Skip Miami and head to Tampa for your next weekend getaway

Some of our favorite digs in the area include the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.

Miami has long been the “party” spot for those popping into Florida for a little turn-up. But what if we told you that Tampa has all of that, plus some — especially for the next guys or girls trip. The Central Florida city is home to some of the best hotel brands, and world-class cuisine, and you’re just minutes away from what has been deemed one of the most beautiful beaches across the globe: Clearwater.

From poolside hip-hop concerts to tranquil spas to indulging in mouthwatering tomahawk steaks with your name carved in them and more, we’ve curated this easy-to-follow guide to ensure the next group trip on your calendar is one for the books.

A sign at Sparkman Wharf heralds the Central Florida city. (Photo via DeAnna Taylor)

Where to stay

The key to a memorable guys or girls trip is ensuring you’ve booked an accommodation that speaks to everyone’s needs. Whether that means an on-site pool with bar, late-night dining options or even an overall luxury vibe for the friends who prefer to “treat themselves” at all times, the perfect hotel does exist. 

Some of our favorite digs in the area include the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa. The massive property has everything you could need and want for a weekend with your crew, and you honestly don’t have to leave. We’re talking one of the largest casinos in the country, plenty of dining options to suit everyone’s dietary needs — including an amazing steak and seafood spot — as well as updated rooms with varying floor plans and options. Also, it’s only a short Uber ride to the epicenter of Tampa nightlife, Ybor City.

If you solely want to go upscale for this trip, the JW Marriott Tampa is another great option. Also home to a full-service spa, the hotel’s rooftop pool overlooks the city’s waterfront, and you can get boozy milkshakes from the walk-up window late into the night.

A room at the JW Marriott Tampa features a luxurious bathroom. The hotel also boasts a rooftop pool. (Photo via DeAnna Taylor)

Where to eat and drink

Said to be one of Florida’s oldest dining establishments, Columbia Restaurant is always a must-do when in Tampa Bay. Our favorite menu items are its classic “1905” salad, the Cuban sandwich, and, well, you can’t go to a Latin restaurant without trying its homemade sangria. Pro Tip: Opt to go for dinner so that you can catch the live flamenco show.

If you want to be able to sample a range of local eateries in one spot, check out Heights Public Market in the Amateur Works neighborhood. For a light breakfast or snack, head to Sparkman Wharf for made-to-order smoothies and açai bowls at Fit Bowl Co. If you want something a little heavier — and photo-worthy — Oxford Exchange is your place. Pro Tip: Come late enough to take advantage of the champagne bar. 

No friends trip is complete without at least one night where the entire crew gets dressed to perfection for a bomb sit-down dinner. Our suggestions here: Council & Oak Steaks and Seafood or Cipresso (Italian) within the Hard Rock Tampa. You’ll want to make reservations for both. Pro Tip: If you want to flex a little, order the off-the-menu tomahawk steak, and they will carve your name or nickname into the bone. It definitely makes for great photos.

The dining room at Oxford Exchange, a great option for heavier fare. (Photo via DeAnna Taylor)

Things to do and see

If your weekend is all about turning up, then add bar-hopping up and down East Seventh Street in Ybor City to your list. At night, the street is closed off to vehicle traffic so that pedestrians can enjoy themselves while remaining safe.

Want to try your luck? Of course, you’re in the city of one of the country’s largest casinos, so it’s only right. Whether you prefer blackjack, slots or the multicultural favorite — baccarat — the Hard Rock Tampa casino provides 24/7 nonstop fun. Did we mention it is also home to some of the dopest poolside concerts, including a recent stop by Nas and Wu-Tang for the New York State of Mind Tour? Let’s just say, the Hard Rock knows how to throw a pool party. 

For the thrill-seeking group, make the short drive over to Busch Gardens Tampa. After you hit all the rides in the park, make a reservation for the giraffe encounter. There, you can sip South African liqueurs as you get up close and personal with the tallest animal in the kingdom.

DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense attorney-turned-travel writer, author and senior-level editor. The Charlotte, NC native has touched all seven continents, traveled to over 40 countries — and even lived and worked in South Korea. Her passion lies in educating others on how to see the world.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. TheGrio’s Black Podcast Network is free too. Download theGrio mobile apps today! Listen to ‘Writing Black’ with Maiysha Kai.