We also ate dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse, which was likewise a classic downtown Tampa thing to do. It’s a unique experience that starts when you enter a restaurant feeling like it was from a different time and ends with sweets in the “dessert room.”
It’s a James Beard award winner with one of the largest wine collections in the world, which you can tour. If you are looking for a nicer dinner in Tampa, Bern’s should top your list.
See the Murals of Tampa
Downtown Tampa Bay is filled with great murals around town, and it’s fun to search them out and stumble upon them!
Shop at Hyde Park Village
Hyde Park Village is a nice shopping center with a mix of major retailers and smaller retailers, as well as upscale fast food and restaurant options. I grabbed a coffee at Buddy Brew and perused some books and window shopped for a morning there.
Other Things to Do in Downtown Tampa Bay
If you’re still unsure what to do in downtown Tampa, below are a few spots that were on my list from my research and talking with locals, but I didn’t actually visit them. If you do, let me know how they were for next time!
Ulele is a native-inspired restaurant and brewery, using food from Florida as they are available, just as the ancestors did.
The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is right downtown and would make for a good rainy day activity or a family event.
Armature Works is a restored mixed-use building that has been reinvented with innovative eateries, Heights Public Market, event spaces and a co-working space.
Those are the best things to do in downtown Tampa Bay for a short stay for business or pleasure. Pin this post to Pinterest to refer back to when you need to know what to do in downtown Tampa.