. Tampa Bay | Northstar Meetings Group

Guide to Meeting & Event Planning in

Tampa Bay

Learn why you should host your next meeting, event or conference in Tampa. 

Why Tampa for Your Next Meeting or Event? 

With its vibrant waterfront, urban cool and roster of new developments, it’s easy to see why Tampa Bay — named a WalletHub 2018 top-20 best large city to live in — is a hit with groups. 

Travel Essentials
Taxes. Room tax, 5%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12%. As of January 2018, properties in downtown and Ybor City charge an additional $1.50 tourism-marketing district fee per night.
 
Convention Center. Tampa Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 200,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 40; (813) 274-8511
 
CVB. Visit Tampa Bay,  (813) 223-111 or (800) 448-2672

Only in Tampa Bay

Attention, coffee lovers. Tampa ranks among 10 U.S. cities with an "up-and-coming coffee culture," according to Livability.com. Destinations on the list were chosen based on the number of coffee shops in the city and the number of coffee roasters in the area, as well as on the average price per cup of joe and the overall quality of life enjoyed by residents. Tampa is home to several coffee roasters, including Made Coffee, which offers the first canned cold brew coffee to be introduced in Florida. Get your java on at Union Bar by Commune + Co, deemed the city’s "coolest coffee shop" by Livability. The shop’s "cold coffee pressure brew" is made using liquid nitrogen, which is said to provide all the flavor of a cold brew without any bitterness. 

The destination has earned another accolade: Tampa ranks right up there with Rio de Janeiro, Seville, and eight other global hotspots on Skyscanner’s list of top emerging destinations to visit in 2020. The rankings are based on the number of searches and bookings on the Skyscanner website and app; consideration is given to locations that have increased in popularity over the past two years.

 

Airport and Airlift Update

Tampa International Airport  has  been named the number-two "Best Largest Airport" in USA Today's 10Best Reader's Choice Travel Awards 2020. A panel of experts partnered with the newspaper's 10Best editors to select the initial nominees, with the top-10 winners determined by popular vote.

In other news, the airport is growing, with a $2 billion expansion and renovation project underway. The phase-one work included road work, a new 1.4-mile SkyConnect people mover, an expansion of the main terminal, a new rental car center and the addition of several local restaurants to the dining options. Phase two includes a 17-acre commercial development with a hotel and curbside expansion work. A third phase will see the addition of a new 16-gate terminal. Read more here.

The airport is also adding a number of enhancements —water-bottle filling stations, nursing rooms, and service animal relief areas — that will debut in July 2020. The filling stations will replace the drinking fountains in airsides (as terminals are called at this airport) A, C, E and F. Airsides A and E will each get a nursing room, with plans calling for identical additions in the main terminal and, as part of a future restroom renovation, in airside C. All nursing rooms will feature comfortable seating, baby changing stations, sinks and power outlets. The new service animal areas will be located on elevated decks just outside airsides A, C, E and F and the main terminal.

Delta Air Lines has set March 11, 2020, as the launch date for daily non-stop service between Tampa International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Delta is the second carrier to offer non-stop service linking Tampa to the Pacific Northwest; Alaska Airlines has operated nonstop service between Tampa and Seattle since 2014.

To read more about new destinations added at Tampa International, head here. For more on international carriers serving Tampa Bay, head here.

Transportation in & Around the Area

Tampa International Airport, about six miles to downtown Tampa Bay. Transfer cost by taxi, $25; the airport is also served by Uber and Lyft.

2018 Stella Award Winners

Best CVB/DMO, Southeast: St. Petersburg/Clearwater CVB, Largo  

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Meeting and Event Venues

Looking to Plan a Tampa Meeting?
Learn everything you need to know about this sunny locale at Destination Southeast, Northstar's premier event for meetings and incentive pros looking to book biz in the area

New & Coming Soon to Tampa

• Visit Tampa Bay has launched an online information hub, which provides updates on measures being taken to ensure that all meetings held in the destination are responsibly conducted in a safe environment. The hub outlines enhanced health and safety protocols for the Tampa Convention Center, Tampa International Airport and major hotels, and it includes a meeting planner toolkit with recommendations for modifying events to support the health and safety of all attendees.

• Learn about the destination’s diversity and adventurous spirit in a new video from Visit Tampa Bay. Another video produced by the CVB, “We Are Tampa Bay…We Are Tourism Strong,” offers messages from Visit Tampa Bay’s tourism partners, including hotel operators, restaurant operators, and attractions. 

