Florida’s city du jour is eager to earn permanent status on travelers’ lists of sunny, accessible escapes worthy of a weekend stay, as a cutting-edge, multi-billion-dollar landmark development project redefines its downtown. Water Street Tampa wrapped phase one late last year with the unveiling of the city’s first true five-star hotel, The Tampa EDITION (there are currently only five in the US, including one in Miami), with Michelin-starred chef John Fraser at the helm.
Backed by Bill Gates and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, the project has already seen the Verge, its main pedestrian promenade, mushroom with restaurants like Boulon Brasserie, with spectacular interiors by a Montreal designer and ridiculously good escargot, and The Pearl, a stylish oyster bar across the street, as well as lifestyle hotels and residences including ROOST Apartment Hotel. The neighborhood was recently named the world’s first WELL-certified City District, too, thanks to its focus on sustainability and livability, and rentable electric scooters make it easy to zip around downtown.
The development is at the crux of a downtown renaissance that’s seen Tampa finally take full advantage of what’s been here all along–water, water, everywhere, between the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay. The city has become an entrepreneur- and millennial-magnet, with bleisure a way of life at spots like Sparkman Wharf, where top chefs proffer light bites and cocktails from within shipping containers astride a busy shipping canal, and Armature Works, a chic food hall inside a restored trolley warehouse along the 2.6-mile Tampa Riverwalk.
With Tampa’s first nonstop flight from Heathrow via Virgin Atlantic debuting late last year; easy access to the art-loving, dog-friendly city of St. Pete; and plenty of sun, sand, and sea in nearby Pass-a-Grille Beach and Clearwater; there’s never been a more appealing time to touch down.
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