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Staying at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel our reporter enjoyed the history of Ybor City

By Josie Hannett

Tampa’s not the first place that necessarily springs to mind when I think of a trip to Florida.

After a recent visit I can definitely say it’s underrated, and a place I will be going again. 

It oozes history at every corner and I was lucky enough to experience plenty of it in the flesh. 

The view from our room at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel

The view from our room at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel

My friend Sophie and I stayed at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel. 

The rooms were huge - very spacious and had a massive bed.

But the view from our balcony was outstanding. 

On our first day in Tampa, we went to Busch Gardens - one of SeaWorld’s parks.

What instantly stood out for me, as with many of SeaWorld’s parks, was the detailed theme going on around the park.

Our room at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel

Our room at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel

Every wall, floor, walkway and ride was cleverly designed to fit the theme. Down to the lick of paint or music played, i’d say it puts our UK theme parks to shame!

My favourite ride was Falcon’s Fury – the first drop tower of its kind in the world, mimicking the dive speeds of the fastest animal on earth.

Standing at 335ft tall it plunges 60mph straight to the bottom! 

It’s fair to say when you get to the bottom the ‘wind swept look’ is an understatement, but the adrenaline rush felt so exciting.

Falcon's Fury at Busch Gardens. Credit SeaWorld

Falcon's Fury at Busch Gardens. Credit: SeaWorld

For the few seconds you’re at the top you can see the outline of Tampa’s sky scrapers and take in the beautiful views before plummeting back down to earth.

The Serengeti Safari was also a highlight.

Taking a selfie with a giraffe is something I will never forget! We met so many different animals in their environments and got up-close with a number of them it was fantastic.

The rides at Busch Gardens Tampa were fantastic, and definitely more aimed at the thrill seekers.

We got to feed the giraffes at Busch Gardens

We got to feed the giraffes at Busch Gardens

Our next adventure was a trip to Ybor City, known as the Cuban Cigar City of the World. 

We met grand master cigar maker Wallace Reyes - he’s a world record holder for making the longest cigar, his skills are so enhanced he’s one of four grand masters in the world.

One of the others being his wife! 

Having a tour guide who knows the culture and history like the back of their hand, made learning about the area interesting and engaging. 

For dinner we went to the Columbia Restaurant - Florida’s oldest eatery which is in the heart of Ybor City.

The cigars on offer at one of the shops in Ybor City

The cigars on offer at one of the shops in Ybor City

More than 110 years old, the business has stayed in the Gonzmart Family and has expanded from a small bar and sandwich shop to sitting around 1,700 people.

Six nights a week, the restaurant features Flamenco dancing.

On the following day, we went canoeing on Tampa Bay’s Hillsborough River.

Draped with cypress trees and filled with alligators big and small it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.

An alligator on the Hillsborough River

An alligator on the Hillsborough River

It definitely made me question how safe the excursion was, but nevertheless I made it out alive and the guides made sure we were safe along the ride.

I'd definitely recommend the shopping too - we went to the International Plaza. From Louis Vuitton to Forever 21, it suits all budgets.

Ready for our canoe on the Hillsborough River

Ready for our canoe on the Hillsborough River

To find out what else Tampa has to offer, click here.

For more information about accommodation, visit www.sheratontampariverwalk.com.


SeaWorld

The best value ticket for visiting SeaWorld Parks in Florida is the 3-Park SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Ticket or the Discovery Cove Ultimate Package.

The 3-Park SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Ticket offers 14 days unlimited entry to three parks for the price of two – SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando AND Busch Gardens Tampa – when guests book and visit before 31 December 2017.

Prices start from £100 per adult and £96 per child.

The Discovery Cove Ultimate Package includes one-day reservation at Discovery Cove (with 30-minute dolphin swim experience, all meals, snacks and beverages) plus 14-day unlimited entry to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica Orlando – offering customers more savings and flexibility for their Florida holiday. Prices start from £171 per person.

Customers with a 3-Park SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Ticket or a Discovery Cove Ultimate Package also get free parking at all parks for 14 consecutive days, meaning that they can come and go as they please. 

For further information about SeaWorld Parks, entertainment in Florida or to book tickets visit www.seaworldparks.co.uk.


Norwegian

Norwegian fly year-round to Orlando, with two flights per week departing on a Tuesday and Saturday throughout the summer season and a new additional Saturday flight departing during the winter months.

• All flights are operated by a fleet of brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft with two cabins - Premium and economy.

• Fares start from £179 one-way in economy and £499 one-way in Premium including taxes and charges.

To book visit www.norwegian.com/uk.

 

 

 

 

 

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