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