What you should know

Tampa International Airport (TPA) is only eight miles from the city’s major meeting venues. All major hotel brands (Hyatt, Marriott, Westin, Sheraton, Embassy Suites) are represented within a 3.5-block radius of the convention center. Professional sports teams and nightlife are big attractions. Tampa is a city surrounded by cities. St. Petersburg/Clearwater is just across the bay (18 miles by car). Sarasota and Bradenton are less than an hour’s drive; Orlando is only 90 minutes away. Cruise ships depart from the Port of Tampa for Caribbean and Mexican destinations.

The 411

  • 21,000 hotel rooms citywide
  • 200,000 square feet of exhibit space in Tampa Convention Center
  • 36,000-sq. ft. ballroom in Tampa Convention Center
  • Average group size: 1,200
  • Best values from May through September

Where to stay

Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore (formerly the Wyndham Tampa Westshore) is close to Tampa’s many sports arenas. Amenities for groups include 12,000 square feet of meeting/event space as well as a free 24-hour business center. Another excellent option is Mainsail Suites Hotel  & Conference Center, with 12,000 square feet of state-of-the-art flexible meeting space that can accommodate 10 to 700 people. Its suites have full kitchens, and dining and living rooms. Its meeting facilities feature 24-hour setups, an on-site catering team, AV staff and wireless high-speed Internet. It’s within five minutes of Tampa International Airport (TPA), Raymond James Stadium/Outback Bowl and Steinbrenner Field, and  convenient to Busch Gardens, Ed Radice Park, the Tampa Convention Center and Tampa TPC Golf Course.

Where to meet>

At the Florida Aquarium, groups can dine in tank-lined rooms, have receptions on a private charter boat or buy out the venue for a progressive dinner. Classroom space and eco-tours are available. Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall has a 400-seat banquet room overlooking Alligator Lake and Tampa Bay, an atrium lounge for small meetings, a 200-seat black-box theater, and several classroom and studio spaces. Its 2,180-seat main performance hall hosts more than 200 performances annually. The Florida State Fairgrounds is home to several venues, including the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center and several hundred acres of landscaped grounds.

Where to play

Create a stargazing or puzzle-solving event at the Museum of Science and Industry, which has an IMAX theater, a planetarium and galleries filled with hands-on science exhibits. Busch Gardens has team-building programs and exotic animal encounters in addition to convention facilities, group tours, banquet space and interactive entertainment. GameWorks has black-light bowling lanes, an arcade with virtual-reality games and on-site dining. Groups can charter StarLite Cruisesfor tours, parties and meal functions. George M. Steinbrenner Field is where the New York Yankees hold spring training, and where their Class-A affiliates, the Tampa Yankees play. The 10,000-seat stadium has luxury suites for private groups and can accommodate concerts, expos and other large events.

Where to find nightlife

Improv Tampa serves food along with entertainment from some of the nation’s top comedians. For live music, head to Skipper’s Smokehouse in North Tampa, which serves seafood, has an outdoor concert venue and bar, and sells alligator products, T-shirts, hot sauce and other souvenirs. Ybor City is known for its nightclubs, especially along Seventh Avenue; Orpheum is one of the best, with live and DJ music.  International Plaza and Bay Street is a shopping complex with several restaurants and bars, including Blue Martini, which has 25 martinis on its menu. The SoHo district is another nightlife hub.

Where to dine

The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, a DiRoNa winner with private banquet space, has been in business since 1905. Nightly flamenco shows and Spanish architecture add to the exotic atmosphere. Whiskey North serves late-night dinners, music and a clubby atmosphere; private party space is available. Mise en Place is known for its modern American cuisine, specialty drinks and chichi lounge; the restaurant has 80- and 30-seat private dining areas and a catering division. Attendees can prepare gourmet meals at cooking classes offered by seafood restaurant Catch Twenty-ThreeRestaurant BT is a stylish French-Vietnamese restaurant with private dining facilities and a catering department. The Tampa Bay Brewing Co. Restaurant & Brewery gives tours and has indoor/outdoor dining.

Where to find history

Ybor City is on the National Register of Historic Places. Unusual venues include the historic buildings, gardens, patios and galleries of the Ybor City Museum State Park. Immigrants at the turn of 20th century built grand social halls such as the Centro Asturiano de Tampa and the Cuban Club, which now have museum galleries and special-event space. The American Victory Mariners Memorial & Museum Ship is a floating museum offering passenger cruises.