Photo credit: C.W. McCain
Newcomers to Tampa Bay may be unaware 'tis a pirate's haven, but what could be more beguiling to kids than a town that revolves around these legendary time travellers? From January through May, the city is invaded by buccaneers during the Pirate Fest Stage Street Festival, the Gasparilla Parade (tons of elaborate floats and marching bands), the Outbound Voyage with Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, and Searle’s Sack of St. Augustine, a thrilling reenactment of Robert Searle’s deadly raid in 1668 (complete with an authentic battle). Join the assault, and snatch up some sparkling beads and doubloons while yer at it!
Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe is a whimsical eatery that offers eclectic cuisine, supports local artists, and features live entertainment on Friday and Soul Food Sunday nights. The creative menu reflects the personality of its chef, and is best washed down with one (or more) of the cafe’s beers, ciders, wines or specialty drinks. The quirky art collection will amuse and charm even young children. Not to mention the ‘world famous two-headed alligator of Seminole Heights’ (or a reasonable facsimile), captured by local trappers, and on display here.
Photo credit: Matthew Paulson
In Tampa, when it rains, it floods. And lightning strikes. It's no accident that's the name of their hockey team. So you'll want to have great accommodations, especially if travelling with little ones. For a taste of southern hospitality in a quiet location, you can't go wrong with a two-room suite priced at $149 offered by Palmer House Bed and Breakfast. You’ll be treated like royalty in this remarkable blend of the comforts of home and style of an upscale resort. The hosts could not be kinder, nor could there be greater attention to detail in the services. And it’s conveniently located just out of the city and close to parks and activities, such as canoeing, horseback riding and biking.
It's the most wonderful time of the year, especially for kids in the Northern Hemisphere. If they're really, really lucky, they may get the chance (and you, too!) to escape winter's last gasps by running away to a sunnier place. And how better to celebrate than with a Tampa Extravaganza! Here, we lay out a few of the lesser-known best times in this city on Florida's Gulf Coast - a blast for both the young and the young at heart.
Heat is where it’s at in this city – in the weather, in the food, in the people. Sometimes the heat will make you want to hide inside. Instead, get lost in the crowd, melt in the melting pot, prowl with the pirates. There’s plenty to see and do, in or out of the water. It’s a theme park, a garden, a zoo – all rolled up into one big Cuban sandwich. So head down to the beach or out on the streets, and take a bite!
Photo credit: George
Ybor City is a historic neighborhood near downtown Tampa, founded in the 1880s by cigar manufacturers and populated mostly by tabaqueros from Italy, Spain, and Cuba. Known as the “Cigar Capital of the World,” the factories rolled millions of cigars annually for 50 years – about 700 million at the industry's peak. Ybor City was unique in the American South as a successful town nearly completely owned and operated by immigrants - not a bad place to start a good discussion with your kids, if you're up for it.
Image courtesy of Ceviche Tapas Bar
The delightful Ceviche tapas restaurant is intimate and romantic. Sparkling fresh sangria and spicy tapas make a great combination, either hot or cold: ceviche de la casa (chilled and marinated lime shrimp, seabass, and squid); tabla fixta (Spanish cheeses and sausages); calientes (stuffed artichokes in sherry sauce), gazpacho, paella… on and on into gourmet heaven. An authentic slice of Tampa that will make a great first impression.
Want to get right out of town to the ocean and fresh air? Drive for 25 minutes down the coast to see manatees in their natural habitat near the Big Bend Power Station at Apollo Beach. The station's discharge canal sends clean, warm saltwater back to the Bay where these gentle mammals seek sanctuary when the surrounding ocean reaches less than 68 degrees.
The site also features educational tours of the power plant, solar energy, a boardwalk, a wildlife observation tower, and an award-winning butterfly garden.
Missing Cornwall and the coast of England, we took a short break to see the ocean and went down to Maine. We had an excellent time in beautiful weather, perhaps not walking as much as we had hoped – beaches in the area we visited were rocky and access to them tended to be reachable by car, but not so easily on foot.
The locomotive shunts the coaches for a cog railway to the top of Mount Washington, the highest elevation in the eastern United States at 6,288 ft (1,917 m). You can actually drive up on the eastern side, which we attempted in our early days here, but our old Morris Oxford only made it halfway before it overheated.
As for the beaches down below, they live up to their reputation, although if you are seeking the wild vistas associated with much of the British and Scottish coastline, this may not be your first choice. St. Ives assembles ocean lovers in droves, along with all their paraphernalia: bikinis, buckets, and beach chairs. It also retains the Victorian provision of changing cabins, lined up in neat, well-maintained rows.
A day at the beach isn’t complete without a taste of Cornish ice cream made from clotted cream. The distinctive dark yellow colour and flavour is unforgettable, especially if accompanied by the traditional 99 Flake chocolate stick. If you’re too peckish for sweets, you might prefer a pasty from S.H. Ferrell & Son, or some fish and chips, washed down with a glass of ale from a local pub.
On Commercial Street, which runs the length of Provincetown, you’ll find the typical selection of seaside holiday shops that still have the capacity to delight generations with their shell collections, whimsical toys, and other treasures. And just try resisting the temptation to order a fried fish sandwich with an old school soda pop from one of the diners on the boardwalk.
The area is also sanctuary to wildlife, and much of the Cape is best observed on foot or on a bicycle, which can be rented in town. There are miles and miles of marshes and beaches that can be quietly explored for hours. Everyone seems at home here, and it isn’t uncommon to find both humans and gulls playing in water pools beyond the dunes. And everywhere you go, the salty sea air follows.
The author is an artist, writer, and instructional designer with an overactive imagination and too little time. Ceci en est un exemple...
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