Read our local’s picks for decadent eats and swanky sleeps for your next Tampa/St. Petersburg vacation.
Tampa Bay’s dining and hotel options have changed a lot since I grew up in the area. When you only have a finite number of meals to enjoy in Tampa Bay, it’s best to stick with the classics, or the new and buzz-worthy.
Bern’s Steak House—1208 S. Howard Ave., Tampa; tel. 813-251-2421, www.bernssteakhouse.com
Bern’s offers a decadent steakhouse experience with ornate décor, outstanding service, extensive wine list and a separate dessert room. Experience Bern’s like a local, and far less expensively, in the “first come, first served” bar area. It’s not publicized, but a steak sandwich or burger, created from the trimmings of their first-class steaks, can be ordered off-menu. Open Sun. to Thurs., 5 to 10 p.m., Fri. to Sat., 5 to 11 p.m.
Armani’s—2900 Bayport Dr., Tampa; tel. 813-207-6800, www.armanisrestaurant.com
The Northern Italian cuisine at Armani’s merits Mobil Four Star and AAA Four Diamond awards. The rooftop location offers panoramic views overlooking the city skyline. Open Tues. to Thurs., 5:30 to 10 p.m., Fri. to Sat., 5:30 to 11 p.m., closed Sun. and Mon.
Fly Bar and Restaurant—1202 N. Franklin St., Tampa; tel. 813-275-5000, www.flybarandrestaurant.com/tampa
This downtown newcomer serves small plates of “global cuisine” meant for sharing. A cool atmosphere with live music and a rooftop setting. Open for lunch, Mon. to Fri., 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Mon. to Thurs., 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m., Fri. and Sat., 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Pelagia Trattoria—4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa; tel. 813-313-3235, www.pelagiatrattoria.com
Chef Fabrizio Schenardi, a native of Torino, Italy, is behind this Zagat-rated Mediterranean restaurant set in a chic, contemporary space. Open for breakfast, daily 6:30 to 10:30 a.m.; lunch, daily 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, nightly, 5:30 to 10 p.m.
Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant—10 Beach Dr., St. Petersburg; tel. 727-209-2302, www.ceviche.com
Popular Spanish eatery serving more than 100 hot and cold tapas and some of the best sangria around. Sit in the Flamenco Bar to enjoy an eclectic mix of music, including Spanish guitarists and live flamenco shows. Open, Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner Sun. to Mon., 5 to 10 p.m., Tues. to Thurs., 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Fri. to Sat., 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Kahwa Coffee Roasting—475 2nd St. N. St. Petersburg; tel. 727-823-4700, www.kahwacoffee.com
Walk right past the national coffee chains and into the doors of this café for the absolute best cup of java around. Open 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekends.
There are more than 190 hotels in the Tampa Bay area, accounting for 21,000 rooms. All major branded chains have a presence, but there are several luxury hotels, boutique properties and large resorts offering a superlative experience:
Saddlebrook Resort—5700 Saddlebrook Way, Tampa; tel. 800-729-8383, www.saddlebrook.com
Saddlebrook is known as a golf and tennis resort. For parents in need of a relaxing afternoon, put the children in the resort’s kids camp while you unwind at the full-service spa. Starting rate for a standard double is $230.
Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn—1915 Republica de Cuba, Tampa; tel. 866-206-4545, www.donvicenteinn.com
This local hotel is in walking distance from the popular nightclubs and quaint shops in downtown Tampa. Starting rate for a standard double is $159.
Hyatt Regency Tampa—211 N. Tampa St. Tampa; tel. 813-225-1234, tamparegency.hyatt.com
Located in downtown Tampa, the hotel is a walk away from several major tourist attractions, including Bush Gardens, and features recently renovated rooms, a fitness center and golf course. Starting rate for a standard double is $229.
Westin Tampa Harbour Island—725 S. Harbour Island Blvd; tel. 813-229-5000, www.starwoodhotels.com/westin
Seated on a landscaped island in downtown Tampa, the hotel is only two blocks from St. Pete Times Forum and offers an array of family amenities and sports activities. Starting rate for a standard double is $259.
Loews Don CeSar Beach Resort—3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach; tel. 866-728-2206, www.doncesar.com
Embark on a romantic vacation in this legendary “pink palace” located on St. Pete Beach. Enjoy a picnic on the beach and save the evening for the hotel’s poolside “Dive-in Theatre” hosted every Saturday. Starting rate for a standard double is $229.
Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club—501 5th Ave. NE, St. Petersburg; tel. 888-303-4430, www.vinoyrenaissanceresort.com
Spend a relaxing weekend on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, where you can admire the hotels 1920s Mediterranean Revival architecture, enjoy Mediterranean cuisine, as well as golf and tennis amenities. Or watch the sunset from the hotel’s private marina. Starting rate for a standard double is $239.
Safety Harbor Resort & Spa—105 N. Bayshore Dr., Safety Harbor; tel. (888) 237-8772, www.safetyharborresort.com
This hotel is nestled along the Florida coast and offers an array of luxurious spa amenities that are built around natural mineral springs including a Medical Wellness Center. There are several nature trails that weave through the hotels natural surroundings. Starting rate for a standard double is $139.