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Best Things to Do in Ybor City

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Ybor City is the Arya Stark of Tampa Bay. It knows many names and faces. 

Most know Ybor as the Cigar Capital of the World, representing a true haven for Cuban history and culture. Others see it as an enchanting street filled with free love, eclectic restaurants, and just the right amount of mischief. 

We think of Ybor as the perfect place to take your family on a Saturday afternoon or sing karaoke at until 3 AM. 

No matter what this little city means for you, Ybor has a way of making you feel special. Maybe it’s the scent of freshly rolled tobacco leaves that fills the air or knowing that Channing Tatum once danced his way down 7th Ave. Either way, once you arrive you’ll suddenly be in the mood for adventure. 

Take our hand and let’s jump on the trolley. It’s time to explore the best things to do in Ybor City. Hurry up, it only comes once every 20 minutes!

Entertainment

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Nestled in the heart of Centro Ybor, you’ll find the Tampa Improv. It’s Ybor’s premiere comedy theater, showcasing a range of comedians from open mic night beginners to celebrities like Kevin Hart and Adam Sandler.

Be sure to arrive early to grab a cocktail in the main room before your show starts. The seating is first-come, first-serve so if a front row show is what you’re after, punctuality is a must. Welcome to the first best thing to do in Ybor City.

Yes, The Ritz is as swanky as it sounds…but in the best way possible. This 17,000 square foot concert and special event venue invested $2 million in insane renovations, making it one of Ybor’s fanciest landmarks. It’s no wonder as to why chart-topping artists like Lady Gaga, Ben Harper, and Deadmau5 have already performed there!

You can get to The Ritz by taking a quick trolley ride from Channelside or paying to park in the Ybor Parking Garage if you’d rather drive. We’re team trolley.

This intimate event space is great for people who live for front row shows. Even if you have a drunk family of six howling half of the lyrics in your ears, it’s promised to be a good concert. We know because it happened to us.

The Orpheum also hosts tons of art shows, local events, and dance competitions–if you’re in the mood to try something new.

It’s definitely a vodka soda and Bud Light kind of joint, but hey, what more could you need?

Rock Brothers celebrates the union of well-curated craft beer and music. They partner with breweries like Cigar City Brewing Co. and bands they love to create craft beer collaborations that will make your palette sing–literally.

If you’re a beer drinker, order an icy mug of 311 Amber Ale. If not, there’s a beautiful list of handcrafted cocktails, like The Stairway to Heaven (pictured above), to choose from.

Did we mention Rock Brothers also hosts concerts upstairs in their attic? YEP, there are lots of things to do in Ybor City.

Coffee Spots

We love this coffee shop for its homemade sweets, lightning-fast WiFi, and how seriously it takes “quiet time.” It literally has a regularly scheduled “no talking” period, which makes it a perfect place to crank out work.

When you walk through the front door, you’ll be greeted by pastries, a chalkboard listing daily offerings, and one smiling barista. We live for their signature beverage, the Cafe Ybor, made with Espresso, steamed milk, and sweetened condensed milk. Props to you, The Bunker, and congratulations on being one of the best things to do in Ybor City.

The Blind Tiger knows how to make a bold statement in an understated way. Their concept is speakeasy-inspired, boasting that “their flavors are so good they should be illegal.”

From a solid matcha latte to their beautifully displayed French macaroons, we’d say that rings true. You can bet on having a cool experience at this coffee shop. 

If you like your coffee with a side of attitude, say hello to The Bricks. Here you can sip on coffee concoctions like the Skanky Chai, made with chai, milk, and espresso or the Sonny Bono with espresso, chocolate, mint, and milk.

For a boozy brew, ask for a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream in your order. Louis Jr. will gladly hook you up. He’s the best bartender ever.

Best Dives

Remember that time in middle school when tight pants and emo music were basically the center of your universe? Well, that time is back and you can find it at First Chance Last Chance Bar. This bar loves to embrace community, good times, and delicious cocktails. They also have a really fun “Spin the Wheel” game where you can win 2-for-1 shots.

