36 Hours in Tampa Bay: What To See? What to Do?

What if one of your friends were to pop in for a short stay in the Tampa Bay region and wanted to see something other than the popular tourist attractions? 

What would you recommend to get a brief but true taste of the Tampa Bay experience?

Write it up and submit up to 800 words to tips@83degreesmedia.com

Below is one option offered by USF grad Sean Bowes.

Tampa Is The Place To Be

At long last, my friend, you've accepted my open invitation to travel from the chilly Northwest to spend some time here in the Tampa Bay region.

I've finally convinced you that it's an all-too-common mistake for travelers to skip over Tampa when they're booking their vacations, opting instead for the cheesiness of Daytona, the overpriced Sanibel Island or the partial-nudity of South Beach. Take my word, my friend; Tampa is the place to be in any season.
So come on down, and let's boogie!

Friday, noon - Your flight gets in to Tampa International Airport and I'm your ride. After picking up your bag, we decide to skip the airport Chili's for lunch and do it right. 

1:30 p.m. - We're sucking down the crab-stuffed mushrooms and duck quesadillas at Café Alma in downtown St. Petersburg. You have a soft spot for Bloody Mary's, so there is no better choice. Plus we need a bit of intoxication for our next stop.

2:30 p.m. - We walk up to the new Dali Museum, only a few blocks from our restaurant, so it's already surreal after just one of the Bloody Mary's.

5:05 p.m. - We emerge after three hours of exploring Dali's mind, thinking our own heads just might explode. Was that dude weird, or what?

The sunset is scheduled for 7:34 p.m., so we head toward St. Pete Beach rather then back to Tampa knowing that rush hour traffic on the Howard Frankland Bridge can be a risky operation on a Friday.

6 p.m. - Fate and thirst lure us to the Undertow Beach Bar.  An Eckerd College student recommended the bar as an excellent place to watch the sunset, and the bar is running $2 Corona Lights for the remainder of the spring.

7:30 p.m. - Wow! What a sunset! Pinks and oranges, purples and yellows. We didn't see the elusive "Green Flash," but it was still spectacular.

8 p.m. - Growl, growl. It's our stomachs making all that noise. The traffic is gone and we are able to zip back to Tampa in search of nourishment for the evening.

8:45 p.m. - Peace, love, PIZZA! It's time to sit down to some of the best pizza ever: Cappy's Pizza, 4910 N. Florida Ave. It's a bit hip and a bit trendy, but there is a ton of mircobrew beer choices and the NY Style pizza is amazing and crisp.

10 p.m. – Within walking distance for even the laziest of lazy is the Independent Bar at 5016 North Florida Ave. Lots to choose from with Belgian beers on tap, and wines to fit any budget.

11:30 p.m. - You've had a long day with traveling so it may be wise to start looking for a place to stay for the night. My house is being fumigated, so I'll stay with you if it's OK.

Midnight - I was sure that hostels weren't a part of the Tampa Bay region. I have lived here for six years, and done extensive exploring and never seen a hostel. However, your budget insists that we find one to stay.
We end up at Gram's Place Hostel with a six-pack in hand. We check in to the Adventure room, a freestanding building with an outdoor toilet. 

After dropping off our backpacks, we go to the jacuzzi and got naked. Gram's Place is apparently a European-minded hostel and nudity is permitted (and encouraged) in the jacuzzi area.  So we meet a hilarious German couple there and enjoy the conversation before we head to the shower and retire to our bungalow.

From Nature To Natural Choices

Saturday, 9:45 a.m. - Time for breakfast. You deserve only the best, so we hit the Three Coins Diner. Open 24-hours and continually voted Best of The Bay as Tampa's finest greasy spoon diner.

11 a.m. - Let's go kayaking. It seems a bit random, but I'm game for fun and despite being a Florida native have only seen a handful of alligators in my life.  We drive over to the Canoe Escape off Fowler Ave. to rent our kayaks.

Noon - Success! We see an alligator!

1 p.m. - Everyone knows the perfect remedy for sunburn is ice cream. So we head for Bo's Ice Cream, 7101 N. Florida Ave., in Seminole Heights for terrific sundaes and plenty of shaded seating.

1:45 p.m.- Let's cruise! We head to downtown Tampa to sit back to watch skateboarders and BMX riders do their stunts at the Bro Bowl a long snake run of bumpy concrete located north of downtown. It is home to extreme athletes and talented graffiti artists.

3:30 p.m. - Time for lunch, watching all the action sports gets us both hungry for skateboarding and great sandwiches. The Bricks of Ybor City does not disappoint. It is a new restaurant operated by the same owners of the Skate Park of Tampa. The bird and pig sandwich hits the SPoT for the both of us.

4:25 p.m. - We putz around Ybor for awhile looking into the windows of coffee and cigar shops. The city was built around cigar factories, so it seems fitting that you buy your only souvenir from the trip, an Arturo Fuente cigar.

4:50 p.m. - It has been fun, my friend, but your flight leaves at 6, so we'll need to haul butt to get you to Tampa International. I hope you'll stay longer next time!

Sean Bowes, a graduate of USF with a bachelor's degree in mass communications, spends his time meandering around Tampa Bay on a hunt for great experiences and interesting people. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

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