After my long weekend in Dallas, for one of my best friend’s weddings, I decided to shoot over to Tampa, Florida and see some friends. I’ve been to Tampa a few times and always had a blast, but this time I really wanted to explore so I took my friend Rachel who just so happens to be a lovely photographer and we went off on an adventure.
As soon as I got off the plane in Tampa, I went to pick up my rental car from Sixt Car Rental and to my pleasant surprise they gave me an Audi A3 Convertible. I felt like that was a sign this was gonna be a great trip and I was right! I mean, if you’re going to get a convertible rental car it better be in Florida or Hawaii right?
So I pull up to my first stop, Ulele, a restaurant offering an upscale menu of native Floridian fare, with barbacoa grilling & house-brewed beers. I was excited to see that my friend Lindsey had picked such a great spot because I was craving seafood and this place had more than its fare share of great choices. As we caught up, we enjoyed a variety of different dishes such as oysters, a couple vegetable salads, since my friend is vegetarian, grouper, and some lovely desserts! All in all, I was extremely full and very satisfied with my first foodie experience fresh off the plane.
After lunch, I went to The Safety Harbor Spa to get a much needed massage. When you’re going from city to city and refuse to pay for the first class upgrade, you often end up in the middle seat with kids kicking your chair behind you, and thats exactly what happened to me. So I took my three hour down time between lunch and waiting for my other friend as my chance to work out my many knots. I’ve had my fair share of mas sages and all thats done is make me very picky with the service I get, but I was very pleased with the masseuse and how knowledgable he was and also how quickly he was able to point out exiting problems I’ve had. If you ever end up in the area and you like the mellow life, I would definitely check out Safety Harbor. It’s the cutest little town! After the massage, I went into the sauna, walked around the town a bit then got ready to meet my friend.
We ended up in the Hyde Park Village, an upscale open-air shopping district located in the neighborhood of Hyde Park in Tampa. The area was super walkable with cute little restaurants. We stopped and ate then walked a bit before catching the movie Cloverfield at the Cinaplex. My favorite part about Hyde Park was the massage per minute place. This little yellow building next to Lulu Lemon where you pay by the minute so I took my laptop there and worked while someone rubbed my feet.
The next day Rachel and I ventured out to Clearwater Beach and wandered around but not before we had an amazing breakfast at the Oxford Exchange. Unfortunately, it was freezing cold and windy that day, but that didn’t all the spring breakers drunkenly staggering across the white sand. We walked around the beach a bit before the chilly wind got to my west coast blood and we ran back to the car. From there we headed back towards Hyde Park but we pulled off the main road on a whim and discovered a cute little street and fishing spot.
We spent a little time there before heading to Ybor to find these wild chickens I kept hearing about and find them I did. What a cute little place Ybor! The buildings were older and had so much character and charm but I heard it’s not the safest place at night when it becomes quite the clubbing destination. Years back, before Tampa’s historic Ybor City began to turned into the club-and-restaurant mecca it’s chickens roamed the streets. Apparently there are about 100 chickens that live in Ybor. You can see them roam around and even hear the roosters crow from your cafe table.
After I begrudgingly pulled myself away from the chicken families, we went to The Big Cat Rescue , one of the largest accredited sanctuaries in the world dedicated to abused and abandoned big cats. This place gave me mixed feelings. On one hand it was inspiring how giving the volunteers that work there are but on the other hand hearing the stories of the animals and what they went through made me sad to be part of humanity. I feel very strongly about animal abuse and I can’t fathom how people could be so cruel to animals especially wild animals that were taken out of their habitats in order to be house pets. A lion or a lynx are not meant to be house pets and someone having them as a pet doesn’t make someone “bad ass” it makes them look ignorant. If you are in Tampa and love cats, definitely go visit this sanctuary. All the proceeds go to taking care of the animals and helping protect them. The sanctuary is also very beautiful and serene and lovely to walk around it.
The next day I drove to Lakeland to watch a baseball game. Florida is where all the major leaguers go and work on their stuff during spring training and the baseball fans were in full force watching the teams play. Some people had actually driven in from other states to watch their favorite teams play during the spring training games.
My final day in Tampa, I went back to Oxford Exchange to try more items off their menu then drove to Davis Island in search of a cute cafe and delicious coffee. After lunch, I packed my bags and sadly headed back to the airport. I felt like there was so much more to explore in Tampa but there is always next time!