Tampa vacation advice

I am going to a conference in Tampa next week. Rick and I will have about 2 extra days to spend there. If it were you, what would you do? Neither of us have ever been, so advice about stuff to do, things to see, places to go, restaurants, etc are appreciated.

Drive up to Crystal River, and Homosassa Springs and see the Manatee.

American Pro Diving
Bird’s Underwater Manatee Tours
Homasassa Springs State Wildlife Park

Be sure to visit fabulous Busch Gardens. There’s also the Florida Aquarium, located downtown near the Ybor City historic district. You could also try a canoe trip down the Hillsborough river and get up close and personal with the noble Florida alligator and other wildlife. For dinner, you could do worse than swing by Bern’s Steak House, which is considered one of the best restaurants in the state.

Oh yeah, forgot about the Lowry Park Zoo, another little gem. Maybe you can tell, I’m a fan of nature. And steaks.

If you get a chance, consider going south to St. Pete and checking out The Salvador Dali Museum, if that sort of thing appeals to you.

Every time I stay in the Tampa Bay area, I plan a trip there–but if you go, make sure you get a guided tour. You’ll get a lot more out of it.

I went to the Dali Museum and loved it. I had no appreciation for the man and his mind until I went there. It’s only about $10 and on Sundays (maybe other days, too) they have free tours that are fabulous. Now I look for Dali everywhere I go. There’s also a Dali/Chagall museum in London that I went to only because I fell in love in St. Pete. Even if you think you don’t like art, his work is absolutely fascinating and in many ways, mesmerizing.

The Henry Plant Museum is also well worth a visit if you’re into historic home type museums. This is the only historic hotel museum in the country and is really delightful. Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders stayed there on their way to Cuba and they also have a focus on the Spanish American War. Their web site is www.plantmuseum.com and their store had some wonderful items.

One of my favorite places to shop when I travel are museum stores. One of my favorites that I bought at the Dali museum is his perfume–both the scent he developed and the bottle he designed for it are fabulous–orange bottle with lips on it.

The Columbia Restaurant on the St. Pete Pier is a lovely place to eat, both for the view (sunset is beautiful) and for the food. They have great margaritas and I had a wonderful pork entree.

Some nice advice here already. I’d recommend a sunset and dinner along the beach somewhere. You didn’t mention what kind of food you like, but there are a lot of nice places to choose from now in downtown St. Petersburg, I forget what the new hangout is called, the Shoppes of Beach Drive(?), with restaurants and clubs nearby. Downtown St. Pete isn’t that big, so it’s easy enough to find.

For a nice, upscale place on the beach, but with good food try The Lobster Pot. If you are the more laidback sort, you can try Guppy’s, which is run by the same family, but more casual and with some outside seating. Or up on Clearwater Beach you can try any of the Frenchy’s locations, where it’s fine to wear a bathing suit or shorts and flipflops. Great grouper sandwiches, etc.

If you’re a little more specific on the types of things you like to do we can give more specific guidance.

Hop over to St. Pete, take Central out to TI and hang with the locals @ St. Pete Muni Beach. Nice.

Wow, thanks, everyone–especially for all the links. We have been so busy lately we haven’t even thought about this trip until now. Besides, having advice from folks who have been there is much better than just reading a guidebook.

We will really only have Friday afternoon/evening and Saturday until about 5 PM to play, so some of the things that take more time are probably out. I like the idea of dinner along the beach at sunset, and the aquarium and Plant Museum sound great, too. We will have to try to fit in as much as we can in a too short trip.

I would highly recommend a trip down to Sarasota to see the Ringling Museum: http://www.ringling.org/. As far as Homosassa Springs goes, I found it rather depressing. They certainly do good work there, but if you want to see ‘wildlife’, I think there are better choices.

Check out any of the State Parks that feature natural pools/springs. The water is warm and crystal clear–great swimming!

Or, just hit pretty much any beach for warm clear water. The Gulf Coast is what postcard beaches aspire to be, for the most part.

Ybor City Fri. night; great music, great rum, great cigars!
Dali Museum on Sat.
Perhaps a Yankees game at Legends Field?

Gosh. Only 2 extra days? There is so much to do down there it’s hard to narrow it down to just 2 days.
The great thing about Busch gardens is, you can see it all in just one day. In my opinion it’s not a multi-day thing like Disney is.

Tampa is okay but sarasota is better. And only an hour away. Take at least 1/2 day and enjoy the beach. If it’s warm enough.

Brynda if you are going to be in downtown you might as well head over to hyde park. It’s a shopping area but it’s nice to walk around at (coincedentally it’s where I live). Also if you like the “fitness” thing you should walk or bike or whatever along Bayshore blvd.

St. Pete beach would be a nice place to visit, and here’s an insider’s tip. Get there early in the morning, say before 9 am, and walk along the surf line, look for small objects, roughly triangle shaped and black. Fossil shark teeth. Many mornings I’ve collected a couple of dozen in 30 minutes of looking.

I like the idea of finding shark’s teeth. It looks like I am staying on Spectrum Boulevard. I don’t know if that is close to downtown, but Hyde Park sounds like fun. We are definitely planning on some beach time, as we just survived a Michigan winter. Anyone have a favorite spot to recommend?

Spectrum Blvd is about 15 minutes or so from downtown. Eating and fun I would check out Howl at the Moon and Stumps supper club in the Channelside area. Which is located right next to the Florida Aquarium. That is always a good night out. And as for the the daytime on Saturday, just go around and see the area. Clearwater beach if you want to catch some sun, Hyde Park for some upperscale shopping. Baywalk in St.Pete is a nice place as well. We definately have an area here that has a little bit of everything for someone.

No way! There’s a Howl at the Moon in Tampa? I used to live near Ft. Lauderdale and I loved the one there. And I’ll live near Tampa soon enough. Kick-ass…

I’ll just throw in another vote for Homosassa Springs. I loved that place.

Tampa is also pretty infamous for it’s, um, Gentleman’s Clubs. Maybe you could surprise your husband by taking him to the 2001 or Mons Venus, both on Dale Mabry just north of I-275.

Or there’s always Homosassa Springs. :wink:

If you have a car and want the ultimate beach, get a map and visit Fort DeSoto Park. MILES of perfectly lovely WIDE beach and usually not too crowded. Great bike trail, too, and bikes can be rented there. Beware the Florida sun, though, and use a good blocker. If you get out that way, look for Captain Billy’s seafood place on the road leading to the park. Great food and an informal atmosphere.
I have to concur about the Dali Museum and the Ringling Museum as well. Pity you have only two days. Ybor City can be kind of rowdy–now that I’m old and can’t run too fast, I don’t go there at night.