I take everyone who visits me in Tampa to Tarpon Springs. It’s a Greek colony settled just North of Tampa to harvest sponges.
Tarpon Springs is absolutely picturesque. It is the place to get the best Greek food in Florida and a great place to sight see. Once you get to the water front area park your car and walk around. There are a plethora of Greek restaurants, small museums, Greek merchandise shops and even the normal tacky tourist shops.
I always get here in time for lunch and stay for dinner to get two chances at the great Greek food. Be sure to try the flaming cheese appetizer and at least one fish dish.
By the dock you can also purchase dolphin sight seeing tours, sponge diving tours, gambling cruises. The free sponge museum is a bit run down is still very well done and heck its free!
The main street area has all sorts of museum shops and also host some wonderful bed and breakfasts.
The city of Tarpon Springs (between the water and US19) has quite a few art galleries and antique shops that are also worth visiting.
Tarpon Springs is a waterfront community north of Tampa just off of US19
SeaWorld is in Orlando, about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Tampa (about 90 miles) and is worth the drive if you have the time. This is the home of the famous Shamu killer whale show as well as home to many dolphins, birds, fish, and other neat marine life. One of my favorite things here was the pearl divers. You pay $15 and a diver will go down into a huge tank and retrieve an oyster which is then opened for you. All of the oysters contain beautiful jewel-grade pearls.
Parking is $8 US and admission is about $ 50 US for adults and $ 35 US for kids. If you go, go very early because there is alot to see!Related to:
- Theme Park Trips
Hillsborough River State Park
My encounters with the Hillsborough River State Park have always been really good experiences. For one, the scenery is really beautiful - cypress forests and (mostly) native vegetation.
You can camp here - and I reccommend it. The best time to go is in the "winter" (Florida doens't really have one), but anytime from October - May is pretty decent. A lot of people think it's too hot in the summer time.
Also, there's canoe rental available which, if you're going to Hillsborough River State Park, you have to do. What better way to get to know the river than to shake hands with it?
The city of Orlando (where all the theme parks are) is about 90 miles north of Tampa, or about a 1 1/2 hour drive. If you have an extra day, the drive from Tampa to Orlando is a worthwhile way to squeeze in a trip to Disney or SeaWorld without having to pay high Orlando hotel room rates.Related to:
- Theme Park Trips
- Family Travel
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Weeki Wachee Springs - An hour north of Tampa
Weeki Wachee Springs is an historic Florida attraction – in fact, 2007 marks its 60th Anniversary!
The spring itself is beautiful but the main attraction is its mermaid shows. Shows run every 2 hours or so – I’d advise checking the website for show times on the days you are their and timing your visit to catch at least 2 shows (try for 3). Children will love the shows but adults will find it just as fascinating – I spent most of the time wondering at the training involved in being a mermaid – the mermaids breath through tubes but hold their breath for minutes between breaths they also can eat, drink and sing underwater – amazing. Since the mermaids swim in a natural spring the mermaids are among fish and turtles – watching the turtles following the mermaids around is quite fun too.
The park is worth visiting year around but during the winter the water park is closed. I enjoy visiting during the winter though – prices are cheaper and crowds are smaller.
There are also several nature shows and there is a boat ride down to the lower spring that is nice. The spring also offers scuba diving. The water in the spring is crystal clear and emits over 170 million gallons of clear, fresh 72-degree water.
In 2007 Buccaneer Bay Waterpark reopens March 17! This is Florida's ONLY spring-fed waterpark. Swim in the 72-degree, crystal clear spring with white sandy beaches, picnic areas, beach volleyball, etc!
Directions: Head North on 19 or take Vetrans Hwy North about an hour
Daily Admission through March 16
Adult ~ $13.95 Plus Tax
Child (Ages 3-10) ~ $10.95 Plus Tax
Daily Admission beginning March 17
Adult ~ $22.95 Plus Tax
Child (Ages 3-10) ~ $15.95 Plus Tax
Admission includes both Weeki Wachee & Buccaneer Bay!
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Walking on Fire Clinic
The Tampa/St Petersburg area is a great way to stretch yourself by walking on fire.
Yes, you heard me right…by walking on fire.
The clinic listed below is an amazing experience where you not only walk on fire, you bend rebar, break boards and even walk on glass. It’s a truly amazing experience that stretches your boundaries and empowers all who do it.
Fire walking classes are not offered on a regular basis and groups are required for this exercise. So you’ll either need to get a group together OR check out one of the large clinics open to the public. See the website below for more information.
I've done this twice now and plan on going again in the next year
They're are more pictures on this page and on my Tampa webpage (along with some how to instructions).