We especially dig this place for its open-air courtyard on hot Summer nights. Surely, one of the best things to do in Ybor City–not to mention, highly Instagrammable. 

You didn’t think we’d forget Tampa’s favorite PIRATE bar, did you? This ode to Jose Gaspar screams Gasparilla with a hint of sugar-dusted beignets served in a brown paper bag. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

You can visit Gaspar’s for a Sunday Booze Cruise Brunch (including over 50 feet of bottomless bites to choose from), a late-night game of pool, or an afternoon cocktail. The choice is yours, matey.

And now for the king of dives in Ybor City, Crowbar. If you love jamming to live music with a PBR Tall Boy in hand, this bar is for you.

Open seven days a week with a serious selection of brews to choose from, Crowbar is kind of like the best friend you can always count on. They also have a pretty lax Crow’s Nest Beer Garden where you can kick back, relax and drink in the sun. Count us in.

Ybor Classics

What’s up, history buff, this one’s for you! JC Newman Cigar Co. is America’s oldest family-owned premium cigar maker, established in 1895. Our favorite part about this concept (aside from its powerhouse of history) is that it’s totally open to the public.

Guests can take guided tours through the factory to get up close and personal with cigar rolling, or read up on its history solo. We swooned over their antique cigar machines during our last visit.

The experience really makes you think differently about the attention to detail dedicated to one single smoke. Your newfound appreciation may influence you to score a Cuesta-Rey or two. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

If you’ve been to Ybor City, there’s a high chance you’ve walked by The Columbia and asked yourself, “What is this magical place?” The exterior of the building is nothing compared to the endless rooms of treasure you’ll find upon walking through its doors.

This Spanish oasis was founded in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., making it the oldest restaurant in Florida! Order their signature 1905 Salad and a pitcher of sangria. You won’t be disappointed.

Cubans and pastries and mojo, oh my! La Segunda is home to all the Cuban classics you could ever need. Their glass display case is nothing short of mesmerizing, featuring items like Guava Rings, Flan slices, and Rainbow Cake.

This isn’t just one of the best things to do in Ybor City, it’s one of the best places to grab a quick bite in Tampa Bay. It’s been in business since 1915 and we hope it stays open forever.

So, if you’ve learned anything so far, it’s that Ybor City was built on cigar production and Cuban culture. King Corona Cigar Bar & Cafe represents exactly that. It attracts an older crowd of cigar and coffee lovers but is appropriate for anyone craving a touch of Havana.

We enjoy their iced coffee with a swirl of chocolate sauce on a daily basis. When you try it, we promise you’ll be back for more.

Some of the best things to do in Ybor City are annual events. If you’ve never ventured to one of these fantastic festivals, add them to your to-do list. A few we love are the Ybor Farmers Market, Knight Parade, Pride, Festa Italiana, and Ybor’s Cuban Sandwich Festival.

Follow us on Instagram to stay in the know. We promise to keep you updated on the best events in Ybor City!

Dining Out

Muffaletta at Zydeco Brew Works, Genoa Salami, Capicola, Black Forest Ham, Mortadella, Provolone, and spicy olive spread served on an artisan Muffaletta roll. 📷 Melissa Santell

Freshly brewed craft beer, Nola-inspired flavors, and a 300+ capacity event space make Zydeco Brew Werks a special addition to 7th Ave. When you walk into this modern brewery, you’ll be charmed by high exposed ceilings and a team that takes beer very seriously.

Order one of their nostalgic New Orleans specialties like Creole Flatbread and a craft beer flight for the full experience. Don’t forget to Instagram a selfie while you’re there–the lighting is impeccable!

Traipsing through the cobblestone streets of Paris is nice, but driving to Ybor is just a little more convenient. La Creperia Cafe is a French bistro on 7th Ave. with an “always open” attitude. We’ve eaten our way through their menu and have an affinity for the French Onion Soup,  anything and everything with Nutella, and their delightfully classic espresso bar.

