City Guide

Tampa beyond the airport

We love amenity-filled Tampa International Airport (TPA) and its day-pass program that allows non-ticketed visitors to go out to the gate with friends and family or to be there for a big hug when loved ones get off the plane.

But there’s more to Tampa than the airport.

Here’s a guide we put together for CNBC with some ideas on what to do if you’ve got just a short time to spend in Cigar City.

Miami and Orlando may be the tourist destinations that come to mind when travelers think of Florida, but Tampa is becoming a rival. It’s also a popular convention destination, so you may find yourself there on business.

If that’s the case, and you don’t have the time or the inclination to make it to the beaches that the area is known for, you aren’t out of options: The city has its own appeal beyond water activities, with Cuban cuisine, craft beer, sports and a laid-back culture that celebrates pirates and cigars.

“Business travelers are the bread and butter of Tampa Bay’s visitation,” said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, adding that “they’ll find the city designed to please and easy to explore.”

Anchored by a riverfront convention center and the 2.6-mile-long Riverwalk, Tampa’s downtown district and surrounding neighborhoods offer people plenty of ways to spend free time outside a business meeting. 

Here are some ideas to help you make the most of a few extra hours in Cigar City.

Where to go

Start the day with a walk or run on the Riverwalk, a 2.6-mile-long pedestrian trail along the Hillsborough River. The bronze and marble busts you’ll pass are part of the Historical Monument Trail, which honors 30 people who played an important role in the city’s history.

Say yes to a breakfast meeting at Oxford Exchange, housed in a restored 1891 building near the downtown University of Tampa campus. This hip, club-inspired space houses a bookstore, a champagne bar, coffee and tea bars, a coworking space and a restaurant that has an art-filled main dining room, a conservatory with a retractable roof and a menu that includes everything from healthy kale scrambles to sinful Nutella babkas.

The University of Tampa, across the street, has two attractions worth a visit:

A plaque honors Babe Ruth’s longest home run (587 feet), hit on April 4, 1919 at what was then Plant Field, during a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants.

The Henry B. Plant Museum is here, too, housed in the former south wing of the opulent 511-room Tampa Bay Hotel,built in the early 1880s. Now a National Historic Landmark, the museum offers a glimpse at the hotel’s original furnishings that wealthy guests were able to enjoy before the hotel closed in the early 1930s.

For more art and history, stop at the Tampa Bay History Center or the Tampa Museum of Art. Both are easily accessible from the Riverwalk. The history museum closes daily at 5 p.m., but the onsite Columbia Café, an informal outpost of the iconic Ybor City restaurant, stays open much later. The art museum stays open until 8 p.m. on Thursday evenings when admission is “pay-as-you-will.”

Cuban sandwiches, cigars and chickens

If you have a few hours in the afternoon, explore the compact and historic Ybor City neighborhood, northeast of downtown Tampa.

Get there by Uber or the free TECO Line Streetcar. Stop at the Visitor Information Center to get a map, make way for the community’s free- ranging chickens and “be sure to see the iconic Cuban Club, one of the social clubs that provided aid, comfort, recreation and health care to the Cuban population,” says Lonnie Herman, owner of Ybor City History Walking Tours. Jose Marti Park, on the only Cuban-owned land in the United States, is a must-see stop as well, says Herman, as is Tabanero Cigars, “where you can get a Cuban coffee and see cigars being hand-rolled.”

Better yet, join one of Herman’s scheduled tours. He’s got the keys and the behind-the-scenes stories for many of Ybor City’s historic buildings.

Before leaving Ybor City, stop for lunch at Columbia, the iconic Spanish and Cuban restaurant that first opened in 1905 and is well-known for its traditional take on the Cuban sandwich it calls “The Mixto.” What started as a 60-seat café is now a block-long destination with 15 dining rooms, seating for 1,700 and a flamenco dancing show every night except Sunday.

Other places to eat and drink

Tampa is well known for craft beers made by Cigar City BrewingCoppertail Brewing and others. Stop by their respective taprooms or try one of the 34 rotating beer selections on tap at the outdoor Fermented Reality Biergarten at Sparkman Wharf. In addition to dining and retail outlets in colorfully painted shipping containers, this area is home to Splitsville, an upscale restaurant and gaming center with ping pong, billiards, foosball, darts and shuffleboard.

