Today, I'm tackling a question I get all the time from out-of-towners: Should I go to Oxford Exchange when I'm in Tampa? First, some background.When my family moved to the Tampa Bay area in 1997, it wasn't much more than a couple of subdivisions and a lot of fields. So when Oxford Exchange opened in 2012, it was a big freakin' deal. For those who haven't been, it's a beautiful space with shops, coffee, tea and a restaurant that is one of the nation's most Instagrammed.
But here's the thing: Places like Oxford Exchange are met with a lot of cynicism, especially once they've been around for a while. I once joked that people really only go for Instagram, but now that I actually visit regularly, I'm aware that isn't the case. Long story short, yes, you need to visit.
The list of things to do in Tampa is ever-expanding (which wasn't always the case, for what it's worth) but you shouldn't write off places that have been hyped up a lot. Going to OE in Tampa is kind of like going to Disney in Orlando. It's not a hole-in-the-wall gem that you've discovered on your own, but it's still worth the trip. The parking can be a hassle, and the dizzying number of one-way streets in downtown Tampa is enough to make my head spin. But once you get inside, you'll remember why you made the trip in the first place.
I used to pop into Oxford Exchange for pictures and leave, which is probably why I haven't always loved it as much as I do now. But now that I work remotely, I will literally pick up a latte at Buddy Brew Coffee, find a comfortable chair and make myself at home for six or seven hours. I finally ate at the Oxford Exchange restaurant with my friend Katie earlier this week, and it was so good that it prompted me to finally write this post.
If you go to OE just for the Instagram opportunities, I fully support you, but I feel like you're also more likely to feel like you don't understand the hype. Come for the pictures, stay for the bookstore, shops, coffee + community! You won't regret it.