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48 Hours | Southeast States
48 Hours in Tampa

A WEEKEND IS ENOUGH TO EXPLORE THE TAMPA RIVERWALK, TRY A WORLD-FAMOUS CUBAN SANDWICH, TOUR YBOR CITY, AND MORE

Visitors to Florida’s third most populous city will find an eclectic mix of attractions and a culinary scene that will whet the appetite. From strolling along the 2.6-mile riverwalk with its beautiful views to watching a cigar being hand-rolled, you can enjoy a host of unique activities during a relaxing weekend in Tampa.

DAY 1—A RIVERWALK, MICHELIN-STARRED DINNER, AND ROOFTOP DRINKS

Tampa Bay riverwalkTampa Riverwalk; Photo by Keir Magoulas/Visit Tampa Bay

Fuel yourself with breakfast from Supernatural Food & Wine. This beloved hole-in-the-wall was recently added to the Michelin Guide as a selected restaurant and it’s a very short walk from the Tampa Riverwalk.

The 2.6-mile multiuse walkway links a wide range of museums, shops, restaurants, and parks and is a great way to orient yourself with the city and downtown. Strolling along its entire length at a leisurely pace is well within your chronological budget.

View from Beacon restaurant and bar in Tampa Bay, FLRooftop view from Beacon; Photo by Rob McGovern

Among the best views in the city is Beacon, the highest public rooftop bar and restaurant in Tampa. The sunset views from this eatery on the 27th floor of the JW Marriott on Water Street are not to be missed. It’s also across the street from Dick Greco Plaza, where you can hop on and off Tampa’s historic streetcar.

tagliolini al raguRocca's popular tagliolini al ragu; Photo by Rob McGovern

Tampa is one of just 3 cities that contributed to the inaugural Michelin Guide when it was launched in Florida in 2022. 3 restaurants were awarded with one star—Rocca was one of them. The stylish dining room has a very relaxed vibe, which is reflected in the convivial atmosphere. The menu has around a dozen dishes, giving you a wide selection of options. Always start with the bread; the lemon butter is magnificent. The dry-aged steak carpaccio with mushrooms is sensational, as is the tagliolini al ragu with basil and 30-month parmigiano. The little gem salad, which is anything but little, comes shrouded in an avalanche of pecorino.

As for where to stay, Hotel Haya is a superb property in the heart of Ybor City, a National Historic Landmark. The brand-new, 178-room property includes what was once Las Novedades—a restaurant built in 1890—and the brick walls from the Warren Building, which once hosted Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. Rooms are very nicely appointed and many have small balconies where you can sit and enjoy the vibrancy of Ybor City.

DAY 2—CIGARS, CUBAN SANDWICHES, AND LA SEPTIMA

cigar being hand rolledCigar being hand rolled; Photo by Rob McGovern

No trip to Tampa would be complete without a visit to J.C. Newman Cigar Co., which was established in 1895. It is the last of Tampa’s 150 cigar factories. At the 113-year-old factory in Ybor City, you can see cigars being made both by hand and with hand-operated, antique cigar machines—both of which are mesmerising. Although it is open to the public on weekdays from 9AM to 5:30PM, the cigar rolling stops at 3PM, so plan accordingly. There is also a small museum.

Around the corner from J.C. Newman, grab lunch on the go at the century old La Segunda Bakery. The Cuban sandwich is an absolute must-try (no lettuce or tomato, por favor). The origins of the sandwich have long been debated with both Tampa and Miami claiming it as their own.

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Burn off the hefty Cubano with a walking tour of Ybor City. The Ybor City Walking Tour from Tampa Bay Tours will enlighten you as to how Vincente Martinez-Ybor purchased 40 acres of swampland in the fall of 1885 and birthed a city that was eventually home to 230 cigar factories, employing thousands of tabaqueros (cigar makers), and producing over half a billion cigars a year. Food walking tours are also available.

pool at Haya Hotel in Tampa Bay, FLHaya Hotel pool; Photo by Rob McGovern

While there is not enough time for an actual siesta, there is time for a dip in the pool at Hotel Haya followed by an appetizer at Flor Fina, the in-house restaurant at Hotel Haya. The shrimp cocktail crudo is light; the chorizo meatballs should be shared).

A short walk from Hotel Haya is the Columbia Restaurant. Nothing short of an institution, Florida’s oldest restaurant has been family-owned and-operated since it opened in 1905. Unlike Rocca, the Spanish-Cuban menu is vast, so peruse at your leisure. Here, however, are a few recommendations. The famed 1905 Salad can be a meal in itself, so it’s better to share among the table. Iceberg lettuce is tossed tableside with julienned ham, Swiss cheese, tomato, olives, grated Romano cheese, Worcestershire sauce and a garlic dressing. The cannelloni filled with Maine lobster, shrimp, scallops, and shallots—and smothered with a lobster sherry Mornay cheese sauce—is as indulgent as it sounds. Finish with the white-chocolate bread pudding made with bread from La Segunda Bakery. Sangria mixed tableside is also a good idea.

7th Avenue Ybor City, Tampa Bay, FL7th Avenue in Ybor City; Photo by Keir Magoulas/Visit Tampa Bay

The walk back to the hotel will help you debloat, and both the Columbia Restaurant and Hotel Haya are on La Septima (7th Avenue; also called La Setima). The district's mile-long strip of bars and restaurants is perfumed by the smell of cigars from the shops that invite patrons to light up and sit right there on the sidewalk and watch the world go by.

Try to resist the urge to pack your limited time in Tampa with too much. Pick a few experiences and restaurants that speak to you and factor in a little extra time between them so you can saunter between appointments.

Tampa is also a major cruise destination, so consider exploring the city before or after a cruise.