A Weekend in Tampa
On February 14th, 2007 an incredibly attractive guy from my hometown asked me to be his girlfriend. As he and I sat on the top bunk in my tiny shared dorm room in southern Missouri surrounded by the neon decor that only an 18-year-old freshman in college can love, I attempted to maintain the cool girl facade that I had managed to cultivate for the month or so that he and I had dated. Luckily for me, we began as a long distance relationship which worked in my favor. His phone calls went consistently unanswered to which he falsely assumed was due to my busy lifestyle and aloof attitude. In reality, when he called my anxiety spiked and I needed a moment to compose myself and some prep time to form words into sentences before I could call him back. Basically, it was the ultimate bait-and-switch. By the time he realized how cool I actually was, it was too late. We were truly madly deeply in love Savage Garden style. Gotcha sucker!
To celebrate our decade together my (now husband) and I scoured the internet for a cheap flight to a destination that would likely be warm in February. We agreed upon Tampa, Florida!
Our Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Dunedin Itinerary
Friday, Feb. 17th
We went the Airbnb route and stayed at the Bayshore Retreat. I highly recommend staying here. It is right on the bay and conveniently located near downtown Tampa and to Hyde Park Village. Plus we saw a dolphin during an afternoon jog just steps from the front door. I'm not sure what your thoughts are on the manner, but to me the sentence "we saw a dolphin" instantly makes any recommendation better.
We ate dinner at Edison’s Food and Drink Lab which I think I'd give a solid "meh." After dinner, we had planned to go to Ybor City, but in making this plan, I had clearly overlooked the detail that in our house Fridays are dubbed lazy Friday. After dinner, we were tired and decided to walk on home.
Saturday, Feb. 18th-- Beach Day
I had made (unnecessary) reservations for 9:15 am at The Oxford Exchange . A spot that we both highly recommend. My husband's remarks were, "You find the most hipster restaurant in every city." To that I say, you're welcome. Now, give me that sweet farm-to-table menu! The food was amazing. and the shop was adorable. There was also outdoor garden seating. By the time we left, the place was pretty packed, so if you go later I imagine reservations would be needed.
Saturday was going to be our "beach day" so we changed and packed a bag before heading out to Clearwater Beach. If you plan on doing beachy things on your visit to Tampa, you should definitely rent a car; it was about a 35-minute drive. The plan for the day was: lay out at the beach.. rent stand up paddle boards...eat a late lunch at Frenchy's Rockaway Grill...take a two-hour sunset boat ride through Kai_Lani_Catamaran and then dinner at Columbia Restaurant Sand Key. Doesn't that sound nice?
Well, it didn't happen. It rained... and rained... and rained.
Saturday Revisions: St. Petersburg
Instead, we had a couple sugary drinks at Frenchy's as we waited for the rain to clear. It didn't. Our boat ride was canceled, so we scrapped the Clearwater dinner reservations and headed back to Tampa. Tampa was dry, so we went for a jog to the Riverwalk and explored Tampa a bit on foot, and then took a nap (we like lazy Saturdays too). In contemplating our dinner plans, we remembered the guy who sat next to my husband on our flight. After having indulged in a few libations, he showed us pictures of his boat and the big fish that he caught while fishing on his boat before recommending that we go to The Birchwood in St.Petersburg.
So, thanks, guy who just bought a boat. Good rec., we locked down the rez and had a great evening. We were both really glad that we had made the 30-minute trek to St. Petersburg. There were a lot of dining options, cute little shops, cheap public valet parking, and rows and rows of bars. We opted for ice cream over alcohol since we had to drive back, but the bar scene looked pretty decent. Plus, I saw a dolphin.
I didn't really see a dolphin, but didn't that sentence just seal the deal for you on St. Petersburg?
Sunday, Feb. 19th.--Nature Vibe Beach Day
Sundays are for sleeping in. We woke up and went for a quick jog to the outdoor shopping/dining area, Hyde Park Village before grabbing breakfast in downtown Tampa at First Watch. Hyde Park Village has an ATM that dispenses cupcakes. True Story.
Travel tip! Download the No Wait App. By the time we were ready for breakfast, both places that I had in mind were packed, and I hadn't made reservations. The app lets you put your name on the waiting list to a variety of restaurants in the Tampa area before you arrive.
Breakfast took far too long, so we arrived at Honeymoon Island State Park later than I would have liked. We took the ferry to Caladesi Island State Park. Boat rides begin at 10 am and continue every 30 minutes. Caladesi Island had previously been ranked one of the top natural beaches in the country, so I wanted to check it out. We arrived a bit too late to really make it worth the time it took to get there, so I would really recommend getting there early. We both agreed that it would be a great place to bring a picnic and young kids. There were unique seashells that you could collect, chairs and umbrellas to rent, a little marina, bathrooms, and an on-site cafe.
Dinner reservations for the evening were set for Jackson’s Bistro Bar & Sushi. I had reserved outside seating, which I definitely recommend. It was a great view of Tampa and a great end to the trip.
Monday, Feb. 20th---Datz Tampa
We saved the best for last and had an early morning breakfast at Datz Tampa before we left. Get the Monkey Bread cinnamon roll. Just do it.
Overall, we were both pleasantly surprised by Tampa. There were well-maintained running paths that had a constant stream of active people zipping by. There was a decent amount of outdoorsy things to do, good scenery, a bit of a city vibe, and nice beaches within close proximity. It was an overall a really great extended weekend getaway.
Datz all folks!
(That was for the sole purpose of making my husband role his eyes... and he thought he was getting himself a cool girl.. poor guy ;)