The Surprising US Suburb That Attracts the World’s A-List | Travel

She comes! Lindsay Lohan’s in town and she’s on her way!” an excited publicist, clutching her phone, screeches as I take a breather from Mark Ronson’s DJ set.

To my right Lucien Laviscount – the handsome British actor from Emily in Paris – sits between the 6ft tall models and gorgeous, glamorous influencers I half recognize but can’t name. Previously, I had stumbled across supermodel Joan Smalls posing in front of a grand white staircase. The night before, I’d been to a private concert by Lenny Kravitz and stared at him by the pool at the afterparty.

Where am I supposed to be surrounded by such an eclectic mix of celebrities? New York fashion week? A prestigious awards ceremony in Los Angeles? Miami on a Saturday night? No, I’m in Tampa, on the west coast of Florida — the city normally associated with cigar factories, Busch Gardens theme park, the massive Florida Aquarium and, as one colleague said, the Magic Mike Movie.

A Tampa Edition dining area


I’m here for the opening weekend of the Tampa Edition, the city’s first five-star hotel. Established through a partnership between Ian Schrager – the entrepreneur behind New York’s legendary nightclub Studio 54 – and Marriott International, it is the brand’s second hotel in Florida (the Miami Beach Edition opened in 2014) and 15th worldwide. Known for sleek interiors, uber-cool event schedules and star-studded client lists, the opening of Edition Tampa brings instant recognition – Kravitz is rumored to have received $1 million (about £883,000) for his performance. So why Tampa and why now?

The hotel is the crowning glory of Water Street Tampa, a new $3.5 billion (£2.9 billion) development led by Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates. 26 acres of the city’s long-neglected waterfront will be transformed into a high-end neighborhood of breezy co-working spaces, boutiques and restaurants. Phase one started in 2017, phase two is expected to be completed in 2027. Schrager says he sees the Tampa Edition as “part of a masterpiece.”

On the 15-minute drive from the airport to the hotel, excitement and anticipation after my nine-and-a-half-hour flight compete with a fluffy cloud of jet lag. There is currently only one direct flight per day from London to Tampa operated by British Airways. But – influenced in part by the opening of the Edition – Virgin Atlantic will start its daily service from Heathrow on November 29 with brand new aircraft.

The streets look far from the car window. The sun reflects off glass skyscrapers and palm trees cast shadows on the sidewalk. Intricate murals and vibrant, colorful graffiti atop derelict apartment buildings add a raw, artistic touch to everything. I’m so busy looking up I almost miss the hotel.

In the lobby I am catapulted into a hustle and bustle. Important-looking people hold business meetings on snazzy white couches as I join a queue of Louis Vuitton luggage at the check-in counter. The walls are covered in foliage from floor to ceiling, and there’s that edition smell — its exclusive Le Labo black tea scent wafts through each of the brand’s hotels.

I’m excited to explore, so I dump my bags and head straight out. As I wander around, I find that one of Tampa’s best qualities is its walkability. There’s no need to follow complicated subway routes or wait for unreliable buses — everything flows, thanks in large part to a free and efficient streetcar and the Riverwalk, a 2.6-mile waterfront walkway that connects the city’s top attractions.

The waterfront museums offer something unique – the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts has a display of Mariette Pathy Allen’s work on gender identity and norms (until March; £9;, while the Tampa Museum of Art has a selection of Alfred Frankel’s indicates Artists of Old Floridawith works from 1840 to 1960 (until January 23; £18;

Sparkman Wharf

Sparkman Wharf


At Sparkman Wharf, I also feel some of the excitement I was promised. Colorful food containers in turquoise, pink and yellow stand side by side and surround a large beer garden. I remember Boxpark in Shoreditch, east London, when it first opened – not posh or chic, but new and exciting for a previously underserved area.

Tampa is a city in transition. I’m struck by the great panoramic city views from my seventh-floor suite, but the twinkle of illuminated buildings and car headlights is muted by sandy construction sites and the echo of machines and workers. Walking down the street from the hotel, within ten minutes I’ll find an oyster bar, spa, F45 gym, BodyRok and bike studios, and a hybrid work-cafe space that says “coming soon.”

I try not to compare it to the Sunshine State’s gleaming East Coast, and local residents are quick to warn me—beaches and nightlife may shine in thriving Miami, but Tampa doesn’t want to be. The local community has played an important role in the success of the edition and other new developments in the region. Schrager says that since the hotel opened last month, residents’ enthusiasm for its restaurants — Lilac, Market and Azure, all owned by John Fraser (previously at Michelin-starred Nix in New York) — has been “off the charts.” has fallen.

The rooftop pool, however, is the social heart of the hotel and designed almost for Instagram — it borders on Florida cliché, with candy-colored cushioned sun loungers and a pink floral motif. But there are subtleties too – the black-and-white photographs of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in one of the bedrooms were chosen because the Rolling Stones were performing in nearby Clearwater in 1965.

The pool of the edition

The pool of the edition


Nearly six decades in Tampa still has a rock ‘n’ roll edge, but changes are on the horizon. You can feel it in the corners of the city – there is an excitement, a feeling of being on the verge of something. It’s not a place you’d come to chill out for two weeks, but for the creative and carefree, Tampa is an up-and-coming party destination worth keeping on your radar.

It hasn’t peaked yet, but it’s definitely on the way — not least because Kravitz’s four million Instagram followers now know about it.

Roisin Kelly was a guest of the Tampa Edition, which offers double rooms on a bed-only basis from £600 ( Visit for more information. Flight to Tampa

Three more American city breaks with direct flights

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


1. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Framed by steep green hills and centered around the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, Pittsburgh’s fortunes have revived since the doldrums that followed the days of the 20th-century steel boom. Pop art by his most famous son graces the Andy Warhol Museum, while a complete T. rex skeleton kicks things off at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. You can also ride a retro 19th-century funicular for amazing views of the city, or dine on the riverfront in the Strip District.
details Four nights room only from £799 pp, including flights (

Dallas has a lot to offer – if you don’t like America’s largest urban arts district, sample Tex-Mex cuisine at Oak Lawn or head downtown to learn about JFK’s final moments at the Sixth Floor Museum. The adjacent town of Fort Worth is also worth a visit for its Old West flair and twice-daily cattle drives. Stay longer and take a road trip to other urban attractions in the Lone Star State: liberal, music-loving Austin; the Alamo in San Antonio; NASA in Houston.
details Thirteen nights room only from £1,623 pp, including flights and car hire (

3. Portland, Oregon
British Airways flew five times a week from Heathrow to Portland in June and the service will be increased to daily from May next year. Food truck, coffee and craft beer scenes thrive in America’s trendiest city, accompanied by weekend waterfront markets and indie boutiques in the Pearl District. The expansive Japanese Garden and nearby Willamette Valley vineyards make for quieter excursions. So does a day on the Mount Hood volcano, which towers over the city.
details Five nights room only from £1,379pp, including flights and car hire (

Richard Mellor

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