Tampa transplant Rogan O’Handley is best known by his Instagram handle @dc_draino — and on the platform, he shares “politics for patriots” with 2.3 million followers.
O’Handley was a hotshot Hollywood attorney whose views didn’t always jibe with the local celebrity elite.
When he visited Tampa for a friend’s wedding in 2017, he was instantly smitten by Florida’s booming, sun-splashed city by the bay — in stark contrast to what he saw in Los Angeles.
“From getting picked up at the beautiful airport, [to] the crystal-clear water, the affordable lifestyle, the beauty, the weather, the lack of traffic — I thought this is the best place in America to live,” O’Handley told Fox News Digital.
“I packed up everything and moved out of California.”
A Fox News Digital reporter devoted some time this month to touring Tampa and finding out why this once-sleepy Gulf Coast city is now one of America’s hottest places to live, work and thrive.
O’Handley offered his five favorite spots to kick off the Tampa tour as Fox News Digital’s findings will follow in the days and weeks ahead.
The waterfront eatery sits on a trophy corner location of Harbour Island in downtown Tampa, offering skyline views and access to waterfront activities.
“It’s so close” to the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, said O’Handley, “you can smell the gunpowder.”
“I thought this is the best place in America to live.” — Rogan O’Handley (@dc_draino)
American Social is a short walk to the Tampa Convention Center and to its docks for the city’s convenient “Pirate Taxi” ferry service, paddle board rentals and Bay Rocket water thrill ride.
“It’s always popping on a weekend night,” said O’Handley.
A sprawling warehouse that once housed Tampa’s trolley cars has been transformed into one of the city’s most vibrant social hubs.
Armature Works boasts an indoor-outdoor collection of internationally inspired food stalls, nightclubs, music and family activities. It overlooks Tampa’s central Hillsborough River, around which the city was built.
“Grab a drink and walk outside on the river and watch the manatees,” said O’Handley. “It’s family oriented with lots of activities for kids, and Adirondack chairs outdoors that offer one of the most beautiful views in Tampa.”
The venerable Tampa attraction, founded in 1959, continues to thrill both families and adrenaline junkies alike.
Busch Gardens pairs half a dozen top-tier roller coasters — “some of the best in the world,” said O’Handley — with incredible safari-animal attractions.
The park offers a spectacular collection of over 200 different specials of exotic animals, including black rhinos, giraffes and alligators.
Hyde Park Village
Tampa is filled with hives of activity and neighborhood village centers, each of which appears to be popping right now. Hyde Park is one of the hottest — and most elegant.
“One thing about Tampa is there is no main downtown,” said O’Handley.
Instead, “you pick a pocket of Tampa and spend the day or night there.”
“There is no main downtown. You pick a pocket of Tampa and spend the day or night there.” — Rogan O’Handley
The celebrity Instagrammer enjoys Hyde Park Village for its upscale shopping and array of restaurants, he said, including Forbici Modern Italian, Mexican at bartaco and Italian steakhouse Timpano. At the latter, guests “enjoy incredible cheeses and handmade pastas made in a hollowed-out cheese wheel,” said O’Handley.
Brand new in Hyde Park is Bouzy, a sparkling new Champagne bar pairing bubbly and small bites. It opened last week, the first new restaurant from sommelier Jennifer Bingham.
Tampa’s historic hub of nightlife, immigrant culture and cigar-making has undergone a welcome transformation in recent years.
“They really improved the quality of life in Ybor,” said O’Handley. “It used to be a lot rougher. It’s safer now.”
He loves Ybor City’s cigar shops, where artisans roll tobacco by hand each day.
He also enjoys its walkable downtown and its “New Orleans feel” of balconies and black iron balustrades.
There are two Ybor Cities. A quiet haven of tourists exploring local history and sipping coffee at cigar cafés by day turns into a rowdy hotspot of young people celebrating late at night.
“Ybor City is great,” said O’Handley.