Tampa may not be your first thought as a romantic destination, but there is plenty to capture the romantic imagination in this mysterious city of iconic minarets and moonlight reflections. This one-day itinerary highlights just a few of the romantic destinations that await you in Tampa.
Imagine it’s the late 1800s, the height of the Victorian Gilded Age. You are arriving in Tampa via the new modern railway, and your destination is the opulent Tampa Bay Hotel. As the train pulls up to the front entrance of the hotel, the romantic and expressive Moorish architecture is revealed to you, complete with spires reaching towards the impossibly blue sky. As you disembark, a sweeping verandah is waiting to welcome you to the most lavish hotel of its time.
Romance awaits you as you tour the former Tampa Bay Hotel — Photo courtesy of Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons
Today, the Tampa Bay Hotel is home to the University of Tampa, but the beautiful building and gardens remain, preserved as one of Tampa’s most romantic and iconic images. It's well worth a visit.
Housed in the main hotel building is the Henry B. Plant Museum, a tribute to the visionary railroad, steamship and hotel magnate, who was instrumental in the development of Florida. Here, you can continue your imaginings as you tour exhibits and recreations of what the hotel would have been like at the height of its popularity.
While you’re here, make sure you visit the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery. This stunning gallery space is operated by the Art Department at the University of Tampa. Open to the public, the gallery provides visitors the opportunity to view works of art by students, faculty and alumni, as well as contemporary national and international artists.
After a tour of the beautiful gardens, head across the street from the University of Tampa campus to enjoy the romantic ambiance of Mise en Place for lunch. A perfect place for a mid-day tryst, this local favorite is known and loved for its creative modern American cuisine.
Continuing your exploration of Tampa’s romantic history, head over to Hyde Park Village, just a short drive away. Hyde Park Village is a quaint shopping district featuring high-end boutiques and restaurants. With its wide brick walkways, majestic oak trees and beautiful central fountain, this is a perfect place to stroll with your loved one and maybe pick up a unique and special souvenir or two.
When you’re done with shopping, take some time to explore the surrounding neighborhood. Hyde Park is one of Tampa’s oldest and most exclusive neighborhoods. Established around the same time as the Tampa Hotel, the area developed over time and features beautiful homes with architectural styles ranging from Queen Anne and Mediterranean revival to newer directions in architecture, such as the Prairie style.
In keeping with the historic romance of the day, plan on dinner at Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club, located at the southern tip of Hyde Park. As its name suggests, this is a Prohibition-themed restaurant and lounge specializing in sophisticated cuisine and inspired cocktails.
When you call for a reservation, you will be provided a password - don’t forget it. As you pull up to the club, there are no signs, so watch carefully for the valet stand, password at the ready. After providing the password again at the door, you are admitted by staff in costume and character ready to get you started on your evening. For extra romance, ask for one of their curtained lounge areas.
The perfect end to your romantic Tampa itinerary is an after-diner stroll along Bayshore Boulevard’s famous pedestrian walkway, just across the street from Ciro’s. With the lights of downtown Tampa reflected in the calm waters of the bay, you will feel like there’s no one else in the world but the two of you. Enjoy!
Romantic Bayshore Boulevard at night — Photo courtesy of imallergic