If loving Illy cappuccinos with Madam Suzette crepes is wrong, we don’t want to be right.

TBBC is an Ybor City mecca for all things beer. This family-owned brewery has been a hot spot for locals and tourists alike since its feature on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. 

It’s one of the only places in Tampa where you can drink your way through 24 rotating taps and munch on beer-infused food with zero regrets. The Red Eye Ale chicken wings and Thai Curry Mussels are “prime time,” according to our favorite bleach blonde foodie, Guy Fieri.

P.S. Pups are welcome on the patio!

Late Night

Did you even go to Ybor if you didn’t dance a little? These dance clubs are completely different atmospherically but have one major thing in common: a killer taste in music. The Honey Pot is a gay bar that calls itself  “Ybor’s hottest club with the hottest people.”

Hello, confidence. With themed party nights like Steam Fridays and Tease Saturdays, you know they’re turning up the dancing heat. 

We also adore The Castle, which is quite literally a castle, and a haven for alternative medieval memorabilia echoed by house beats. You might just feel like Queen Elizabeth at Ultra Music Festival, dancing amongst armored knights and taxidermy black crows.

A word of advice: don’t get locked in the dungeon, friends.

Vampire Blood. White Witch. Morticia. We’re not chanting a spell, just creepily whispering three names you’ll encounter on SpookyEasy’s kava and botanical tea menu.

As you may have guessed from the name, this Gothic Victorian lounge is a speakeasy, hidden inside of the Stone Soup Company. Find your way to the bookcase on the second-floor mezzanine, if you dare. This place will leave you feeling very “Interview with the Vampire” and admittedly, a little tipsy.

Light bites, Sunday Gothic Brunch, and a full bar are available too, if you vaaaant to suck on a more traditional dining experience.

There’s no pizza like a New York-style pizza. You know it. We know it. Even Italy knows it. New York New York Pizza has been slinging slices in Ybor for as long as we can remember. This place is always bustling, but right before 3AM, you’ll find a gigantic line of pizza monsters at their to-go window.

Luckily, you can place an order through their app to skip the wait. The next time you’re out late, top your evening off with a hot slice of Grandma’s Pie.

Family Friendly

It’s all fun and games until you don’t have enough tickets to “buy” 25 Tootsie Rolls. Did we just age ourselves a million years, or…?

GameTime is our first stop on this family-friendly trolley ride through the best things to do in Ybor City. We love this arcade for its endless sea of neon games, but more importantly, because it serves liquid fun for the parents. You can always depend on a gigantic frosted mug of Miller Lite. *insert shoulder shrug here*

When you’ve satisfied your Skee Ball fill, scoot over to Snobachi in Centro Ybor for hand-rolled ice cream. Their cookies and cream ice cream is to die for.

The best family mornings begin with a stack of chocolate pancakes and end with sun salutations. Every Saturday morning, Yoga Loft Tampa hosts a donation-based community class in the Ybor City Museum Garden (1818 E 9th Ave).

This outdoor class is open to all levels, ages, and animals including the infamous Ybor City chickens! Class starts promptly at 9:30AM–don’t forget to bring a mat.

One of the best things to do in Ybor City is to pay homage to its history, dead and alive. The Ybor Ghost Tour reveals the city’s darkest secrets and deadliest stories. Your family will explore the haunted streets after sunset, under the watch of a highly spirited guide.

Walking tours are held daily and begin when the clock strikes 8PM. Don’t sleep on this other-worldly experience, rated the #1 haunted tour in the United States by US City Traveler. It’s okay to hold hands if you get spooked. We won’t tell.

Now that you know the best things to do in Ybor City, it’s time to plan your next visit! We’re here to help if you have any questions. Send us a note on Facebook, Instagram, or download our app (iPhone/Google Play) for more local fun.

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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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