Check this: Where to find Lightning watch parties; what to do near Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa

In local supermarkets and shopping centers around Tampa Bay, scores of royal blue T-shirts proclaiming some variation of “Stanley needs a tan!” are popping up.
 
Meanwhile, fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team aren’t just painting the town red in celebration of the Bolts advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals -- they’re also dying the Hillsborough River “Bolts blue” just steps away from Amalie Arena, where the Lightning play.

It’s safe to say that hockey fever is sweeping over Tampa Bay as the race continues for the coveted Stanley Cup.

If you’ve got Lightning fever, here’s your guide to catching the Bolts in action.

Where to watch the games in Tampa

Courtyard at Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive

Ticketless fans are invited to spend the evening rooting for the home team in the courtyard of the Amalie Arena -- whether it's an away game or within earshot of the big game itself going on inside. Big screens and ample food and brew against a backdrop of downtown Tampa’s skyline make for a festive environment for crowds eager to “Be The Thunder.’’ 

Channelside Bay Plaza, 615 Channelside Drive

The biggest and brightest Stanley Cup playoff game watch parties in Tampa were most certainly at the outdoor extravaganza viewing party hosted at Channelside Bay Plaza by the team itself during away games. The away game events will be moved to the larger Curtis Hixon Park venue for the Stanley Cup finals. Bring your foldout chairs or rent them for a fee, and enjoy food and beverages from nearby locales. Click here for a peek at the Channelside crowd during Game 7 (Lightning-Rangers, 2-0) of the 2015 playoffs. 

Ferg’s Live Tampa, 490 Channelside Drive

The wildly popular sports bar and live music venue, located directly across from Amalie Arena, is close enough to feel the thunder around the ice rink. Head downtown early to be at Ferg’s Live viewing party for the Stanley Cup Final games.

Brick House Tavern & Tap, 1102 N. Dale Mabry Highway

At Brick House, sports fans regularly gather to enjoy American pub food, an extensive beer selection, a large outdoor patio with a wraparound bar and sporting events broadcast on multiple big-screen TVs. For important games like the playoffs, the sound – and the energy – inside is turned way, way up. Happy Hour is 4-6 p.m. Car, cab or Uber required to travel from downtown Tampa.

Gaspar’s Grotto, 1805 E. 7th Ave.

A lively “pirate bar” and restaurant situated in the heart of Tampa’s eclectic Ybor City on historic 7th Avenue, Gaspar's Grotto will show the game on a large outdoor projection screen on one of their two outdoor patios, as well as on multiple indoor TVs. Will it be crowded? Definitely. Will it be fun? Definitely. If you’re courageous, order the $2 shot and a beer.

Hattricks, 107 S. Franklin St.

When a sports bar is called Hattricks and their website is SportsBarTampa, you can bet that there will be a raucous crowd of hockey fans inside, enjoying wings and beer buckets while watching the game on the many TVs mounted over the bar and around the room. This famous bar in downtown Tampa does not disappoint. Enjoy happy hour from 4-8 p.m. or walk over to Amalie Arena and scope out the action as fans arrive.

MacDinton’s Irish Pub, 405 S. Howard Ave.

A well-known bar and restaurant located in the SoHo neighborhood of Tampa and popular among college students from UT and USF, MacDinton’s will host a Lightning watch party featuring an open bar happy hour from 7-9 p.m. Anyone in Lightning gear at MacDinton’s will get a free shot every time the Lightning score.

The Press Box, 222 S. Dale Mabry

A long-time staple of the Tampa Bay area, this sports bar and eatery is located in South Tampa just a car, cab or Uber ride away from Amalie Arena. If you take the trek to The Press Box, try the wings while you root for the Bolts.
 
Southern Brewing and Winemaking, 4500 N. Nebraska Ave.

Stop in at Southern Brewing and Winemaking during their Lightning watch party to sample unique local craft brews while enjoying the games. This Seminole Heights brewery invites Lightning fans to head to their patio early, grab a few brews and some grub from the Sausage Lab.

More watch parties in downtownWhat to do near Amalie Arena

While rooting for the Bolts, why not experience a little of their home city? Whether you’re driving for hours to attend the Stanley Cup playoff games in Tampa or already live nearby, consider taking advantage of the recreation, entertainment, dining and lodging that the city has to offer. In the past year or so, the renowned Epicurean Hotel, Haven (sister to James Beard-award winning Bern’s Steakhouse) and Ava (backed by Chicago Cubs Coach Joe Maddon) opened in nearby Hyde Park; Le Meridien and Bizou Brasserie transformed the former downtown Tampa federal courthouse into an upscale hotel and restaurant; and Ulele became the culinary cornerstone of the new Water Works Park.
 
Take a stroll or bike ride along the Riverwalk 

The Tampa Riverwalk provides an almost two-mile waterfront tour of some of the city’s best assets. Meander past the iconic University of Tampa minarets; stop in at Curtis Hixon Park to relax on the lawn; or visit the Straz Center and take in a show or explore the Patel Conservatory.

Rent a bike to go even further afield. Bonus: the Riverwalk has an open container policy, provided beverages are purchased from establishments along the path, such as The Sail at the Tampa Convention Center or SoNo Cafe inside the Tampa Museum of Art.

Learn something new

Bring the little ones to the Glazer Children’s Museum or take some time to explore the Tampa Bay History Center. Get creative at the Tampa Museum of Art or inspired by the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. Immerse yourself in the city through the cultural offerings it can provide.

Spend an afternoon at the Florida Aquarium

A short walk from Amalie Arena, the Florida Aquarium is a display of wildlife and preservation that is better experienced than described. The vast atrium of the main building is home to birds, sea life and an array of flora and fauna. Bonus: Kids (and adults) can pet stingrays!

Hop on the trolley to Ybor City

The TECO Line Streetcar harkens back to Tampa’s past but plays a valuable role in the city’s future as public transportation connecting Ybor City, Channelside and Downtown Tampa neighborhoods of the growing city. Hop aboard the adorably old-fashioned yellow trolleys at any number of stops in Tampa’s downtown and head over to Ybor City, where people-watching, dozens of restaurants and bars, and a uniquely Ybor experience await you. While you’re there, take a walking tour to learn about the history of the Cuban sandwich and famous cigars the neighborhood is still known for today.

Grab some gear to show your Lightning spirit

Get Lightning gear at a number of local retailers including the official Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team pro shop at Amalie Arena. The 4,500-square-foot Tampa Bay Sports Store is open from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturdays. Find jerseys, shirts, hats and even autographed memorabilia.

Find Lightning flags at local retailer Head Flags. For Lightning jerseys, T-shirts, hats or other Bolts apparel, head to Sports Authority, Lids, Dick’s Sporting Goods or Champ’s Sports.

Let’s Go Bolts!

The last time the Bolts won a Stanley Cup was at home in 2004, 12 years after the team was established as a member of the National Hockey League. Back then, Tampa Bay’s baseball team was still known as the Devil Rays (and not yet embroiled in a lengthy discussion over whether, and where to, relocate the team’s stadium). Meanwhile, the local football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were coming off of two bad seasons following their 2002 Super Bowl win.
 
But enough about history! Summer time – and the Stanley Cup – are so close that you can feel the heat. Get out there, grab some Lightning gear and practice cheering “Let’s Go Bolts!”

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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