Tips to Visit Tampa, Florida and Feel Like a Local

A long weekend trip to Tampa, Florida is an unforgettable experience and can be the much-needed vacation for your well-being

Before you start planning your weekend in the sunshine state, check out these tips to feel like a local on a long weekend in Tampa, Florida. There are benefits to traveling solo, so don’t wait for someone to join you before you can explore this exciting city. 

Tampa is a mostly casual city, so pack casual clothes and comfortable walking shoes. If you are visiting in the spring, summer, or fall, it may be warm and/or humid so pack appropriately. 

If you are visiting during the winter months, the temperatures can vary so bring clothing that can be easily layered. You might need at least one dressier outfit for evening activities, like dinner at Bern’s or a visit to the Tampa theater.

Throw an umbrella in your suitcase, especially for the rainy season (June through October). Don’t forget the sunscreen and sunglasses! 

Tampa Florida Travel
Tampa Neighborhoods and Areas

First, you need an understanding and an explanation of the main Tampa areas and neighborhoods. 

  • Downtown is the main hub of Tampa. There are many great restaurants, hotels, bars, and event venues. Downtown is clean, safe, and has a great riverwalk to see the sights. 
  • Channelside is where Amalie Arena is located but also includes many cute neighborhood bars, restaurants, and shops. 
  • Ybor City is one of the most historical areas of Tampa. If you want to sound like a real Tampanian, make sure you pronounce Ybor correctly. It’s pronounced E-Boar, not Y-Boar. Ybor comes alive at night and has a lot of history and is a great place to visit any time of day. 
  • West Tampa is the Cuban-influenced neighborhood of Tampa. This is the place to try authentic Cuban cuisine from one of many local family-owned restaurants. 
  • South Tampa has beautiful homes, especially those located along and near Bayshore Boulevard. There are many restaurants, shops, and activities in South Tampa. 
  • Tampa Heights is a growing area of Tampa thanks to new developments along the river like Armature Works. 
  • Seminole Heights is near Tampa Heights and downtown and has a lot of restaurants, bars, and fun places to visit. 
  • Hyde Park is near downtown with a cute shopping area called Hyde Park Village. 
  • Soho is short for South Howard, a street full of restaurants, bars, and stores located in South Tampa just south of Kennedy Blvd on South Howard. 
  • Rocky Point is near the Tampa International Airport and has some restaurants and bars with views of Tampa Bay. There is also a beachy area and a pedestrian trail for bike riding, walking, jogging, or rollerblading. 

What to do in Tampa

Friday Agenda

Grab a light breakfast at your hotel or from a local cafe because you will want to start making memories with lunch today. Cubans are the Tampa sandwich and a must-try while you are visiting the city. 

There’s an argument about who has the best Cuban, but one delicious and inexpensive Cuban option is at the West Tampa sandwich shop. They are only open until 3 pm during the week, so lunch is your best bet here. 

Visit the Plant Museum on the campus of the University of Tampa to get your history lesson on Tampa. Walk around Plant Hall and check out the rooms and grand structures in this amazing building. 

If you enjoy seeing the beautiful sights of university campuses, take a stroll around the University of Tampa after the museum. 

Hit up Soho for happy hour. Many Tampa restaurants and bars are open-air or have outdoor patios for drinks or appetizers. Local favorites include Green Lemon, Daily Eats, Cask, or Bulla.

If you like rooftop patios and the weather is agreeable, try Luna Lounge at Bulla or Edge at the Epicurean Hotel. 

If Friday ends up being a late night and you find yourself in need of a nosh, try out Bella’s late-night happy hour (midnight to close).

Coolest Things to do in Tampa

Saturday Agenda

Grab brunch at one of the many local restaurants like Ciccio Water, American Social, Rusty Pelican, Datz, or Daily Eats. If you like mimosas, enjoy one of the bottomless mimosa offerings. 

The Rusty Pelican, located at Rocky Point, has a nice brunch with great views of the water. Datz has a great unique menu and is very popular among Tampanians. 

American Social, located on Harbour Island near downtown, has more of a party atmosphere.

Take the trolley from downtown Tampa or Channelside to Ybor City. Try the mead, ciders, or beers at the Cigar City Brewery in Ybor City. Walk around and check out the roosters.

One of the oldest restaurants in Tampa is the Columbia restaurant, located in Ybor City. If you need a late lunch or early dinner, this is a great stop. 

End at Armature Works in Tampa Heights or a show at the Tampa Theatre downtown. 

If you are in need of dinner, try the yummy food options at Ulele (reservations are a must on the weekend). Ulele also has its own beer options, so if you like to try local beers, give one of those a shot. 

Sunday Agenda

Hit Bayshore Boulevard for a walk or jog with great views of Tampa Bay. Bayshore has one of the longest continuous sidewalks at 4.5 miles. 

Another option is to try out one of the local parks with great views of the Hillsborough River, like Julian B. Lane or the riverwalk at Curtis Hixon. 

A must-do for a Tampa visit is a trip to Wat Mongkolratanaram (Wat Tampa), which is a Thai Buddist Temple. They offer traditional Thai food in a beautiful and serene setting. 

It is open from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm on Sundays, but you will want to get there early because they do run out of food closer to the noon hour. It is located in the Palm River area, just a short drive from downtown. 

For a beautiful Tampa sunset, try Ulele in Tampa Heights, Salt Shake on the Bay in South Tampa, The Sail pavilion downtown, or Whiskey Joes near Rocky Point for dinner and/or drinks. 

Tampa Travel Blog

Additional Options

Depending on the time of year and your personal interests, there are a variety of other options, too. If you like sports, grab a hockey game at Amalie Arena or a Yankees spring training game at George Steinbrenner Field. 

Busch Gardens and the Tampa Zoo are always great options for families. 

Al Lopez Park hosts local 5k running events and festivals on weekends. Julian B Lane and Curtis Hixon are both downtown parks that offer a lot of activities, fitness classes, events, and festivals. 

Catch a concert at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you like shopping, visit the stores at International Plaza or Hyde Park Village. 

If you feel the itch to get out on the water, you can ride the Pirate Water Taxi, which has a number of stops along the Hillsborough River. 

Tampa Bay Fun Boat also provides sightseeing tours around the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay. 

The beaches of Clearwater and St. Pete are only about 40 minutes away if you need a beach visit while you are in Tampa. 

For a more in-depth guide to exploring Tampa Bay, check out Wild Bum Guide Architect Britt’s detailed Tampa Bay guide

About the author:

Melissa Morris gives fitness, travel, and healthy living advice on the life insurance site, and has an MS in exercise science. She is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist and an ISSN certified sports nutritionist. She teaches nutrition and applied kinesiology at the university level.




Melissa Morris

Melissa Morris