Tampa: it’s got everything you want from a Florida vacation. World-renowned theme parks, beaches and restaurants are all just a few minutes of downtown. Upscale shops stocking the latest trends sit next to local pubs offering innovative craft beers. Tampa Bay isn’t just an overnight stop near the cruise port; it’s a crazy, cultured and charming city that these boutique hotels will help you fall in love with.
After a long-haul flight and microwaved airline food, there’s nothing better than a comfy bed and a real meal – both of which you’ll be treated to at Epicurean Hotel. We’re talking about more than just clean sheets and a continental breakfast, too: dive into steaks and seafood at Élevage Patio & Dining Room, or snacks and cocktails at rooftop bar Edge; better yet, unleash your inner Bobby Flay with the on-site cooking classes. With dozens of restaurants just outside the lobby, your inner foodie will embrace culinary delight at Epicurean Hotel.
It might be housed inside a 100-year-old federal courthouse, but you’ll feel anything but shackled at Le Meridien Tampa. Exhibit A: light and airy suites with high ceilings. Exhibit B: a state-of-the-art fitness center available 24/7. Exhibit C: the signature eclairs at the Bizou Brasserie. The Culture Trip defense rests our case; we’d now like to request a short recess so we can review our case notes by the pool.
Are you heading to Tampa to see the Rays, the Bolts or the Bucs? Aloft Tampa Downtown will get you laced up and ready for the game, and you can pregame at the W XYZ bar and set your fantasy line-up. No game ticket? No problem. Aloft is surrounded by sports bars that broadcast every game or match you’ve got money riding on. Aloft is a pleasant pad to return to, with Japanese-style rooms with futon-like beds and playful stripes on walls and carpets; and don’t forget that your suite has a perfectly good TV, if you’d rather fall asleep to a round of golf in your comfy queen.
The hotel may be across the street from the University of South Florida, but its Room to be Green designation has nothing to do with the team colors of the Bulls. The hotel is dedicated to sustainable practices and environmentally friendly resources, including the latest technology such as an electric vehicle charging station and a robot butler. You can do your part for the environment, too, by sharing the free shuttle service to Adventure Island, Busch Gardens, the Museum of Science and Industry and over a dozen restaurants. The rooms are motel-modish, with sedative bedding and earthy color schemes.
Mere minutes from your suite are the thrilling roller coasters of Busch Gardens, the nightlife vibes of Ybor City and the culinary delights of Tampa Bay’s best restaurants. But there’s more to a stay at the Current Hotel. Savor the sun lazily in the beach area where you can fish, kayak, paddleboard or simply wave to the setting sun from a cozy firepit while sipping on a local Coppertail brew. After dark, you’ll bed down in good-looking boutique-hotel comfort in rooms with plump white beds, bare floorboards and executive desks, unless you stay up to enjoy a punchy old-fashioned at the ROX Rooftop Bar.
Skipping Ybor City on a visit to Tampa Bay is like going to NYC and never setting foot in Brooklyn. First, survey this soulful historic district from the wraparound balcony of your suite, then unpack your bags and head back down to the lobby to get a taste of Old Ybor. Enjoy a Cigar City lager, then head out in search of street food, cigars and the best Cuban coffee this side of the Hillsborough River. You don’t need to miss out on what’s popping over in Tampa Bay’s Channelside District, either; simply stumble onto the streetcar and ride it right into the heart of the city.
You’d think that Tampa Bay would have droves of all-waterfront resorts, but only Sailport Waterfront Suites have that feather in their cap. Rocky Point Island houses this boutique retreat designed for waterside bliss. Fishing, swimming and beach volleyball are all here for the taking on the private beach, which features a pier and geothermal pool. Though budget-friendly, this hideaway has only suites, which means that even a one-bedroom unit includes a full kitchen and a balcony to make you feel at home. The colorful throws on the beds and the slatted blinds lend a gentle Caribbean-bolthole feel to an urban vacation.
Getting down to business in the Bay? A stay here will weave you a weekend so wonderful you’ll feel guilty submitting your expense report. Plump for a king cabana suite (because if you don’t have a water-view room, are you even really in Florida?) and you’ll have a dedicated space to sleep, work, eat and play. Enjoy locally roasted coffee at the Buffalo Bayou and mocktails at the Spaniard. With a free shuttle anywhere within a three-mile radius, including to and from the airport, all that cab fare can be put towards other expenses, such as last-minute tickets to the Lightning game.