As someone who lives about 30 minutes away from Tampa, I can confidently say it’s a fun place to explore. There are lots of cute restaurants, cool sites and insta-worthy spots. New things are always being built, and it’s impossible to ever get bored around there. Personally, there are a few special places that I frequently visit.
Some things are more touristy in Tampa. A few of the common places people like to go to can be seen as “basic,” but I like to find something unique about them. Although places such as Oxford Exchange seem typical, they don’t have to be. Here I have a guide to Tampa if you’re in the mood to explore or even if you’re having a weekend getaway. Whether you live near Tampa or not, these cute places can be enjoyed by anyone.
If you’re from Tampa, it seems like you see a picture being posted at least once a week of someone at Oxford Exchange. Even though it has become a hot spot, I have found a hidden gem within it. Located closer to the heart of Tampa, Oxford Exchange is a breakfast, brunch and lunch spot with an older European feel to it. With wood and marble accents, you can dine in or just stop by for tea and coffee. The food is actually very good. Most people would die for their sweet potato fries and Buddy Brew Coffee. Although it’s somewhere to eat, I like it for other reasons, too.
Oxford Exchange has a bookstore area away from the dining area with a very cool setup. They have popular books, as well as older ones. They have a rare selection displayed on vintage-looking wood. Along with this, you can shop for little knick-knacks, such as glassware and candles.
Next to the bookstore section is Warby Parker, which is an eyewear designer. As someone who wears glasses, I love browsing around the store. It’s a completely different vibe than going to a normal eyewear store. It just has an eclectic feel.
Something many people don’t know about OE is that they actually have workshops. Over the summer, I attended a writing workshop taught by the author of one of my textbooks from the previous semester. It’s not every day you get to do something like this. For only five dollars, I got to participate in this rare experience.
There is something about the simplistic tone of Oxford Exchange, located in the middle of a major city, that makes it really special.
Curtis Hixon Park
If you’re looking for a calm outdoor place, Curtis Hixon Park is definitely the move. It’s a park of many opportunities. You can simply walk around if that’s what you’re in the mood to do. There’s also a riverwalk that you can stroll down if you want to be near the water.
Curtis Hixon also has concerts. If it’s not brutally hot, outdoor concerts can be awesome. Since it’s a park, it has a more intimate feel. Seeing a performance outside in the middle of the city is something locals and tourists can both enjoy.
If you’re looking to be active, outdoor yoga is sometimes offered. As I said before, if the sun isn’t too intense, doing yoga in the park can be a great start to your day. With a beautiful view right next to the riverwalk, you can’t get this experience many other places.
Curtis Hixon Park is located right next to the University of Tampa, which is in the heart of the city. The best part is the park gives you a view of the whole city. There aren’t very many big cities near Tampa, so this is a prime spot. You can explore the outdoors and feel comfortable without having to be stuck in the hustle and bustle of a city street.
Armature Works is a newer addition to the Tampa area. Located in the more historic part, Armature Works is a big warehouse area full of unique eateries, bars and workspaces. There’s a market area with various cuisines such as ramen, pizza, burgers, coffee and pretty much anything else you can imagine. There’s also a restaurant within it and plans for more to come since it’s so new.
Locale Market in St. Petersburg has a similar vibe to this, if you’re more familiar with St. Pete. It’s a unique place to go with friends and family to just walk around and try out new foods. Since there are so many options, you can try something new every time you go. This is my favorite aspect about it because restaurant recommendations are usually only good once or twice. With Armature Works, you can treat your taste buds to a new experience.
Unlike my previous sites, Busch Gardens is an amusement park for all ages. It has a safari theme with lots of rides, as well as animals and attractions. Although it’s famous for its roller coaster, I’m not the biggest fan of roller coasters, which shows that anyone can enjoy their time there.
If you do enjoy roller coasters, though, you should get to Busch Gardens ASAP. There are a ton of different rides, and they’re all completely different. A crowd favorite is SheiKra, which has a climax of a drop that goes almost completely straight down. Yikes.
The safari aspect is cool because the space is transformed to make you feel like you aren’t even in Florida. They have animals and themed restaurants all around the park.
My favorite part about Busch Gardens is the way they transform it during the holidays. During Halloween time, they host Howl-O-Scream, which is an event with spooky haunted houses. During Christmas time, you can go to Christmas Town. The whole park is decorated like a Winter Wonderland. It gives us Floridians the chance to actually feel like we’re experiencing the winter season.
The last place on my list is probably the most insta-worthy, which is Hyde Park. Hyde Park is a big area to walk around with a ton of shops and restaurants. It’s located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, which is in the heart of Tampa, as well.
They’re always adding new shops and restaurants. They have a few popular shops such as Kendra Scott, Lulu Lemon and Anthropology, but there are many others that aren’t as basic. I find it a lot more enjoyable to have a shopping day in a cool outdoor area rather than being in a mall, which is very typical.
Hyde Park is also well known for its restaurants. Bartaco and Goody Goody Burgers are two the most popular. Goody Goody, one of my personal favorites is designed to resemble an old school diner and was recently added to Hyde Park. It’s iconic because it used to be there many years ago and just made a comeback. All of Hyde Park Village gives you that unique mixture of old and new.
Whether you’re a local or a tourist, Tampa is a city for everyone. It’s an iconic place where everyone can go to do something different. The places I’ve listed are some of my personal favorite go-to spots, where everyone can find a special hidden part that is unique to them. Devouring a new meal, picking out a vintage book or shopping in a trendy boutique are just a few things you can do when you enjoy your time in Tampa, Florida. Cities can be hectic and stressful. However, Tampa is special for the very reason that it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. You can easily find your peaceful niche in the midst of the city.