I was born and raised in Tampa, meaning that, over time, I’ve tried a pretty big chunk of what the city has to offer. It’s amazing how much has changed in Tampa throughout the years - and, as a lifelong local, it’s pretty cool to see first-hand what has endured during a massive growth spurt for the area. Tampa’s major growth has brought some pretty great adventures and pastimes, and it’s also accommodated some local businesses that have thrived here for as long as I can remember. I’ve lived all over Florida, from Tallahassee to Miami, and during my time I’ve found some amazing restaurants, bars, parks, and experiences. I’d love to talk about those, too (and I plan to in future blog posts), but I figured it made sense to start where I did: in Tampa. If you’re curious about some of the best things to do in the Bay Area, keep reading.
1. Eating at the amazing Hispanic restaurants
I tried to pick a favorite restaurant to rave about - I really, really did. But that’s the problem with Tampa (and I say problem, because choosing where to eat is a challenge when you’ve got this many options): the Hispanic food scene is huge, local, and freakin’ delicious. I tend to go to places that are within a couple miles from my place (if you think that narrows it down, think again), and I’ve found some amazing restaurants: La Margarita, a classic family-owned Cuban place, is a must-try. Taqueria Emanuel is a Tampa staple; their tacos are some of the best I’ve ever had in my life (and I road-tripped down the West Coast for three weeks). If you’re looking for generous portions and delicious authenticity, you’ve also got to try La Pequena Colombia.
2. Kayaking and paddle boarding near the Causeway
One of my favorite things about the Tampa Bay area is how easy the region makes it to get outdoors and stay active. The Causeway bridge has a ton of pockets made for kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding. The Weedon Island Preserve is an amazing place to fish, or to kayak through the mangroves.
3. Going out in SoHo
I wouldn't be a Tampa 20-something if I didn’t at least mention SoHo on this list. My friends and I have been going out here since we were old enough to get into Macdinton’s, and it’s still a favorite of ours. With affordable drinks, plenty of options, and a great crowd every weekend, SoHo is the ultimate going-out spot in South Tampa. Check out SoHo Saloon and Yard of Ale, too.
4. Playing ball in Keystone
I love basketball very much, and I’m glad to live in a place where there are so many options to play. One of my favorite places to meet up with friends (or make new ones) and play is at the Keystone Recreational Center. If you enjoy playing, I definitely recommend it (and maybe I’ll see you on the court).
5. Hanging out at Sparkman Wharf
Sparkman Wharf is, in my opinion, one of the coolest additions to Downtown Tampa so far. They have incredible food (my favorites are Montados and Flock and Stock), a great craft beer bar, and awesome views of the Bay. They even do community events every so often, and they’re dog-friendly. All in all, it’s a great place to meet up with friends, grab a casual bite to eat, and have a drink. They also have a Splitsville bowling alley, which is a great place to grab a drink with friends, too (just beware of their margaritas - those things are strong!).
One of the coolest things about Tampa is that residents never have to stop feeling like tourists if they don’t want to, in the sense that there’s always some exciting activity to do or place to try. It was hard to narrow my favorite things down to five, but I hope this shortlist helps you to find something new (or to remember an old favorite). I would love to hear about some of your favorite things to do in Tampa! What are your top 3?