There are plenty of reasons to visit Tampa. Maybe you’re a baseball fan who supports the Rays, maybe you want to check out the place where Ray Charles got his big break, or maybe you just want to explore the city.
Regardless of your reasons, any first-time visitors might be stumped about where to stay in Tampa, but luckily, this guide might be of some help there.
Where to Stay in Tampa
It’s pretty hard to sum up Tampa in just a few words. The city is probably most well-known for its cigar industry and its Cuban sandwiches, but those are only the most shallow impressions. The city itself has a much richer history that can be experienced.
The home of the Buccaneers is a relatively small city, especially when comparing it to some of the most densely populated cities in the US. However, it still has plenty of attractions that you can check out, and you won’t need to walk for half a day if you want to get from one part of town to another.
Tampa is a multicultural city, and as such, it has quite a few restaurants that serve different traditional dishes, as well as museums that are dedicated to the people that moved here way back in the day.
Most notably, Ybor City is the central hub of the Cuban people that live in the city, and it has museums and galleries that celebrate their culture.
The city also has plenty of museums that cover the history of Tampa as a whole and some that offer fun and engaging exhibits that are meant to make learning fun for both adults and kids alike.
If you’re more interested in nature, then the city also has you covered. You can visit the Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa, or Busch Gardens.
The last of those attractions also has an amusement park with plenty of high-adrenaline rides that you can go on. However, with all of these fun attractions, most people probably find it hard to decide where to stay in Tampa, and that’s where we come in.
The Best Parts of Tampa
Tampa may not be the biggest city, but it’s still divided into quite a few smaller areas, so we did our best to sort through all of them before we came up with a list of what we consider to be the best five areas in the city that tourists might like to visit.
- Downtown: The most culturally enriching area of the city
- Bay Harbor: Great water-based activities
- Westshore: The most vibrant nightclubs in the city
- Ybor City: The Cuban and Latin American district has more than meets the eye
- Temple Terrace: Rollercoasters and animal attractions
Tampa’s Best Areas and Hotels
When deciding where to stay in Tampa, our priority is to make sure that the areas we write about have attractions that would be fun for anyone, regardless of their preferences. However, the number of hotels in the area, as well as their quality, also needs to be carefully considered.
An attraction becomes less attractive if you have to walk for two hours to get to it, so we’ve made sure to include adjacent hotels to all of the major tourist spots that we go over in our article.
For further convenience, the hotels are also divided into separate price ranges so that you can spend as much or as little on a room as you want.
The downtown district of Tampa is absolutely brimming with museums, galleries, theaters, and other interesting tourist hotspots that you can visit.
The Tampa Museum of Art is one of the most famous attractions in the city. The museum itself is only a few decades old, but it houses paintings and art pieces that are much older than that. You can spend a whole day just walking around and perusing all of the art pieces on display, or you can attend one of the art classes that are held here.
Nearby, you can also find the Glazer Children’s Museum, which is much more focused on interactive exhibits rather than displays since those are much better at retaining the attention of the younger visitors.
There are a lot of different science and architecture exhibits that you can check out with your child and maybe even learn a few interesting science facts yourself.
If you’re a history buff or you want to learn a bit more about the city that you’re visiting, then the Tampa Bay History Center is the place to go. It’s a great spot with a lot of information on the city’s history, the buildings’ architecture, and the famous people that used to live in those very same buildings.
If you’re the type of tourist that likes learning about the culture and the history of the city you’re visiting, then the Downtown area is full of places that will enable you to do so. However, despite being near the center of the city, there are very few notable bars or restaurants that you can visit.
Things to Do
- The Straz Center for the Performing Arts is a great place to go and catch a stage performance.
- The Tampa Aquarium is where you can go if you’re interested in marine life or if you just want to look at some colorful fish.
- Anyone with kids will definitely want to take them to the Glazer Children’s Museum, where they can interact with plenty of fun and educational exhibits.
- The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts has a wide array of beautiful photos with varying themes, including a few that were inspired by the very city they’re displayed in.
