While admittedly still a bit groggy after celebrating our Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ thrilling win against Green Bay to become the first host team to play in the Super Bowl, let’s take a look at some of the best things to do while in Tampa Bay, Florida, which includes Hillsborough and Pinellas counties with major cities/spring break destinations like Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
Regardless if you’re planning a trip to the Tampa area on Feb. 7 or just want to know what makes the place so alluring – Tampa will now have hosted five Super Bowls – consider picks from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, for al fresco fun.
From a brand-new pleasure pier overlooking Tampa Bay to a boardwalk spanning swamps filled with alligators to a riverwalk dotted with trendy restaurants and bars, these five locations should offer something for everyone visiting our waterfront corner of the Sunshine State.
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312 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa; 813-274-8615; tampa.gov
Dubbed the “Longest Continuous Sidewalk in the United States,” Bayshore Boulevard hugs Hillsborough Bay and serves as the unofficial gym of South Tampa and its Hyde Park neighborhood of lavish historic homes and newly constructed mansions. The 10 foot-wide sidewalk, which starts on the north at the Columbus Statue Park at Platt Street and ends 4.5 miles later at Gandy Boulevard, regularly teems with walkers, joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers often stopping at the workout stations dotting the waterfront.
Boasting sugary white sands and clear, shallow water, Clearwater Beach includes such attractions as the palm-lined Beach Walk Promenade, and Pier 60, which since 1995 has hosted Sunsets at Pier 60, a nightly sunset celebration featuring artisans, street performers and those world-famous Gulf of Mexico sunsets. Other must-visit places at Clearwater Beach include Frenchy’s Original Cafe for a fresh grouper sandwich and Shephard’s Beach Resort, home to one of the most popular tiki beach bars in Tampa Bay. Looking to enjoy the more scenic side of Clearwater? Visit Caladesi Island State Park. Located just north of Clearwater Beach, it ranked No. 6 on Dr. Beach’s 2020 Top Ten Beach list. There’s also the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter, star of the “Dolphin Tale” movies.
Lettuce Lake Park
6920 East Fletcher Ave., Tampa; 813-987-6204; hillsboroughcounty.org
About 15 miles northeast of where the Hillsborough River snakes through downtown Tampa, Lettuce Lake Park is where local residents go to experience the great outdoors. The park includes wooded picnic areas and playgrounds as well as a 1.25-mile paved exercise trail. Its main attraction, though, is the 3,500-foot boardwalk for traversing the park’s hardwood swamp forest. There’s also an observation tower overlooking the Hillsborough River plus canoe and kayak rentals if you’re brave enough for encounters with various birds and wildlife including, yes, some very large and hungry-looking alligators!
St. Pete Pier
600 Second Ave. NE., St. Petersburg; stpetepier.org
Part of a 131 year-old tradition, the latest version of the St. Pete Pier opened this past summer covering 26 acres and costing taxpayers $92 million. It includes a fishing deck, picnic area, splash pad, playground, a marketplace, discovery center, a nature walk as well as a beach area with colorful chairs for lounging. And then there are all the great waterfront restaurants including Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, named after the main character in over 20 novels by bestselling Sanibel Island author Randy Wayne White. Plus, there are the Pier Point restaurants including the fourth-floor Teak and its rooftop tiki bar offering spectacular views of Tampa Bay and the downtown St. Pete skyline.
Lining the shore of the Hillsborough River, Riverwalk runs 2.5 miles connecting the entertainment center of Sparkman Wharf along Garrison Channel in downtown Tampa with Armature Works to the north in Tampa Heights. Officially starting at the South Plaza by Florida Aquarium, you will find everything from monuments to noteworthy Tampeños and the Amalie Arena (home of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning) to water shuttle stops and the Gasparilla pirate ship. There are also lots and lots of restaurants and bars along Riverwalk. Personal favorites include Flock and Stock at Sparkman Wharf for fried chicken, Four Green Fields at Curtis Hixon Park for genuine Irish libations and cuisine, and Ulele by Armature Works for fabulous Florida dishes. Keep in mind, official to-go cups are the only legal way to drink on the Riverwalk.