Summer of Go: Tampa
ABOUT OUR “SUMMER OF GO”
In true Tommy Bahama fashion, we're celebrating the season of sun in style from coast to coast. Over the years, we've made friends in all the right places: Boston, Baltimore, Tampa, Chicago, New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco and Kona, to name a few. During this “Summer of Go,” we'll share our favorite things to see, do and experience in each of those locales.
SITTIN' ON THE DOCK OF THE (TAMPA) BAY
Naples is our spiritual home, the place where the legendary Tommy Bahama was born. We love the glitz of Miami and the romance of Key West. And we’ve had good times in Orlando.
But if you want to visit the one place in Florida that represents everything great about the state, you can’t go wrong with Tampa and its neighbor cities, St Petersburg and Clearwater.
The Tampa Bay area has a little bit of everything. Great beaches. An exciting, interesting urban core. Places for romance and exploration. Most of all, it has a bunch of people who like to have fun.
TAMPA'S BEST: THINGS TO DO
Reach the Beach
Tampa Bay is flanked north and south by miles of barrier islands, and the beaches on some of them are spectacular. On the northern side, local fashion blogger Hanh Nguyen recommends Honeymoon Island and Clearwater Beach. Heading south, across the scenic Sunshine Skyway Bridge, make your way to Anna Maria Island outside Bradenton.
Play on the Water
The water fun doesn’t stop on the shoreline. There’s a strong standup paddleboard community in Tampa – check out Urban Kai or Tampa Bay SUP to get connected. If you’re looking for a little more adrenaline, why not rent a speedboat or go kiteboarding? And there’s nothing like the thrill of landing a big one on a fishing charter.
Say “Hello, Dali”
The region has a healthy arts scene, the pinnacle of which is undoubtedly the Salvador Dali Museum in St Pete. Not only is it one of the world’s largest collections of works by the mad Spanish surrealist, but the architecture of its new home (since 2011) demands a visit. If surrealism isn’t your thing (or you want to stay on the other side of the bay), then check out the Tampa Museum of Art.
If you’re the kind of urban traveler who likes exploring neighborhoods, there are two in Tampa worth your time. Ybor City was once the site of a large cigar-making industry and the home to many Cuban and Spanish immigrants; the Latin heritage and architecture is still quite prominent. Hyde Park is an older neighborhood of charming bungalow houses and great shopping.
Seek Thrills and Ye Shall Find
We’re pretty sure Florida has more theme parks per capita than any place in the world; we periodically check the parking lots outside our stores to make sure new ones haven’t sprouted up overnight. Tampa is no exception. Thrill seekers should make their way to Busch Gardens. There’s also Adventure Island for splashy fun. And the meccas of Legoland and Walt Disney World are less than 90 minutes away.
Visit Our Animal Friends
Along with the bevy of theme park options, there are quite a few animal collections in Florida. Tampa is most famous for its Big Cat Rescue, where you can come face to face with a tiger or lion. There’s also Giraffe Ranch and Safari Wilderness for tamer adventures. The Florida Aquarium is often rated as one of the best in the country. Plus, it wouldn’t be truly Florida without an Alligator Attraction.
Tampa has a rep for being a great sports town – but that’s only kinda/sorta true in the summertime. There’s no doubt the place loves its Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the NFL doesn’t get really going ‘til fall. (There are two preseason games at Raymond James Stadium in August). Come back next winter, you can take in some hockey. And MLB spring training is a delightful time to be here. But right now, your options are limited to indoor baseball and minor league soccer. You might be better off staying at the beach.
TAMPA'S BEST: PLACES TO EAT
Bern’s Steak House
1208 S Howard Ave, Tampa / 813.251.2421 / bernssteakhouse.com
Why we love it: David Laxer’s restaurant is a Tampa institution; its roots stretch back more than 60 years to a luncheonette started by his parents. Not to be missed. (FYI: Laxer has a second great restaurant in Tampa called SideBern’s. It’s closed for the summer, but check it out if you’re wintering in the area.)
