There are hostels, and then there’s Gram’s Place (3109 N. Ola Ave., 813/221-0596, gramspl [at] aol [dot] com, www.grams-inn-tampa.com, $23–30 per person, shared accommodations). Dedicated to the memory of country singer Gram Parsons, who was born in nearby Winter Haven, these two renovated houses north of downtown Tampa are linked via elevated decks, creating a place that’s as whimsical as it is spiritual.
Five rooms share musical themes, while one room is a toolshed-cum–tree house and the other is decked out like a railroad car. The owners keep the vibe loose and festive, but despite the BYOB “Parson’s Pub,” it’s not a party hostel; quiet time is strictly enforced, and families will feel welcome. The rooms are appropriately rustic, but clean; all are air-conditioned and have telephones and TVs.
Tucked away on a side street in the trendy SoHo district, the Hyde Park Hotel (2105 W. Bristol Ave., 813/254-2000, www.hotelinhydepark.com, from $69 d) was probably a small apartment building at some point in its life, but now the nondescript exterior masks a recently renovated and homey hotel that’s good for short visits and extended stays. Hardwood floors, full kitchens, and Wi-Fi are in all of the rooms, while deluxe rooms have flat panel TVs, DVD players, and leather furniture.
About 25 miles (30 minutes’ drive) hour from downtown Tampa in tiny Lithia is the Palmer House Bed & Breakfast (2221 Hinton Ranch Rd., Lithia, 813/654-0961 or 888/772-3348, www.palmer-house.com, from $139 d). There’s not much to do nearby, and that’s sort of the point; guests are encouraged to relax in their spacious well-appointed rooms, which have Wi-Fi, TVs, mini-fridges, and microwaves; wander the grounds; or take a dip in Palmer House’s heated pool and Jacuzzi. Rooms adhere to the “country B&B” style of frilly decor, but owners Bob and Gail Palmer keep it tasteful.
Don Vicente De Ybor Historic Inn (1915 Ave. Republica de Cuba, 813/241-4545 or 866/206-4545, http://donvincenteinn.com, from $119 d) was built in 1895 and recently renovated as a boutique hotel. Amazingly, given the luxuriously historic vibe of the hotel and its prime location in Ybor City, rates are more than reasonable. Rooms boast hardwood floors, high ceilings, and sturdy wood furnishings, while public areas like the dining room, the basement lounge, and the ornate lobby area evoke the warm, smoky, wood-and-brick grandeur of days long gone.
Casita de la Verdad (1609 E. 6th Ave., 813/654-6087, www.yborcityguesthouse.com, from $180, discounts for stays longer than 1 night) is a guest house built in 1908 as housing for cigar-rollers employed in the local factories. Updated with tasteful decor that’s both tropical and traditional, guests occupy the entire house. Two queen beds (one sleigh bed, one four-poster) and a claw-foot tub in the bathroom set the historic mood; a full kitchen and relaxing outdoor deck ensure comfortable domesticity.
Located near Tampa International Airport, the Quorum Hotel (700 N. Westshore Blvd., 813/289-8200, www.quorumtampa.com, from $130 d) bills itself as a “business resort,” which means weekday rates are extravagant. Vacationers, however, can score excellent deals on the weekends, and Florida residents get a 25 percent discount. Close to both Raymond James Stadium and the two malls on Westshore Boulevard, the main attraction of the Quorum’s location is the ease of access onto I-275. Rooms have contemporary furnishings, flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, and Internet access.
The Equus Meadow Inn (6812 George Rd., 813/806-5566, www.equusmeadowinn.com, from $199 d) offers B&B accommodations, and an on-site stable is available for guests who want to go horseback riding. Located in the northwest “Town ’n’ Country” area of Tampa, the Inn is decorated in Victoriana and antiques and offers only two accommodations; one is the second level of the main house (which has a private balcony), the other is a renovated carriage house. Both have TVs, mini-fridges, and private baths.
Eleven floors of luxurious rooms sit atop the gaming rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (5223 N. Orient Rd., 866/502-7529, www.seminolehardrocktampa.com, from $229 d), and their stylish, spacious decor shows what happens when you apply Hard Rock’s fashion sense to an old bingo hall. The endless homages to 40-year-old rock songs may get a little wearying after a while, but the high-tech rooms—with flat-panel TVs and iPod docks—are unabashedly modern. They’re also quite comfortable; thick person-size towels, Egyptian cotton sheets, and plush beds are designed to reinvigorate slot-pullers, but nongamblers will certainly find much to love about the hotel. Although the Hard Rock isn’t centrally located, its proximity to I-4 makes all of Tampa accessible within minutes.
Tampa’s lodging situation is dominated by chain hotels, and the Hampton Inn and Suites (1301 E. 7th Ave., 813/247-6700, www.hamptoninn.com, from $269 d) in Ybor City is worth noting. The hotel boasts a perfect location: It’s only two blocks away from the buzz of Ybor City, which is exactly far enough away that the late-night partying shouldn’t affect your sleep, unless guests bring the party home with them. Better still, it’s a half block away from a trolley car stop. Rooms are clean and modern in keeping with the chain’s standards.
Located on an odd little downtown island surrounded by old shipping channels, the Westin Tampa Harbour Island (725 S. Harbour Island, 813/229-5000, www.starwoodhotels.com, from $219 d) certainly wins points for its unique location, although the facilities are merely of the typically high Westin caliber and are priced accordingly. Request a room on an upper floor for fantastic views.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition