Tales of pirates and the high seas have always thrilled you. Something about the swashbuckling antics of sailors who scoured the ocean looking for treasures and adventure speaks to your restless soul. With visions of massive ships and golden sandy shores in your head, visit some of the best places to stay in Tampa and live out your dreams of exploration from Tampa hotels in the Floridian sunshine. Although you might not run into any actual pirates during your stay there, there are plenty of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans around to show you a good time and expansive stretches of beaches on which you can hunt for long forgotten treasure while staying in one of the cheap hotels in Tampa.
Things to Do in Tampa
Wandering the streets of Tampa will clue you in to a few things about the city, one notable fact being that it values art above all else. This much will become abundantly clear as you spend the afternoon inside The Straz Performing Arts Center. Whether you spend a few hours laughing hysterically at a stand-up comedian or enjoying the Tampa Bay wildlife, you’ll blissfully pass the afternoon and praise the Big Guava for its renowned arts scene.
Emerge from the cool dark theater and continue your cultured day at the Tampa Museum of Art. From the outside, the building looks like a modern work of art itself, with its great white rectangular walls being illuminated by ever-changing colored LED lights. Inside, marvel at works in mediums that range from traditional painting to contemporary sculpting.
Finish your evening in the city’s most intriguing historic neighborhood, Ybor City. The district sprung up in the 1880s after a group of cigar manufacturers started living in the area and influenced tons of Cuban and Spanish immigrants to settle the neighborhood. Inspired by the neighborhood’s heritage, head to a local bar and smoke a cigar on the patio as you people watch and soak up the sunshine.
Eating and Drinking
There is a plethora of things to do in Tampa, and one that you should not overlook is filling up on the city’s fabulous fare. Being close to the Gulf means one thing—seafood is king in Tampa. Most notably, the grouper sandwich has become a staple for locals. Although Floridians will agree grouper is the best fish for the job, they will offer a variety of ways to prepare the treasured meal: battered, blackened, or Cajun-seasoned. However you choose to order your grouper sandwich, one thing’s for certain—it’ll taste like your own little piece of the Gulf.
The area lays claim to another popular sandwich: The Cuban. Said to have been created by Cuban immigrants living in Ybor city, the meal is still a treasured favorite around town that features roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and a layer of mustard slathered onto a loaf of white bread. Rest assured that traditional Cubans aren’t wasted on a standard white roll. The dish is enjoyed on Cuban bread—an item that you’ll be hard pressed to find outside of Florida. Most comparable to French bread, Cuban bread is tough and crunchy on the outside while soft and fluffy on the inside.
Looking for something more sophisticated than a sandwich? Wander over to the Hyde Park neighborhood and enjoy modern restaurants that have mastered international cuisine. Feast on Italian fare that rivals cafes in Tuscany or dive into a plate of Japanese fusion food that will have you swearing off sushi from any other restaurant. Complement your meal with a house martini that uses local, seasonal fruit to balance the flavor of vodka—and yes, the state may be known for its oranges, but its cocktail bars offer a wider array of fruity options.
Green Spaces Galore
There’s no greater way to ground yourself and clear your mind than by spending some time at Sand Key Park. You’ll be tempted to roll out a blanket and lie underneath the shade of palm trees in a sun-spotted patch of grass. Gaze on happily as locals kick around a soccer ball and tune your ears into the joyful yips of bouncing canines at the facility’s dog park. But if you press on, the beach awaits just a few feet from the lush greenery of the traditional park. In addition to scenic views of the sea, you might happen across a cluster of sea turtle eggs while walking out of one of the Tampa beach hotels. The creatures are endangered, so you can’t get too close, but you can look on in awe as the soon-to-be-turtles incubate in their tiny shells; they sit blissfully unaware of the beauty of the ocean that waits for them. If you’re interested in witnessing the rarity firsthand, female turtles begin laying eggs in the middle of May and continue guarding their forming brood until mid-August, so plan your visit accordingly.
Day Trips from Tampa
Now that you know where to stay in Tampa, you find yourself itching to explore more of the Sunshine State. Rent a car for the day and drive 85 miles northeast to the thrill-inducing city of Orlando. You know that Tampa is home to Busch Gardens, but you have your heart set on producing adrenaline at some of the most famed theme parks in the world. From the movie-centric rides inside Universal Studios Florida to the smiling mice and princesses inside one of the four Disney parks, you’ll remember the intense joy you felt for many days to come. When it’s time to return to the Big Guava, simply drive home and then return your heartbeat to its normal pulse by going for a soothing night swim in the Gulf.
Taking a Bite Out of the Big Guava
Just like the pirates of the past, you look for adventure in all you do—and in Tampa, thrilling activities are abundant. Fill your days in the Floridian city by swimming idly in the Gulf and occupy your evenings by dancing in one of Ybor City’s renowned bars. When you’ve exhausted yourself from exploring the area, simply retreat to Tampa lodging to recharge your batteries. Surely swashbuckling explorers of the past weren’t used to such luxurious accommodations, which makes you grateful to live in the present—even if it does lack buried treasure, tales of mermaids, and jeering pet parrots. With Travelocity’s Tampa Hotel deals, you’ll at least get a taste of it.