Category Archives: Activities

What’s New in Tampa

Tampa Bay, including St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach, has a combined population of 3 million people. A diverse economy, a warm temperate climate and a lower than national average cost of living have made Tampa the third most populous city in Florida.

Where to Stay

The only Four-Diamond hotel in downtown Tampa, Le Méridien has transformed a 100-year-old US. Federal courthouse into a 130 room boutique hotel.

Le Meridien, Tampa photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Impossibly high ceilings, wide hallways with polished terrazzo floors remain intact from its previous incarnation as a courthouse.

Bizou Brasserie photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Open for all-day dining, on site bistro Bizou Brasserie was a former courtroom. Le Meridien is a member of the prestigious Historic Hotels of America.

Fun things to do 

Get a day pass and explore Tampa Bay from the water on the bright yellow pirate water taxis. Board downtown and ferry up the Hillsborough River to Tampa Heights.

Walk or bike the Riverwalk which runs along the Hillsborough River and Garrison Channel for 2.4 miles.

University of Tampa photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Look across the Hillsborough River to the west bank – the silver minarets and ornate Victorian gingerbread adorn entrepreneur Henry Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, opened in 1891, now occupied by the University of Tampa.

Tampa Museum of Art photo credit: John Cameron

If you’re staying at Le Méridien, a guest day pass to the nearby Tampa Museum of Art is complimentary. The museum balances its permanent antiquities collection with a  strong commitment to showing contemporary art.

Amalie Arena photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Hockey fans are passionate about watching their home team The  Lightning trounce visitors at downtown Amalie Arena.  Amalie Arena is also used for music concerts and basketball.

TPC Tampa Bay photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Golf where the pros do at the Bobby Weed designed 18-hole TPC Tampa Bay course, a 25 minute drive from Tampa. An annual stop on the PGA Champions Tour for 21 consecutive years, Golf Digest gave this course a 4 ½ star rating.  The course winds through natural wetlands, ponds and lagoons and a variety of tee boxes allows golfers of all levels the opportunity to score well.  After your round, grab a bite or a drink on the patio at iCUATRO Restaurant & Bar and watch golfers play into the 18th green.

Where to Eat 

Armature Works

Armature Works photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Tampa’s newest and most exciting spot for casual dining is Armature Works, a renovated trolley barn in Tampa Heights. Think multi-ethnic, tapas style, with the freshest ingredients and great prices. Try the creative cocktails at Fine & Dandy, the best lobster roll ever at Surf & Turf and the Cuban soul food at Hemingway’s.

Pizza Margherita photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Popular Italian restaurant Ava also serves its famous wood-fired pies in trendy Armature Works. Ava chef Joshua Hernandez wows with the classic Neopolitan pizza -the Margherita.



The Columbia

Professional and attentive service are usually a good thing but at The Columbia in historic Ybor City, I feel like a tourist cog in a well oiled money-making machine. Customers pour through the doors in busloads for dinner and a Flamenco floor show.

Oxford Exchange

Oxford Exchange, Tampa photo credit: John Cameron

A classic bistro with century old brickwork, diffused light from the glass roof and a contemporary menu make The Oxford Exchange a perfect, relaxed breakfast/brunch/lunch spot. After dining,  shop for curated lifestyle home furnishings,  the latest books and eye glasses.


Ulele Tampa photo credit: John Cameron

The owners of the Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant, created this popular restaurant in Tampa Heights and named  it for the Native American princess, Ulele. Ulele’s creative Native Indian inspired menu showcases fresh-caught fish from the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Start with the fantastic Barbacoa-grilled oysters, with garlic butter, grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses and wash them down with a flight of great craft brews from Ulele’s on-site brewery.

LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort Naples

LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, located on the beautiful Naples beachfront on the Gulf of Mexico, has just completed an extensive eight million dollar renovation. Kudos to the interior design team of waldrop+nichols studio. The re-imagined La Playa lobby, guest rooms, and in-house restaurant Baleen, have a fresh, contemporary beach vibe.

LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort Lobby photo credit: John Cameron

Guests have great views of the sugar-white sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico from their private balcony in each guest room. New features include four-poster beds with beach themed luxury textiles and large backlit vanity mirrors in the guest bathrooms. While you luxuriate in your jetted circular bathtub, open the shuttered window for a view of the Gulf of Mexico.

Interior Baleen photo credit: LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort

Popular with both guests and locals, in-house signature restaurant Baleen has a creative chef-driven menu using locally sourced ingredients. Enjoyed a perfectly cooked pan seared salmon with succotash and puffed rice and the delicious braised short rib. On warm Florida evenings, dine alfresco with your toes in the sand and watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. Wine Spectator awarded Baleen the 2017 Award of Excellence.

LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort pools photo credit: John Cameron

Try beach-combing along miles of beautiful white powder sand, just steps away from the hotel and after enjoy a craft cocktail from the full service Tiki Bar next to one of LaPlaya’s three outdoor pools with cabanas.

Hole 12 LaPlaya Golf Course photo credit: John Cameron

LaPlaya guests who want to play a round of golf have access to the private LaPlaya Golf Club, a Bob Cupp designed 6,900, par 72 18-hole championship course, just 10 minutes away.  Before starting his own company Cupp worked for Jack Nicklaus Design and it shows. The first hole at LaPlaya features a sweeping right to left dogleg with a water hazard on the left, one of Jack Nicklaus’  signature holes.  All 18 greens were completely replaced in 2015 with Tif-Eagle and roll smooth and true.

In 2017, Condé Nast’s Reader’s Choice Awards named LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort #16 Top Resort in Florida. (highest-ranked resort in Naples)