World’s Best Places 2023: Tampa, Florida

Tampa, Florida, USA downtown city skyline over the Hillsborough River – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by ESB Professional

While a cutting-edge, multi-billion dollar landmark development project redefines its downtown, Florida’s city of the moment is anxious to secure a permanent place on travelers’ lists of sunny, accessible getaways deserving of a weekend stay. Phase one of Water Street Tampa was completed late last year with the opening of The Tampa EDITION, the city’s first truly five-star hotel (there are presently only five in the US, including one in Miami), under the direction of Michelin-starred chef John Fraser.

The Verge, the project’s main pedestrian promenade, has already seen the emergence of restaurants like Boulon Brasserie, with stunning interiors by a Montreal designer and ridiculously good escargot, and The Pearl, a stylish oyster bar across the street, as well as lifestyle hotels and residences like ROOST Apartment Hotel. The project is backed by Bill Gates and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. Due to its emphasis on sustainability and livability, the neighborhood was just named the first WELL-certified City District in the world. Rentable electric scooters also make it simple to go around the city.

The project is the focal point of a downtown resurgence in which Tampa has finally capitalized on the abundance of water that exists between the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay. With bleisure becoming a way of life at places like Sparkman Wharf, where top chefs serve light bites and cocktails from within shipping containers astride a busy shipping canal, and Armature Works, a chic food hall inside a restored trolley warehouse along the 2.6-mile Tampa Riverwalk, the city has become a magnet for entrepreneurs and millennials.

There has never been a more enticing time to land thanks to Virgin Atlantic’s late last year introduction of Tampa’s first nonstop flight from Heathrow, easy access to the dog-friendly, art-loving city of St. Pete, and plenty of sun, sand, and sea in adjacent Pass-a-Grille Beach and Clearwater.

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