With a Staycation at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
If you think Seminole Hard Rock is just a big casino in a hotel, you’re in for a big surprise! And if you haven’t visited since its major renovation, prepare for sensory overload! I discovered the Hard Rock-star power that shines worldwide can be found less than an hour drive from home.
A premier venue for a fun staycation, it’s a magical escape for world-class gaming, hospitality, and entertainment: many destinations in one. Owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa is one of the largest and most successful casinos in the world.
Prepare for action, excitement, delicious dining, signature beverages, relaxation, and benchmark amenities. Meet me at Elvis’ gold piano in the foyer of the AAA Four Diamond Award-winning hotel…
Day One: Charming spokesperson, Sara, gave us a grand tour of the enormous property.
It’s a good idea to carry a property map with you on your first visit, though signage is extensive and there are friendly team members available to answer questions any time, day, or night, as a ‘casino community’ never sleeps! With twelve dining options, a food court, and seven bars and lounges, you will need that map.
The 1928 Kimball grand piano (LEFT) Elvis Presley bought for his mother in 1955 once lived in his Memphis home, Graceland. Decorated in 24K gold leaf, the piano now graces the entry of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the 80,000th piece of memorabilia acquired by Hard Rock International.
If you seek authentic Native American pieces handmade by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Rain Maker shop is where you’ll find such treasures.
What I learned from Sara’s thorough walkthrough is that the enormous scope of the property is matched by a spirit of service.
Enter 245,000 square feet of gaming nirvana in your choice of smoking or smoke-free casinos. Feel the pulsating energy of 179 table games and thousands of the newest slot machines, popular Asian tables, blackjack, baccarat, and more. Try your hand at one of forty-six tables in the state-of-the art high stakes poker room.
The casino also offers a High Limit Table Games Room, with private cashier and unlimited, complimentary beverage service.
The heart of Hard Rock is music, its energy driving the high-rev vibe. Guitars and wardrobe memorabilia from music icons are showcased everywhere—I was drawn to a white sundress worn by Stevie Nicks, scarf worn by Jimi Hendrix in Monterey, a glitzy gown from Cher, a stylish suit that once clothed Paul McCartney.
Artists and songs that shaped our lives are honored here. Live music is featured in several of the restaurant/lounge venues.
The Hard Rock Event Center, an intimate setting with 1,500 seats, draws top entertainers and concerts. The 30,000 square foot space also hosts conventions, trade shows, private events, and more.
The 60,000 square foot pool deck with a Pool Bar & Grill means you can take a break from the electrifying gaming atmosphere and chill in one of three pools and nineteen cabanas, towels provided.
There are three upscale dining options. The elegant Council Oak Steaks & Seafood (RIGHT) offers an in-house butcher shop with certified Wagyu beef, signature seafood dishes and over four hundred labels in its award-winning wine selection.
The Rez Grill features classic and comfort food favorites in a ‘fine dining done casually’ atmosphere, living up to its “Top Restaurant” designation by the Tampa Bay Times in 2019.
Old world Italian American fare elevates the menu at Cipresso, where classic cuisine has earned it Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” for three consecutive years.
For more casual bites, the artisanal coffee shop Constant Grind presents a fresh array of baked goods, sandwiches, salads, and gelato made in-house daily.
Sugar Factory is more than a bakery with its floor-to-ceiling candy wall (LEFT). With the throwback feel of a fifty’s diner, it’s a perfect setting to make occasions memorable, with signature desserts like monster burgers, rainbow sliders, specialty pizzas, and more. The famous King Kong Sundae serves up to twelve people.
Our tour was complete, my traveling friend Judy and I checked into our sleek, well-appointed room, then ate lunch at the legendary Hard Rock Cafe. Devouring yummy wings and wine, we absorbed a force field of memorabilia—bold, colorful paintings of paragons of classic rock, the guitar motif crafted into the décor. More than five hundred items are showcased on this property, including valuable pieces from The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, to name just a few.
Lyrics sprawled across a massive wall speak the universal language of music that streams through every square foot of humongous Hard Rock: “The road goes on forever and the party never ends…Know when to hold em, know when to fold em…You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life…Everybody’s got to rock and roll…”
Nostalgia is part of the Hard Rock heritage, as well as our own: the soundtracks of our youth, classics we’ll never get enough of.
Music transcends all differences-a multicultural equalizer-and it became evident that this resort is a mecca for diversity, both in clientele and staff. The property is impressive, with knockout grand design, lux décor and throbbing gaming action.