Where to Eat
- Spain Restaurant and Toma Bar is a chic restaurant with a great seafood menu.
- Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria is the place to go if you want to grab a slice of pizza.
- Hattricks is a sports bar with quite a selection of beer to choose from.
Downtown Budget Hotels
- Hyatt Place Tampa Downtown comes with a complimentary English/Irish breakfast every morning, as well as free wifi throughout the property.
- The Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk provides guests with access to an outdoor pool, a fitness center that’s always open, and an on-site restaurant.
Downtown Mid-Range Hotels
- The Westin Tampa Waterside has a flat-screen cable TV in every room, an in-house restaurant with a pretty large menu, and a fitness center that never closes.
- Hilton Tampa Downtown comes with a rooftop swimming pool and hot tub, a 32-inch flat-screen TV in every room, and free wifi throughout the property.
Downtown Luxury Hotels
- Tampa Marriott Water Street offers fully equipped fitness and business centers that guests can use whenever they need to, two in-house restaurants with classic American fare, and a 55-inch flat-screen TV in every room.
- JW Marriott Tampa Water Street provides guests with a complimentary continental breakfast every morning, rooms with an AC unit and a flat-screen TV, and a front desk that’s always open for business.
2. Bay Harbor
Bay Harbor is best known for the many seafood restaurants that you’ll find all over the shore, as well as the many water-based activities that you can try out. If you want to spend the day on the water, you can go to the bay, rent out a jet ski, and have a bit of fun while taking in the scenery from the water.
Speaking of the scenery, there are also cruise boats that take you out on the water at night, where you can enjoy fine dining, onboard entertainment, and more beautiful views.
If you’re interested in getting a bit of exercise, then you can rent a kayak or a paddleboat. We’d recommend renting one of the water bikes and taking them for a spin. They’re very fun, and very few people have actually given them a try.
This area also has an escape room called ”Can You Escape?”, where you can have fun with your friends, trying to solve the puzzles that will let you out of the room. The biggest downside of this area of the city is the fact that it’s pretty far removed from the rest of Tampa.
This means that you’ll need to take the bus if you want to go into town to do a bit of shopping or check out some of the other attractions that we mentioned.
Things to Do
- Take a cruise around the bay and enjoy your dinner while looking out at a fantastic view of the city lights at night.
- An escape room can either be very frustrating or very fun, and you won’t know how you feel about them until you gather some friends and try to escape from the locked room with them.
- Go to one of the many seafood restaurants in the area and try out the fresh catch of the day.
- Rent a boat and go a bit further out to sea if you want to get away from the noise of the city so that you can do some fishing in peace and quiet.
Where to Eat
- Bahama Breeze is the best place in the area to grab a nice cold cocktail.
- Whiskey Joe’s Bar & Grill is where you go if you want to wat some BBQ
- Rusty Pelican has a formal dining atmosphere and serves classic American dishes
Bay Harbor Budget Hotels
- DoubleTree by Hilton Tampa has a front desk that’s always open, a fully equipped fitness center, and an outdoor swimming pool.
- Hampton Inn Tampa-Rocky Point comes with daily housekeeping services, a coffee machine in every room, and free wifi throughout the property.
Bay Harbor Mid-Range Hotels
- Sailport Waterfront Suites is a hotel with a poolside bar and grill, an outdoor heated swimming pool, an outdoor fitness center, and even a volleyball court where guests can play a few matches.
- The Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa comes with a 42-inch flat-screen cable TV in every room, an outdoor heated swimming pool, and free room service.
Bay Harbor Luxury Hotels
- Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay has a coffee maker and a flat-screen cable TV in every room, two outdoor swimming pools, three in-house restaurants, and a fitness center that’s open 24/7.
- The CURRENT Hotel comes with an AC unit, free wifi and a flat-screen cable TV in every room, a fully-equipped fitness center, and an outdoor swimming pool.
The Westshore area of Tampa has a few notable attractions, but its biggest draw would have to be the massive shopping district, as well as the many bars and restaurants that are scattered everywhere.