And for a unique, luxe, old-world dining experience, be sure to make a reservation way in advance at Bern’s Steak House, across the street from the Epicurean hotel.

The eight-dining-room, 350-seat food palace has a world-famous wine cellar and an entire floor just for desserts and after-dinner drinks. 

Where to Stay

Convention and business travelers may land in a big downtown hotel, such as the 260-room Embassy Suites Tampa Downtown; the 520-room Hilton Tampa Downtown, or the 727-room Tampa Marriott Water Street, home to the Anchor and Brine bar and restaurant which has both lobby seating and terrace dining on the Riverwalk. New hotels, such as the 519-room J.W. Marriott, are being readied in advance of Super Bowl LV, which Tampa will host in 2021.

Tampa’s list of boutique hotels is growing, too. A century-old former federal courthouse now houses Le Méridien Tampa. And there are two Autograph Collection hotels: the Current, with panoramic Tampa Bay views and a rooftop bar; and the food-and-wine-themed Epicurean, in the Hyde Park district. This hotel boasts a rooftop bar, a culinary classroom and the elegant Élevage restaurant.

Be sure to visit the Epicurean’s lobby bar where guests may order a Dram n Shine, consisting of Glenfiddich 12-year Scotch, a craft ice cube and a complimentary shoeshine.

Extra time in Seattle? Where to go, what to do.

This is an ever-so-slightly version of the Seattle guide for business travelers we put together for CNBC.

Courtesy Visit Seattle,

Starbucks, Amazon, Costco Wholesale, Microsoft and many other major companies call the greater Seattle-area home.

So it’s no surprise that Visit Seattle reports that at times 25% of the city’s more than 14,000 downtown hotel rooms are filled with business travelers in town to take meetings and make deals.

If you’re in the Emerald City with a few spare hours after a meeting, these tips and ideas might help you make the most of your time in a city well-known for its caffeine-fueled culture, its seafood and its green spaces.

Downtown Seattle

Take a pre-meeting walk or run through the Seattle Art Museum’s 9-acre waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park (Admission: free; adjacent to Myrtle Edwards Park) and be rewarded with views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound while passing artwork by Richard Serra, Louise Nevelson, Alexander Calder and many others.

Or show up early at the historic Pike Place Market to stroll by fruit, vegetable, seafood and craft vendors setting up before the crowds arrive; especially during cruise season, which runs May through September. Guided tours and downloadable Market walking guides are available.

Starbucks’ first store opened in the Market in 1971 and you can grab a coffee, get a souvenir, and take a selfie at the 1st & Pike store that recreates the ground(s)-breaking first branch.

Better yet, skip the Starbucks (you can drink that at home) and pop into one of Seattle’s many independent coffee shops. Seattle Coffee Works (108 Pine Street), Victrola (3rd and Pine) and Storyville Coffee (1st & Pike; Top floor of the Corner Market bldg.) are all nearby.

For breakfast, grab a pastry at Le Panier, the Market’s French bakery. Or order a Dungeness Crab Omelet or Hangtown Fry with oysters at Lowell’s, a casual Market mainstay ($$) with a waterfront view that’s been “Almost Classy since 1957.”

Tip: Don’t miss the MarketFront public plaza, overlooking the newly revitalized downtown waterfront area. And be sure to bring along some quarters to view the odd and outsize shoes displayed behind sideshow-style curtains at the Giant Shoe Museum in the Market’s “down under” shopping area, next to Old Seattle Paperworks.

From the Market, head downhill (use the Pike Street HillClimb or take the elevators from the parking garage) to the Seattle waterfront, which is lined with restaurants, shops and attractions that include the Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Great Wheel and the flying ride Wings Over Washington. An underground tunnel recently replaced a noisy double-decker freeway running along and above the waterfront and new park and public spaces are being developed in what is already a much quieter and far more pleasant part of the city to visit.

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop – photo Harriet Baskas

Tip: Tucked in among the waterfront shops selling mugs, magnets and Sleepless in Seattle nightshirts (still!) is the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on Pier 54, which dates back to1899. Part souvenir store/part cabinet of wonder, the shop’s displays include natural history oddities and can’t-look-away objects that include shrunken heads, mummies and a four-legged chicken.

Want to see more traditional art?

