Tampa is a slow city with (usually) soft, sexy weather. Pretty, it ain’t, though they're trying, and the bay is nice. Interesting, it is. Still you must scratch hard to find any intellectually ecstatic experiences here. Maybe the hard-core intellectuals, beatniks, poets, artists, actors or writers here are in hiding. But when you find them, Tampa celebrates them. And hey, there’s a Barnes and Noble with good coffee.
Credit: Tampa Bay CVB and Jeff Greenberg
And an Indigo Coffee, drive-thru. Here is the new middle America, with knobs on…. and the endless sprawl of K-Marts, Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs to prove it.
growing fast. With that growth, there is the sense that Tampa is trying on new
duds. Maybe it'll be a pirate. Maybe it'll be good ole boy. Maybe it'll be a
grand dame. Maybe it'll be a button down biz guy. Tampa residents love the city
because "it's a slow and easy place to live in;" "it's
growing" and 'it's full of hidden treasures. That means a better range of
goods and services from hairdressers to human rights groups, more choices, a
growing international mix of people (so the food's getting better), and even -
hey, hey - a couple of art cinemas.
Meanwhile The weather (87° F in early November), and Tampa's bland, easy, sleepy ways seduce new immigrants, bubbas, and mall-loving middle Americans. If you have a laptop and a lot of work to do, this is the spot---because the various and diverse treats can be explored with great fun and much speed.
Oh, there is the Gasparilla
Pirate Festival (average attendance: 400,000). and a fantastic hair
salon, Salon Jack, the only place to get your hair a brilliant cut, color and
condition in all of Florida, and there are concerts and plays---Cher was
here---and don’t forget the twelve-plex movie malls---and the predictable dead
cow restaurants, but mostly it’s the Pizza Huts, Targets and cookouts in the
sunshine that appeal to locals.
And geez, we forgot to mention Busch Gardens. Oh well. But you and I and most of us are tourists and you may not want to sleep in the Busches. For that luxury touch click here. So, for the rest of us, before we go completely out of our minds, here’s our list of.
Absolutely number one. It’s gorgeous, well-located, and has a whiz-bang monorail. The flights here can be dirt cheap, like $49 from New York, one-way on Jet Blue. Flights even go overseas from here. There's a massage therapist at the shoeshine stand. Gosh! More details? Click here.
A wonderful bit of architecture here, sort of New Orleans-y, and a pleasure to walk around, especially in the evening where there are music bars and restaurants and weird shops. Weird for Tampa, that is. We’re grateful. And so we click. One amazing shop is The Spitting Gargoyle (1717 E. 7th Ave., 813.247.7877). In business since 1994, it specializes in medievally inspired architectural accents and accessories such as gargoyles, cherubs, pedestals and columns. More info? Clickkkk
The Columbia Restaurant
The old historic
Ybor City Cuban restaurant serves the best food, including many delights
suitable for vegetarians, in Tampa/Ybor City. Don’t miss this. Of course
it’s a chain now. Thank heavens we’ll have another reliably good meal to
look forward to elsewhere. Click here
2117 East 7th Ave (813) 248-4961.
Credit: Tampa Bay CVB
Credit: Tampa Bay CVB
MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry)
Walking about in this vast ductile space that looks as if it were designed
by Aquarian robots in love is far more entertaining than the non-stop,
belly-churning rides, rides, rides of the nearby Busch Gardens. The space
even includes a small and good planetarium with shows, and, of course, an
IMAX programme. Click here
to see what’s cooking at MOSI right now.
St. Petersburg, Indian Rocks Beach, Clearwater, Tarpon Springs. Go for a drive. Check ‘em out. Good Greek grub abounds in Tarpon Springs, a charming beach hamlet. Don’t forget to give yourself a Gulf-side loll, drink in hand, on the patio of the Don Cesar Resort in St. Pete.
The Absolutely Best Hair Color and Conditioning We've Found in Florida
To get the best hair color and best hair treatments in Florida, dash to
Tampa. That's what you have to do to maintain your gorgeous, shining mane in
the tropic heat without the frizzies, Girlfriend. Hidden away in fashionable
South Tampa is a little hair haven with the defiantly unglamorous
name Salon Jack. (Don't expect a glamorous setting: spotty concrete
floors and unflattering mirrors in fashionable South Tampa? Dear, dear.
Well, it's the colorist you've come for, Darling, and when you find a great
one, that's all that counts.) I discovered this delightful head
trip for your coconut when I heard one of the local hotel execs rave
on and on about Barbara, Barbara, Barbara...who turns out to be a
spectacularly talented master colorist. Barbara Forgione (who trained in
New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles and is a Vidal Sassoon graduate)
transforms all kinds of hair with the most brilliant, subtle, gentle
hair color we've seen: ask for a peek at her inspiring
"Before and After" book. Movie stars, spies, TV anchors, ladies
who lunch, authors on tour, and fashionable and fussy locals are Barbara's regulars, as are our fashion-forward fighting women at nearby McDill
Air Force base. And prices are good: at Salon Jack, if Barbara's doing your color or treatment, you'll never have to worry. You're safe.
