Florida. Beaches, shopping, theme parks, relaxing. There is no shortage of things to do in this area. But beyond the touristy things, what is there? In town and looking to explore Tampa the way the locals do? Then look no further! I have lived in Tampa my whole life and here are a few of my recommendations for everything you must do while you are in town.


One of the best things about Tampa is the food. Since many people move here from all over the world, you can find authentic food from just about any region/culture at the local places. Pizza, Phillys, Tacos, and the famous Cubans, here are a few can’t miss places:

Mise en Place


Recently named the #1 restaurant in the Bay Area Mise en Place is located right downtown (and also has its own Wiki page, its that popular!) Featuring New American Cuisine with a regional flair, Chef Marty Blitz uses locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Try the “Get Blitzed” tasting menu; its a sampling of all of the Chef’s favorite dishes that week.


The Columbia


A Tampa Landmark since 1905 the Columbia can be found in Historic Ybor City (not far from downtown Tampa). It serves incredible Spanish food and the interior of the resturant is a beautiful old world style. Try the 1905 Salad, or the Tapas (small plates) if you are in the mood to share with friends. Oh and don’t forget to try their sangria! Its amazing!




Photo Credit; http://www.ulele.com


The same family that founded The Columbia is behind the hottest new place in South Tampa, Ulele (pronounced You-lay-lee). The food here is out of this world good, and the menu is a mix of Florida seafood and southern comfort. Ulele pays homage to the area’s former Native American inhabitants  both in the menu and with its name. They are also a working brewery if you are into craft beers and offer tours. Located along the riverwalk they are next to the Water Works Park. Ulele is fast becoming a Tampa favorite!






If you are looking for a great place to grab lunch downtown be sure to stop by Moxies. They have sandwiches, soups, salads, and the biggest homemade cookies you have ever seen. Bonus they also have a full coffee bar and homemade ice cream. My favorite is the Amore sandwich (add tomatos!) and the out-of-this-world pasta salad. You won’t regret it!


Datz Deli


Photo Credit: College Humor


Not technically downtown Datz is in near by South Tampa. A super popular brunch spot, Datz has great good and ambiance. Make reservations or be prepared to wait for a while, Datz is a Tampa institution and incredibly popular. But that’s how you know it’s good! While you wait, pop over to Datz Dough next store and check out the dessert cases and pastries. Its worth the trip!




Oxford Exchange

Photo Credit: Shannon Berrey Design Blog

Photo Credit: Shannon Berrey Design Blog

Located just over the river from Downtown and across from the University of Tampa Oxford Exchange is an upscale yet relaxed location to grab a bite to eat and socialize. Grab a coffee or a tea at the bar, lounge in the overstuffed chairs, or poke around their shop. OE is a local favorite and will be yours too!



Its probably no secret that Tampa likes to drink and party. There is a vibrant craft beer scene, and no shortage of bars and clubs all over the city. Here are a few of my favorites near downtown.

Jackson’s Bistro

One of the trendy places to see and be seen there are few places hotter on a friday night than Jackson’s. Located on Harbor Island, Jaskson’s has great drinks, and even better food. At night the rooftop terrace turns into a nightclub with a South Beach vibe and the young and beautiful take over. Definitely a Tampa must-do!




Fly Bar

If you are anywhere near downtown, stop in to Fly Bar. A popular after-work watering hole, the Fly Bar outside patio is one of the places to see and be seen in Downtown Tampa. The drinks are great and dinner on their rooftop deck in the evening overlooking the city is a great date night. Bonus that they are located next to the Tampa mural!





Floridan Palace & The Sapphire Bar

Hotel Floridan

Photo Credit: K Sereno

Located in the newly restored Floridan Palace (the sign on top says Hotel Floridan) the Sapphire bar is all elegance and a great excuse to see the inside of the hotel. Built in 1926 the hotel is all old world charm and grand elegance. No visit to Tampa would be complete without checking it out.





Cigar City Brewing


Photo Credit: cigarcitybrewing.com

No trip to Tampa would be complete without checking out our Craft Beer scene. In the past decade Tampa has become a mecca for those who love beer. One the best breweries in town is Cigar City Brewing company. Although they are not located downtown (they are several miles away on Dale Mabry) it is totally worth the trip. Take a brewery tour (it comes with a beer in a souvenir glass!) and learn all about how beer is made, bottled, and shipped.




