I can’t quite decide if it’s the twinkling lights, the shimmering water, or the sheer looming height of the buildings, but even though I’ve lived in Tampa Bay for the last 27 years, I am entranced by the view of the city skyline from my Harbor Island hotel room at the Westin Tampa Waterside. Through a partnership with Visit Florida, I left my life of suburban quarantine to get away for an exhilarating weekend in Tampa.
Like the rest of the world, I had to grapple with the inability to freely travel and explore this year due to the dreaded C-word. My last trip was the girl’s trip I curated in the mountains of Asheville in February. My poor suitcase had been collecting dust ever since.
I have always been a fan of quick short Florida staycations to nearby cities like Orlando, Venice, Naples, Saint Augustine, or even as nearby as St. Petersburg, but admittedly I had never planned a Tampa staycation where I actually went and stayed in a hotel in the city. When Visit Florida asked if I was up for traveling late this summer my answer was a resounding yes!
Where to stay for a getaway weekend in Tampa
Tampa has seen a boom and undergone a revitalization of the downtown area within the last decade and with that has come an abundance of Downtown Tampa Hotels to choose from to fit every budget and taste.
There are hotels right on the Tampa Riverwalk, in the Channelside district, and near the convention center on the harbor that leads to Old Tampa Bay. You can also choose a vacation rental on Air BnB.
For my stay I was on Harbor Island, which looks across the Garrison Channel and the Hillsborough River, and in my humble opinion provides the best view of the entire Tampa Skyline any hotel can offer. When I entered my room I let out an audible gasp at the view.
Y’all I didn’t expect it and I was immediately in love with this city, something I don’t think I had ever said before.
As for the hotel itself, I enjoyed my stay at the Westin. The beds were extremely comfortable and gave me a luxurious night’s sleep. The staff was also very helpful and attentive.
How to stay safe in a hotel during the pandemic
The Westin is a 4 star hotel and they were taking great strides to provide safety measures like signs and labels on the ground to encourage social distancing, plexiglass at the reservation desk, self cleaning elevator buttons using nano tech.
Masks wearing in common areas was also required and the TV remote in the rooms is sealed in a plastic cover that is replaced with a new one for the next guest. They also had a policy that did not allow hotel staff to enter your room while you are present.
I encourage you to read up on the website on the hotel’s specific policies for safety and sanitization and also give them a call to answer your questions.
I also bring disinfectant spray, disinfectant wipes, and disposable gloves to sanitize my hotel room and every single thing I would possibly touch.
It takes me a good 45 minutes to cleanse the space but I think the extra time is worth it. I also refuse housekeeping during my stay to ensure no one else is entering the room. If you do end up needing hotel staff or maintenance to enter you will need to re-sanitize the room as you did when you first arrived.
I know for many readers this all seems like alot, but these were things I already did when I traveled because I’m a germaphobe. So welcome to my world. Even when things are better, I will continue to do these things for my health and sanity.
Another precaution you can take is bringing your own pillow and linens to put on top of the hotel’s linens. I do this for a vacation rental or Air BnB but you can also do this for a hotel room. In these times, there’s really no such thing as too cautious or being extra. Do what makes you comfortable.
Where to eat during a Tampa Staycation
If it’s one thing you can’t get enough of in Tampa, it’s great food. Tampa is a foodie destination for sure and you will have no shortage of good meals during your weekend in Tampa. I sure didn’t. Many restaurants have ample outdoor seating now but if you aren’t comfortable eating at a restaurant just yet, then take-out works too! Order ahead and bring your food back to your room or find a secluded spot along the Riverwalk or at a park to eat.
Italian food located in Hyde Park Village. The cup and chair pizza is amazeballs. They do have outdoor seating.
Food hall in Tampa Heights district. Since I was staying downtown I caught the Pirate water taxi down the river to have dinner here.
Outdoor food hall in Channelside District. There lots of yummy choices and a beer garden as well as outdoor entertainment and views of the cruise ships in the channel.
Thee Burger Spot 813 & Augustine’s Cheesecakes
Located in Tampa Heights. What awaits you inside is burger heaven. Friday’s only you can get a Krispy Kreme burger and it is sinful. You really can’t go wrong no matter what you get here.
