Girlfriends’ Getaway in Tampa Bay
Good times in Florida filled with music, shopping and friends
By Leilani Polk
My two best friends and I organized a spectacular girls’ weekend to have a blast in Tampa Bay. Even though I’m a local, I wanted to feel like I was on vacation, too, so I booked us a room within walking distance of the Gasparilla Music Festival, As if great live music wasn’t enough, we put together a full agenda featuring live music, stellar shopping, ultimate pampering and a slice of Ybor City nightlife.
Shanna and Rosaline flew in Friday afternoon and we headed directly downtown to our posh room at the Hilton Tampa Downtown. They gushed about the incredible March weather and shed their heavy coats and boots in favor of swimsuits and flip-flops. We headed to the rooftop deck to lounge by the pool and catch some Florida rays. Once we reached sun-kissed bliss, we returned to our room to get ready for our night on the town.
Having traded our swimsuits for flowing maxi dresses, we strolled into our hotel’s swanky 211 Lounge to start our evening festivities.
“Coconut Lime Cooler, please,” Shanna asked the bartender.
“I’ll have the same,” Rosaline said.
I went rogue, ordering a Cucumber Gimlet. Delicious!
The Ritz Ybor was the place to be on weekends because of its live music performances and great atmosphere. The setting was awesome and we spent the rest of the night listening and getting our groove on to several acts in the 1917 building turned concert venue.
On the streetcar ride back to the hotel, we decided we make a great team. Shanna always attracted fun guys, Rosaline was outgoing enough for two people and I always knew the best places to hang out. We were having a ball catching up with each other and could hardly wait for the next day’s adventures.
Our Saturday morning started with a French breakfast at the nearby Bizou Brasserie before we strolled to the most scenic part of downtown, the Tampa Riverwalk. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and its adjacent Kiley Gardens hosted the Gasparilla Music Festival. The day was clear, bright and breezy as we scoped out the four stages. We soaked up the ambiance and munched on various sweet and savory local treats. Rosaline fell in love—with Chapssal donuts, a Korean-style sticky, powdered sugar-covered beignet. I was all about the prime steak sandwich, and Shanna became a beer expert as she chatted up all the local brewers. Cigar City Jai Alai and Florida Cracker Ale were the flavors of the day. And of course, the music was phenomenal.
One thing I love so much about the Gasparilla Music Festival is the wide range of music acts. From blues to punk and jazz to disco, there truly is something for everyone. We couldn’t help but sing along, dance and sway to the music. The energy of the crowd was amazing. After having such a blast, we started to lose steam. We stopped by Kahwa Cafe for some coffee and then we moseyed back to the hotel.
Even with limited time in the weekend, we weren’t going to miss out on shopping at the International Plaza and Bay Street. Michael Kors, Burberry and Coach were calling. After, we indulged in a little pampering at Spa Evangeline to end our perfect weekend on a note of relaxation. We sipped champagne and thoroughly enjoyed our facials and massages.
We started the trip on a mission for fun and friendship, and we succeeded. Our bonds were strengthened, as if that was even possible. We’ve already started thinking about next year’s retreat: Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay’s Food & Wine Festival.
Plan your girlfriends’ getaway with the Tampa Bay Official Visitors Guide.