Tampa is the new ‘it’ city, according to Travel + Leisure

Downtown Tampa. Image via Getty Images/Alex Potemkin

By Crystal Harlan

February 28, 2024

Downtown Tampa has been transformed into a vibrant neighborhood with restaurants, boutiques, trendy hotels, and high-rise luxury condos.

Let’s face it: Miami and Orlando usually get all the attention—the former with its glitzy nightlife and the latter with its plethora of theme parks. But now, it seems that Tampa is having a moment.

Travel + Leisure is calling the once “overlooked Florida city” an “it” city and “exciting destination.” And it’s not for nothing. 

Tampa’s downtown area has recently been transformed thanks to an influx of investment in the Water Street area. The district that used to be a ghost town after business hours is now a vibrant neighborhood with restaurants, boutiques, trendy hotels, and high-rise luxury condos. Bill Gates and Jeff Vinik, the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, invested in the 56-acre project that Travel + Leisure calls a “must-visit neighborhood.”

In addition to Water Street, Tampa’s historic Ybor City continues to attract tourists with its cigar factories, Cuban roots, and old school restaurants like Columbia, which first opened its doors in 1905.

Speaking of food, the city’s booming culinary scene includes several Michelin-starred restaurants including Rocca, On Swann, and Psomi. 

In addition to restaurants, you have attractions like the Florida Aquarium, TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center, and the Riverwalk. 

And of course, you can’t mention Tampa, without talking about the Gasparilla Pirate Fest with its land and boat parades full of revelers in pirate garb. There’s also the Gasparilla Music Festival, the Cuban Sandwich Festival, and numerous events that bring people to the city. 

In fact, in 2022, Tampa Bay brought in a record-breaking $1.1 billion in taxable hotel revenue, according to Visit Tampa Bay. 

Conventions, events, and concerts are responsible for attracting a large number of visitors. In 2023, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and The Jonas Brothers were among the major touring artists making stops in Tampa. This year, Drake, Billy Joel, and Sting are a few of the big names that will perform in Tampa, filling venues, hotels and restaurants.

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  • Crystal Harlan

    Crystal is a bilingual editor and writer with over 20 years of experience in digital and print media. She is currently based in Florida, but has lived in small towns in the Midwest, Caracas, New York City, and Madrid, where she earned her MA in Spanish literature.



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