Barbara's known as the go-to girl when your last hair stylist just wrecked
your hair --- she fixes bad hair all the time.
And yes, she does thermal reconditioning, the Japanese hair relaxing
and hair straightening YUKO reconditioning treatment, that's tout le
rage in New York, without big city prices. It's worth going just for the
conversation: world events, music, fashion, astrology, wazzup in
Tampa...she's switched-on and sassy, and knows what color's all about. Worth a trip down on JetBlue just to
get your hair done. Next time, I think I might. Ask for Barbara
Forgione. She's worth waiting for. Salon Jack Salon,
3215 South MacDill Avenue, South Tampa.
A Nice Massage
A Soft Landing
La Terrazza Ristorante
In Ybor City, a wonderful treasure of a Northern Italian restaurant. Not surprisingly, the Weekly Planet rated it Tampa Bay’s “Best Italian restaurant” in 2002. (Luigi, the owner, is from Ricione.). In addition to its luscious cooking (primo pesto, and a must-have, ethereal eggplant appetizer), its super-soft ambience, candles and low lights will melt you like mozzarella.. 1727 E. 7th Ave. 813.248-1326 Click here,
Franklin Street News
Aha. That rare Florida treasure. A good magazine store with a wide selection
of magazines (including some imports) and newspapers (including some New
York ones). Go on…buy a Florida Lottery ticket. You’ve gotta be in it to
win it, folks. 813-276-1710 604 N. Franklin Street.
They're all raving about this joint. We
haven't checked it out yet, but it's another vegetarian Southern Indian
restaurant in Florida, so why fool around? There's a lunch buffet
Tuesday-Friday, chomp, chomp, chomp.
Skipper’s Smoke House
An alt consciousness refuge for southern hippies, deadheads, free
thinking and even freer dancing sorts. Its centerpiece is an outdoor theatre that features sharp local players ( a favorite is Bill “the
sauce boss” Wharton gumbo who
expertly and exquisitely plays Dixie rock lines, heavily steeped in Johnny
Winters and Allman Brothers. His popularity stems equally from his sound and
from his gumbo. (He cooks it all night on stage and then serves to the
audience. Some quite good national
acts also play Skipper’s. These include
Marcia Ball and Iris Dement and Buckwheat Zydeco.We happened to see Wharton during a special event that included a costume contest. (Two of Skipper's regulars are seen left).
NS Foods and
Word on the Streetcar
Tampa has two officially charming streetcars lines: the Hartline rubber wheel babies and the two-year-old TECO old-fashioned trolleys. They’re inexpensive rides, and almost, kind of get you from downtown to Ybor City, fun, bit not necessarily convenient . However, we are told that the routes will be expanding.
An attractive official shopping and entertainment site sits next to the aquarium. Stores offer cigars, cigarettes, paintings, food, and moving picture shows. 615 Channelside Dr. For more information, 813-223-4250. or click here
This upscale shopping plaza (don’t call it a mall.) has nearly 200 shops
(including Nordstrom’s and a mess of high-stylin’ shops) and more
than a dozen restaurants, uh, eateries. Its food court even has a food
court. One restaurant, The Gallery Eclectic Bistro (813 353 3838) is rather
gorgeous and a good place to relax over drinks. It’s a circular room with
blue lights, peppy wait staff and $12 martinis. The International
Plaza is an in-and-out, all-weather affair, a
nice outdoor consumer village look up…those puffy white clouds are real.
But it still feels like Las Vegas, with the clouds painted on the blue vault
above. To its credit the International Plaza is near that wonderful airport.
One of those early breakfast places you can’t live without, though you
wish you could, First Watch does help break the $30 hotel breakfast habit,
and it’s open every day (which is big since most of downtown Tampa is
closed down.) The breakfast and brunch menu supports veggie craving diners.
There's a veg-out omelette and an astonishingly dull Eggs Florentine. Moderate
prices ($5.75 and $6.95 respectively) were welcome,
and offset by the $1.60 coffee cost). First Watch is part of a
chain which means there are standards which it will neither miss nor exceed.
The Tampa Theatre is one of the nation's preservation success stories and one of the city's bright gems. Its style
can only be described as Florida Mediterranean (includes touches of Italian Renaissance, Byzantine, Spanish, Mediterranean, Greek Revival, Baroque, and English Tudor)" (And perhaps a tad of kitchen sink?) Opened in October, 1926 as a magnificent “motion picture palace,” the John Eberson-designed venue went into decline and near extinction by the '70s. Tampa, in partnership with the community, saved the theatre in 1973. Now it is open throughout the year with a rich schedule of film, concerts, special events, corporate events and tours.
813-274-8981. And even if you're not at the mighty Wurlitzer,