Façade and exterior view of Muvico Theatre in Ybor City, one of the best areas when choosing where to stay in Tampa Bay Florida

Where to Stay in Tampa (Best Places By a Local)

I’m a Tampa local and I’m here to help you decide where to stay in Tampa. 

In this guide, I’ll break down the best places to stay in Tampa, and then we’ll cover the best Tampa neighborhoods and areas for your stay. 

There are many amazing people, places, and events that bring visitors to Tampa, Florida every year. No matter the reason for your visit, this list will break down the best places to stay in Tampa!

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!

Best Places to Stay in Tampa

Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Tampa? Here are my top picks: 

Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods in Tampa: 

8 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Tampa

View of Downtown Tampa from Hillsborough River
The Hillsborough River runs through Downtown Tampa (photo: Feng Cheng / Shutterstock)

Tampa is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. There are so many great places to see and different areas of Tampa to consider!

Below I cover the 8 best neighborhoods and areas to stay in while you are staying in Tampa. You can find recommended hotels for every budget category listed for each place, as well as a mini guide to help you explore that neighborhood!

Downtown Tampa

Aerial view of the architectural downtown area in the City of Tampa Florida

👉 Best Area For a Luxury Stay | ✨ Best Downtown Tampa Hotels: Le Méridien TampaTampa MarriottHyatt Place Tampa Downtown

Downtown Tampa is located in southern Tampa and overlooks the Hillsborough River. It is a great area to stay in for first-time visitors looking for a luxury experience. Downtown Tampa offers many attractions for both solo travelers and families. 

During your stay, you will be within walking distance of many scenic attractions. Some of these attractions include the Tampa Bay Harbor and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. They are both perfect photo opportunities!

For a unique Tampa experience, check out the Tampa Threatre or Straz Center for Performing Arts. The Tampa Convention Center is also located in Downtown Tampa.

Pros of Staying in Downtown Tampa:

Con of Staying in Downtown Tampa:

  • Hotels can be more expensive 
  • The downtown area of the city can be noisy at night

📚 Downtown Tampa Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for a Luxury Stay
Google Map

Channelside 

People with their pets walking at the riverwalk in Channelside
A couple strolls along the riverwalk in Channelside (photo: VIAVAL TOURS / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For a Waterfront View | ✨ Best Channelside Hotels: Home2 Suites by HiltonJW Marriott TampaHampton Inn Tampa

Channelside, or The Channel District, is located next to Downtown Tampa. Channelside overlooks the Hillsborough River. This area of Tampa is especially suited for groups wanting to spend a large portion of their time outdoors.  

The Tampa RiverWalk runs throughout Channelside. It provides a convenient walkway to popular attractions like the Heights Public Market at Armature Works.

Other popular Channelside attractions include the Florida Aquarium and Sparkman’s Wharf. Or sit at the Tampa Bay harbor area and wave at cruise ships as they leave port! 

If you want a beautiful photo of you in front of the Tampa skyline, I recommend using the River Walk to walk to Julian B. Lane park. Enjoy a picnic in a grassy field as you look at boats passing by on the water.

Pros of Staying in Channelside:

  • Beautiful views of the Hillsborough River
  • Easy walk to many waterside attractions via Tampa RiverWalk
  • Easy access to Downtown and Hyde Park

Con of Staying in Channelside:

  • Many Channelside attractions can be very crowded, especially on weekends
  • Shade can be hard to come by when walking along the River Walk

📚 Channelside Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for a Waterfront View
Google Map

Ybor City

Façade and exterior view of Muvico Theatre in Ybor City.
Muvico Theatre in Ybor City (photo: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For History and Culture Lovers | ✨ Best Ybor City Hotels: Hotel HayaHilton Garden Inn YborHampton Inn & Suites Ybor City

Ybor City is one of the historical and cultural cornerstones of Tampa. Ybor City is often referred to as The Cigar Capital of the World. This is a great historic neighborhood to stay in for anyone looking to learn about the history of Tampa… and eat the best Cuban Sandwich of your life!

Ybor is most well-known for its Columbian eateries, like Columbia Restaurant. It is also known for its nightlife culture. 

Spend your mornings learning more about Tampa at attractions like the Ybor City State Museum and Ybor City Cigar Museum. Then in the evening, experience the nightlife at the many bars that line 7th Avenue. 

