After a long, cold winter, the sunshine and balmy weather of Tampa were beckoning me to Florida’s shores, and I just couldn’t resist. I finally had a free weekend, and I wasn’t about to waste it by sitting at home on my couch as it rained heavily outside. So instead, I decided to take a spur-of-the-moment getaway to a beautiful, sunny locale where I could wear shorts and sandals and spend every possible moment outdoors.
I ended up choosing Tampa, Florida based on flight costs, and before I knew it I was heading to the airport. As I boarded the plane, I realized that I didn’t actually have a hotel room booked for that night. I had been so preoccupied with daydreaming of beaches and Southern charm that I forgot to plan for accommodations. Fortunately, HotelTonight made it easy for me to book a great last-minute hotel in Tampa, and in just a few minutes I had a hotel room waiting for me in this beloved Florida town.
As soon as I got out of the airport, I took a minute to bask in the warm Florida sunshine before grabbing my rental car. Then I headed downtown and checked into my hotel. Since I wanted to stretch my legs and grab a bite to eat after my flight, I went out for a walk around my new neighborhood. Downtown Tampa, which has apparently experienced a rebirth in recent years, is pristine, bustling with busy locals, and full of great dining options. It’s also home to the beloved Riverwalk, which is an impressive pedestrian walkway that winds along the Hillsborough River and Garrison Channel. I strolled along the Riverwalk for nearly an hour, soaking in the sun and taking in all of the Tampa sights along the way.
Although I had originally planned on spending most of my weekend at the beach, I became so fascinated with the city of Tampa itself that I knew I needed to explore more of its neighborhoods. Some locals kindly pointed me toward Ybor City, Tampa’s historic Cuban neighborhood, which is now a vibrant district rich in culture and energy. This diverse neighborhood was once a main hub for cigar manufacturers, but now it’s a place where locals and tourists alike can come for some great Cuban food, good shopping, and vibrant nightlife.
After getting a feel for the flavor and energy of the city itself, I decided it was time to explore the area’s beaches. Tampa is regularly considered one of the best beach destinations in the country, as it boasts some truly picturesque swatches of sand. I drove my rental car out to Caladesi Island, a secluded, breathtaking beach known for its white sand and clear teal water. Because it is a nature sanctuary, it’s only accessible by boat, so I had to take a ferry to complete my trip, but it was well worth it. This remote, gorgeous island felt like the quintessential island paradise, and I was lucky enough to see dolphins swimming off its shores all afternoon.
The next morning, I decided to check out another one of Tampa’s popular beaches. This time, though, I didn’t choose a secluded, quiet beach that felt like my own private island paradise. Instead, I opted for one of the most popular beaches in Tampa – Clearwater Beach. This coastal hotspot is regularly ranked as one of the best beach destinations in Florida, so I knew I had to check it out. While Clearwater Beach is certainly busier than Caladesi Island, it has a unique energy and excitement that is infectious. I spent the morning swimming in the warm aquamarine waters and walking along the fine, white sand. After an action-packed morning on the beach, I wandered over to the row of shops and stores along the boardwalk so I could grab some lunch.
This historic Tampa district is a charming, walkable neighborhood beloved by both locals and visitors. To this day, Hyde Park is Tampa’s most desirable and most fashionable neighborhood, and the real estate in this area is the most expensive in the city. Because of its prestige, Hyde Park is polished and well-maintained, and it has a great selection of restaurants, from upscale restaurants to casual eateries. Meandering through the idyllic streets of Hyde Park was the perfect way to wrap up my sun-soaked Florida vacation.
In just two days, I was able to see so much of Tampa, Florida. While I realize I still didn’t see everything or do everything there is to see and do in Tampa, I did get to scratch the surface of this popular Florida destination. Because of HotelTonight, I was able to find a great last-minute hotel in Tampa, and therefore was able to really enjoy every moment of my time in this charming Florida town.