Dine on Spanish/Cuban fare and watch flamenco dancers at Columbia Restaurant, the oldest dining establishment in Florida. Try the house specialty version of paella ($21.95) or La Completa Cubana ($17.95), a feast of roast pork, plátanos, empanada de picadillo, black beans, and yellow rice. While waiting for a table, see artisans make hand-rolled cigars at Gonzalez y Martinez Cigar Company in the same building as the restaurant.
If you're staying overnight, book a room at the Hilton Garden Inn. Rates start at $99; (813) 769-9267. For lodging with more atmosphere at about the same price, try the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn; (813) 241-4545. It looks like a place where you wouldn't be surprised to see Teddy Roosevelt come swaggering out of the stuccoed lobby yelling "Bully!" Teddy and the Rough Riders passed through Ybor City on their way to free Cuba.
To get to Ybor City, take Exit 1 on I-4, and go south on 21st Street three blocks to the historic district. Request a free visitors guide from the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau; 1-800-448-2672 or www.visittampabay.com.
This article is from the September 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.