Tampa's Top Shopping Venues: From Historic Neighborhoods to Air-Conditioned Luxury
By Skye Rodgers
Tampa Local Expert
Tampa hosts a variety of shopping experiences from luxury shopping malls to quaint, historic shopping districts. To help you find the experience that's perfect for you, 10 Best has put together a list of your best options.
Many of Tampa's shopping malls and centers are open-air to take advantage of all the beautiful sunny days. If you're looking to experience some of Tampa's rich ethnic history while exploring unique and eclectic boutiques and gift stores, then Ybor City is where you should go. After enjoying a day of shopping and exploring, you can sample the neighborhood's popular restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
If you're looking for an open-air option that is a little more manicured and orderly there are a couple of planned shopping villages as well. The most popular is Hyde Park Village. Located in one of Tampa's most exclusive neighborhoods, this shopping district features a mix of trendy shops and boutiques with some high-end dining options located close by.
For convenience, accessibility, selection and most-importantly, air conditioning, there are several well-designed and well-maintained modern options to choose from. For the best of both worlds, check out the upscale and conveniently located International Plaza. This large indoor mall features a great mix of luxury retailers and department stores with an outdoor area called Bay Street that hosts a few really good restaurants and bars as well.
University Mall is conveniently located neighborhood shopping center near Busch Gardens, Adventure Island, USF and the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). Fondly referred to as "U-Mall," the complex underwent an $11 million renovation in 2008 and popular amenities were added such as a play area and Wi-Fi lounge. The Mall offers Sears, Macy's, Dillard's and Burlington Coat Factory as its anchor stores along with 140 more shops featuring men's and women's apparel, jewelry, sports equipment, and much more. If you get hungry there is a variety of dining choice in their large food court. (813-971-3465)
Channelside Bay Plaza
This waterside collection of retailers, nightlife, and restaurants is centered on an attractive, European-style brick plaza that features palm trees, fountains and umbrella-shaded tables. An urban oasis of sorts, Channelside offers the downtown crowd a pleasant escape from their steel and glass offices. The popular shops here carry wares ranging from premium cigars, coffee and wine to oil paintings and tropical apparel. In addition, the center features a handful of restaurants including the popular Thai Thani and Hooter's. If you like bowling, check out Splitsville that combines a modern, well-maintained bowling alley with an upscale restaurant and lounge. (813-223-4250)
South Howard Street
SoHo is a shopping and entertainment district catering to fashionable 20-somethings and features a wide range of independent boutiques, art galleries and other specialty shops. To complement its stylish shopping are a large number of popular and eclectic restaurants giving the area the nickname of "Restaurant Row." The neighborhood borders Hyde Park and consists of the area on or near South Howard Avenue (get it - SoHo) from West Kennedy to the tranquil waters of Tampa Bay at Bayshore Boulevard. Much of South Howard is designed to be pedestrian-friendly and features palm-lined sidewalks and diverse storefronts.
Washed in light, this glass-filled mall invites shoppers to browse among palm trees, sculpture and water features. Open since 1995, the TownCenter is one of the area's most popular venues. It's anchored by four department stores; Macy's, Dillards, JCPenney, and Sears. Included in 120 additional specialty stores are a mix of retailers that includes premium options such as bebe, Swarovski, Lush, and Coach. There is also a great mix of popular dining options waiting for the shopping-weary including the Cheesecake Factory and Bahama Breeze. Families are welcome here and the mall sponsors a variety of fun events and activities throughout the year. (813-661-5100, 813-661-6255)
Westfield Citrus Park
The goal in the design of Citrus Park was to lend an outdoor feel to an indoor mall, with wide boulevards, lots of windows, and burbling fountains. Amidst this delightful "Main Street" decor, a variety of 150-plus stores, including Dillard's, Gap, Macy's, Abercrombie & Fitch and the area's largest Pottery Barn, enable visitors to shop 'til they drop into a plush movie theater seat to catch a flick. If you need a break, the food court is one of the best in town and there are also 5 sit-down restaurants including BJ's Brewery and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. (813-926-4644)
Convenient to the airport, WestShore Plaza is a slightly less intimidating shopping mecca than the exclusive International Plaza but it maintains a great selection of upscale shopping and trendy dining options. The mall is anchored by Macy's, JCPenney, and Sears. Complimenting the department stores is a 14-screen movie theater and popular retailers such as the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and White House Black Market just to name a few. Almost as impressive are their dining options that include Maggiano's Little Italy, PF Chang's China Bistro and Seasons 52 among others. Their is also a food court for an easy place to pick up a quick bite. (813-286-0790)
The Shops at Wiregrass
This 800,000-square-foot open-air lifestyle village is one of the most picturesque malls in the Tampa area. Wiregrass strikes the perfect balance between a hub of local activity and a shopping destination. As shoppers stroll the wide, immaculate streets, outdoor music and waterfalls create a welcoming environment while rocking chairs and pocket parks offer restful respites. Over 100 stores and restaurants line the sidewalks, so visitors can indulge in tasty treats while happily collecting armfuls of shopping bags. Wiregrass is located near the junction of I-75 with I-275 and is definitely worth the stop if you're in north Tampa. (813-994-2242)
Hyde Park Village
South of downtown, in one of Tampa's oldest and most affluent neighborhoods, is one of the city's most upscale shopping destinations. The 265,000 square foot Hyde Park Village shopping district covers seven blocks of street retail, offices and dining. The open-air environment offers a park-like atmosphere with outdoor pathways and seating and is a fantastic place to people-watch and window shop. Thankfully most of the walkways are covered, so you don't have to pay too much attention to the changeable Tampa weather. Many of the shops are local and independent, but there are some prominent chains such as Restoration Hardware, Anthropologie, Williams-Sonoma, Brooks Brothers, Tommy Bahama, and Pottery Barn. (813-251-3500, 813-254-6210)
This historic district, named after a 19th-century cigar maker, lies northeast of downtown and is pronounced "Ee-bore" City. Latin culture and historic architecture endow it with grace; the eclectic boutiques, nightclubs and restaurants lining the streets give it energy and character. Perhaps the most lively part of the city, Ybor is pedestrian-friendly, especially along Seventh Avenue hosting shoppers, explorers, strollers and club-goers. The district is a great place to buy cigars, listen to jazz, and get a feel for the heartbeat of Tampa. Centro Ybor, a one-stop shopping and entertainment venue at the junction of Seventh Avenue and Nineteenth Street, attracts crowds with upscale restaurants, clubs and shopping. (813-248-3712, 813-241-8838)
International Plaza & Bay Street
When International Plaza was built, it changed the shopping landscape in Tampa. Located right next to the airport, it's our "fancy" mall, with shops that had not previously been in the Tampa market like Nordstrom's and Gucci. The mall features three upscale department department stores and over 200 high-end specialty shops. In addition to great shopping, International Plaza is an entertainment center featuring over 30 eateries and bars either within the mall or on Bay Street, the adjacent open-air village of fine restaurants and small boutiques. If you need a quick Burberry, Tiffany, or Louis Vuitton fix while in town, head to International Plaza. (813-342-3790)
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.