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Fun in the Sun: What's New in Tampa Bay

by Matthew Wexler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Jan 28, 2019

Treasure awaits in Tampa Bay. Charming hotels, bustling restaurants, LGBTQ-friendly nightlife, and — of course — plenty of waterfront activities make this Gulf Coast destination a must-visit getaway. Here's a preview of new and noteworthy attractions, as well as iconic experiences to create the ultimate Tampa Bay vacation.

Heights Public Market at Armature Works — Once a streetcar garage, this historic 1910 building has been converted into a public market and special event space. It's also an ideal locale to sample some of Tampa Bay's local food artisans all under one roof. Create your own food crawl with Hemingway's for Cuban cuisine, Ichicoro Imoto for contemporary ramen, and Astro Ice Cream. Co. for "out of this world" creations" such as Cosmic Camper. There are also plenty of vegan and gluten-free options throughout the market.

Insider tip: Be sure to visit on the second Wednesday of each month (November through May) for Heights Night Market, where you'll find rotating local artisans and live music.

Sparkman Wharf — Tampa Bay's newest outdoor waterfront destination is located in the heart of downtown on Garrison Channel and features an al fresco dining garden, Fermented Reality Biergarten (featuring more than 30 taps with a focus on Florida craft beer), and Splitsville Southern + Social, where you'll find lawn and feather bowling, shuffleboard, and other social activities to enjoy under the Florida sun.

"Season of Love" at Tampa Museum of Art — Award-winning architect Stanley Saitowitz designed this waterfront museum, which houses 66,000-square-feet including seven interior galleries. The museum's southern exterior is an Insta-worthy shot, blanketed in a colorful wash of LED lights, but it's what's on the inside that is most recently touching hearts.

"Season of Love" (through March 17) opened in several stages through fall 2018 and now the exhibition in its entirety is on view through the spring. Don't miss Patricia Cronin's "Aphrodite Reimagined," a cold-cast marble resin statue of the Greek goddess of love; Yayoi Kusama's "LOVE IS CALLING," an immersive, mirrored infinity room with changing colors, soft sculptures, and the artist's signature polka dots; and "LOVE," a retrospective of Robert Indiana's sculpture work, including never-before-shown marble editions of his signature LOVE.

Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park — No visit to Tampa Bay is complete without time spent on the riverfront. This newly opened 25-acre park features a festival lawn for concerts and special events, two dog parks if you're planning a pet-friendly getaway, standup paddleboard and kayak rentals so you can get out on the water, and public art through that celebrates the city's diverse history and cultural impact.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay — Celebrating its 60th anniversary, Busch Gardens and Adventure Island offer thrill-seekers some of the most adrenaline-inducing experiences in the country.

More than 12,000 animals can be discovered (with more exotic and endangered animals than any destination outside of Africa), while those craving coasters can soar to new heights aboard Sheikra, a 200-foot-tall dive coaster; Scorpion with its 360-degree vertical loop; and the soon-to-open Tigris, which will become Florida's tallest launch coaster and feature a 150-foot skyward surge and catapult riders up to 60 miles per hour.

TECO Line Streetcar — It's easy to get around town aboard this vintage replica streetcar, which runs from historic Ybor City through the Chanel District and downtown Tampa. Best part? It's free!

Coming Soon
Gasparilla Season Each winter Tampa Bay overflows with parades, music and special events that pay tribute to legendary pirate José Gaspar. Programming is already underway and anticipation is building for these two signature events:

Gasaparilla Festival of the Arts — The 45th annual art festival draws crowds upward of 250,000 to browse and collect works from some of the world's most renowned contemporary artists. (March 2-3, 2019)

Gasparilla Music Festival — Forty acts will be showcased across four stages citywide with the Grammy-nominated Avett Brothers headlining the event. (March 9-10, 2019)

Tampa Bay Pride Events — Pride festivities kick off in February with Mr. & Mrs. Tampa Pride (February 17) followed by the Tampa Diversity Parade and Festival on March 30.

There are plenty of LGBTQ-friendly activities no matter what time of year you head to Tampa Bay. Check out this gayborhood guide filled with insider tips from some of the city's community ambassadors.

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Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Senior Editor of Travel, Lifestyle, Health & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.


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