Ciros Speakeasy

Tampa has its own speakeasy but you have to know where to find it. Here’s a hint; its on the first floor of a building at Howard and Bayshore. Don’t look for a sign, cause there isn’t one. But you do need to know the password and it changes daily. Find a local we will show you how it works.  Once inside its like a step back in time as the staff (and many patrons!) are in authentic 1920’s garb. If you didn’t pack your 1920’s gear, still be sure to dress up, there is a dress code. The drink menu is really more of a small novel and features appropriately old fashioned drinks. Anyone in the mood for a gimlet? Definitely the coolest bar you have ever been to!

Things to See

Now that the important things are out of the way, get out and do something! There are many things to do in the area both indoor and outdoor. Its very helpful to have a car as there is extremely limited public transit but here are a few of my picks that are walking distance from the downtown area.

The Tampa Theater


Photo Credit: K Sereno

Catch a movie, take a tour, or just get a picture with the marquee out front, no trip to Tampa is complete without a visit to the Tampa Theater. Opened in 1926 the Tampa Theater is an atmospheric theater designed by famous theater palace architect John Eberson. On the historic register, the Tampa Theater has been named one of the top 10 movie palaces in the world by The Credits. Before each movie the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ entertains the audience. Step back in time and check this place out. You won’t soon forget it!







The Tampa Mural

Photo Credit: KSereno

Photo Credit: KSereno


Located on the north side of downtown, the Tampa Mural can be found on the side of the PP+K Advertising Agency. Stop by at some point during your trip and get a picture to prove you were here!





University of Tampa

Phot Credit: K Sereno


The Minarets of the Plant Hotel on the University of Tampa campus have become an iconic part of the city’s skyline. Check out their campus along the river, and get great photos from across the river in Curtis Hixon Park. There is even a historic tour of Plant Hall.





Curtis Hixon Park: (Including Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Tampa Museum of Art, and the Glazer Children’s Museum)

Curtis Hixon is the park at the northern end of the new Tampa Riverwalk. It is the site for many urban happenings, concerts, and large scale events like Margarita Fest and this weekend’s Gasparilla Music Festival. From the park you can walk along the river south to MacDill park, Harbor Island, and Channelside. Boardering the park you will find the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Tampa Museum of Art, and the Glazer Children’s Museum. Check them all out if you have some time.




Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Photo Credit: K Sereno

Photo Credit: K Sereno

Its not all booze and pirates in Tampa!

If you are into stunning architecture, check out Sacred Heart Church in downtown. Open daily, it is absolutely stunning inside and out. A dozen stained glass windows, incredibly detailed alter and original tile work make this a must see. Mass is offered 5 times on Sundays with other services during the week.




Bayshore Boulevard


Officially the longest continuous sidewalk in the world, Bayshore is the site for the infamous Gasparilla Pirate Invasion Parade and a favorite for local runners. Lined with massive mansions and the trendy Hyde Park & South Tampa neighborhoods Bayshore is a great place to watch the sunrise, or just stroll along the water.





Did I leave anything out? Let me know your favorite place in the comments!

Conference Presentation Survival Kit

You have worked so hard on this. Crafted your proposal, triple spell-checked your submission, and submitted it to the conference gods along with a little prayer. Several very long weeks later you get the news; you have been selected as a presenter at the conference! OMG! It’s happened! Your big break! YOU are going to be giving a presentation to a room full of your colleagues, and probably some influential higher-ups that you would love to impress. How incredible! They want to hear your thoughts and opinions! As a grad student, this could be your moment in the sun, your first conference presentation.

So now the time has come to get on that plane and actually go give that killer presentation. Totally no pressure, as long as you don’t mess anything up, right? Being prepared can mean the difference in pulling off the presentation of the year, and looking like a sloppy mess.

Below are my top 15 items I always have on hand for a presentation.

15 essentials for your conference presentation survival kit


1.     Your presentation! On your computer, emailed to yourself, in your dropbox, and on a usb. You want to be prepared for everything and not having to scramble at the last minute due to a technology glitch will have you looking as cool as a cucumber. If you need some tips on presentation design check out these by Jesse Dee


2.     A wearable usb drive.

Don’t leave your documents behind! A tiny flash drive can easily fall out of your bag, get left on the table in your hotel room, or get ruined at the bottom of your conference bag. Pick up one of these nifty wearable versions to keep your essentials on you at all times. And it’s a conversation starter, you will probably be the only one there with a bracelet USB!


3.     A power strip (with your name / twitter handle on it) and extension cord.

Depending on how many items you need for your presentation, you might find yourself with a plug shortage. Or more likely the plugs are in an inconvenient spot in the room and your cables are too short. Don’t rely on the venue to provide a cable, bring your own extension cord and power strip. That way you know you have one in your room and you know it works.


