tampa guide

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Today’s city guide comes to us from Tampa-based wallpaper designer and full-time resident, Given Campbell. Given not only loves to eat, live and play in her city, but she also uses her business to give back to the community by donating some of the proceeds from select designs to charities in her area.

In her Tampa guide, Given takes us on a tour through this West Coast Florida town with a variety of shopping, eating and sightseeing gems. Thank you, Given, for this great guide! — Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!

Built on coffee and cigars, Tampa Bay is a vibrant city perched on a peninsula of Florida’s West Coast. Cuban, Italian and Spanish influences are ever-present here, and they create a thriving cultural heritage. Tampa Bay is quickly coming into its own as a metropolitan city. We have four new museums set to open before 2011: Salvador Dali, a permanent collection of Chihuly glass, a brand new Tampa Museum of Art and the new Glazer Children’s Museum. Two of our national sports teams have championship titles, we have hosted the Super Bowl three times and our baseball team recently played in the World Series. Combined with the refurbishment of Tampa’s aging cigar and coffee factories for living space and education, and the revival of the once-extinct streetcar system, Tampa is moving forward with a connection to the past.

Beyond our heritage, a wealth of shopping, wonderful out-of-the-way coffee bars and eateries, festivals, attractions and day-trip-worthy destinations make Tampa the perfect city. We are the only city in Florida not dependent on tourism for revenue, so you won’t have to slog through tourist attractions to find the best places in town. As an 11-year resident, here are my picks for places to go in and around Tampa Bay for R&R and retail therapy.

Design and Home Shops
As a wallpaper designer, I love design shops. Whenever I go into a shop for the first time, I feel like I am learning a secret. South Tampa and Hyde Park are the best places to find these stores. The storefronts are charming, beckoning you to browse and tempting you to buy. Parking is usually easy to find, but you may have to go down a cobbled street block or around the nearest corner for the best spots. Here are some of the best in town:

Magnolia — Carrying a wonderful list of other high-end designers, including Given Campbell wallpaper. They also have the best children’s section, thoughtfully chosen with a wide range of options. Also focused on promoting local artists.

Blue Moon Trading Company — Specializes in consignment and refurbished pieces. Inventory changes almost daily. Currently, the most fascinating pieces in the store are a old ship’s door, complete with riveted ends, and a vintage library table with chairs from the 50s.

Marketplace — Located in the Interiors Trading building in the design district, they are equal parts retail and consignment. Lots of great Asian pieces and architectural salvage stand out among subtle but captivating metal jewelry, great home accessories and funky signage. Inventory changes frequently in this unique shop.

Casa Nova — Furniture and home accessories store located in South Tampa. They also have an incredible selection of fabric and eco-friendly upholstery.

Retail Therapy
Vinyl Fever — Killer independent record store — you know, the kind with hand-written dividers between artists. Like a small Tower Records, they re-stock shelves daily with new CDs to help keep the store dynamic and vibrant. Their extensive collection of used vinyl, CDs and DVDs are what really help them stand out. I bought my dad a fantastic set of swing albums. The best place to plump up your CD collection for a fraction.

Mosh Posh — Mosh Posh is a high-end designer consigner carrying A-list designers at C-list prices.

Coffee Culture
Tampa is rumored to have the most coffee bars per capita of any city in the nation (yes, even Seattle). Those big guys tend to overshadow the fact that the last working coffee mill is in the Tampa Bay area.

In 1921, Carlos Menendez, a Spanish immigrant, founded the Naviera Coffee Mills in the historic Latin Quarter in Ybor City (pronounced EE-Boar). The name “Naviera” came from the shipping lines that brought him to America. Working in a cigar factory by day, he roasted the coffee at night and delivered his fresh-roasted blends door-to-door by bicycle each morning.

Today, the operation is a bit bigger, servicing clients throughout the country. I often give this coffee as thank you gifts to friends. Feel free to visit their on-site coffee bar for fresh coffee roasted daily or pick some up at a local supermarket.

The coffee bar in the Naviera Mill is open daily until 3:30, when you can taste the beans at their peak of flavor. Coffee like this begins to be something else when you are lucky enough to experience the freshest roasted coffee available. Other places to sit and have a cuppa:

Buddy Brew Coffee — Artisan roasters offering in-store roasted beans in small batches at fair prices. They buy their beans green and roast them to your specifications; you truly taste coffee on a whole new level.

Datz — A unique restaurant serving fresh new takes on deli. With cheese and charcuterie flights, one of the largest wine selections in Tampa Bay and delicious coffee served in French presses, you are sure to find yourself lost in the flavors and textures of a deli you could never dream of.

Mostly, we have big-box booksellers, but there is a place in Hyde Park called Inkwood Books. Inhabiting a restored yellow bungalow in Hyde Park, Inkwood Books is just what a bookstore should be: cozy, inviting and thoroughly engaging. They are the only independent bookstore in Tampa for new books and well worth the trip. They have a wonderful selection along with stationery and journal supplies. In the summer, you can while away the afternoon thunderstorms by settling in with a great read.

Eat Drink and Be Merry
Ceviche — The Ceviche menu is comprised of over 100 different hot and cold tapas, as well as paellas and cazuelas. Most of the tapas recipes are from northern Spain and Catalan, and many of the products are imported directly to the restaurant to maintain the authenticity of the dishes. An exclusive Spanish wine list has been carefully designed by the owners, and the Sangria has been voted “Best in Tampa Bay.” Definitely a plus, and great for getting together with friends.

