In Tampa and St. Petersburg, the peak visitor season is winter and spring, with most people visiting from January to April, which means higher room rates during those months. If you’re visiting in March or April, be aware that these areas tend to get crowded during spring break as well.
Less people visit from September to December, when the weather is pleasant and nearly vacant hotels offer their lowest room rates of the year. Be aware however that hurricane season runs from late summer to early fall. It’s best to avoid the summer if you can, which brings hot, humid weather and surges of visitors on summer break.
Here is a 4-day itinerary that highlights the best Tampa and St. Petersburg attractions.
After flying into Tampa, start the day with lunch at Pelagia Trattoria, an upscale Italian restaurant in the Renaissance Hotel, just southeast of the airport. After lunch, rent a boat and spend the rest of the afternoon cruising Tampa Bay or make reservations for a sunset sail with Olde World Sailing Line. Have a nice seafood dinner at an outdoor fireside table at Oystercatchers at the Grand Hyatt or head to Shula’s Steak House at the Westshore if you want a sizzling-good steak. Finish off the evening with wine and dessert at Armani’s rooftop bar, also in the Hyatt, with the best views of Tampa all lit up at night. Spend the night at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.
Start the morning with Cuban pastries at La Segunda Central Bakery in Ybor City. Spend the morning exploring the historic and artsy Cuban district. If you’re in Tampa during spring training, see the New York Yankees play at Steinbrenner Field, just east of the airport. Otherwise, walk along Bayshore Boulevard and enjoy the historic homes and shops. Have dinner at the Japanese-inspired Water Sushi, a late-night hangout that has live music almost nightly. Consider sneaking across the street for some heavenly dessert at The Harry Waugh Dessert Room at Bern’s Steak House. Stay another night at the Grand Hyatt.
Wake up and drive half an hour over the W. Howard Frankland Bridge to St. Petersburg for breakfast at Skyway Jack’s Restaurant. Spend the morning fishing on the Skyway Bridge or shopping in Downtown St. Petersburg. While in Downtown, visit the Salvador Dalí Museum, intriguing both inside and out. Catch an evening baseball game with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, with the required dinner of ballpark hot dogs and cold beers. Alternatively, enjoy seafood and waterfront views at 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, within walking distance of The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club, where you should stay for the night.
Have breakfast at the Vinoy, then drive half an hour either to the lively St. Pete Beach or to the more isolated Fort De Soto Park. Have some fun in the sun before enjoying a sunset dinner at The Hurricane in St. Pete Beach. Stay the night at the Sirata Beach Resort.
With More Time
If you have time for a day trip, get on I-75 and take the hour-long drive south to Sarasota. Spend the morning shopping at the luxurious St. Armands Circle before popping over to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for a short tour through their fabulous orchid exhibit. Take the John Ringling Causeway, Highway 789, over Sarasota Bay. Drive to Siesta Key, and spend the rest of the day on Siesta Key Beach. Have dinner at Ophelia’s on the Bay and stay at the Turtle Beach Resort.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Tampa & St. Petersburg.