Tampa International Airport • Bay-side treats in store ....
Welcome to a little slice of commercial airline history. When you fly in or out of Tampa International Airport, TPA, bear in mind that the first ever commercial flight using a heavier-than-air aircraft landed here after flying from St Petersburg, Florida. It was 1913 and the flight was made in a biplane: a Benoist flying boat. Thankfully, you'll be flying in something rather more luxurious by those standards, and immeasurably safer. TPA is just 6 miles from Tampa's central business district. In 2007 it carried over 19 million people. That has slipped in the last few years to 16.5 million in 2010, making it roughly 30th among America's busiest airports.
The airport boasts what was an innovative form of airport architecture when it was redesigned in the 1960s. It consists of a main central terminal, dubbed Landside, which is connected by elevated people movers to each of four of the currently operational terminal buildings (A, C, E and F), known as Airsides, spread around the central building. The set-up is a neat concept. Ticketing and baggage is taken care of "Landside", which is also where the lion's share of the retail experience is to be found. Departing visitors make their way to their respective airside before take-off. Each of the four airsides has a food court with half a dozen choices (the usual suspects: Starbucks, Pizza Hut, The Great American Bagel, Chili's Too and so on) and about same number of retail outlets. For the most part, the better idea is to shop Landside. All of the airsides have one store in common, I-Tech, which comes in useful if you're into portable gadgets or need a new bluetooth headset for your phone. And all but Airside F have a Bijoux Terner, for a range of clothing and accessories for women and men.
So, put plainly, make the most of your time Landside. There you will find the shopping divided into two areas: the Tampa Bay Galleria and the Marriott Shopping Arcade. For standard stores covering some of the basics such as clothing, gifts, books and banking, the arcade is an option. The best shopping and most exciting branded goods can be found in the galleria, with its 20 or so retail outlets. If you're already living in Florida or just visiting, some new sunglasses won't go amiss, so pop into Sunglass International for designer frames from the likes of Rayban, Oakley and Gucci. If your trip includes some outdoor action, find everything you need for adventure at Pacific Outfitters, or for cool at the older end of the spectrum visit the Harley Davidson store to pick up gifts, clothing and gear all bearing the iconic logo.
There are no duty free stores Landside, for obvious reasons, but there is one duty free store in Airside E and another in Airside F, which is where TPA's international flights take off from. This is your chance to browse luxury cosmetics from brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, L'Oréal, Estée Lauder and MAC. For perfume, expect to find gems in a selection including Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani, Revlon, Calvin Klein, Givenchy and Davidoff. For classic liquors at tax-free prices, these stores should also be your destination. From blended Scotch whiskies such as Johnny Walker and single malts like Glenfiddich, to classic America liquors like Jim Beam Bourbon and the drinks cabinet essential, Smirnoff Vodka.
Here's another thing to bear in mind if you want an upscale shopping experience and you are in the vicinity of Tampa International Airport: there is fantastic shopping, along with fine dining and leisure, to be had just beyond the airport. If you have time to spare before your flight, or if you are flying in but forgot to buy gifts for your loved ones and want an extensive choice from which to make your purchase, consider the International Plaza and Bay Street. You will find it in the Westshore business district, on land adjoining the airport. It boasts a wide range of upmarket dining options and a huge range of top-name stores. For retail options, this A-to-Z is just a taster: Abercrombie & Fitch, Apple, Guess, J. Crew, Juicy Couture, MAC Cosmetics, Oakley, Sephora, Victoria's Secret and Zara. "Spoilt for choice" is the expression that springs to mind.