Drew Field Municipal Airport was built in 1928 on 160 acres of pine woods 6 miles west of the Tampa city limits. During WWII, Drew Field was leased to the U.S. government as a training facility. Ownership reverted to Tampa in 1945, and in 1952 the city officially changed the name to Tampa International Airport (airport code TPA).
TPA is laid out in a wheel-and-spoke design with four "spokes" formed by satellite concourses called Airsides. These are linked by a shuttle to the inner hub which is the main terminal, and is called the Landside. The Landside has three levels: transfer, ticketing, and baggage. The transfer level houses shops, restaurants, and the helpful Traveler's Aid Booth.
Luggage carts can be rented for US$2 in the parking garages and on the Ticketing and Baggage levels of the Landside main terminal.
Best healthful nosh. Salads from T.G.I. Friday's, Landside main terminal.
Best sinful snack. Gummi-gators or chocolate alligators from the Florida Market shop.
Best meals. If you have time for a leisurely dinner or champagne brunch, don’t miss CK's Restaurant, the revolving rooftop restaurant at the Marriott Tampa Airport Hotel.
Otherwise, the dining highlights in the Landside main terminal (on the transfer level) include fresh catches at the Wharf Seafood Restaurant, sandwiches at the Wall Street Deli, and breakfast, lunch or dinner at T.G.I. Friday's. There's also a Starbucks open 24-hours with sandwiches, salads, and snacks.
Just to relax grab a chair by Starbucks in the Landside main terminal for prime people-watching--or snag a seat in an out-of-the-way corner of the Ticketing level for a quick nap. For fresh air head outside at the Blue Baggage Claim on Level 1 and take a seat by the fountains--or visit the rooftop patio at the Marriott. If you need total peace and quiet go to the new 24-hour airport chapel located on the Transfer level next to the shuttle exit from the Airside F concourse.
For serious rejuvenation, book some time with the massage therapist on duty at the Airport Barber Shop (open weekdays 7am - 7pm, Saturdays 9am - 4pm, Sundays 11am - 4pm). Or check the current day rate at the Marriott Tampa Airport Hotel, which has an outdoor pool, a small health club, and exercise facilities. The hotel is connected to the Landside main terminal on the Transfer level via a short, shop-lined corridor.
Taking Care of Business
Phones with data ports are located throughout the airport. The Marriott Business Center, located in the on-site Marriott Hotel, offersphotocopying, fax services, shipping, and computer workstations with Internet access. Open weekdays 7am - 5pm. Exploring the Airport
TPA has a shopping mall, the Tampa Bay Galleria, on the Transfer level of the Landside main terminal. There's a 24-hour newsstand, an extensive bookstore, several sports-related shops, a sunglass store, a leather goods store, a Museum Company store, and a nice-smelling shop called Body Scentsations.
Mindworks has a great selection of educational games, puzzles, and science projects. Altitunes has listening stations where you can hang out and sample music. And you can fill the empty space in your carry-on bags with beach souvenirs from the Florida Shop or the Florida Market shop.
On the third level of the main terminal you'll find more than two dozen life-size copper pelicans circling a 15-foot polished-copper Florida mangrove tree, courtesy of sculptor Roy R. Butler from Plantation, Florida.
Even if you don't have bags to pick up, head to Baggage Claim to inspect the 22 enormous wool tapestries hanging behind the baggage carousels. These tapestries, depicting tranquil landscapes and waterscapes of Florida's Gulf Coast, were created by a team of two dozen weavers from Swaziland. There also are two large saltwater fish tanks in the Baggage Claim area full of colorful sea creatures.
In the airport chapel, located on the Transfer level of the Landside main terminal, you'll find a large glass artwork called Light Passage by Tampa artist Yvonne Barlog.
For a free 360° view of the airfield, downtown Tampa, and the bay, visit the ninth floor of the short-term parking garage.
Children’s favorites include riding the shuttles between terminals, peering through the telescopes conveniently placed at the ends of the concourses, or searching the airport for those metal birds. The saltwater aquariums in the baggage claim area also should prove soothing and entertaining. At the educational toy store Mindworks, look for exhibits provided by the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry, or take the kids outside the Blue Baggage Claim area and let them play near the fountain.
Going to TownA cab ride to downtown Tampa takes 10-20 minutes and costs about US$14. Shared van services are available to all area hotels. For public transportation, HART buses (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) stop at the east end of the Red Baggage Claim curbside.