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Best Things to Do in Tampa, Florida

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Heading to Tampa and looking for the best things to do? I have now visited Tampa, Florida twice with my husband for conferences, and we were delighted with the time we spent in this revitalized Florida city! I have compiled a list of the best things to do in Tampa Bay for you based on our research and experience.

And since my blog focuses on pairing books with lifestyle, some of my recommendations are geared toward book lovers — and Tampa 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. Tampa, Florida, has the feel of a larger city with bustling business, but the benefits of a mid-sized city, as it is very clean and getting around is easy.

The first time we visited in 2019, there was a lot of construction underway, and when we returned in 2022, so much had changed, with popular sporting attractions, new restaurants, and more people seeking shelter from the colder areas of the country. It’s a great place to spend a few days, especially if you are there on business!

Where to Stay in Tampa

Tampa Bay Marriott Aperol Spritz

During our first visit, 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.

Anchor & Brine Tampa Bay rose and book

During our second stay in Tampa, we stayed across the street at the new J.W. Marriott, which is connected to the Water Street Marriott by an enclosed walkway, so you can easily enjoy the amenities of both, regardless of which one you stay at.

The J.W. Marriott is very similar but definitely newer and nicer in general. The pool area is more luxurious as well.

Honestly, both were great overall, as well as a very short walking distance to many attractions, including the Amalie Arena, the Aquarium, and more.

How to Get Around 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 Bay.

There is also a trolley and a water taxi that make it super easy to get around.

I also commuted via Uber a few times and found the drivers to be great and very friendly.

What to Do in Tampa

Below are things to do in Tampa that I did and would recommend.

Read a book at the Oxford Exchange

@theliterarylifestyle The Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida is peak bookstore aesthetic. #bookstore #bookstores #bookstorevlog #booktok #bookstorehacks #oxfordexchange #oxfordexchangetampa ♬ La Vie En Rose – Emily Watts

The Oxford Exchange is a book lover’s paradise. It’s not just a bookstore, but also a coffee shop, tea shop, champagne bar, restaurant, gift shop, eyewear store, event space, and co-working space. It was absolutely gorgeous, and the shops were so perfectly curated.

I spent so much time enjoying this spot both times I visited Tampa. 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 Bay. 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

University of Tampa Florida

As I mentioned, the Riverwalk is a great way to get around Tampa Bay, but it is also a great place to exercise. There were always many runners, bikers, and 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

Viva Ybor mural

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.

Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

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. I’ve now visited three times for the salad, and several others in our group went back to have it again too. If you are heading out for a sit-down lunch or dinner in Tampa, the Columbia Restaurant is a must-do!

Eat at Great Restaurants

We also ate dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse, which was likewise a classic 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 Bay, Bern’s should top your list.

We also ate dinner at the newer restaurant The Battery, which is located in Sparkman Wharf in downtown Tampa — a really cool multi-purpose space to eat, drink, hang out, and shop. The Battery is known for fancy cocktails and food cooked from scratch, and it was absolutely fantastic — one of my favorite dining experiences anywhere.

See the Murals of Tampa

Mural of woman
Tampa Bay Mural

Tampa is filled with great murals around town, and it’s fun to search them out and stumble upon them!

Shop at Hyde Park Village

Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa
Hyde Park Village shop

Hyde Park Village is a nice shopping center in the Tampa Bay area 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 Tampa

If you’re still unsure what to do in 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!

The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium is right downtown and would make for a good rainy day activity or a family event in Tampa Bay.

Armature Works

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 Tampa for a short stay for business or pleasure.

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Wednesday 20th of November 2019

We always go to the Florida Aquarium, since my kids were little! I will definitely check out the book store / coffee house next time we're there!

Julianne Buonocore

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

I didn't make it there since the weather was so nice. The bookstore is absolutely amazing -- I hope you make it there!


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