Saturday, January 16, 2010

Visit Tampa's Urban Life and Natural World

Welcome to Tampa! Not many people choose to travel to Tampa. People usually head to South Florida- Miami or Central Florida to Orlando. Why not take a stop in Tampa? Tampa both offers an interesting downtown experience as well as a wealth of wildlife and nature both on land and in the ocean!

If you find yourself traveling in the Tampa area or are looking for a vacation with beach, city, and state parks, Tampa should be your next destination.

On the outer edges of the Tampa city limits are a group of state parks that have some wonderful hikes and variety of wildlife to see. The trails take you through beautiful swamps and woods. Lettuce Lake is a haven for bird watchers and reptile lovers. Yes, there are snakes and alligators! The flora, as well, is pretty spectacular!

Downtown Tampa has much to offer for adults and kids. The downtown has restaurants, cafes, sporting events, parks, a river, shops, and museums. There is an old movie theater, The Tampa Theater. It mostly plays old favorite films. There is a bookstore called The Old Tampa Bookstore. L'Eden is a sweet little cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The owner, Gerard Jamgotchian, French-Armenian, is also the chef. He and his wife are very friendly with their patrons and have created a comfortable spot to enjoy a meal.

Take a walk along the river on the Riverwalk. It will take you from Channelside to the downtown- around and over- to The Heights. Along the walk you can visit the new History Center, The Forum (hockey stadium), and there is a water taxi to take you along the river. The Family run- Columbia Restaurant- is a fabulous Cuban place to eat. There are 4 different locations. The original is in Ybor City. My mom swears that the new one, beside the river, is the best one yet!

Bayshore Drive is in the area, a nice long strip of sidewalk along the ocean, that makes for beautiful bike rides or paths for rollerbladers. If you head back towards Channelside you can take the trolley! The trolley will take you past the aquarium and heads towards Ybor City. The aquarium has a wonderful display of wildlife, great shark exhibition, and a touch and feel tide pool. They have large fish tanks. One that reaches from floor to ceiling. They have sting rays, ducks, penguins and other birds. They have turtles and alligators as well. Pet tanks and animal shows makes this an interactive and educational stop on your tour. You can also take a boat ride out into the ocean to view dolphins! Ybor City, the old cigar factory town, has shops and theaters and nice farmer's market on the weekend.

Davis Island and Harbour Island are in walking distance to downtown. On the other side of the of the river, on Davis Island, is Chez Brice. This is a wonderful little bistro! Harbour Island has Cafe Dufraine and That's Amore. Two great little eateries.

Soho and Hyde Park are two areas also close to the downtown that have shops and great restaurants. My parents recently went to my favorite sushi shop in Soho, Water and
saw Derek Jeter! You never know who you will see in Tampa- Baseball-landia. Inkwood
Bookstore is a little independent shop with a great variety of books and frequent authors who visit and give readings. Byblos- a Lebanese restaurant is a great place to grab bite. It has a great ambiance, friendly service and delicious food.

There are great beaches in the Tampa Area: Apollo Beach, St. Petes Beach, and Clearwater Beach. All beautiful, large, and sandy beaches. Great for long walks, dips into the warm sea, and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. In Apollo Beach you might stop by an unusual wildlife sanctuary next to an electrical plant. This sanctuary is the home of many Manatees. Here you can see them in their water habitat as well as visit a small museum. Here you will learn information about the Florida Manatee, conservation and ways that you can help preserve their habitat and help them to survive. Afterwards you may decide to eat at a locally owned Tampa eatery, called Circles.

Clearwater Beach in Pinellas County is not far at all. There are many restaurants right along the beach over looking the ocean. Grab a She-Crab soup. It is rich with flavor and a specialty in this area.

St. Petersburg is close by as well. Filled with beautiful beaches they also have a museum dedicated to Salvador Dali. Take the afternoon and go to a pub for some fish and chips or Indian food. Very good. Very British!

Take a chance on Tampa. Come to the other side of Florida and check out all that it has to offer. Wishing you travel smiles.

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