Ever since I was introduced to travel, I have wanted to go on an adventure all by myself. Until now, I always made excuses and ended up traveling with other people. I decided to traveling solo only because I exhausted all reason on why it is not a good idea.
Once you’re in your late 20’s you you realize that you are the best company you can have and that is when I decided to get out of my comfort and experience traveling solo. Tampa, Florida felt like the best place to have a relaxing fun weekend getaway by myself.
Although Tampa Bay is very bike and pedestrian friendly, it is a good idea to rent a vehicle so you don’t end up spending a lot of time on public transportation. You can rent cars directly from the airport for the duration of your stay.
When to go
Tampa is beautiful year long but you might have to book flight tickets in advance so that you get a good deal.
The less popular time to visit Tampa Bay is during the months of September to December when the weather is slightly cooler and the tourist season is just wearing off. Although May to August are considered the busiest(also wettest) seasons, it can get uncomfortably humid.
Winter is also a very popular time but it does tend to get expensive so you might have to plan early!
Where to stay
Tampa has a lot of hotels in the prime downtown area that you can reserve. I chose to book an airbnb in the more quieter Beach Park area. South Tampa and North Hyde Park areas are also very affordable and safe places to stay. If you are a solo traveler and want a safer area, avoid the Ybor District after sundown.
You can use this Airbnb code to get $55.00 off your first airbnb reservation! Airbnb Code
What to take with you
Basic sun protective gear like sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are essential all year round. You might want to carry a light cardigan for after sunset as some days might get ever so slightly chilly. I also recommend downloading offline google maps.
Where to Eat
Tampa has so many amazing restaurants and bars to choose from. My top picks are:
Sitting right next to the Hillsborough River, Ulele is the perfect place for either a quick snack or even a cold beer on a warm day. The ambience here is wonderful and its equally appealing to adults and kids. The Waterworks park is right next door if you want to join the Riverwalk.
Just about 10 minutes from Ulele is the Armature works - A historic restored structure now a thriving food court. From Italian to Indian, smoothies to cupcakes, you will find everything you need to satiate you taste buds all under one roof.
If you don’t have an appetite for more food, I would recommend at least getting a delicious cone of Astro Ice cream to enjoy by the river!
Do you want an elegant and delicious brunch? Do you want a high end bookstore? Are you a tea person? Well there is something for everyone at the Oxford Exchange. Even though it is very difficult to find a spot to park around here, I highly recommend checking it out!
La Segunda Center Bakery
Your trip will not be complete without getting the historic cuban sandwich and there is no place better than the La Segunda Bakery. It is one of the oldest and largest bakeries in Tampa and a must for some amazing breakfast sandwiches.
The best way to start your day would be to grab a delicious sandwich and make your way to Ybor which is about a 5 min walk from here. Ybor has so many fun things to do of which I have listed a few in this post.
The oldest restaurant in all of Tampa, The Colombia is great for all meals of the day. Be sure to make reservations a few days ahead as they fill out quick! I was unable to get a reservation even though I was traveling solo but I know what I’ll do in Tampa the next time I visit! This restaurant is located in the Ybor District and matches the cuban culture that the historic city has to offer.
Popular Tourist Attractions
Tampa Bay River Walk
Stretching from the north to the south end of Tampa along 8 miles of the Hillsborough River, the Tampa Riverwalk is one of the most popular things to do while in the city. You can rent a bike and go from one end to the other or just walk along admiring the tall buildings on one side and the beautiful Tampa University on the other. Another mode of commute is through the water - there are taxi’s available that take you to various points.
There are tons of events happening at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park that are always fun to be a part of. While I was there, I got to see the annual “Bark in the Park” event with so many adorable dogs!
Right next to the park is the Tampa Museum of Art and the Glazer’s Children’s Museum which are both great locations to spend the afternoon and beat the heat!
On the southmost part of the river walk, about a mile from the Curtis Hixon Park is one one the funnest places in Tampa. The Sparkman Wharf has food, live music and tons of beer! You can wave out to the large cruise ships leaving for their trips or even hang out at the park and read a book. It is colorful, has so much energy and great for all ages. There is tons of parking available if you decide to get your car here.
The Historic Ybor District (pronounced E-bore) is a predominant cuban neighborhood located to the north east of Tampa. I love Ybor for many reasons few of which are the fact that there a so many small shops to window shop from and so so many cigar places.
People still hand roll cigars here and although I don’t smoke, it was still interesting to learn about the history of how hand rolled cuban cigars ended up being the primary source of income for so many in the city. Along with getting cigars in every other shop, you also must try the delicious cuban coffee. I am not a huge coffee person but the “Cafe con leche” is too good to pass. It is stronger than most regular coffee’s so maybe try to avoid drinking it late in the afternoon.
Another interesting quirk of Ybor City is that you find chickens and roosters - EVERYWHERE. There is quite a huge chicken population here that have been around for almost 100 years! As they are preserved by the city of Tampa, it is illegal to harm them and apparently the chickens have been a nuisance in the neighborhood of late. Regardless, they are very friendly and fun to watch.
Ybor City Museum is a must for people who want to learn more about the history of the city. There is a $4.00 fees that includes a history video to learn more about the city, a self guided tour of the museum which includes a tour of the old bakery and various equipments used to hand-roll a cigar and a guided tour of the historical houses.
The Ybor City is also popular for its nightlife and breweries. Although it is not the safest place after dark, if you are with a group and want to have a fun Friday or Saturday night, this would be the place to check out!
University of Tampa
The University of Tampa is a really beautiful place to stroll around on a nice summer day. It is located right next to the riverwalk and has many palm trees to provide shade where you can hang out with friends and people watch.
The university has beautiful moorish minarets, domes and cupolas that give you the impression that you are somewhere in Europe!
Ballast Point park
Located about 15 minutes south of the city of Tampa, Ballast Point is a 600 foot pier providing unobstructed view of the city. It’s not the best spot for watching the sun set as you are facing east but it is still beautiful in its own right.
There are cafes to get a drink and gardens for kids to play in. If you want, you can rent fishing rods and bait and go fishing along the pier as well! The serenity and quaintness of this place really eases your mind and is a great place to come and unwind after a long day of touring around the city.
Just about a 20 minute drive from Tampa is the scenic city of St Petersburg or St. Pete’s for short. This beach town has fun quirky shops, delicious food and interesting museums. Taking one day out of your vacation and spending it here is an absolute must!
The Dali Museum
If you are an admirer of surrealistic and modern art, you have to visit the Dali Museum. It has the largest collection of Dali’s artwork outside of Europe and each one is more enthralling than the other. They also have a Virtual Reality room so you can really immerse yourself into Dali’s world.
The price for admission is $17.00 online and there is a ton of parking near and around the place. Be sure to carry change for the meters!!
Beaches at St. Pete’s!
Depending on how long you have, I would suggest spending a full day at the various beaches. I started off at Clearwater and stopped at John’s Pass Village making my way to St.Pete’s beach for the most glorious sunset!
There are a lot of beachside restaurants along the coast, especially in St. Pete’s. Ones that I really enjoyed are Caddy’s Treasure Island, Jimmy B’s Beach Bar and Toasted Monkey. These “shacks” have day long live music, food and alcohol so it’s a great sport to have the perfect beach party.
As the beaches are very commercial, you will find many tourists laying on the white sandy beaches basking away in the sun looking forward to a magnificent sunset. Tampa is truly a wonderfully quaint city with so much to do especially as a solo traveller. It is safe, fun and lively!