From building a boat to walking a tightrope, there are myriad activities for groups to explore in Central West Florida, in addition to its variety of dining and entertainment options.
Karn Clark, CMP, has advice for anyone coming to the region, and specifically Tampa, St. Pete, Clearwater and Sarasota: Get on the water.
Clark, owner of Tampa-based BayArea Destination Management, which stages events for groups in all these cities, has a number of water-based activities up her sleeve.
“We do Tampa by land and water tours and use a few Pirate Water Taxis to cruise up and down the Hillsborough River,” Clark said. “We go by historic homes, the Tampa Museum of Art, Straz Center for the Performing Arts and the unique buildings of the University of Tampa, with a stop at Ricks on the River for lunch. Our groups love it.”
One unique venue visitors will be able to reach by boat, bike and car or via the new Tampa River Walk is a 43-acre mixed-use development in the Tampa Heights neighborhood, featuring a repurposed Armature Works Building. Armature Works at the Heights, opening this year, will house the Heights Market with communal seating surrounded by restaurants.
“It will be the answer to the latest trend in food halls,” said Kevin Wiatrowski, media relations, Visit Tampa Bay. “Meeting groups will experience this new collective eatery featuring our top local chefs and mixologists,” he said.
In addition, The Heights Market will include an interactive kitchen, which can host cooking classes and pop-up dinners in collaboration with Heights Market tenants.
In Tampa’s historic Hyde Park area, the Harry Waugh Dessert Room at Bern’s Steak House offers a unique spot to have dessert. Constructed of California redwood wine holding tanks, the 48 enclosed booths have piped-in music where guests can order one of more than 50 desserts accompanied by one of 1,000 dessert wines and spirits.
Across the street from Bern’s at the hip Epicurean Hotel, groups have been known to have cooking competitions at the Epicurean Theatre, replete with a chef’s kitchen.
“Groups can ‘rent’ one of our chefs and we bring in all the food for an Iron Chef-type event. There’s nothing like it in Tampa,” said Shawn Routten, front office manager of the Epicurean.
For a good cigar after dessert visitors go to historic Ybor City, “The Cigar Capital of the World”, where tabaqueros have been rolling cigars by hand along Seventh Avenue since the late 1880s. Groups can sample a Cuban sandwich invented in Ybor City, or try the paella at Florida’s oldest restaurant, Columbia—great for groups.
For those who want a bit of exercise, the 2.4-mile Tampa River Walk is an ideal spot for walking or biking. All along the walk there are myriad restaurants, museums and parks. Coast Bike Share bicycle rental has stations along the River Walk.
Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, overlooking Tampa Bay, offers a waterfront setting for outdoor teambuilding along with its 30,000 square feet of meeting space.
Seeing Tampa and St. Pete, its southern neighbor, in one day is now easier. New this year is the 149-passenger Cross-Bay Ferry, which links the Tampa Convention Center to St. Petersburg’s historic Vinoy Park Hotel marina from November to May.
With reference to the Vinoy, Clark said she likes to give groups a taste of the city’s history.
“We do plain old historic tours of St. Pete, including a tour of the 1920s-era Vinoy Hotel. There’s a historian on-site who provides interesting tidbits about the hotel,” she said. “There are also lots of wonderful old photos near the Tea Garden, a beautiful spot to hold receptions.”