Six Tables — A unique dining experience, Six Tables is a small, private restaurant where you can reserve a dinner for two or a small event for up to 26 people. Reservations are made in advance, and meals are comprised of six courses chosen from the chef’s menu.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen — English Pub on south MacDill serving authentic draft beer and an extensive pub menu. The best place to catch English league sports and lift a pint.

Cappys — The best pizza in Tampa. Located in a restored bungalow in South Tampa, their pizza is handmade and incredibly fresh. Offering New York and Chicago styles along with a host of other dishes and salads, it’s a great night out for a great price, but get there early because tables fill up fast.

Colombia — The Columbia Restaurant opened its doors in 1905. And since then it has endured as the place to get the best Cuban food in Tampa. Sit back with their signature “1905 Salad” and enjoy a live Flamenco show. Order up their delicious sangria or a round of tapas dishes, and enjoy the beautiful hand-painted tile that adorns the restaurant.

Cepha’s Hot Shop — For the more adventurous soul, there is the Aloe Smoothie at Cepha’s Hot Shop in Ybor (pronounced EE-BORE) City. Touting the benefits of the elephant aloe, Cepha whips up his signature aloe smoothies on a daily basis.

Spa Jardin — Offering services such as mud wraps and prenatal massage, Spa Jardin is nestled in a Key West-style building on south MacDill. Be sure to try their Thai Ceremony massage, which blends Yoga elements with Thai massage. Heaven!

The Grand — A European Day Spa, the Grand offers Thai and Ashiatsu massage along with pre- and post-natal massages to help get you back where you belong. Also offers a salon and Med Spa, and there are many different packages to choose from. The Grand is worth a whole day.

Day Trips
Florida is a state where nature abounds. Our beaches are some of the most desirable in the world, and most of the tourist attractions in Florida offer discounts to residents. From remote beaches to crowded tourist destinations, Florida has a lot to offer, and most of these places are within a day’s drive of Tampa Bay.

Weeki Wachee — A live mermaid show is the star attraction at Weeki Wachee. There are many opportunities to see the primitive side of Florida nature by kayaking or canoeing down the Weeki Wachee River. Look for manatees drifting lazily along the river just under the surface. No snorkeling gear needed here: the river water is as clear as your bathtub. Aside from manatee, you can see gators, exotic birds and fat turtles basking on rocks along the riverbanks.

Sarasota Film Festival — Feature-length films, shorts and foreign films are ever-present at this up-and-coming film festival located in the heart of Sarasota.

Ringling Museum — Exhibits and tours that keep the history of the circus alive for generations to enjoy. Tours of the John and Mable Ringling house are also available.

Keel and Curley Winery — Specializing in fruit-derived wines, such as blueberry, tangerine, black raspberry, strawberry, mango and peach. Open for tours.

Bok Tower — Gorgeous gardens, designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., that consist of tranquil resting places, shady glens and picturesque vistas splashed with color to create a meditative setting in the center of Florida. Play in a vine-covered arbor, or sit back and watch delicate butterflies float through the perfumed air.

  1. Daniela says:

    Love this!

    Thanks for publishing. Also in south Tampa, my family and I recently discovered a little mom/pop diner -Pinky’s. Amazing breakfast/lunch. Get there early, it gets packed. And of course, Cappy’s is right across the street! Delicious!

    As for another on the list, I agree about Spa Jardin. I’ve been there many times and the staff is wonderful….stop next door at Melt Out for a quick air brushed tan!

  2. Cory says:

    I am not sure if anyone mentioned The Cupcake Spot, which has a location in St. Pete and Tampa. Yummy!

  3. Suzanne says:

    Also, best aquarium I’ve been to.

  4. Sharon Laird says:

    Great guide. I would agree with all of your choices. I would add Summerhouse on Manhattan to your list of shops. It’s a great resource for funky home goods at great prices. I try to pop in at least once a month.

  5. Great wrap up article. You completely captured the essence and beauty that is Tampa, FL.

  6. Josephine says:

    Almost all of my favorite places are on this list! Inkwood Books is amazing, and you’ll be totally hooked after one visit to Spa Jardin (get there plenty early for a warm foot soak!).
    But my absolute favorite place in Tampa is Schiller’s Salvage, hands down. I’m an avid DIY’er with a love for all things old. this is my place for inspiration. I always find something unique that I can breathe new life into.

  7. Kristin says:

    There are 2 amazing store missing on this list!!!

    Being- Furniture & home accessories, design services etc. Gorgeous store with a wall full of catalogs & fabric swatches. Great lighting, rugs, upholstery, amazing candles, jewelry. This list goes on! My favorite store in St Pete.

    Fig- next door to Being. Absolutely fabulous high-end linens, garden accessories, vintage one of a kind found objects. This store is a little piece of heaven.

    Both on 4th street in St Petersburg, next door to one another. Definitely worth the trip over the bridge!

  8. Kat says:

    This guide feels really incomplete – you could include a section just for all the great places to get a Cuban. Although that would get very opinionated very fast, exactly what ingredients do and do not go on a Cuban sandwich is hotly debated.
    I can recommend a great food experience and a indie coffee shop:
    Every Sunday the Wat Tampa (www.wattampainenglish.com) serves Thai for cash donations to help with the Temple upkeep; its an fun and delicious experience.
    And Sacred Grounds (www.sacredgroundstampa.com) the gblt friendly coffee shop on Busch.

  9. Grant says:

    You should definitely add the Oxford Exchange to this list: great bookstore, an interesting shop, lunch stop, Teabella Tea bar, and Buddy Brew coffee bar. Plus some really awesome architecture.

  10. Eleanor S says:

    Time for an update. Need to include Ella’s Folkart Cafeand The Refinery…just to name a few.


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