Each employee we encountered is a goodwill ambassador, sparked by a commitment to customer service. Longevity is the norm– most staffers we spoke with have worked here several years.
We would also soon discover that the restaurant we chose for dinner, Council Oak Steaks and Seafood, is a destination in itself. Despite its Best of the Bay Award steak reputation, we opted for the signature seafood raw bar sampler.
The spirit of good service continued with our server, Jovana. Warm almond-scented hand towels were followed by warm breads, chopped salad, and Maine lobster, crab claws, shrimp, and oysters: our booth felt like a culinary pleasure cocoon.
Originally from Serbia, our server Jovana especially enjoys the diversity of customers from across the globe. “There’s always something new. People are here to have fun and it goes both ways!”
Council Oak Steaks and Seafood Assistant General Manager Stefania Lopez, originally from Italy, says this company is “one of the most wonderful I’ve ever worked for. Team members are dedicated and enthusiastic.”
So, we’re warm, fuzzy, and full, and, you might think, smart enough to pass up dessert.
Nothing could have prepared us for Council Oak Steaks and Seafood 151 Volcano: vanilla bean ice cream, Heath bar crunch, 151 rum flambeed tableside, designed for at least two people, with flavors that satisfy beyond satiety!
What a sweet close to Day One in Hard Rock World!
Day Two: Rock Spa & Salon appointment for a massage. This 26,000 square foot full-service retreat focuses on health and wellness pampering, including luxurious massage rooms, steam room, salt sauna, hair and nail salon and barber shop.
Unique signature treatments are available: HydraFacial, Intraceuticals Oxygen facial, a Hammam body treatment, Zemits Bionexis rapid body slimming, and LightStim light therapy.
This spa features the world’s first fully immersive Rhythm & Motion room, in which amplified vibrations and pressures provide a most invigorating massage experience.
If you book a service you have access to ‘escape to the spa oasis throughout the day: chill out in the dipping pools under the skylights, co-ed Aqua Lounge, outdoor atrium, or couple’s suites.
Hotel guests have complimentary access to the fitness center, with weights, treadmills, stationary bicycles, elliptical trainers, and flat screen televisions.
Rock Spa & Salon (above left) is open to the public, and while VIP treatment rooms are available, it’s safe to say every guest is treated like one.
A warm welcome from Tim at the reception desk, a tour with Sumaya, and Jennifer’s message, transported me to a space of self-care, a destination within a destination. A heated robe and a spoonful of creamy lime sorbet after massage are among the little touches that comprise a luxury spa ambiance.
Retail therapy options include skin care products, jewelry, blankets, candles, lounge, and workout attire and more.
A lot of behind-the-scenes effort is required for smooth operation of such facilities. Judy and I were delighted to meet the folks who maintain the pools and spa, Marivel and Josh, employees for 14 and 16 years. He says he couldn’t do it without her; she says they’re an inseparable team—more staff spirit in action.
Pool Bar & Grill is next for Bloody Mary’s and a club sandwich (above), then an in-water chaise lounge in the adults-only pool.
Happy hour finds us at the L Bar by the first-floor casino. With such a classic retro vibe, I think Frank Sinatra or Elvis might walk in any minute.
Time for action in the casino! Another helpful employee points us in the right direction to get gambling. It’s the main attraction for many, grand in scope and energy, a big part of what makes Hard Rock a staycation to remember.
After playing the slots, I craved another indulgence: alcohol or dessert? AUBI & RAMSA 21+ was the perfect solution: ice cream infused with an Old Fashioned and Woodford Reserve bourbon and Cointreau. (L Bar right)
Good night, Hard Rock, until tomorrow.
Day Three: Do we have to get back to reality? If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a longer stay and venture off-property, you’re close to numerous local attractions, beaches, arts and culture, shopping, and sports venues.
Before the forty-minute drive home to Pinellas County, we visited Rise Kitchen & Deli, a casual eatery with more friendly, prompt service, and a perfect classic American breakfast.
From bellhop Ryan assisting our arrival Monday until Jeff loaded our luggage on Wednesday, we were treated to unmatched hospitality. Quality customer service helps create unforgettable experiences.
As music is the heart of rock and roll, the heart of Hard Rock Tampa is the people who work around the clock to ensure guests’ pleasure.
It’s a short drive to a world away: escape the ordinary without changing planes or time zones, to a “staycation” with diverse destinations in one place.
Meet you at Elvis’ gold piano.
Story written exclusively for Destination Tampa Bay™ by Pat Brooks. Photos courtesy of the Hard Rock Casino. Other photos taken by Pat Brooks for editorial purposes only–all rights reserved.