By Regina Lynch-Hudson
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area is Florida’s second largest (2.7 million-plus) and represents Florida’s second largest workforce (approx. 1.3 million). Some of Tampa’s prominent industries include retail and trade; government; professional and business services; and travel and tourism with some of the city’s largest employers being the Hillsborough County School District, Tampa International Airport and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Also, many companies are stationing their headquarters in Tampa, including Sweetbay Supermarkets, the PBS&J Corporation, WellCare Health Plans Inc., Bausch & Lomb Pharmaceuticals and others.
GourmetTrek is a novel enterprise offering culinary and wine tours around Tampa Bay, Sarasota and downtown Dunedin. Anita Gary’s online business started in November 2009. The Sarasota native loved coordinating events and ingeniously incorporated all of her passions into what has become a booming venture. www.gourmettrek.com
There are many ways to navigate Tampa, and all have their own special flair. The In-Town Trolley and the TECO Line Streetcar system help visitors explore downtown Tampa, Channelside Bay Plaza and historic Ybor City and everywhere in between. www.tecolinestreetcar.org
Survival Kit Pack your sunscreen and shades so you can enjoy Tampa’s year-round sunshine.
The posh beachfront Don CeSar Resort and Spa, a Loews Hotel, is often referred to as the Pink Palace because of its color and grandeur. The once preferred hang-out of Al Capone is frequented by business patrons, moneyed celebs and tourists who want to claim a chic night’s sleep at the area’s most extravagant historical site. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, each of the near-300 rooms offers a picturesque backdrop of either the Gulf of Mexico or the Boca Ciega Bay. www.doncesarshop.com
The Power Lunch The Columbia Café, housed inside the Tampa Bay History Center, is the perfect spot to grab lunch and savor the flavor of Tampa. There are waterfront tables for those who wish to bask in the amazing weather. And it’s close to the action too; it’s located in the Channelside District, next to downtown Tampa. You can walk (or hop aboard a streetcar) and be back in time for the next meeting. www.columbiarestaurant.com/cafe.asp
The Columbia Restaurant has been a staple of Tampa since 1905 when it was founded by the Hernandez family. It’s the largest Spanish/Cuban restaurant in the world (seats up to 1,700 patrons and takes up an entire city block) and the oldest restaurant in the State of Florida. I recommend the Columbia Restaurant classics like Spanish Bean Soup, Paella, Arroz con Pollo “Valenciana” and more. www.columbiarestaurant.com
Channelside Bay Plaza has become one of Tampa’s hottest entertainment complexes. Within the plaza you’ll find free wireless connections, dining and entertainment options and retail establishments. www.channelsidebayplaza.com
Ocean Prime is one of Tampa’s newest hotspots and the best place to network. While there, enjoy a large selection of seafood and steaks, not to mention tropical cocktails and world-class wines. www.ocean-prime.com
Check into the Spa Oceana at the Don CeSar Resort and Spa and you just may pass on seeing the spectacular environs surrounding the area. The OceaCustom facial and Bamboo massage are sure to relive the stress and tension of hours spent bent over a laptop. 727.360.1881
Footloose & Fancy-free
If you are looking to let loose, then Historic Ybor City is the place. From comedy clubs and movie theaters to dining and nightlife options, Ybor City will satisfy your wanderlust. www.ybor.org
Tampa International Airport is considered one of the most passenger-friendly airports in the nation. www.TampaAirport.com
AirTran Airways offers daily, non-stop flights to Tampa and more than 56 major U.S. cities. www.airtran.com.
Thanks to our friends at Tampa Bay & Company and other tourist venues for providing us with facts, figures and fun information for this article. www.VisitTampaBay.com AT