4.     Adapters for phone, tablet, laptop.

If you have a presentation that includes a power point or prezi, you will likely be bringing your own technology to play these on even if the venue has a projector and screen for you. Its your job to make sure your technology will play nicely with theirs. Call the venue ahead of time and find out what sort of equipment they are providing, and how your computer will connect. Do you need a VGA cable? What about HDMI? Ethernet? Does your computer support these plugs or are you going to need an adapter? You don’t want to be scrambling last minute to find an electronics store in an unfamiliar city that may or may not have what you need.

networking cards

5.     Networking cards.

One of the biggest benefits of presenting at a conference is all the networking you are going to do. Those who attend your session are going to be excited to meet you and swap ideas. These connections are awesome! And you will almost certainly want to continue those connections after the conference is over. Upgrade to a personal networking card with your pertinent details on it.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and a link to your blog are all great things to include on your cards. Perhaps even a link to your presentation that attendees can download. You can get these printed at any copy store, FedEx Kinkos, or Staples; or get fancy and order snazzy ones from sites like Moo.com or Vistaprint.com. If you need some and it’s last minute, find a copy shop that does same day prints; but don’t go to your conference without these!


6.     New pens

If you are like me then you are a bit of a pen snob. I have to have my preferred brand (and colors) and not having them kinda stresses me out (geeky I know). At a conference you might go thru a few of them so before you leave, be sure to pick up a new pack of your favorite pens. Keep the package sealed to avoid any unfortunate leakage problems (gel pens I’m looking at you!), and be sure there are at least 3 or 4, just in case you misplace one. You will be surprised at how much you will be writing while you are at conference.


7.     Highlighters

In the same reasoning as the one above, make sure you pack a highlighter. Bonus if you find some that are dark enough to double as an eye catching color marker in case you need last minute signage.


8.     A fine point sharpie

From labeling your equipment to writing on glossy business cards or session guides, you will be surprised how much you will use a sharpie. Basic black is always a good bet.


9.     Handy notebook

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to use the hotel provided pads of paper to take notes or swap information during a conference. They are not made for the amount of writing you are probably going to do, and there never seem to be enough pages. Also it fairly screams unprepared. Don’t let this happen to you! I am obsessed with these notebooks from Staples, but any half size notebook that fits easily in your bag and on your lap for writing notes in a session will work.

dry erase

10.  Dry erase markers.

You may have a white board in your room or your session my require attendees to use flip charts or make lists. Don’t get caught short handed and pick up a new pack of dry erase markers. Bonus these come in a variety of colors to a pack and are great for making last minute signage or suddenly taking your presentation low-tech if your technology doesn’t work.


11.  Tape and scissors.

Especially if you have a poster session, having a pair of scissors and a roll of tape can be a life saver in an emergency. It may be a fellow presenter who has an emergency but if you have these in your presentation box it will be you who saves the day. I love these little tape doughnuts that keep your tape clean and avoid it sticking to other things in your kit.



12.  Thumbtacks, paper clips, binder clips.

Raid your office supply cabinet and throw a few of each of these into your bag before you leave. Tablecloths blowing away, organizing your thoughts before your speech, or fixing a last minute breakdown on your visuals due to damage in transit are all quick fixes if you have a few of these in your bag. You would be surprised at what you can MacGyver out these little guys.


13.  Power point clicker with extra batteries.

If you have a presentation on powerpoint or prezi, you need one of these. No longer are you stuck behind the podium to click thru your slides. Having a clicker allows for greater freedom of movement and more natural interaction with your audience. Just be sure to practice with it before your conference especially if it is a new one. You will not want to be figuring out which button does what with a 100 pairs of eyes watching you. Be sure to bring extra batteries for it too just in case.


14.  A myfi portal.

Conference or hotel rooms may or may not have internet in the session rooms. If you are using a prezi or expect your audience will want to live tweet thru your presentation it would be a nice touch to bring your own wifi. Personal hotspots are inexpensive and can totally save your day if you find yourself somewhere without internet access.



15.  A box to keep all of the above items in.

Staying organized is the key to a good presentation. Your conference bag will already be full with items you need as an attendee and having your presentation materials and survival kit separate will come in handy when moving between sessions and getting ready the morning of. When I am on my campus I have my presentation kit stocked and ready to go in my rolling bag but that’s not so easy to bring with on a plane to a conference. For traveling look for a sturdy little box like these will keep all the little parts and pieces together in one place, and still fit in your conference bag.


So what do you think? Is there anything you keep in your bag that didn’t make the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Image credits to: Target, Staples, PC Mag, USB Book