. 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

There’s plenty of good "cheers" in this Florida city, home to more than 40 craft breweries. Visitors can throw back a pint at renowned spots like Coppertail Brewing and Cigar City Brewing, or at one of the newest entrants, Rock Brothers Brewing.

Airport and Airlift Update

Tampa International 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.

Alaska Airlines is gearing up to launch a second daily flight between Seattle and Tampa starting Dec. 19. In addition, TPA recently announced new service to more than 30 destinations, including direct service to San Diego on Southwest Airlines.

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.

Tampa's TECO line streetcar system — which runs from Downtown past the Tampa Convention Center and up to Ybor City — will be free starting as soon as October 2018. The yellow streetcars will also run more frequently. Read more here.

2018 Stella Award Winners

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

Meeting & 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

• 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.

• Hotel Alba, part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, has debuted in Tampa. The property has 222 guest rooms, 12,500 square feet of meeting space and three restaurants. 

• The new Current Hotel, a part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, has opened on Tampa Bay’s Rocky Point. The 180-room boutique property has been designed to offer guests sweeping views of the bay from every room. The hotel features a 2,300-square-foot ballroom as well as the Julian restaurant and Rox rooftop lounge. Also look for a fitness center, an infinity-style pool, and a private beach with complimentary water-sports equipment and fire pits.

• 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, Fla. 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.

• Hilton's first dual-branded Tampa Bay property is set to open in the city's Downtown Channel District in 2019. The 213-room hotel will be near the Tampa Convention Center, as well as businesses such as TECO, Bank of America, Sykes Enterprises and PNC. Amenities will include an on-site, full-service Starbucks and a 24-hour convenience shop. The studios and one-bedroom suites are designed for extended stays. For business-minded guests, there will be 2,000 square feet of meeting space and a 24-hour business center. For relaxing, there will be an outdoor rooftop pool with fire pits and a terrace that will overlook downtown.

• Coming in 2020, the 519-room JW Marriott Tampa 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.

More Event Venues

• 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.

• Featuring expansive bay views, an easy walk to Ben T. Davis Beach and a private dock for water sports from paddleboarding to boating, the Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa has 276 guest rooms with private balconies. It offers 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, as well as a pool deck for receptions.
• The 325-room Westshore Grand, a Marriott Tribute Portfolio property — reflagged from InterContinental — is right next to Westshore Plaza’s  high-end shopping, and a short drive from downtown and Hyde Park. The property has 17,000 square feet of flexible event space and can handle groups of up to 700.

• 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. (813) 274-8130

• 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.
• 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. 

• Sparkman Wharf, an outdoor food hall, beer garden and creative space, is set to open this fall as part of the mixed-use riverfront development Water Street Tampa. The wharf's dining area will feature 10 food-and-beverage outlets; each will be housed in a repurposed shipping container decorated with murals by a local art-and-design firm. To read more about Sparkman Wharf's offerings, head here.

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

• 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 new $4.1 million Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center has opened at the Florida Aquarium in Apollo Beach. The two-story, 8,300-square-foot facility features five different rehabilitation pools, including the state’s first sea-turtle dive pool with an observation window.

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

Top Restaurants in Tampa

•  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

Savor the city's best flavors via: 
• Born in the historic cigar factories of Tampa Bay's Ybor City neighborhood, the Cuban sandwich is a must-eat while in town. Check out Hemingway’s at the Heights Public Market at the Armature Works, which won the Ybor City 2018 Cuban Sandwich Festival in the historic category, limited to traditional ingredients: roasted pork, ham, salami (without the latter, the sandwich is Miami-style), Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on pressed Cuban bread.
• Ybor City’s Columbia Restaurant offers Spanish/Cuban cuisine that has made it an institution in Tampa Bay since 1905. Try the ropa vieja — literally “old clothes” — a savory shredded beef stew with tomatoes, onions and green peppers, served with the traditional platanos (plantains) and white rice.
• Another Ybor City stalwart since 1915, La Segunda Central Bakery’s fourth generation is still serving delicious Cuban pastry, Cuban toast and café con leche.