The historic cobblestone streets of Tampa Bay’s Ybor City have long been a hotspot for LGBTQ visitors who come for the welcoming bars, clubs, shops and restaurants along bustling 7th Avenue. But Tampa Bay’s other districts are also abuzz with trendy restaurants, waterfront activities and growing Pride events, too, making this city even friendlier and more vibrant.
“We’ve torn barriers down and we’ve become known as a welcoming destination for the LGBTQ community,” explained Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough County’s first openly gay elected official and one of the founders of the GaYBOR District Coalition. The business group, based in Ybor City, includes hundreds of local and national gay-friendly businesses.
Jane Castor, the city’s openly gay, former police chief, agrees. “As a lifelong resident of Tampa, I grew up surrounded by the diversity that has made our community so wonderful,” she said. “However, the key to our success is not grounded solely in our diversity, but more importantly in its celebration. It is also woven into the fabric of our daily lives in the form of art, entertainment, history and my favorite—great food! We are that big city with a small-town feel, that has us greeting and treating you like family.”
Ready to get your vacation started in Florida’s most welcoming city? Check out this extensive list of things to do and places to visit to find new experiences in Tampa Bay.
Day or night, take the vintage-inspired, yellow streetcar to Ybor City, Tampa Bay’s Latin Quarter that’s a world within a world. In José Martí Park, experience Cuba without needing a passport. Lunch at street-side cafés tucked into historic buildings. Watch cigars being rolled and shop local at Agora, which is known for exotic and unique home and lifestyle gifts. When the sun goes down, Centro Ybor and the GaYBOR District are the places to see and be seen. Ybor City is the ultimate LGBTQ spot in town with many gay clubs, bars, restaurants and shops. On 7th Avenue (aka La Séptima)—Ybor City’s main street—bars with regular drag shows include Liquid Tampa, Bradley’s on 7th, Southern Nights Tampa, Hamburger Mary’s and Honey Pot. Seventh Avenue is also home to the annual Tampa Pride Parade, one of many LGBTQ-centric events in town.
For some retail therapy, be sure to head over to Hyde Park Village, located in a historic, oak-tree-lined part of town with brick walkways and water fountains that create a real sense of Southern charm. The village features a mix of top brands—including Suitsupply, West Elm, Kendra Scott, lululemon—and Florida-based shops, including a fantastic artisanal, gourmet ice pops store, The Hyppo. Blueberry lavender lemonade pops, anyone?
For an afternoon of culture, explore museums along the Tampa Riverwalk. There’s the renowned Tampa Museum of Art in its stunning modern building right on the Hillsborough River, and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. The 2.4-mile-long Riverwalk connects the museums to a park, bars and restaurants, and makes for a great riverfront walk—especially at sunset, when the golden colors of the sun reflect off the water. Then at night, the riverfront glows with bridges bathed in light and the shifting hues of the Tampa Museum of Arts’ facade.
With Tampa Bay’s sunny days and temperate climate, it’s easy to relax on the water. Take a Pirate Water Taxi, which is a great way to tour downtown from the water, and hop on and off at various points along the riverfront. Or paddle with Urban Kai Stand Up Paddleboarding, which recently opened a downtown Tampa location that’s within walking distance of many of the best hotels. If you are looking for a little more adventure, unlock special pricing for even more attractions with the Tampa Bay CityPASS®, which offers discounted rates to some of Tampa Bay’s top attractions.
Tampa Bay is brimming with chef-driven restaurants that put ingredients first and showcase innovative flavor combinations that you’ll only be able to taste here. And when it comes to drinks, Tampa Bay takes it to another level with creatively crafted sips that will please caffeine fiends, hop lovers, sweet tooths and cocktail-hour minglers.
For a morning boost, start the day with some Ybor City Espresso, a special blend found at Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company. For an afternoon brew, check out a local brewery such as Angry Chair, known for a rotating list of sour beers and ales with unique additives. In Ybor City, the nationally recognized brewery Cigar City has a cider and meadery (called Cigar City Cider & Mead) with all sorts of unusual brews featuring honey, apples and other fruits.
At Rooster & the Till in the trendy Seminole Heights neighborhood, James Beard Best Chef nominee Ferrell Alvarez presents stunning small plates that are perfect for sharing tapas-style. Other cutting-edge establishments include edison: food+drink lab near downtown. Led by James Beard Best Chef semi-finalist Jeannie Pierola, this experimental playground is known for its ever-changing menu and stunning plating. Meanwhile, Anise Global Gastrobar is a sexy spot in the center of downtown Tampa, open late with the most delicious Asian stinky buns.
Of course, Tampa Bay is known for its Cuban and Spanish heritage, and in LGTBQ-friendly Ybor City, there are two must-visit restaurants: La Tropicana Cafe, where locals still meet for a morning cafecito and Cuban toast, and the Columbia Restaurant, where the sangria and famous “1905” Salad® rival the nightly flamenco show for diners’ attention. If you’ve got more time, a few blocks down 7th Avenue is Hamburger Mary’s, a nationally recognized chain of gay-owned restaurants that features many events including the popular—and extremely fun—Drag Queen Bingo every Monday night.
You can pair a local Tampa Bay brew with your vegan or vegetarian entrée at Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café, while listening to live music or sitting under the stars. Or opt for a more upscale night at Ulele, a gorgeous restaurant in a renovated, historic water works building on the Hillsborough River. Ulele is known for its native-fusion Florida cuisine—and they even brew their own beer! For a completely different libation-pairing experience, explore The Hall on Franklin, where a collection of top local chefs and mixologists come together to create a new cultural experience.
Just looking for a leisurely nightcap? Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club mixes classic cocktails in a Prohibition-themed restaurant while Fly Bar embraces its urban surroundings with a rooftop bar that serves up signature cocktails. Hotel Bar brings together signature drinks from hotels around the world. In Ybor City, King Corona Cigars Cafe and Bar lets you drink a coffee or cocktail with a hand-rolled cigar. Sitting at one of their sidewalk tables is a perfect way to spend an evening, whether you’re winding down or getting ready to go out to one of the city’s many gay and lesbian bars and eateries, such as The Bricks, Reservoir or Crowbar.
Choose from a variety of TAG-approved hotels in Tampa Bay, whether it’s a major name, like Hyatt, Hilton, Sheraton or Marriott, or a local boutique hotel, there are many comfortable properties known for their commitment to excellent and LGBTQ-friendly hospitality.
Aloft Tampa Downtown is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Tampa, and Le Méridien Tampa is a gorgeous property in a completely restored historic federal courthouse a few blocks away. It features beautiful interior design and an on-site restaurant, Bizou Brasserie. Or stay at the Epicurean Hotel near Hyde Park Village where they’re all about the food. The hotel restaurant, Élevage, celebrates life’s great flavors with dining experiences that explore the world’s cuisine with a modern edge. The hotel also offers signature pampering at their gorgeous on-site spa, Evangeline.
The entire city is at your fingertips, so be bold and explore. This is just the beginning of your experience.