Courtesy Visit Seattle

More than 200 works of public art dot Seattle’s downtown neighborhoods. This guide will lead you to them. The Seattle Public Library system’s 11-story glass and steel Central Library building (between 4th and 5th Avenues and Madison & Spring Streets) is a must-see stop for fans of architecture and, of course, books. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and LMN Architects, the building has a multi-floor “Book Spiral,” one all-red floor and great viewing spots from the 10th-floor reading room.

The Seattle Art Museum (Admission: $29.99, including all exhibits) has a permanent collection of more than 25,000 works of art. SAM is free the first Thursday of each month and many downtown hotels offer packages that include museum passes for special exhibitions.

Tip: Save your SAM ticket. Should you have extra time, your Seattle Art Museum ticket is good for entry (within a week) to the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The museum reopens February 8 after a $56 million renovation.

Fun at the former fairgrounds

Courtesy Space Needle LLC

The site of the 1962 World’s Fair is now a 74-acre urban park known as Seattle Center. You can walk there from the downtown core, but it’s faster and more fun to take the 2-minute ride on the Seattle Center Monorail, another souvenir of the fair. Board at Westlake Center Mall (5th Avenue and Pine St.)

In addition to free attractions, such as the International Fountain, Seattle Center offers time-pressed visitors a cluster of worthy activities to choose from, including the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), which will appeal to fans of music and science fiction, and the Pacific Science Center, which is ideal if your family is in tow. Artist Dale Chihuly’s creations and collections fill eight color-filled galleries at Chihuly Garden and Glass and spill into the adjacent Collections Café, which has Dungeness crab cakes and other Northwest fare on the menu and is a charming and convenient place to stop for lunch ($$).

Seattle’s 605-foot-tall Space Needle, another, now iconic space-age souvenir of the 1962 World’s Fair, is at Seattle Center too. The Space Needle has two recently renovated observation decks, including one with the world’s only revolving glass floor.

Tips:Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle are often crowded, but both offer discounts for visits during less crowded off-hours. The 902-foot-tall downtown Sky View Observatory is a less expensive, less crowded alternative to the Space Needle.

Courtesy State Hotel

Where to Stay:

Many business travelers land at Seattle’s large convention-friendly properties such as the Hyatt Regency (1260 guestrooms) and the Sheraton Grand Seattle (1236 guestrooms). Seattle also has a growing list of hip, boutique properties such as the 90-room State Hotel, with a rooftop terrace, wall of doorknobs and colorful multi-story mural and the Hotel Theodore where rooms and hallways are decorated with artifacts and images curated by Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.

Where to eat

Seattle has an exciting and evolving dining and drinking scene, with many nationally known venues and chefs. Here are just a few to check out.

Start – or end – the evening with a cocktail at restaurateur Renee Erickson’s below-ground, curio-filled Deep Dive in the Amazon Spheres. The menu at this speakeasy-style bar includes upscale classic cocktails, rare spirits and creative concoctions with names such as Mixtape, Hans Solo, Curiosity Killed and Love through Space and Time.

There are excellent breweries. brewpubs and distilleries in many Seattle’s neighborhoods and a good selection right downtown, including Pike Place Brewing’s Pike Pub, Old Stove Brewing and Copperworks Distilling Co.

Move on to a downtown dinner at Loulay Kitchen & Bar in the Sheraton Grand Seattle (6th and Pike). The creation of Thierry Rautureau, “The Chef in The Hat,” Loulay’s menu favorites include French cuisine classics, crab fritters, seafood stew, sturgeon and cheeseburgers topped with duck egg or foie gras. ($$$).

Tip: If you haven’t quite mastered the art of dining out alone, make a reservation for Loulay’s balcony level table for one, which overlooks the busy restaurant and the kitchen.

To impress visitors, Brian McGowan, CEO of Greater Seattle Partners books dinner at “the legendary Canlis, whose view, cuisine and service are equally amazing.” The iconic fine-dining destination has views of Seattle, Lake Union and the Cascade mountain range and four course dinners for $135/person.

And what about the rain?

Yes, Seattle has a well-deserved reputation for being gray and drizzly. But the city’s annual average precipitation of 38.17” is less than Boston (43.13”), Houston (51.12”), Miami (59.61”) and New York (45.73”). More drizzles than downpours just give Seattle more days of moist and cloudy weather. 

Tip: You won’t see many locals carrying umbrellas. To blend in, pack a rain jacket, a cap and wear water-resistant shoes.

