Mixing Business and Pleasure: Quick Escapes in Tampa

by  Darren Murph | Dec 20, 2012
Tampa, FL
Tampa, FL / Sean Pavone/iStock

Winter has its grasp on mainland America (we know, Hawaii -- you’re managing just fine), but there are a few places left to fly to should you find yourself longing for milder temperatures. A favorite when it comes to wintery conventions is Tampa, Florida, which is the latest city on our list of places to enjoy while visiting for business. In an effort to get you outside of the boardroom and into the wilds of The Big Guava, we’re offering up two restaurants, two attractions, and one bar that you can hit with just a few extra hours between meetings.

The Tampa Convention Center may be on the water, but it’s not terribly close to much else. That said, there’s a spot called L'Eden that’s just a few blocks away, and it’s worth heading to for a couple of reasons. For one, you’ll stroll through downtown Tampa’s River Arts District, which is a lively, beautiful section of town. After staring at grey walls and long concourses all day, such a thing is a sight for sore eyes. Moreover, the eatery itself is excellent, boasting an array of French options as well as more traditional American fare. It’s only been around since 2007, but it’s well on its way to becoming a staple in the Convention area.

Just across the bridge, you'll find Cafe Dufrain. Yeah, the waterfront view is the star of the show, but it's an ideal spot for a low-key, not-at-all stuffy meeting. The food is above average, and it'll work for both lunch and dinner. Feel free to loosen your tie before you arrive.

As for things to do with limited time? If you're looking to sit back and be entertained in the evening, the Tampa Bay Times Forum is just steps away from the convention center. There, you'll find the town's local NHL team (should the lockout ever end), as well as a variety of world class theater and concert events. Hardly a night passes without something fairly major happening here, from pro wrestling to Bon Jovi concerts.

For most everything else, you'll either need to hail a cab or use up that free rental car day you've been quietly ignoring. For night owls, I'd recommend Ghost Tours of Tampa Bay. I fell for these things when I went on one in Charleston, South Carolina, and Tampa has plenty of excellent stories of its own. It's one of the quicker ways to get to know a surprisingly large amount of information about the city, while also having a laugh. If that's not quite your bag, The Florida Aquarium is truly a sight to behold. It's much grander than a glorified fish tank, so you best bring your walking shoes.

As for a nightcap, I'm going to recommend you actually grab a cab and head to Hyde Park. But, if possible, leave early enough to get a bit of shopping and strolling in first. It's a fairly upscale sector of Tampa, and it's a great place to stretch your legs, burn a little cash, and pick up a gift for that special someone you're (presumably) returning home to. While there, drop by the Wine Exchange. You'll find more options than any sane person could ever take into consideration, and if you're in a party with folks that would prefer to steer clear of alcohol, the food section of the menu is also worthwhile.

This is a recurring feature exploring must-visit locales in a variety of cities. If you find yourself traveling to a place for business, why not venture out and enjoy your surroundings?

See our Tampa destination guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights.

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