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Best Things to Do in Downtown Tampa

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It’s 5 PM on Friday afternoon. You’re watching the clock as if it’s counting down to midnight on New Year’s Eve. 

*where’s the champagne?!* 

The workweek is minutes away from being over and you’re sitting on the edge of your chair. 

Then suddenly, it occurs to you. 

You have zero weekend plans. And while this may be great news for your dog, it’s not exactly pleasing to you. 

You pause to recenter and mentally scan your options. There’s a market in Hyde Park you’ve fluttered through more times than you can count. If you’re brave enough, you could tan by the pool without getting torrentially rained on in the morning…but then what? 

We vote for trying something new. Spend an afternoon exploring the streets of Downtown Tampa

If you’re scratching your head in utter desperation, curious of what the city has to offer, don’t worry. We’re going to get you up to speed on all of the amazing things to do in Downtown Tampa. 

Hop on a Bird e-scooter and follow along, we’ve got tons of ideas to cruise through

Relax at a Coffee Shop

Welcome to one of Tampa’s finest caffeinated staples, Buddy Brew. This local roaster is known for its high-quality craft coffee and wildly energizing cold brew. Their sleek shop is one of the newest coffee joints in Downtown Tampa, located on the first floor of Park Tower. During our last visit, we got a taste of everything they have to offer, including freshly baked donuts.

You can also hop over to their Hyde Park Village or Kennedy Blvd locations for a pick-me-up before your Downtown Tampa expedition begins.

Venture to The Attic if you’re in the mood for a frothy cappuccino and a full meal. This cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch, serving menu items like Huevos Rancheros and Buffalo Chicken Wraps. They’re located on the fourth floor of a 100-year old historic building in the heart of Downtown Tampa, complete with a very inviting balcony for guests to lounge on.

Insider tip: they serve beer and wine, too.

Gigantic storefront windows, modern vibes, and an interesting array of specialty coffees make Caffeine Roasters one of our go-to hangouts. It has the most urban feel compared to the other coffee shops, yet offers a quiet escape for getting work done.

Order the Sparkling Coffee for a truly majestic concoction of espresso and ginger ale. This location doesn’t offer a full menu but serves pastries and light bites.

Visit One of the Best Cocktail Bars

Now that you’re fully caffeinated, make your way to Hotel Bar. This classy craft cocktail bar honors an eclectic selection of cocktails from hotels all over the world. The interior is charming and chic, just like the patrons who imbibe there.

Our favorite classic is the Hotel Nacional–made with Brugal rum, Giffard Peche, pineapple, and lime–from Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana, Cuba.

Take advantage of their happy hour, Monday through Friday from 4PM–6:30PM. They’re closed on Sundays.

A grand piano steals your attention from the corner of the room. You’re captured by the arms of a grandiose bar as the sound of jazz serenades you mid-sip. You’re instantly in a gin-infused daydream while a Lobster Potato politely soars by.

Welcome to CW’s Gin Joint. It’s swanky, alluring, and as they like to say, “the place where style and grace have an attitude.” You can dine here, drink here, and certainly play here. We highly suggest making a reservation.

Who’s ready to hop in a time machine and wake up holding an Adult Capri Sun? YOU ARE. Gen X Tavern is the ultimate ode to the ’80s and ’90s. It’s stocked with arcade games, an old school Super Nintendo, and bottomless nostalgia everywhere you look.

Visit Chris behind the bar for a classic cocktail with a retro twist. Their Bangin’ Tang-a-’rita is like sipping on childhood memories, only better–made with old school orange Tang, Milagro Tequila, agave, and lime with a Tang rim. If you’re trying to unwind, their new CBD-infused cocktails are a safe bet.

Eat at These Date Night Restaurants

Formerly known as Paninoteca, the newly renovated Dio Modern Mediterranean is a true date destination. Velvet gem-toned booths and whitewashed exposed brick make for a darling atmosphere, with plates inspired by the coastal shores of the Mediterranean.

If you’re in the “I want to endlessly impress you” stage of your relationship, order the Astakos Linguine. It’s served with a beautiful whole lobster perched on a nest of linguine with Santorini tomato sauce. The entire situation is perfectly Instagrammable and highly delicious.

There’s nothing like a steamy bowl of Beef Pho with a large hot sake at Bamboozle. It’s probably one of the only times slurping on a date is socially acceptable, and we fully support it.

Bamboozle is a casual date night spot with low-lighting and an intimate vibe. We can’t get enough of their BBQ Pork Sesame Glass Noodles, clear noodles sautéed with carrots and onions, tossed in a sesame garlic soy dressing.

There’s an entire section of vegetarian and gluten-free items for dates with dietary restrictions, too.

Fine-dining as impeccable as Malio’s doesn’t require an introduction. However, we will leave you with this: you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to reward yourself with an award-winning steak. You deserve it, today, tomorrow and the day after that.

Their happy hour, Monday–Friday from 3PM–7PM makes that possible. During happy hour, you can order half-priced lunch burgers in addition to specially priced cocktails and appetizers! 

