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.

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

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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

The new Current Hotel, a part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, will open this summer 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 will offer 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.

Attendees at the Tampa Convention Center now can crack some claws next door at the new Harpoon Harry’s Crab House Tampa. The relaxed seafood spot serves king crab, blue crab, snow crab and stone crab claws, as well as grouper, sea scallops, lobster, calamari and more. The 10,000-square-foot venue has both an indoor and outdoor bar, an open-air mezzanine and a balcony overlooking the downtown area. Private events are accommodated.

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.

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.

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.
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 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 slated for a summer  completion. 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.

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

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
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.

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.

Extending Your Trip in Tampa Bay

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.

Pack the Swimsuit: Located on five interconnected keys at the entrance to Tampa Bay, Fort De Soto Park’s beaches are regularly rated among the best in America, having won top honors in that category from Dr. Beach in 2005 and from TripAdvisor in 2009. Home to mangroves, wetlands and, from April to September, nesting loggerhead sea turtles, the park and its white-sand beaches are just 45 minutes from Tampa.
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. In 2019, Busch Gardens will debut Tirgris, Florida's tallest launch coaster, which will "catapult 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

• Visit Tampa Bay celebrates its vibrant food scene in the newly launched cookbook, Tampa's Table: A Culinary Journey Through Tampa Bay. The cookbook shares local recipes -- ranging from traditional Cuban sandwich at Florida's oldest restaurant to cutting-edge culinary combinations -- curated by the destination's best chefs, along with essays by top food writers. Within its pages are time-tested classics, such as the 113-year-old Columbia Restaurant's arroz con pollo, side-by-side with visionary creations by recent James Beard nominees such as Ferrell Alvarez at Rooster & The Till, recently named Tampa Bay's top restaurant by the Tampa Bay Times. Read more here.

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.