At night, this is also the best part of town if you want to go for a drink or if you want to party ‘til dawn. During the day, there are plenty of boutiques and different shops that you can check out and get yourself anything from a new pair of shoes to a souvenir.
This area is also where you’ll find the Raymond James Stadium, which is the home base of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Football fans will definitely want to catch a game on this iconic field, but for those sports fans that prefer to play rather than watch, Skyway Park has plenty of baseball, football, and soccer fields where you can play a few matches with your friends.
Cypress Point is another park in the area, but rather than baseball fields, it houses plenty of walking trails, picnic spots, and even a dock where you can rent a canoe.
Westshore is a pretty big area, and most of it is relatively empty. This means that regardless of the hotel you pick, you’re in for quite a walk if you want to see all the attractions.
Things to Do
- Go for a drink in one of the bars around the area, or try to catch a live band performance.
- Raymond James Stadium is the best place to spend your weekend if you’re a football fan, especially if you haven’t seen a good game in a while.
- Cigar City Brewing is a great place where you can spend the day if you want to learn a bit more about the alcohol-making process.
- If you want to get some exercise, then you can go to one of the many sports fields in the area, or you can rent a canoe and go out into the water.
Where to Eat
- Whiskey Cake Tampa has every alcohol that you can imagine.
- Tony’s Restaurant is where you go if you want to get a hot breakfast in the morning.
- Seasons 52 has a great selection of wines and dishes.
Westshore Budget Hotels
- La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Tampa Bay Airport comes with a flat-screen cable TV and a coffee maker in every room, and you also have an outdoor swimming pool and free wifi throughout the property.
- Extended Stay America Suites provides all of the guests with a grab-and-go breakfast in the morning, a 24-hour front desk, and a daily housekeeping service.
Westshore Mid-Range Hotels
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tampa has free shuttle services that pick you up and drop you off at the airport, an outdoor pool and sundeck, and a business center that’s open 24/7.
- Ramada by Wyndham Tampa comes with a cable TV and free wifi in every room, an outdoor heated swimming pool, and fitness and business centers.
Westshore Luxury Hotels
- Hyatt Place Tampa Airport/Westshore provides you with an American breakfast every morning, a flat-screen TV, free wifi in every room, an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and a 24/7 front desk.
- Marriott Tampa Westshore has a 32-inch flat-screen cable TV and a coffee machine in every room, a fully-equipped fitness center, an on-site restaurant, and an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.
4. Ybor City
This is essentially another city located near the center of Tampa, and it has its own museums, galleries, and a pretty decent number of bars and nightclubs. That being said, Ybor City can come off as a bit crammed since it covers a relatively small area. Still, that also has its benefits.
The Ybor City Museum is where you can take the tour that will tell you a bit more about the Cuban immigrants that settled in this area, as well as the history of this particular part of Tampa.
There’s also a baseball museum where you can find plenty of balls, bats, jerseys, and other memorabilia that were signed by some of the biggest names in the history of the sport, like Tampa’s very own Al Lopez.
Anyone that’s more interested in art than history should probably check out either the Hoffman Porges Gallery or the Hillsborough Community College Gallery. Both of these galleries have a plethora of beautiful paintings, but the Hoffman Porges Gallery has more famous works.
On the other hand, the Hillsborough Gallery puts a bit more emphasis on works from local and more obscure artists. The best part about Ybor City is that all of the most interesting locations are within walking distance of each other.
In the case of the bars and nightclubs, most of them are located on 7th avenue, and very few are scattered around. On the flip side, if you’re not partial to Latin cuisine or art and would just like to party, you’ll probably prefer the nightlife in Westshore.
Things to Do
- The baseball museum is a must-visit spot for any fans of the sport that want to check out all of the different memorabilia that’s housed there.
- If you’re looking to learn a few facts about the history of the people that lived in this area should probably take the Ybor City Museum tour.
- Check out some of the bars in the area and maybe go for a drink in the one that best suits your tastes.
Where to Eat
- James Joyce Irish Pub & Eatery has great beer and live music performances on the weekend.
- The Bricks is a restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere and a great selection of grub.
- Ybor City Tap House has beer on tap and sports channels on the TV.