• Another offering from Visit Tampa Bay, the “Tampa L.I.V.E.: Learning and Interacting Virtually With Expedia”  webcast, is available on demand.

• Spring 2020 will mark the opening of the Hotel Haya, a $52 million property in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood. The property will offer 180 guest rooms, a 152-seat restaurant and a 42-seat café. An interior courtyard will house a swimming pool and a lounge. The hotel’s name pays homage to Ignacio Haya, a Ybor City founding father who built the first cigar factory on the neighborhood’s 1500 block in the late 1880s.

• Castlerock Asset Management has acquired the 244-room Westin Tampa Bay. The company plans upgrades to the property, which has eight meeting rooms, by late 2020. 

• Over the next three years the Tampa Convention Center will roll out a series of upgrades and improvements as part of a $20 million capital improvement program. In May 2020, 18 new waterfront meeting rooms totaling 16,000 square feet will be unveiled overlooking the Hillsborough River, as well as an expansive terrace. Then in February 2021, the convention center's existing meeting rooms will be renovated with new paint, carpets and upgraded lighting. Other work in the project includes a series of new and modernized dining outlets, renovated restrooms and energy efficient infrastructure upgrades. Read more about the improvements here

• The Yuengling Brewing Co. is in the early stages of obtaining zoning approval to build a hotel near its headquarters in Tampa. Instead of offering a room with a view, the company is hoping to deliver on the idea of a room with a brew. According to details submitted to the city, the property would include 200 guest rooms, 5,900 square feet of conference space, 12,700 square feet of restaurant space, a microbrewery, a tasting room and a beer garden, as well as a Yuengling museum.

• A dual-branded Hyatt property will open in downtown Tampa in fall 2020. The 17-story project includes a 230-room Hyatt Place and a 115-room Hyatt House; they will share  4,000 square feet of meeting space, 3,200 square feet of retail space and a 220-space parking garage. The hotels will be located across from Tampa City Hall with easy access to the downtown area, the Tampa Convention Center and neighboring Riverwalk attractions, such as the Florida Aquarium and Amalie Arena.

• Coming in 2020, the 519-room JW Marriott Tampa Water Street will add greatly to the room product available across the street from the Tampa Convention Center. The five-star property will include 126,000 square feet of meeting space and the city’s highest rooftop bar, with dramatic views of downtown and Tampa Bay.
 
• The five-star, 173-room Tampa Edition will be co-located with the JW Marriott as part of the massive Water Street Tampa project’s 26-story tower. It will open in 2021 across the street from Amelie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning ice-hockey team.
 
• Chicago’s Aparium Hotel Group is planning a 176-room, $52 million boutique hotel at the corner of E Seventh Avenue at 15th Street in Ybor City. 

• Marriott’s new 175-room AC Hotel Tampa Airport is in the West Shore District, near International Plaza’s upscale shopping and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium and, of course, Tampa International Airport. The hotel has four flexible meeting rooms with a total of 2,400 square feet of space.
 
• The Westin Harbour Island underwent an $18 million renovation and is now the 309-room Westin Tampa Waterside with a new waterfront restaurant, Blue Harbour, and 18,032 square feet of flexible meeting space, all just a few blocks from the Tampa Convention Center.
 
• A $50 million renovation to downtown’s largest hotel, the 727-room Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, is complete. The property, which has been renamed Tampa Marriott Water Street has a new dining spot by acclaimed chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval, the Garrison Tavern. The craft kitchen and social house features American fare created to complement the 20 locally crafted delights on tap, including Garrison Kolsch, a signature brew created in partnership with Tampa’s Coppertail Brewing Co. The 265-seat tavern is a sports fan’s dream: Two large media walls with nine screens each and more than 35 individual TVs are spread throughout the venue, all broadcasting sporting events around the clock, and there’s an on-site Topgolf Swing Suite with two bays.
 
• The newly renovated 277-room Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel features 12,500 square feet of meeting and event space, as well as an ideal location on the Riverwalk and just a few blocks from the Tampa Convention Center.

• Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani's Italian ristorante has debuted in Tampa. The Osteria Italian Bar & Kitchen is best described as an amalgam of rustic Italian market, fine-dining eatery and elegant late-night bar. Menu highlights includes fresh homemade pastas, slow-roasted meats, wild fish and seafood, a generous pizza selection and a hearty wine and craft-cocktail collection. Private dining for up to 20 is accommodated on the second floor, overlooking the main dining room, where guests can relax in luxe, oversized seating. Osteria also offers a 1,500-square-foot outdoor patio.

• Sparkman Wharf, an outdoor food hall, beer garden and creative space, is part of the mixed-use riverfront development Water Street Tampa. Several new restaurants are slated to open over the next few months here. Topping the list  is JoToro, a Mexican restaurant to be driven by acclaimed chef Joe Isidori of Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer. Other new entrants will include Semolina, an Italian eatery, and Free the Cork Wine Bar. Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, a cult  brand known for flavors like brambleberry crisp and brown butter almond brittle, is also opening at the venue. To read more about Sparkman Wharf's offerings, head here.

Cigar City Brewing Taproom has opened in a prime spot between Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey team, and the new JW Marriott Tampa Water Street hotel, set to open in October 2020. 

More Event Venues

• The Tampa Museum of Art's eclectic permanent collection leans toward modern and contemporary works, including sculpture, painting, photography and installation art. The museum, which bills itself as the only such institution in the country accessible by boat, hosts private events for groups of up to 800 people. 

• For a venue with a raw, industrial vibe, consider CL Space. The versatile 2,088-square-foot industrial loft in the heart of Ybor City can accommodate up to 200 guests and features brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights and exposed beams. Dining tables, chairs and cocktail tables are included in the rental price. The venue has a kitchen, and outside caterers are welcome.

Tampa Meeting Hotels

Things to Do in Tampa Bay

What's Happening in the Area?

• Check out the local festivals, exhibits and performances taking place during your event.

• Visit Tampa Bay has launched Visit Tampa Gay, a comprehensive guide for LGBTQ visitors.The guide provides an in-depth view of the region’s thriving LGBTQ community through interviews with key figures, including Tampa Museum of Art director Michael Tomor, Diversity Chamber director Justice Gennari and newly elected Tampa Mayor Jane Castor – the city’s first LGBTQ mayor.

Getting Active & Outdoors

• Three unique ways to enjoy Tampa's great outdoors can found on the waterfront just outside the Tampa Convention Center. Board a Kraken Cycleboats "bar on wheels" and "pedal, pedal, drink" down the Hillsborough River. Ride along the same river on single or tandem water bicycle via Tampa Bay Water Bike Company’s "wheel" that are “easy to ride and virtually impossible to fall from or tip over.”  Those who crave speed can zoom along the Tampa Riverwalk in a rented miniature powerboat from Riverwalk Boating Company.

• Following a $36 million redevelopment, Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and its River Center structure have received two 2019 American Architecture Awards for design excellence from The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. Completed in 2018 as part of the City of Tampa's plan to regenerate the West Tampa riverfront and adjacent neighborhoods, the park features expansive picnic and gathering spots with city views; first-class tennis, basketball, and football courts; a pedestrian wharf; raised walkways lined with more than 100 pre-existing oak trees; and a weekend water taxi stop. There's also a floating dock where visitors can watch the action on the Hillsborough River. The River Center has a swooping roof that channels runoff into an adjacent rain garden and incorporates a boathouse that offers kayak, canoe, paddleboard, dragon boat, and scull rentals.

• Break a sweat like a local with a sunrise jog along scenic Bayshore Boulevard in the morning, or come evening loop around the Tampa Riverwalk just as the lights come up and illuminate the city’s landmarks.
 
• To take in the sights of Tampa Bay from the bay itself, arrange a two-hour stand-up paddleboard class and adventure organized by Urban Kai Stand Up Paddleboarding.

• The Florida Aquarium has reopened following nearly eight weeks of closure during the COVID-19 pandemic. New health and safety initiatives have been implemented at the attraction, including attendance limits that support physical distancing, touchless transactions, and enhanced cleaning protocols. Staff wear masks at all times, and tickets to enter the aquarium must be purchased in advance. Situated near Tampa Bay’s Convention District, the aquarium can host groups of 250 to 4,000 people for off-site events. Individual event spaces include the Coral Reef Gallery, which can accommodate up to  200 attendees, the Mosaic Center & Rooftop, which can host up to 650 attendees and the Vinik Channelside room, for up to 125 guests.