New Orleans – beyond the airport

Have a little bit of extra time to spend in New Orleans? Here are some ideas we gathered recently for a story on CNBC.

Photo by Todd Coleman. Courtesy New Orleans & Company

Yes, New Orleans is a party town with bars and music on every corner and a festival – or three – in the streets just about every weekend.

But get off Bourbon Street and you’ll find plenty of other distractions.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

Stroll along Royal Street, where you’ll find art galleries, souvenir shops and boutiques, including Fleur de Paris (523 Royal St.) a colorful custom millinery and couture shop that boasts of being the largest millinery shop in the country.

At 630 Royal St., M.S. Rau Antiques has been selling high-end art, antiques, jewelry and exotic other items for more than a century. The 25,000-square-foot gallery feels more like a museum than a shop, with an ever-changing display of odd and eclectic items. If you’re a serious shopper, you may be invited into a secret room to see rare treasures.   

Photo by Harriet Baskas

The Historic New Orleans Collection is nearby, with free exhibitions at 520 Royal St., (which has a nice gift shop and the Café Cour courtyard bistro) and at 533 Royal St. and 410 Chartres. Free organ tours are offered Tuesday through Sunday at 520 Royal and there are free tours available via the museum’s smartphone tours and app.

Lunch spots to check out include Cochon, serving a modern, unpretentious take on Cajun food (in the Warehouse Arts District about three blocks from the Convention Center);  Compère Lapin (French for ‘brother rabbit; also in the Warehouse Arts District), which has a Caribbean-inspired menu, and Domenica, an Italian restaurant in the elegantly restored downtown Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans.

The new Sazerac House museum (and working distillery) at Canal & Magazine Street has a free self-guided, multi-media tour exploring the history of New Orleans through the Sazerac and other cocktails. Admission is free (reservation encouraged for busy times) and complimentary samples of three cocktails are included.

If you can, squeeze in a mid-to-late afternoon in-town visit to another of New Orleans’ many museums. Some top-rated ones include the New Orleans Jazz Museum (400 Esplanade, in the historic U.S Mint; Admission $8); the National World War II Museum (945 Magazine St.; Admission: $28.50, $18 for military with ID and free for WWII veterans).

Photo by Paul Broussard. Courtesy New Orleans & Company

Or grab a taxi, Uber or street car (Fare $1.25; $3 for a day pass) and head out to City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), which has a permanent collection of almost 50,000 objects. Museum admission is $15, but there is no fee to tour the museum’s twelve-acre  Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which has more than 90 sculptures in a lush Southern landscape with magnolias, camellias, and 200-year-old moss-laden live oaks.

For a classic New Orleans dinner experience, call or go online and get a reservation at the classic Commander’s Palace, in the Garden District.

Pay attention to the dress code (business attire, jackets for men, no flip flops, jeans discouraged) and consider this also as a lunch option weekdays, when 2-course specials and 25-cent martinis (limited to 3 per person) are served, or for the weekend Jazz Brunch.

Photo La Gourmetreise, Courtesy New Orleans & Company

For something more casual, try Coop’s Place in the French Quarter, where the house specialties are seafood gumbo and a rabbit & sausage jambalaya.

You can ease into the evening with a cocktail just about anywhere. Some popular options in the French Quarter include the historic French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s Restaurant (813 Rue Bienville); the rotating Carousel Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal St.)and the intimate wine-centric Patrick’s Bar Vin (730 Bienville St.) at the Hotel Mazarin.

Photo by Zack Smith, Courtesy New Olreans & Company

For live music of all stripes and a “not Bourbon Street-crazy” street scene, locals point visitors to the clubs on Frenchmen Street, in the Marigny neighborhood, not far from the French Quarter. Some popular venues there include Snug Harbor, d.b.a, The Maison, the Spotted Cat, Blue Nile and the Apple Barrel.

Leaving New Orleans

Photo by Harriet Baskas

When it comes time to leave town, be sure to head for the airport early.

Cab or ride-hailed (Uber or Lyft) journeys to the airport start at about $36 and can take upwards of half an hour, depending on traffic and time of day.

The good news is that the city just opened a brand new terminal at  Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) that features several stages for live music and many restaurants that represent New Orleans’ celebrity chefs and cuisine, including Emeril’s Table, The Munch Factory, Lucky Dogs and Leah’s Kitchen.