Pros of Staying in Ybor City:

  • Rich with history and art
  • Many nearby bars and restaurants are open late
  • Very active nightlife scene

Con of Staying in Ybor City:

  • Very urban area, with not many waterfront views or greenery 
  • Ybor can be very noisy in the evenings due to the nightlife

📚 Ybor City Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for History and Culture Lovers
Google Map

South Tampa

View of the Tampa skyline from Bayshore Boulevard
A glimpse of South Tampa from Bayshore Boulevard

👉 Best Area For Nightlife | ✨ Best South Tampa Hotels: Epicurean HotelHotel Alba TampaHotel South Tampa & Suites

South Tampa encompasses the southern part of Tampa. South Tampa is unique because it has the feel of a quaint neighborhood, with the bars and restaurants of a major city. This is a great area of Tampa to stay in for groups looking to shop, dine, and drink at local Tampa gems. 

Two of the must-see attractions in South Tampa are Bayshore Boulevard and Hyde Park Village. Bayshore Boulevard is a beautiful sidewalk that wraps around the western side of Hillsborough Bay. 

Hyde Park Village is a cluster of shops, bars, and restaurants that will keep you entertained for the entire day. Surrounded by cobblestone streets, it’s easy to feel like you are in a movie when in Hyde Park. 

South Tampa is also home to Davis Island. Spend the day at Ben T Davis beach or swimming at the Roy Jenkins outdoor swimming pool. 

Pros of Staying in South Tampa:

  • Very walkable area with scenic views
  • Home to many of the best Tampa restaurants and bars 
  • Dog-friendly part of town

Con of Staying in South Tampa:

  • Hotels are scarce and expensive
  • Many restaurants in South Tampa have excessive wait times 

📚 South Tampa Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Nightlife
Google Map

Westshore

Skyline with warm sunset light with an airplane landing at Tampa International Airport
A plane preparing to land at Tampa International Airport in the Westshore area

👉 Best Area For Business Travelers | ✨ Best Westshore Hotels: Renaissance Tampa International Plaza HotelAC Hotel by Marriott Tampa AirportCourtyard Tampa Westshore

Westshore is located a couple of miles from the Tampa International Airport. Westshore is the best area to stay in for business travelers since Westshore is considered Tampa’s business district. 

In addition to the Tampa airport, Westshore is next to the Westshore Plaza and the International Plaza and Bay Street. Bay Street is a lively alleyway filled with bars and restaurants. It is the perfect place to relax and grab a bite to eat after a fun day of shopping inside the mall. 

Pros of Staying in Westshore:

  • Very close to the Tampa International Airport
  • Access to two popular shopping malls
  • Many hotels

Con of Staying in Westshore:

  • Not a walkable area of town
  • Not many unique Tampa attractions in Westshore

📚 Westshore Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Business Travelers
Google Map

Seminole Heights

Close up view of visitors feeding the giraffes at ZooTampa
Visitors feeding the giraffes at ZooTampa (photo: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Trendy Restaurants and Bars | ✨ Best Seminole Heights Hotels: The Hip Hop HotelsComfort Suites Tampa FairgroundsGram’s Place Bed & Hostel

Seminole Heights is often considered the ‘trendy’ and ‘up-and-coming’ part of Tampa. If you are looking for a place to stay in Tampa that will make you feel like a local, I would suggest staying in the Seminole Heights neighborhood.

Dine at many of the unique Tampa establishments such as the Front Porch Bar & Grill which is run from inside a Victorian house with a wraparound porch. For a unique experience, you can also stay at Gram’s Place – Tampa’s only hostel!

Seminole Heights is also home to ZooTampa at Lowry Park which is a great day adventure for both children and adults. Feed giraffes or play in the splash zone while relaxing in the Florida sunshine. 

Pros of Staying in Seminole Heights:

  • Many murals and street art
  • Trendy restaurants and entertainment
  • Great part of town for craft beer lovers

Con of Staying in Seminole Heights:

  • The area can feel very residential 
  • You’ll need a car to get around
  • Not many hotel options 

📚 Seminole Heights Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Trendy Restaurants and Bars
Google Map

East Hillsborough

A dog in the middle of the trail in Hillsborough River State Park
My dog Athena during a hike in Hillsborough River State Park

👉 Best Area For Concerts or Casinos | ✨ Best East Hillsborough Hotels: Seminole Hard Rock HotelTownePlace Suites by MarriottHoliday Inn Express & Suites

East Hillsborough refers to the eastern side of the city of Tampa. East Hillsborough contains attractions that will provide you with thrilling experiences! The Seminole Hard Rock Casino & Hotel and the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater are both located here.

Tampa is a well-visited location for artists on tour. There is a good chance that your favorite band or artist will play in Tampa on their next tour. See a concert or stay at the Hard Rock Casino for an eventful evening!

If you want to get in touch with nature, visit the Hillsborough River State Park. This state park offers many things to do like hiking, canoeing, and camping. 

