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Local college grads plug into new experiences with 'Never Have I Ever' Tampa blog





Since fall 2012, the "Never Have I Ever'' Tampa blog has covered an eclectic mix of local experiences from eateries to entertainment venues like Dade City’s Wild Things, where two of the blog’s founders once swam with a rather unexpected animal — no, not a dolphin. Try a baby tiger.

On any given day, a new NHIE Tampa post could cover a small boutique store, a recent networking event, or an upcoming partnership with local businesses, like the upcoming SoHo Hunt.

Posts are as likely to highlight a local market’s weekend wares as an up-and-coming restaurant’s new menu.

NHIE’s founders and resident bloggers, Nicholas Catania, Ryan Sullivan and Allison Vetter, are self-described “northern transplants” from New York and New Jersey, who each moved to Tampa to attend school in the late 2000s. 

After college, says Sullivan, “we got into this rut that most people get into: the same bars, same restaurants, same activities … and we kind of got bored.”

Rather than move away or give up on finding fresh entertainment options, the trio made their own fun for several years by visiting out-of-the-way venues that even the locals might've overlooked. Finally, during a camping trip in 2012, the idea of launching a blog to share the many places they had discovered was suggested.
 
“As we started to uncover the layers of all that Tampa has to offer, we were finding all these cool things – we’re surrounded by awesome campsites, unique restaurants and one-of-a-kind retailers,” says Sullivan. “Friends started to want to be a part of what we were doing, and offering positive feedback about our mission of trying new things.”

Today, what began as a simple way to stay entertained in Tampa Bay has become a full-time hobby, reaching thousands of social media followers.

“The community and network that we’ve built through our blog has allowed us to meet a whole plethora of new people who are excited about Tampa Bay,” says Catania. “This city has a lot to offer.”
 
Unique adventures at home in Tampa Bay

For Catania, the highlight of NHIE so far was early one weekday morning, when he, Vetter and another friend drove out to Dade City’s Wild Things. The 22-acre zoo offers visitors the opportunity to meet, feed, hold and even swim with young tigers during certain times of year.
 
“The spontaneous and unique part of what we do? That’s definitely on the list,” Catania says. “That’s not something that happens every day.”

Catania and Vetter attended college at the University of Tampa, where Catania earned a B.S. in Elementary Ed and a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and Vetter earned a BA in Communications.

Vetter, whose parents moved southeast of Tampa a few years ago, often saw signs for Treeumph in Bradenton while driving to visit them. After a little research into the adventure park, which rolls an obstacle course, a zip line, rope climbing, skateboarding and more into aerial experiences, she decided to try it for her birthday and for the NHIE blog.

“It was something I was really interested in trying, and we got to experience it via the blog. And it was a blast!” says Vetter. “It was so much fun.”

Sullivan attended graduate school at the University of South Florida, receiving an M.S. in Entrepreneurship in Applied Technologies. For him, interpersonal relationships have helped NHIE Tampa and the experiences that it promotes thrive.
 
“I truly believe that the blog has opened up doors for us. I’ve eaten meals I never would have eaten, seen things I never would have seen in Tampa, met people I would never have met,” Sullivan says. ”We’ve been able to experience Florida and all of the cool things that it has to offer, but I think it also brought us closer together as friends, along with helping us build a community through doing things that we love. And that’s really invaluable.”

SoHo Scavenger Hunt explores South Tampa

NHIE Tampa blog topics tend to develop organically out of discussions about what’s going on in the Tampa Bay area, or from a chance visit to a new restaurant or shop one of the bloggers might stumble upon.

While the three founders often attend the events that inspire posts together, each has some responsibility in crafting content and updating social media, which plays an important role in spreading the blog’s reach throughout the local community.

“The blog doesn’t necessarily define how we live, but it helps guide us because it allows us to go out of our comfort zone,” says Catania.
 
So far, NHIE Tampa is solely run on volunteer efforts, but the founders hope to see it grow. 

“We’re looking for new ways to impact the community. That’s why the SoHo Hunt is so different for us,” says Catania. “It’s a new and creative way to get the local community involved.”

Matt Rutkovitz, a friend and fellow UT alumni, reached out to Vetter about the idea of partnering with his events company Outeraction on a team-based scavenger hunt in South Tampa.

“We’ve been working really well together. We are always happy to promote local brands, and community businesses have been happy to jump on and support the event, too,” says Vetter. “It’s nice to know that they support us as much as we support them.”

“We 100 percent love to provide local businesses with the platform to spread the word about the good things that they are doing in Tampa Bay,” says Catania. “I think the SoHo Hunt is the next step in the right direction. We very much enjoy bringing new experiences to the people in the area, and showing people who aren’t from the area how much we have to offer here in Tampa Bay.”

SoHo Hunt will kick off at MacDinton's Irish Pub at 405 S Howard Ave on Saturday, October 18, at 11 a.m. Tickets are available for purchase here.

Justine Benstead is a freelance writer who can usually be found walking her dog in her South Tampa neighborhood, drinking far too much coffee, tweeting @JustineinTampa, and taking photos with her trusty Nikon. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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