Tampa - Sightseeing
Tampa’s International Plaza Mall, by the airport, comes complete with the usual array of big brands, US department stores and market stalls hawking crafts, chocolates and trinkets. Channelside, Tampa’s spruced-up waterside entertainment complex, is an enjoyable maze of shops, food and drinking outlets, while the ethnic neighbourhood of Ybor is home to thrilling markets, art galleries and, at Centro Ybor, a pleasingly designed mall, crammed with fashion and gift stores.
Clearwater’s Boatyard Village is an 1890’s themed village. It features Yesterday's Air Force Museum and Florida Museum of Holography, as well as shops dining and markets.
Countryside Mall, Clearwater is a two-storey mall with big name outlets in fashion, gifts, home-wares and electronics. Bay Bazaar Shopping Plaza, 630 S. Gulfview Boulevard, is good for men's and women's clothing, swimwear, jewellery, beach souvenirs and original works of art.
Historic Corey Avenue, St Pete Beach, is a pleasant thoroughfare lined with speciality stores, delis and boutiques, and the Dolphin Village Centre, on Gulf Blvd, offers more of the same, with restaurants, a kids’ playground and independent boutiques.
Tyrone Square Mall, 22nd Avenue North, features Macy's, Dillard's, JC Penney and Sears – all Goliaths of US shopping, with St. John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk, Madiera Beach, is a turn of the century (19th, that is!) fishing village, shopping centre and gallery zone.
Red Barn Flea Market, Bradenton, is a popular market which always reveals something of merit if you’re prepared to put the time in and rummage. Village of the Arts, Downtown Bradenton, is a cluster of brightly painted shops, studios and galleries centred around Main Street and its off-avenues.
St Armand’s Circle, 300 Madison Drive, Sarasota, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sarasota - a series of elegant shops and restaurants arranged around the circle, designed by circus magnate (and circle lover) John Ringling. Lush landscaping, glittering lighting and unique galleries and European style delis and boutiques give this place a real upscale, Italian flavour – all very pleasant.
Southgate Plaza, Sarasota, is a shopping mall for the seriously wealthy, or happy window shopper. Southgate’s collection of designer stores, home-wares, watch stores and lifestyle must-haves is worth a wander, just keep your wallet at the hotel.
St Pete Beach is a long strip of Blue Flag bathing and sands – perfect for families and couples seeking safe, sunny days at the coast. If you like it uncrowded and undeveloped, Fort De Soto park’s the place to head – a stunning expanse of natural parkland, cycle paths and uncluttered sands. The beaches closer to St Pete’s offer a little more in the way of recreation. Passe a Grille, and neighbouring Shell Key offer low-key thrills but, for more watersports, head north to action-packed Clearwater.
Broad swathes of soft white sand make up the Gulf Coast of Clearwater’s key – and, for most of the year, the sun shines on the boardwalks and beach bars, and warms the (suitably) clear water, making this spot a popular, outdoorsy place where locals and tourists happily mingle and enjoy the island’s range of water sports, chartered cruises, beach entertainments and prime sun tanning spots. Pier 60, where the causeway meets the beach, is a fun spot where artists, street performers and stall holders gather – principally because, at sunset, this is the place to be to watch the nightly spectacle of the sun sinking below the gulf coast.
The beaches of Cortez (aka Bradenton Beach) and Coquina are wonderfully flat expanses of sand, with watersports facilities and lifeguards on duty. Gulf Drive, the main highway that carves its way along the islands just off the coast, is lined with beaches – each offering a mix of watersports, sunbathing and swimming options. Anna Marie is a real holiday island, with a breezy waterfront, excellent, warm waters and fully-facilitated beaches. Manatee County Beach features 900 feet of sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico with access at Gulf Drive.
Busch Gardens, Tampa
Just half an hour or so away, this African themed mega-park is a real thrill. Daily jungle-themed shows, head-spinning white-knuckle rides, a 4-D theatre show and safari expeditions to the ‘Nairobi Field Station’ guarantee to keep everyone amused for a day.
Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa
The huge and futuristic looking aquarium is home to shark tanks, rare species exhibits – including the rare, and bizarre-looking Australian Sea Dragons – and lots of interactive zones where children can learn more about the marine life of the gulf. There’s a small SCUBA tank where you can get even closer to the action, or, alternatively, the aquarium also offers eco- tours on its sleek motor cruiser, out into the gulf.
Located at the headwaters of Old Tampa Bay, the waterfront community of Safety Harbour is home to the historic Espiritu Santo springs. Legend has it that Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto believed he had discovered the Fountain of Youth. The natural springs have been a popular spot ever since. The Harbour’s Resort and Spa is thronging with modern-day travellers seeking the elixir of endless youth.
Egmont Key State Park
At the breezy headland of Egmont, Tampa Bay feels wonderfully unadulterated – the strip malls and arcades seem a million miles away. Pristine, palm tree lined pathways, secluded beaches, and a 150 year old working lighthouse guarding the sound create a wonderfully relaxing environment.
The Pier, St Petersburg Waterfront
An entertainment complex with lots to keep you busy – including a shopping centre, aquarium, boat cruise charters and a range of drinking and dining outlets featuring live shows and tea dances.
Florida Botanical Gardens, Largo
Florida’s exotic natural plantlife is displayed alongside blooms from around the sub-tropical world in this delightful park. Hibiscus gardens, herb gardens and endangered plant collections are set amid lakes and meadows – part of the bigger Pinewood Cultural Park.
Moccasin Lake Park, Clearwater
Native wildlife, fauna, and flora along boardwalk trails, including American Alligators, Great Egrets, Green Anoles, Ospreys and butterflies, wildlife exhibits and an interpretive centre.
Clearwater Municipal Marina is one of the best-equipped marinas in Florida, offering access to a range of water-based fun. Fishing charters, sailing charters, sight-seeing boats, dinner cruises, dolphin tours, para-sailing, and personal watercraft are all available – and you’ll have little trouble finding the right outfit for you. There’s a clutch of shops, restaurants and bars for those not too keen on getting wet.
Museum of Science and Industry, E. Fowler Avenue
Experience the power of a hurricane, learn how the human body works, explore the outer reaches of space, fly a jet fighter and have a really enjoyable day out at the same time at this well-respected, and large, family friendly museum in the heart of Tampa.
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