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7 Cities to Watch

May 24, 2017

7 Cities to Watch

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...Tampa, Fla. Florida's third­ largest metropolis has evolved into a laid­ back but increasingly popular beach destination jammed with effervescent experiences and some 21,400 hotel guest rooms. Access is better than ever following a just ­completed, $1 billion expansion of Tampa International Airport. Nearby attractions include the Tampa Riverwalk, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and Busch Gardens amusement park. The popular WestShore District is pulsating with restaurants, taverns and shops. Also near to the airport is the 600,000 ­square ­foot Tampa Convention Center on the waterfront, with 200,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 36,000 ­square ­foot ballroom. On the hotel scene, a new 175 ­room AC Hotel by Marriott Tampa/Airport will open in December. Undergoing revamps are the 160 ­room Residence Inn Tampa WestShore Airport, the 243­room Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa Airport/WestShore and the 719­room Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. In nearby Clearwater Beach, the 230­room Opal Sands Resort has debuted with a 7,650 ­square ­foot ballroom and 17,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. In their free time, attendees can wander the brick ­lined walkways of the historic, Cuban ­influenced Ybor City, celebrated for hand ­rolled cigars, shopping, coffee shops and cafés, including Florida's original family­ owned Columbia Restaurant, which opened in 1905. For other scrumptious fare, search out Bern's Steak House, Restaurant BT, Kojak's House of Ribs and the Byblos Café. Special meeting venue: District 3 is a historic warehouse transformed into 22,000 square feet of airy, high ­tech event space with flexible staging and capacity for 2,800 guests.