Visit the Manatees
There are several places outside Tampa to see the Manatees in their natural setting. The best viewing is normally on cold winter days when the Manatees come to these warmer (relatively speaking) springs to keep warm.
All of these sites are in stunning locations. I'd bring extra water and picnic basket and shoes for a nice hike along one of the areas trails.
Favorite sites of the locals include:
1) Crystal River - town North of Tampa with tons of options
2) Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park - also functions as a rehab center for the manatee and other natvie Florida animals. Rangers have programs during the day and there are also scenic boat tours of Pepper Creek.
3) Ocala area (will add more later)
There are a variety of boat cruises in the Tampa area including:
1) Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise
2) Little Toot Dolphin Watching Cruises
3) Gambling cruises
4) Dinner cruises
The location, cost and exact timing seem to change with the season. See your hotel or the nearest waterway for the most up to date info.
tarpon springs is an interesting side trip from the tampa-clearwater area. tarpon springs is a greek sponge fishing village that is famous for it's collection of greek restaurants. this small west florida town has much to offer the tourist. see my tarpon springs pages for more information. from downtown tampa take US 60 west to clearwater. then take US 19 ALT north past dunedin to tarpon springs.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Food and Dining
Express Boat to Key West
This express boat actually leaves from Ft Myers Beach but is one of the best ways to get to Key West (most of the roads through the keys are one lane and traffic often backs up)
The shuttle takes just 3 1/2 hours and has AC Cabins, Satellite TVs and a full bar
Prices vary but are normally under $100 for a round trip - right now they are $83 RT when purchased in advance
A nice day trip or stop
Has some great shopping (mostly touristy but still fun) and restaurants.
Especially fun around sun-set (2 hours before till 2 hours after), where like in Key West, their is a nightly festival with a variety of street performers including jugglers & magicians
Intersection of Causeway and Gulf Blvd., Pier 60 Park is beautiful - a crescent of fine, powdery white sand that runs from the pass north for 1.3 miles. .
Louis Del Favero Orchids
Not a "tourist" activity per say but if you love Orchids this is the place to visit and purchase some plants. A hidden gem.
6601 Grant Road
NW Hillsborough just east if the Veterans. Vetrans exit 9 to Gunn Hwy. East on Gunn. North on Cain. West on Grant – nursery is on the right
Open 9AM to 5PM Tuesday to Saturday
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Not the typical Tampa tourist site that is in the neighboring town of Clearwater. This facilities rescues and rehabilitates ill and injured fish, mammals, birds, reptiles...
Costs $9 for adults, $6 for children 3 to 13 yrs - $ goes to supporting the animals
there is also an optional eco-boat tour that will let you see how the aquarium rescues local marine life and sea turtles
9 to 5 Monday to Friday
9 to 4 Saturdays
11 to 4 Sunday
Once in Clearwater, take SR 60 west (Gulf to Bay Blvd.) until you reach Memorial Causeway, which leads to Clearwater Beach.
Proceed across the Causeway until you reach the traffic light at Island Way - which is Island Estates subdivision.
Turn right into Island Estates, then left at the single flashing light. You're now on Windward Passage heading west.
249 Windward Passage
Clearwater, Florida U.S.A.
The 13 mile Courtney Campbell Causeway may be the last place you thought of to go to the beach, especially since the narrow beaches stretch alongside the highway. Not the most idyllic, peaceful of places. Locals affectionately call the causeway beaches the "redneck beaches" because they're commonly full of families in pick up trucks, drinking beers, fishing, getting sunburnt in their wifebeaters. Towards the Tampa end of the causeway is a sandy beach. Otherwise, the rest of the causeway is merely rocky. Hey, if you look beyond the "redneck" status of the causeway, you'll realize that it is actually a very convenient place to fish, launch a boat, or just relax under the sun. This technically is the closest beach to Tampa afterall.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Sailing and Boating
See Manatees at the Manatee Viewing Center
In Apollo Beach just South of Tampa is Tampa Electric Big Bend Power Plant. It discharges warm water, which attracts the Manatees in the winter, as the surrounding waters get cool. Plan on getting good photos of them from the viewing deck. Plan on a 90 minute visit. Take a walk around the small musem and the 15 minute video theater is worthwhile. There is a cafe for refreshments. Don't skip the self guided nature walk throught the tidal flats (on a nice walkway, no sticky mud). BEST OF ALL NO ADMISSION FEE, FREE. Open Nov 1 through April 15 daily 10 AM til 5 PM.
Check out their webcam!
To get there take I 75 to exit #246. Drive West on Big Bend Road 2.5 miles. There are signs and it is easy to locate.Related to:
- Budget Travel
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