5137 N Florida Ave, Tampa / 813.237.2000 / thetamparefinery.com
Why we love it: The ever-changing menu curated by executive chef and owner Greg Baker never fails to surprise and delight, who takes great pride in locally sourced, seasonally fresh ingredients. Bonus points for a great rooftop deck.
Mise en Place
442 W Kennedy Blvd #110, Tampa / 813.254.5373 / miseonline.com
Why we love it: This place not only consistently delivers knockout innovative dishes (the cuisine is described as “Modern American”), but it knows how to pair the food with outstanding wine selections and signature cocktails.
3225 S MacDill Ave, Tampa / 813.902.8828 / panerusticabakery.com
Why we love it: Part bakery, part lunch counter, part restaurant, part lounge – one could spend the whole day at Pane Rustica, from a light continental breakfast to late-ish drinks. It does keep somewhat variable hours though, so check ahead.
2900 Bayport Dr, Tampa / 813.207.6800 / grandtampabay.hyatt.com/Armanis
Why we love it: The rooftop restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay offers a fine view of the water and a terrific Italian menu. It's a little more formal than we normally go for, though – jacket and tie are recommended.
Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe
5119 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa / 813.234.1000 / ellasfolkartcafe.com
Why we love it: So this place is just a little more relaxed than Armani’s – hashtag understatement. In fact, it’s downright eccentric and eclectic. Live music and Soul Food Sundays add to the fun.
104 Second St S, St Petersburg / 727.822.9600 / zgrille.net
Why we love it: For the Last Supper parody mural with masked Mexican wrestlers eating tacos. For Zack, the tattooed, mustachioed chef. And for half-price-wine Mondays, burger-and-can-beer Tuesdays, and oyster “Hump Days.” This is a place that takes food seriously; everything else not so much.
TAMPA'S BEST: PLACES TO DRINK
Bongos Beach Bar & Grill
5250 Gulf Blvd, St, Pete Beach / 727.360.1811 / grandplazaflorida.com/dining/bongos
Why we love it: While there are a number of great beach bars along St Pete’s gulf coast with spectacular sunset views and tasty drinks, this is top of the list. Postcard perfect.
The Hub Bar
719 N Franklin St, Tampa / 813.229.1553 / thehubbartampa.com
Why we love it: This is a classic American cocktail lounge, with a 60-year history of keeping the locals happy with good stiff drinks while building a national reputation.
Daiquiri Shak Raw Bar & Grille
14995 Gulf Blvd, Madeira Beach / 727.393.2706 / daiquirishakmadeirabeach.com
Why we love it: If you like your alcohol beverages on the cold and colorful side, this is your place. Also: oysters! Live music on weekends.
Fly Bar & Restaurant
1202 N Franklin St, Tampa / 813.275.5000 / flybarandrestaurant.com/tampa
Why we love it: If you’re looking for a watering hole that’s a little more urbane, then you might find Fly more to your liking. It’s the Tampa sister to a couple of same-named places in San Francisco, and Left Coasters will feel right at home.
19201 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores / 727.596.0226 / mahuffersfl.com
Why we love it: Mahuffer’s defiantly offers “warm beer” and “lousy food,” representing the way Florida used to be “before the Yankees came down and ruined it,” according to the website. A charming, curmudgeonly junk shop treasure of a bar.
Rumba Island Bar & Grill
1800 Gulf to Bay Blvd, Clearwater / 727.446.7027 / rumbaislandgrill.com
Why we love it: It had us at Rum, and the seafood menu is just the sort of tasty goodness we like to make up ourselves. There’s a second location in Oldsmar.
7700 W Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa / 813.281.8900 / hogansbeachtampa.com
Why we love it: Yes, this place belongs to the Hulk Hogan, so that should give you an idea what to expect. Fun, yes. Fancy, no – the drinks here come in plastic glasses.