Be fancy. Make your reservation for this memorable dining experience.

Osteria is the Italian love child of celebrity chef, Fabio Vivani and the Nocturnal Group. It’s a haven for upscale, chef-driven Italian flavors like Cioppino and Chianti Braised Short Rib–and yes, it’s as incredible as it sounds.

This restaurant is an ace dinner option, but we also love it for brunch. Head across the street to Franklin Manor for post-date drinks, dancing, and a taste of Downtown Tampa nightlife. The people-watching is prime.

Grab a Quick Bite

Gigantic pizza slices made with New York water-infused dough? Yes, please. Eddie & Sam’s is home to Downtown Tampa’s best New York Style Pizza, slinging classic slices like Grandma’s Pie and Eggplant Parmigiana.

Their menu offers everything from salads and heros to pizzas and pasta, and you can be in-and-out within 15 minutes. Grab a creamy scoop of gelato on your way out. It’s perfettamente!

Say it with us, “edible cookie dough.” Dough Nation is the sweetest stop on N. Tampa street, offering a dreamy selection of edible cookie dough and ice cream.

This community-centric shop is actually a training platform for students in the Metropolitan Ministries’ culinary arts program. So, you can indulge in a cool cup of Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Fluff dough and feel good about it, too. All Dough Nation proceeds go directly to feeding the hungry in Tampa Bay.

This hidden gem is located inside of Duckweed Grocery, on the bottom floor of The Element–one of Downtown Tampa’s luxury apartment buildings. It serves a 100% vegan menu, packed with goodies like the Exotic Colada Smoothie and the Farmacy Burger that comes with an Impossible Meat Patty, topped with onions, tomato, Farmacy Sauce, and Farmacy pickles, served on a toasted Pretzel Bun.

In fact, everything we’ve ever had there is impossibly scrumptious, including their locally made vegan donuts.

If you live or work in the city, Fusion Bowl is probably already on your list of things to do in Downtown Tampa. Primarily, because their Pho is insanely delicious. This fast-casual Vietnamese restaurant serves up a serious amount of flavor with everything it does.

From the Vietnamese coffee to it’s extra-large Banh Mi, we dig it for a quick lunch in between meetings or a casual weekend bite. Snag a lavender bubble tea and be on your way.

The Taco Bus is famous for many things, but mostly because it’s original location was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drives-Ins, and Dives in 2011. Since then, they’ve expanded their taco empire to include several locations, the closest one sitting diagonally from CVS on Franklin St.

We’re huge fans of their almost-too-sweet, fruit-flavored Aqua Frescas paired with a beef Torta. Order from the outdoor to-go window for the quickest Taco Tuesday you’ve ever encountered. Reserve this one for a hangover or late-night stop.

Revel in the Riverwalk

📷 Remedy

When you’re craving an evening of music, culture, and art, the Straz Center is the place to be. The Straz sits right on Downtown Tampa’s winding Riverwalk and is a true mecca for theatre lovers. Visit UNATION’s website to learn more about upcoming operas, Broadway shows, and events.

Insider tip: last-minute tickets are usually available at the box office at a discounted price, within an hour of the show.

Curtis Hixon Park is the center of all things events in Downtown Tampa. Its lush lawn is perfect for community yoga classes on Sunday evenings, or an impromptu picnic with a good book and riverside views.

This park is also the heart of Tampa’s many annual festivals including the Gasparilla Music Festival, Oktoberfest, Rock the Park, Margarita Festival, Pig Jig, and tons of live music.

Follow us on Instagram for upcoming event updates–we’ve got you covered.

Chillin’ by the water with a cocktail is borderline mandatory if you live in Tampa Bay. The Sail Plaza is a waterside restaurant and bar that invites you to do exactly that.

Life is good when you’re sipping on a River Walk Runner watching the sunset over the bay. Trust us on this one. If you’re hungry for more, check out Big Ray’s Fish Camp, the Sail Plaza’s newest addition.

Ambiance is everything when you’re in full relaxation mode. The Remedy almost transports you to Miami, with bright white accents and a solid playlist full of house tracks. It’s hard to resist their elevated atmosphere and waterside views overlooking the University of Tampa.

Seriously, you may never want to leave. Sit at the bar and ask for Nate. He’ll stir you one of their signature craft cocktails, best paired with a plate of raw oysters. Undeniably one of the best things to do in Downtown Tampa.

Find Inspiration at a Local Museum

“Welcome to wander. Welcome to wonder.” That’s the mantra the Tampa Museum of Art lives by every single day. We love this gorgeous two-story museum for its commitment to talent and imagination.

They’re known for their rotating exhibits, showcasing world-class artists like Yayoi KusamaYou can see what’s currently on exhibit here.  

Insider tip: If you’re a Bank of America cardholder, you’re eligible for free admission on the first weekend of every month.

This museum is one of Downtown Tampa’s best-kept secrets, safely tucked away on E. Zack Street. This historic landmark was constructed in 1911 and served as a dedicated fire station for over 60 years.