Pros of Staying in East Hillsborough:

  • Great area to see concerts
  • Affordable hotel options
  • Home to a 4,000-acre state park

Con of Staying in East Hillsborough:

  • Aside from large venues like the amphitheater and casino, there aren’t too many attractions 
  • You’ll need a car to get around
  • You’ll have to drive on the highway to get around East Hillsborough

📚 East Hillsborough Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Concerts or Casinos
Google Map

North Tampa

View at the entrance of Busch Garden in Tampa Bay
 Visit Busch Gardens in North Tampa (photo: Feng Cheng / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Adventure Seekers | ✨ Best North Tampa Hotels: Hampton Inn & Suites Tampa NorthHyatt Place Tampa Busch GardensSpringHill Suites Tampa North

North Tampa is a great neighborhood to stay in for solo travelers or families looking to visit major tourist attractions like Adventure Island or Busch Gardens. The University of South Florida is also located in North Tampa. 

In addition to theme parks, North Tampa also has other notable attractions like the Museum of Science and Industry and the USF Contemporary Art Museum. The South Florida Botanical Gardens are also located near the South Florida Campus.

If you are looking to ride a roller coaster and expand your scientific knowledge, North Tampa might be the best neighborhood in Tampa for your stay!

Pros of Staying in North Tampa:

  • Very close to big attractions like Busch Gardens
  • Many affordable hotel options

Con of Staying in North Tampa:

  • You’ll need a rental car to get around this area
  • Can feel touristy 
  • It’s not centrally located to other Tampa neighborhoods

📚 North Tampa Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Adventure Seekers
Google Map

Tips for Staying in Tampa

Prepare for the Weather When Packing for Tampa

A dog with a rain jacket in the backyard.
Athena and I always keep a rain jacket with us for unexpected rain 

While Florida is known for its sunshine, Tampa’s weather can change on a dime. Pack sunscreen to protect your skin from the direct sunlight you’ll experience. But, Tampa is also susceptible to many afternoon rainstorms so make sure to bring a raincoat or umbrella. 

For more, see my guide to the best time of year to visit Tampa.

Create a List of Things You Want to Do in Tampa

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of attractions that Tampa has to offer. Do some research and create a list of things you want to do when you’re in town. 

Be aware of your itinerary before deciding where to stay in Tampa. If you want to try fun restaurants and bars, consider staying in Seminole Heights or South Tampa. If you want to spend your trip at theme parks like Busch Gardens, stay in North Tampa.

Want to explore some other areas near Tampa when you’re here? Check out my list of best day trips from Tampa Bay.

Leave Room for Adjustment When Planning Your Tampa Itinerary 

Creating an itinerary before your trip will allow you to maximize the number of things you’ll be able to do. 

Leave some room for flexibility in your plan, though. Unexpected events like a thunderstorm might mean you have to change your plan for that day!

Plan the Mode of Transportation you will use

Cars driving on the road of downtown Tampa
Driving in Downtown Tampa

Ensure you plan your transportation. Do you plan to rent a car? Or just get around by carshare services like Lyft or Uber? Understanding your mode of transportation can influence where to stay in Tampa. 

If you aren’t going to rent a car, I suggest staying in one of the walkable Tampa neighborhoods like Channelside.

Make Reservations Ahead of Time

Ensure you are making reservations for any restaurants or attractions that might sell out. Famous restaurants like Bern’s Steakhouse tend to book out months in advance. 

Check out this Tampa Bay CityPASS that bundles together entry tickets for multiple must-see Tampa destinations.

FAQs About Where to Stay in Tampa

What is the best area of Tampa to stay in? 

Downtown Tampa is the best area of Tampa for first-time visitors. The downtown area offers many waterfront views and attractions that are unique to Tampa.

Should I stay in Downtown Tampa? 

Downtown Tampa is a great area to stay in when visiting Tampa. You can also consider staying in South Tampa or Channelside. Both areas are close to Downtown Tampa and offer great options for shopping and dining.

Is Downtown Tampa walkable? 

Downtown Tampa is considered a walkable area of Tampa. There are many hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. 

Where is the Tampa airport located?

The Tampa International Airport is located in west Tampa, next to Westshore. The Tampa Airport is about a fifteen-minute drive from Downtown Tampa.

Can I bring my dog when I visit Tampa? 

Tampa is a very dog-friendly city. South Tampa and Downtown Tampa are both dog-friendly areas of the city.

***

 Making the right decision on where to stay in Tampa can greatly improve the quality of your trip! Thanks for reading along as I went over the different areas and neighborhoods of Tampa. 

Planning more Florida trips? Check out Katie’s guide to where to stay in Orlando.

(Featured Image Credit: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock)

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