Explore Tampa's Lively Bar Scene to Find the Perfect Hangouts
By Skye Rodgers
Tampa Local Expert
Tampa has a lively bar scene, so if your idea of fun includes enjoying a couple drinks while socializing with friends, there is a perfect spot waiting for you here. Capitalizing on first-hand experience and extensive research, 10 Best has put together a list of some of the most popular spots for hanging out and kicking back.
Several spots on the list have been selected for those who wish to enjoy Tampa’s outdoor lifestyle, such as the Sail Pavilion. Hands down the best outside bar for enjoying spectacular views of the downtown waterways.
If tasting some of our local craft beers is more your style, you might want to check out the Tampa Bay Brewing Company in the historic Ybor City neighborhood. Ybor City leads the way when it comes to Tampa nightlife, so we made sure to include a couple of options from this neighborhood to get you started on your nocturnal explorations.
From upscale and sophisticated options such as downtown’s Fly Bar to down-to-earth dive bars such as SoHo’s Tiny Tap Tavern, there are a full range of options to choose from. Whatever you’re looking for, you are sure to find your perfect watering hole.
One of the best-kept secrets in Tampa, this cozy bar's intimate size, laid-back ambiance and near-perfect drinks make it Tampa Bay's most cherished late-night hole-in-the-wall. It's small, with only a handful of bar stools and a few high-tops, but the regulars wouldn't have it any other way. Patrons come from all walks of life to enjoy relaxed, civilized conversation while the skilled bartender mixes out-of-this-world cocktails that are strong, cheap and absolutely delicious. An unheard-of combo for the Tampa bar scene. Located on the outskirts of Ybor City, this cool, quiet haven is truly the ideal chill bar. (813-248-6130)
First opened in 1938, the Retreat is the second-oldest watering hole in Tampa. The well-loved bar offers has an old-school, retro feel with red Naugahyde on the booth seats and a huge dark wood bar that dwarfs the small space. Adjacent is a well-stocked game room with darts, billiards and foosball. There's also a limited amount of outdoor seating. It's a popular haunt for college students from nearby University of Tampa. The Retreat has also been featured in the "Guinness Book of World Records" for most draft beers ever sold, so make sure to stop by during the best happy hour in Tampa and add one to the tally. (813-254-2014)
Tiny Tap Tavern
Converted from a gas station in 1951, Tiny Tap has been a cherished Tampa favorite for decades. This tried-and-true dive bar's friendly clientele and cheap prices make it a refreshing respite from its upscale SoHo surroundings. Friendly, fun-loving bartenders pop PBR cans (their specialty) as patrons of all stripes challenge one another to hardcore pool competitions while belting out jukebox classics. The staff refers to the bar as "Tiny Trap" in honor of the many loyal regulars, but even for newbies, Tiny Tap delivers big-time. You might enter as a stranger, but you will leave as a new friend. This is a beer and cash only establishment. (813-254-3872)
Rick's on the River
If you want to get off the beaten path, try Rick's on the River. Located on the Hillsborough River just north of downtown, Rick's is a popular local hangout catering to the river boating community. Amenities include a boat ramp and marina with docking space for visitors and overnight guests. Ample outdoor seating and a large bar area provide great vantage points for enjoying views of the river and downtown skyline. Combine that with three fully-stocked bars, good food and affordable prices, and you have the perfect recipe for a good time. There is also live entertainment every night starting around 7pm. ((813) 251-0369)
Gaspar's Grotto is a popular bar and restaurant located in Tampa's Ybor City historic neighborhood. Perfect for visitor's who have not had the opportunity to experience the annual Gasparilla Celebration, Gaspar's celebrates the famous pirate invasion all year long and everyone gets to party like a pirate. Three large bar areas offer patrons options for seating and entertainment and there is always something going on. If you get hungry, Gaspar's offers some very decent bar grub from Tampa favorites like the Cuban sandwich and Devil Crab to the hottest hot wings in the city. (813-248-5900)
Four Green Fields
Named after Ireland's four provinces, this cozy, neighborhood pub is housed in a thatched-roof cottage amid a grove of palm trees. Once inside, surrounded by pints of Guinness and lilting accents, you'll feel that you've been transported to the Emerald Isle. The interior is quaint with dark wood and whitewashed walls covered with Irish memorabilia. The lunch crowds from downtown's business district are somewhat sophisticated; they munch on salads, sandwiches, Gaelic stew, and other UK favorites. In the evenings, though, the patrons are younger, and they flock to hear authentic Irish music and drink hearty brews. There's space to sit outside on the front porch and on the back deck where there's always a laid-back gathering. (813-254-4444)
Excuse the pun, but this classic dive has been the "hub" of Tampa's drinking scene since 1949. While a lot has changed since the early days when fancy clothes were worn and local judges were regulars, a lot has stayed the same. Strictly for the over 21 crowd, the Hub is famous for their potent mixed drinks and they don't serve bottom shelf liquor. For entertainment they have a jukebox lineup that would make Bob Seger beam with pride, and live bands appear periodically featuring mostly local, independent acts. You never know who you might run into here, and almost anyone you meet in Tampa will have a story about their visits to the Hub Bar. (813-229-1553)
Fly Bar & Restaurant
A one-of-a-kind gem in downtown Tampa, this eclectic bar features a sophisticated but inviting atmosphere with vibrant murals highlighting the urban chic décor. Daily entertainment is provided by live music or DJs, with regulars playing during the week and a variety of guest acts on the weekends. If it gets too noisy, you can get a breath of fresh air on the city's only open-air rooftop bar offering a unique view of the downtown skyline. Choose from the thoughtfully chosen beer and wine list, or go for one of the genius cocktails crafted with fresh, flavorful ingredients like ginger, lemongrass, elderflower and mint. You can also pair your deliciously distinctive drinks with sophisticated bar fare, including light and zesty fish tacos. (813-275-5000)
The Sail Pavilion
Nestled in the heart of downtown, the Sail Pavilion is a 360 degree, outdoor bar located right on the waterfront. Convenient to downtown amenities such as the Tampa Bay History Center, the Tampa Convention Center, and the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Sail Pavilion often hosts locals and tourists on their way to or from downtown activities. Also located along the Tampa Riverwalk, many walkers, bikers and joggers will stop for a cold drink as they pass by. You can even visit by boat as there is public docking space right in front. There is live music featuring local talent Thursdays through Sundays starting at 5pm. ((813) 274-8420)
Tampa Bay Brewing Company
Handcrafted brews are always on tap at this family-run microbrewery, located in Centro Ybor. Within these walls, patrons clamor for house and seasonal brews, cask-conditioned ales and specialty beers created by other independent breweries. The place has a comfortable, welcoming ambiance, and there are multiple bars. Happy Hour is particularly good because it lets you sample six of the house specialties for a single price. Once you've figured out what you like, then go back for full-sized servings of your favorite. If you need a little sustenance along the way, try out the authentic pub grub or any of their American classics. (813-247-1422)
About Skye Rodgers
Skye has lived in Tampa for over 16 years and spends much of her time exploring the region and discovering its hidden treasures. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no cold, no snow climate and enjoys basking on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and navigating the waters of Tampa Bay. When not out exploring Tampa, Skye is a freelance writer and public relations professional. She currently provides public relations counsel on a freelance basis to non-profits, social enterprises and small business.
Read more about Skye Rodgers here.