Ybor City Budget Hotels
- FRONTDESK 1910 E 7th Ave Apts is a simple apartment with a fully equipped kitchen, a flat-screen cable TV, and free wifi.
- New Construction Home in Ybor City is a holiday home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a satellite TV, a microwave, and a washing machine.
Ybor City Mid-Range Hotels
- Hampton Inn & Suites Tampa Ybor City has business and fitness centers, a buffet breakfast every morning, and rooms with cable TV and free wifi.
- Hilton Garden Inn Tampa Ybor Historic District comes with a fitness center, an on-site restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, and a cable TV in every room.
Ybor City Luxury Hotels
- Hotel Haya provides all of its guests with access to the in-house restaurant and bar, a fully-equipped fitness center for anyone who wants to work out, and rooms with an AC unit and a flat-screen cable TV.
5. Temple Terrace
Busch Gardens is probably the most famous attraction that can be found in the area and the easiest to spot as well. The massive rollercoasters can be seen from miles away, and there are actually so many rides that it essentially looks like a jungle made out of concrete and metal.
You can easily spend a whole day here and still not try all of the available rides. Aside from the rollercoasters, guests can also check out the animal park that offers a safari tour, taking you past cheetahs, tigers, orangutans, kangaroos, sloths, and other fauna.
If you’re tired of adrenaline-filled rides and just want to relax, then Temple Crest Park is a great place where you can go and unwind a bit. This park is located right next to Hillsborough River, and there are plenty of basketball and softball courts where you can play a few matches with your friends.
Moving on, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Museum of Science & Industry. The exhibits include everything from dinosaurs to real-life Minecraft recreations that kids absolutely adore.
Temple Terrace is an area of the city that’s a bit out of the way and pretty far from the center, so it’s not the first place that people that tourists visit. Either way, there are quite a lot of fun attractions in this area, so it’s worth the trip.
Things to Do
- Busch Gardens is undoubtedly the biggest tourist draw in the area, and it’s no wonder, considering all of its fun rides.
- Even if rollercoasters aren’t your thing, the safari zone in Busch Gardens is definitely worth a visit if you want to check out all of the different animals housed there.
- The Museum of Science & Industry has some great interactive exhibits that are both engaging and educational.
- Take a walk down Temple Crest Park at night and check out the lights in the city if you want to see the city of Tampa at its most picturesque.
Where to Eat
- Bangkok Jazz Thai Restaurant has quite a selection of curry and traditional Thai dishes.
- Babushka’s – Temple Terrace has a wide variety of traditional Russian dishes.
- Saigon Bay Vietnamese Restaurant is a family restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere.
Temple Terrace Budget Hotels
- Tampa Inn Near Busch Gardens has rooms with a microwave, a refrigerator, a coffee maker, and a satellite TV.
- Red Roof Inn PLUS & Suites Tampa comes with a business center, daily housekeeping services, and rooms with free wifi and cable TV.
Temple Terrace Mid-Range Hotels
- La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Tampa provides guests with a complimentary breakfast every morning, as well as rooms with a coffee maker and a flat-screen TV.
- Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Tampa has business and fitness centers that are always open, a microwave in every room, and free wifi throughout the property.
Temple Terrace Luxury Hotels
- Embassy Suites Tampa – USF / Busch Gardens is a hotel with an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, a complimentary breakfast every morning, and rooms with free wifi and cable TV.
- Home2 Suites By Hilton Tampa offers rooms with a 42-inch flat-screen TV and free wifi, and the hotel itself has a fitness center, a business center, and a front desk, all of which stay open 24/7.
So, Where Should You Stay in Tampa?
Westshore is the ideal destination for anyone that’s looking to try out the nightlife in Tampa. However, the many sports fields in the area also mean a lot of fun that you can have here during the day.
Temple Terrace is home to what are arguably the most fun activities in the entire city. The rides and the animal safari can provide you with hours and maybe even days of fun.
The Downtown area is where you’ll find the most museums, galleries, and other locations that are absolutely culturally enriching. Happy travels!