You’ll be amazed by the behind the scenes history and firefighting stories that come with this experience. This museum also hosts a truckload of annual events. A very special one being their “Stop, Drop, and Roll the Dice” Casino Night. Plan your visit here.

The FMoPA is a sun-kissed oasis for the city’s best photography, and we have Cynthia L. Flowers to thank. What started as a simple idea has blossomed into a museum dedicated to exhibiting photographic art that celebrates contemporary life and culture.

For $10, It’s an amazing place to visit to get your creative juices flowing and gain an artful perspective. We 10/10 recommend checking out what they have to offer.

Ready for an interactive play date with your little learner? The Glazer Children’s Museum goes above and beyond to make learning fun. Their exhibits feature education stations that reflect the real world. For example, their Central Bank exhibit encourages kids to learn how to save money through simple math equations.

They have a vet clinic, a farm, a cruise ship, and so much more, but we’ll leave that to your imagination. GCM truly helps children connect to the world around them. 

Don’t have little ones of your own? They host an adult play night too. See our event calendar to find your next adventure.

Treat Yourself to a Little Entertainment

Amalie Arena is the cornerstone of the best things to do in Downtown Tampa. It’s home to our beloved Tampa Bay Lightning team and gives our city access to every headlining artist we could ever hope to see in concert.

You can also catch a basketball game here–and let’s not forget about Disney on Ice. The entertainment possibilities are literally endless. See for yourself.

Have you ever admired the TAMPA sign lined with glamorous blinking lights in Downtown Tampa? If so, you were probably standing right in front of the majestic Tampa Theatre.

This ornate theatre is classified as a historic United States landmark, screening an interesting selection of independent, foreign, and documentary films on the regular.

Enjoy a Thaimerican meal next door at Si-Am before cozying up in the theatre’s red velvet seats. Date night, done right.

Normally, we wouldn’t recommend volunteering to be locked in a random room for an hour, but this is an experience you don’t want to miss.

The Great Escape Room is a collection of themed strategy games designed for teams to find and solve clues that lead to freedom (hence, escaping the room). Put your mind to the test in Sherlock Holmes’ Library, the Colosseum, or even the President’s Bunker. Freaky, right?

If you’re game, phone your friends and reserve a room. We can’t promise you’ll escape.

Did someone say THEMED BAR CRAWLS? Yep. That was us. The Downtown Crawlers is a team of humans who love to explore our city…while drinking, obviously.

Crawlers pay one entry fee to register, including a party bus that carries a very tipsy you from bar to bar. Don’t worry if you missed the Comic-Con crawl with your BFF Spider-Man, there’s more where that came from. Follow them on Instagram to join the fun.

Enjoy the Best Ways to Get Around

Toot, toot! The TECO Streetcar system is comin’ through. Hop on this yellow trolley for a complimentary ride stretching from Downtown Tampa to Ybor City.

This electric streetcar operates seven days a week and can be expected every 15 minutes. It’s our preferred way to get from Downtown Tampa to Sparkman Wharf, especially when we’re craving a cheeseburger from Flock and Stock.

Get tips on how to ride.

It’s a Bird, it’s a Lime, it’s a Coast Bike share! Actually, it’s just three forms of transportation you can use while exploring the best things to do in Downtown Tampa. The good news is, they’re available almost everywhere you look.

E-scooters and Coast Bikes operate on independent apps and can be rented at your leisure. For a laid-back cruise through the city, pick up a Coast Bike. To fast-track your journey, opt for an e-scooter; but be warned, they run at high speeds and come with a set of rules

And now for our favorite way to travel in Downtown Tampa–by boat! The Pirate Water Taxi runs from Channelside all the way to Ricks on the River (because every boat ride is incomplete without stopping for raw oysters and Jell-o shots, clearly).

There are more than 12 stops where you can hop on and off, seven days a week! At $20 for an all-day pass, it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Downtown Tampa.

Purchase tickets online or at stop #7, just outside of the Sail Pavilion. Don’t forget to check the schedule and the weather before you ride.

If Uber was free and offered 813 specific rides, it would be The Downtowner. Let that soak in. The Downtowner is an eco-friendly, free car service created to take you wherever your heart desires…as long as your pick-up and drop-off locations are in the Downtown Tampa area.

Wait times can be long, so be sure to reserve your ride in advance. Download the app to get your ride on.

For more things to do in Downtown Tampa, follow UNATION on Facebook, Instagram, or download our app (iPhone/Google Play). 

See you in the city!

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Melissa Santell

Melissa Santell

Melissa is a Tampa Bay-based lifestyle and food writer, with a serious love for cooking Italian Food, photography, and reading her Aquarian horoscope. Melissa’s work has also appeared on Thought Catalogue, Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine, and Creative Loafing. She is a University of Tampa Alumni and was previously named 30 Under 30 by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s flexing her digital marketing muscles for clients or shooting food photos for her upcoming cookbook. Find Melissa on Instagram at @melsantell.

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