Tampa, Florida is not one of the biggest convention markets by a long shot, but it’s one of the most pleasant. That’s because it looks like the photo above more days than not, with this Sail Pavilion bar right on the bay outside where you just had your meetings. To the left is the Marriott and a JW Marriott, across the bridge is a Westin on an island, and an Embassy Suites is connected by a walkway.
Several other chain brands are a short walk away from the Tampa Convention Center, including the Sheraton and Aloft hotels right down the pedestrian Riverwalk going along a river for miles. If you keep walking on that you’ll hit the Armature Works, where there’s a European-style upscale food court and outdoor sitting areas.
Sometimes there’s a strange mix of people milling around from one week to the next, like military contractors, then weight loss multi-level marketers, and the city even hosted the Republican Convention the year Mitt Romney got nominated and lost to Obama.
Hotels Right by the Tampa Convention Center
The largest and most dominant hotel near the convention center is the Tampa Marriott Water Street with a marina out front. It has 719 rooms and is the largest in the area, beloved by business road warrior types who want to rack up their loyalty points without any surprises from one hotel to the next. See our post-renovations review at that link above.
This is the best bet if you want a big corporate hotel in a terrific location and you’ve got an expense account for those drinks on the deck or by the nice swimming pool that’s a few levels up. Check info and rates at Hotels.com and Priceline.
The latest addition to the area though, with the most cachet, is the new JW Marriott Tampa Marriott Water Street. It’s a narrow high-rise of 529 rooms distributed over 26 floors and it has some of the most attractive public areas in all of Tampa.
The highlight is the roof deck with a restaurant, outdoor lounge area, and swimming pool. It’s worth booking a reservation up here even if you’re not staying just to have a look around.
There’s also another restaurant and a lobby lounge on the ground floor where check-in is, then escalators lead up to a variety of meeting rooms. Since the guest rooms here are the newest in town, from a luxury hotel brand at that, they’re tricked out with a long list of amenities, fast internet, and plenty of places to recharge. There are at least nine different categories to choose from, including some suite ones. See more and make a booking here.
Also nearby and part of the same Marriott brand umbrella is Westin Tampa Harbour Island, which is a short walk across a bridge from the convention center. Most rooms have great views of the water and downtown, plus the outdoor pool by the water gives it a nice resort feel. Starwood/Marriott points, “Heavenly beds,” and great bathrooms make guests happy. Plus there are two hopping restaurants and bars also on the water, as well as Starbucks in the building. Check rates later at Priceline or Hotels.com.
Embassy Suites Tampa is about as close as you can get to the Tampa Convention center without being on the property. This hotel has its own walkway over to the center, so late-sleeping delegates visiting Tampa for a conference will certainly appreciate the proximity.
Embassy Suites fans know that there’s a complimentary happy hour each evening with drinks and snacks, so you can make a beeline there after a day on the trade show floor before you even get to your room. This brand is affiliated with Hilton, so it’s a welcome alternative to the Marriott domination in this city.
Hotels About a Ten-Minute Walk From Tampa Convention Center
For those who could use a little more exercise, Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel is less than a ten-minute stroll away. It’s family-friendly and pet-friendly too. It has a great bar and pool area facing the Hillsborough River, a good brunch on weekends, and is close to events in the park or at the Straz Center. This one is usually priced a bit lower than the others in the area. Check rates online here.
Next to it on the river is Aloft Tampa Downtown. Follow this link for a detailed review from one of our correspondents. This one has a more contemporary decor than some of the others and a great indoor/outdoor bar overlooking the Riverwalk and the University of Tampa’s unique architecture lit up at night. (The university was originally a hotel built by Henry Plant, the railroad tycoon.)
The Hilton Tampa is in the same area but is a block from the river. If you’ve stayed at another Hilton, you know what to expect. Follow this link for rates at the Hilton.
All of these above are close to the art museum, children’s museum, and a great riverside playground.
The other major downtown Tampa hotel is about a 15-minute walk from the convention center, so it’s a better bet for those who love to walk than people with mobility issues. The Le Meridien Tampa Downtown has the most character of any of the chain properties, however, housed in a historic former courthouse building. See our detailed Le Meridien Tampa review here, then check prices at Expedia.
The “work hard, play hard” crowd may want to take advantage of the cool Tampa Streetcar system and stay in Ybor City instead. This is Tampa’s prime nightlife district, with blocks of bars, dance clubs, restaurants, and a couple brewpubs—all in a historic zone once occupied by cigar rolling factories employing Cuban immigrants. There’s a Hampton Inn & Suites in Ybor and a Hilton Garden Inn.
Tampa resident Tim Leffel is author of four travel books, including Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and is frequently quoted in the media as a value travel destinations expert. All photos by Leffel, who lived in Downtown Tampa for several years. Round-up updated in April of 2021.