Augustine’s Cheesecakes has a Thursday pop up shop to get their delectable and unique flavored cheesecakes, but if you come to Thee Burger Spot, you can get the available flavors any day of the week.
** Support Black Owned Business
La Segunda Bakery
A Tampa staple and home to the Cuban sandwich located in Ybor City district since 1915.
Hall on Franklin
Food hall with a great ambiance and an eclectic choice of restaurants to choose from.
**Support Black Owned Business
Great spot for brunch or having appetizers and drinks on their spacious patio that overlooks the channel and provides great views of the Tampa skyline.
Things to do during a weekend in Tampa
Urban Kai is located in Tampa Heights near Armature Works. There was no better way to spend the morning than renting a kayak and paddling down the river toward Downtown Tampa.
I typically kayak in nature settings, but there was still something just as peaceful and serene about paddling along the Riverwalk and seeing the skyline of Tampa come into view. We even saw an alligator, and I had never seen one this far down the river.
It’s a different vantage point of the city and I definitely saw things I hadn’t seen before.
Zipline in Tampa
I know for some reason many people tend to only do adventurous activities like zipline when they are on a cruise excursion or a Caribbean vacation. However, you don’t have to lose your sense of adventure just because you’re on a staycation.
Empower Adventures in Oldsmar has 5 zip lines totaling 3,000 feet over nature and wildlife preserves. There’s also a 200ft long suspension bridge and aerial obstacle course. The views are incredible and the staff is extremely friendly and helpful.
Masks were required by participants and worn by staff. They also sanitize all of their equipment between uses.
Create Your Own Candle with a Custom Scent
The Candle Pour in Hyde Park Village has become my new favorite activity I didn’t know I was missing out on! It is the cutest little spot where you can create your own custom blended scent for a candle or room spray.
I had so much fun doing this with my son. It was like we were in Potions class at Hogwarts. You don’t just select your scents, but you have to blend them and get the right amounts of each ingredient.
So much pressure!
The staff is very knowledgeable and helpful and they will make recommendations to help you create the perfect signature scent.
And yes, even wearing masks you could smell the scents without any problem.
This is one of the top aquariums in the nation. We enjoyed spending the afternoon here so much. My son used to attend summer camp here when he was just a little guy so it was very nostalgic to be back.
Of course the fish are the star of the show, but don’t miss out on the lemur exhibit, the touch tank, and the cute playful river otters.
For safety during our visit masks were required and tickets are purchased for pre-assigned time slots. Social distancing is also enforced.
Explore Tampa Riverwalk on the Pirate Water Taxi
The Pirate Water Taxi acts as both transportation mode and excursion. There are stops all along the 2.6 miles of waterfront walkway on the Tampa Riverwalk where you can hop on and off to discover museums, restaurants, bars, and parks.
I think the best time to ride is at night when you can see the Riverwalk, Downtown Tampa, and the University of Tampa all glistening and twinkling their lights on the river. There’s something truly magical about it.
Get your eat on and your swing on at Top Golf, a multi-level electronic driving range. You can hit the ball for accuracy and play fun games like the Jewel game and you don’t have to be any good at golf to have fun.
For safety, there are plastic barriers between the bays and this is an outdoor activity. Staff also wear masks.
Explore Hyde Park
Hyde Park Village is a cute outdoor shopping and dining venue. If shopping is your thing this is a great way to spend the afternoon and support local businesses. There are also great photo-op walls throughout the village to get that perfect shot for “the gram”.
Final Tips for a Tampa Staycation
- I know the post is titled weekend in Tampa, but if you’re still wanting to limit crowds then a weekday getaway is the way to go.
- Call ahead and visit the website for all businesses prior to your visit for the latest in guidelines and safety practices.
- Go to Visit Tampa Bay for the latest in current health and safety guidelines and mandates.
- Pin this post and plan your weekend in Tampa getaway when you’re ready.
Safety Disclaimer: Confirm what current COVID-19 health and safety protocols and guidelines are in place by all tour vendors, accommodations, and city/county/state guidelines prior to booking. Those choosing to travel during this time, do so at their own risk.
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This post contains affiliate links that compensate me if a room or activity is booked using my links. This post was made possible by a paid partnership with Visit Florida. However, all opinions are my own. Read full disclosures here.