Extending Your Trip in Tampa Bay

• Beer here (and there): In Tampa — known as the craft-brewing hub of the Southeastern U.S — craft beer is as much a part of life as sunshine and hand-rolled cigars. Choose from among hundreds of locally brewed craft beers at Cigar City Brewing Co. Its newest offering, Humidor Series IPA, features a unique dimension added by Spanish cedar, the same wood used to manufacture cigar humidors. In the Cuban enclave of Ybor City, Coppertail Brewing Co. serves a rotating menu of craft brews, with 20 options on tap at any one time. Tours of Coppertail’s brewing facility are available. Angry Chair Brewing is known for its stouts but offers a wide variety of IPAs, sours and porters. Five-ounce pours make it easy to choose your favorite offering. Brew Bus holds weekly public tours to visit local craft breweries, as well as chartered private craft-brewery tours for groups. Brew Bus Brewery beers are served on both public and private tour buses.

Ahoy mateys: Tampa Bay's ties to pirates and Spanish explorers are celebrated at the Tampa Bay History Center's new "Treasure Seekers" exhibit. Visitors can climb a replica pirate ship, sight the stars through a sextant and learn about life below decks. The venue, a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum, offers three floors of exhibits exploring 12,000 years of Florida history. The museum also has four event venues and can accommodate up to 600 guests.
 
Get Wet and Wild:Spend a day screaming on the roller coasters and water rides at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, then marvel at the more than 300 animal species on exhibit and enjoy the many family-friendly shows on offer. This year, Busch Gardens debuted Tirgris, Florida's tallest launch coaster, which "catapults riders through an exhilarating array of looping twists with forward and backward motion, breathtaking drops, a 150-foot skyward surge and an inverted heartline roll" at more than 60 miles per hour. Read more here.

"The Big Guava" Sports Scene

Tampa Bay, nicknamed "The Big Guava" in the 1970s, takes its sports seriously. Make some time to catch a home game of:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
Tampa Bay Rays 
Tampa Bay Lightning

Hot F&B Spots in Tampa

• Tampa Bay's undeniably hip cocktail scene is showcased in "Tampa With a Twist: A Baycrafted Cocktail Guide to Tampa Bay," a new release in Visit Tampa Bay's book series. Available at Unlock Tampa Bay Visitors Center and at several local retailers, the book combines photography with commentary from the pioneers of the city's cocktail culture, inspired cocktail recipes from some of the region’s best mixologists, bar bite recipes, and tips on how to create a perfect charcuterie board. Then sample libations created by some of the mix masters featured in the book, including Ro Patel of The Collection in The Hall on Franklin, Daniel Bareswilt of CW's Gin Joint, and Scooby Oliver of Rock Brothers Brewing.

• The city has earned the Number 10 spot on WalletHub’s "2019 Best Cities for Vegans & Vegetarians" list. The list ranks the top 100 U.S. cities in this category based on 17 key metrics, including the of restaurants serving meatless options, number of salad shops per capita, and cost of groceries fo vegetarians. In addition to being named the 10th-best city for vegans and vegetarians overall, Tampa came in ninth place on the list for the diversity, accessibility, and quality of vegan and vegetarian options. The latter was calculated according to the number of restaurants where vegan and vegetarian fare is available, as well as by number of community gardens, degree of access to fresh vegetarian food, and number of smoothie bars per capita.

• The menu of dining and sipping options at the Tampa Convention Center has expanded with the completion of a project on the Riverwalk adjacent to the facility. Big Ray's Fish Camp, a fishing shack-themed restaurant, is now open. The area surrounding the 360-degree bar The Sail, formerly known as the Sail Pavilion, has been renamed Sail Plaza and revamped to include amenities like upgraded/expanded restrooms, additional seating, new shade structures, and a full kitchen for Big Ray’s Fish Camp. Renovations of concessionaires inside the convention center, such as Datz, are expected to wrap up by mid-September.

Among other local favorite eateries in the area are: 

  1. Wright's Gourmet House - American
  2. La Terrazza Restaurant - Italian
  3. Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Temple - Thai
  4. Al's Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que - American, BBQ
  5. Happy Fish - Peruvian
  6. On Swann - American
  7. First Watch - American
  8. Mr. Dunderbak's - German
  9. Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse - Brazilian
  10. Bern's Steak House - French, Steakhouse