Floridians have a thing with water, sand and sun. Anywhere you can find all three together, you will find locals enjoying it. Most tourists go to the wide, sandy beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, but locals like to find other beaches in the Bay... it saves you a long drive, you can avoid tourists and traffic, and there are fewer rules.
The Gandy Bridge Causeway has a beach that is very popular year round. On both sides of Gandy Boulevard, there is a dirt road that provides plenty of parking and access to the water. People come here to drink, swim, let their dogs swim, fish, even ride dune buggies (though there is barely room). This is the definition of areal redneck beach.
I think the water is extra warm here because of the run off from the local power plant.
Every year, Channelside has a day full of music, food, entertainment, and fireworks. We didn't want to fight the crowds and pay for parking at Channelside, so we decided to go across the channel to Harbor Island, where we found some quieter restaurants, cheap parking, and unobstructed views of the great fireworks show. Before the fireworks, we had dinner at Cafe Dufrain and after the fireworks, we had dessert at That's Amore, an Italian restaurant.
Every year pirates take over the waters of the Tampa Bay, after a huge battle along Bayshore Boulevard. No, not the pirates you see in Somalia, real pirates!
Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla leads the assault with a 165 foot long ship called the Jose Gaspar, named after a pirate that once supposedly roamed the area. The main event is a huge parade on Bayshore, which draws 400,000 attendees. Other events include the children's parade, and an adult-themed night parade in Ybor City.
Gasparilla dates back to 1904.
The scrap metal yards are the coolest thing to see and do in Tampa. Load up your truck with all of your steel pipes, old appliances, wire, fencing, and aluminum cans, and head on over to the scrap metal dealer. We stopped in one day with steel tubing from an old swing set and clothes line poles, which with 210 pounds and made up enough money for lunch in nearby Ybor ($18.75).
More fun than making a few bucks off your trash is watching the heavy equipment haul other peoples' junk around. We saw a guy bring an old car that looked about 70 years old. The giant claw squeezed the car and lifted it out of the trailer as it crumbled into dust.
Enjoy the bright, silvery moon as it hovers over the Tamp Bay occasionally. The moon here, unlike other places, is actually made of cheese, and there is a man on it. Sometimes even a cow jumps over it. Great fun, and a great object for night photos.
When I lived in Tampa, it struck me that almost no one I met was actually from Florida. Ok, I had a few friends that were born and raised in the Tampa Bay area, but they seemed to be anomalies. This is one of the things I love about the area. On my mom's street in the overwhelimng suburban sprawl of north Tampa, there are people from Italy, El Salvador, China, Senegal, Eygpt, Puerto Rico and Germany, as well as from every conceivable corner of the US. And this is just on her street! At my mom's parties, you can easily hear three languages being spoken at the same time, and sometimes in the same conversation. I went to high school briefly in Clearwater, which is near Tampa. At lunch I sat with kids from Romania, Bangledesh, Texas and Ohio, while I brought Louisiana to the table. While there are many places in the US with significant immigrant populations, I like Tampa because everyone just seems to mesh together.
A lot of people don't know this about the United States, but it is a country with no official language. This is really true in some parts of Tampa (read: West Tampa, some nitches of Ybor City) where Spanish and / or Spanglish is more popular than English. It's not like New York or anything, where a hundred languages are being thrown in every direction, but it can make for some interesting hand-signal-and-broken-discourse communication. Also, there's a great and wonderful use of "Spanglish" - the combination of Spanish and English - here. My grandmother is a Spanglish-ologist.
So, don't get all huffy if someone doesn't understand you right away. It's just part of the culture, and I think it makes Tampa more interesting.
Okay so it isnt in Tampa but its still in Hillsborough County and there really isnt much to see or do in Plant City other than the Strawberry Festival so here it is in my Tampa section.
This is a big carnival in celebration of the Plant City stawberry harvest. There is a midway with rides and games and if country music is your thing a lot of big name country artist perform here.
Even if you dont like country music stop by for the strawberry shortcake. Its well worth it.
This year it is runs from the 3rd to the 13th of March (2005)
Tampa is known as "The Big Guava" and thus Guavaween is the big Halloween celebratiion in Ybor City. This event draws more than 100,00 people every year and is lead by Mama Guava.
The Legend. (Taken from Ybor Times.com)
" Legend has it that in the late 1800s a Spanish food broker came to Tampa looking for guava forests. His goal was to get everybody eating guava jelly and cooking with guava paste. But the climate and rising land prices prevented his erecting a guava factory near Tampa. Ybor City became a land of cigars instead."
Its okay for kids early in the evening but as the night progresses it gets loud and lewd. Lots of alcohol.
The last Saturday in January the city honors Jose Gaspar, a pirate who terrorized the Florida coast in the late 17-early 1800 's.
The event starts out with the "Pirates" setting sail from Balast Point and ends with the Mayor turning over the city to them. Thus starts the Gasparilla Parade.
Crowds of thousands flock to Bayshore to watch the the parade consisting High school marching bands play and service clubs called Krews who dress as pirates and toss candy and beads to the children, and the Krews' floats. Quite and event.
There is also a night parade that takes place in Ybor City.
The devil comes in all shapes and forms. Who ever thought that he'd come in a little round bundle of fried crab meat and dough. I can't resist temptations, especially when it comes to scrumptious edible things.
When it comes to deli sandwiches, the local favorite has always been cuban sandwiches. No matter where you go in Tampa Bay, you'll be sure to run into a place that serves them. Even the local ice cream parlors serve them.
The infamous cuban is shaped like a sub sandwich; it differs in the fact that it is made on cuban bread and is pressed with a hot grill called a plancha.
The standard cuban always has ham, roast pork, cheese, and pickles. It generally has no other vegetables or condiments on it aside from butter and mustard. There's many varieties of the cuban that are original, but time and time again I find the original to be the most tasty.
Ybor City was once the leading producer of cigars in this country. With the growth of production came immigrant workers mainly from Cuba, Italy, Germany and Spain. Today, Tampa Bay has retained a lot of that Cuban flavor that these immigrants brought to the area, specifically visible in cigars, food, festivals, music, and dance. For a country that does not have the greatest relationship with Cuba, it's great to see how much influence Cuba has had here and the love people show for its culture.
If you are in Tampa the first weekend of February make sure you take a little time to experience a real pirate invasion! The Gasparilla Day parade is a 3 mile stumble down Bayshore Blvd along the waterside including 100+ floats with men, woman and children dressed as pirates throwing out beads. It ends downtown where the party continues into the evening.
This is not really a cultural tip, but you have to try Kash 'n Karry muffins! I fell in love with them despite I don't really like sweet. There is a cinnamon one on the left and the right one is with chocolate chips. MAN! I'm gonna miss 'em! They're the best! :-)
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