Rainy Day Itinerary: Tampa Bay

Florida is well known for sudden changes in weather and stormy days, which often leaves residents and travelers stuck indoors wondering what to do. Here is my favorite rainy day itinerary for the Tampa Bay area:

  1. Take a tour through the Tampa Museum of Art

The Tampa Museum of Art has an excellent display of pottery and art from the Classical World. My personal favorite displays in the museum were the sports photography and Alex Katz pieces, both of which will be on display throughout April. The Tampa Museum of Art is a great rainy day stop since admission is only $15 a person and free for college students. It also has a parking garage next door for easy parking, which is not always easy to find in Downtown Tampa.

2. Grab Lunch at Oxford Exchange

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Courtesy of Oxford Exchange on Instagram // @oxfordexchange

Rainy days call for a good cappuccino and refreshing lunch. Luckily, OE has mastered the art of both with their Buddy Brew coffee stand and seasonal fresh menu. Grab a book in their book shop and a comfortable seat to enjoy a delicious hand made coffee. Then, take a seat in their exquisite bright dining area to enjoy a great lunch. The clean bright interiors matched with the cozy coffee area make for the perfect rainy day lunch treat.

3. Spend the afternoon at Top Golf

Top Golf is great but also pretty crowded most of the time, which makes it the perfect rainy day activity. Three stories of golfing into color coded holes, great music, and a delicious menu of dishes and desserts makes Top Golf the ultimate outing for friends and families. It is completely covered overhead and each bay has comfortable seating, which allows you to stay dry and away from the rain without being cooped up inside. Top Golf is least crowded mid day and early afternoon, so make sure to golf before prices increase and things get busy in the evening.

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One Tank Trip: Tarpon Springs

A 45 minute drive northwest of Tampa, Florida, Tarpon Springs is home to sponge docks, Greek heritage and unique local shops. The town of almost 24,000 people is the perfect destination for a sunny day trip!

Parking is very easy to find in a lot near the downtown water front area. The shops line the street running parallel to the sponge docks. Once parked, you can stroll the wide sidewalks lined with shops and restaurants. If you are wondering what to eat and where to stop for lunch the answer is pretty obvious. This area was established mainly by Greek immigrants that worked at the sponge docks, so authentic Greek food is the way to go.

Tarpon Springs is filled with wonderful Greek restaurants all having similar menus filled with traditional gyros, spanakopita, dolmades, and of course, baklava. My favorite of the many authentic restaurants that reside in Tarpon Springs is Hellas Bakery & Restaurant. Hella’s menu is best enjoyed family style since the plates are pretty large. A Greek salad is always my first go-to at any Greek restaurant and Hellas does not disappoint. Salty feta and Kalamata olives, creamy Greek potato salad, crisp veggies, and a tangy oil and herb vinaigrette makes this salad delicious and perfect for any warm day. I also recommend the assorted spreads platter – warm fresh pita bread and home made hummus, tzatziki, and feta dips. An order of dolmades, grape leaves filled with rice and ground beef, and spanakopita pie makes for an excellent shared meal for four people.

Once finishing off a family style meal at Hellas, you must your way over to the bakery section to grab a bite of baklava. Layers of filo dough, chopped nuts, and honey make for a sweet ending to the meal. Hellas combines bright flavors with the fresh healthy ingredients of a delicious Mediterranean diet.

After completing lunch at Hellas, a beautiful Florida day lends itself to shopping and sightseeing around the rest of the town. Look all around the area and the waterfront offers views of beautiful birds, sponge boats, and Florida wildlife.

The main street (Dodecanese Boulevard) is home to unique boutiques and sponge shops perfect for picking up hand made soaps, local sponges, and great gifts. Outside of the waterfront area there are several neat antique and home shops including Tampa Bay Salvage, which offers a neat collection of vintage and architectural salvage pieces. Tampa Bay Salvage is a great place for anyone looking to update or decorate a room in their home.

A quick drive to Tarpon Springs unlocks a day of great food, neat shopping, and unique finds – all while being able to enjoy a beautiful day on the water!

Summer Staycation, Florida Style.

A summer internship, daily life, and conflicting schedules did not allow much room for a summer getaway this year. However, one weekend was all that was needed for a relaxing weekend vacation and some new adventures! While staycations are a great way to get a nice break without breaking the bank, the idea of not having to deal with delayed flights and discovering places I could easily go back to is what had me sold on the idea. So this past weekend my family and I packed our bags, jumped in the car and headed an hour and a half away to sunny Orlando, Florida. We debated over where to go for our staycation, but ultimately decided that Orlando was a great place to relax, and it would also allow a quick drive to beautiful Winter Park during our weekend stay.

We began our trip by checking in to the beautiful Waldorf Astoria (thank you hotel loyalty points!) and made our way to the pool to relax a little before dinner. After relaxing the night away we headed to bed to get on the road early the next morning.

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The next morning we made our way to the Winter Park Farmer’s Market. The market is hosted in and around the beautiful old Winter Park train depot from 7am to 1pm every Saturday (and thanks to Florida weather there’s no winter break for this farmer’s market). According to the city’s site, the market is rated number one for Central Florida markets, and it is not hard to see why. The market had a large variety of goods ranging from $12 orchids to locally farmed produce.

Food trucks and bakery stands were also in attendance to satisfy your watering mouth after you finished purchasing the delicious fruits and veggies for your next recipe. Coffee stands and a gourmet ice pop cart also catered to market goers toughing out the 95 degree day. We grabbed some bread, cheese, and local blueberry Limoncello jam for the evening, as well as a mini baked monkey bread to snack on as we walked. The market was a must see, and the best I have been to in the state. After walking through the market and picking up our goods, we travelled to another market about five minutes away.

East End Market is housed in a large permanent location with a FullSizeRender 8garden out front. It hosts several stalls inside with different food, flower, and gift vendors. The permanent market reminded me much of Napa Valley’s Oxbow Public Market and a great place to grab a hand made thank you gift or small bite while supporting local vendors. Another must see during a day trip to Winter Park! If you’re like me, you will spend a good hour wandering through the aisles of succulents, cacti, and freshly baked breads!

 

 

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East End Market boasts a beautiful selection of succulents and colorful cacti in all shapes and sizes.

After walking and shopping ourselves out at the markets we thought a quick lunch was appropriate. Winter Park offers several unique local restaurants to choose from, but I found a local favorite that I could not pass up. The Hubbly Bubbly (slang for hookah, but you won’t find hookahs in this joint) is a quick Middle Eastern style falafel house that delivers falafel topped fresh ingredients bowls and salads (as well as carnivorous options for those not adventurous enough to try the chickpea goodness).

 

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the unique restaurant was started by a marketing group as a concept store to test their marketing tactics. It has since grown as a local favorite and it is easy to see why. The friendly staff fry up the fresh falafel upon ordering and give plentiful scoops of the fresh ingredients. I went with the falafel hummus bowl which was hummus, olive oil, spices, falafel and my choice of toppings. I chose to top the bowl with pickled turnips, salad mix, tabbouleh salad, and cucumber tomato salad. The bowl was big enough to share and absolutely delicious. This quick and healthy option was great for a summer lunch before our next adventure. Currently, Winter Park is the only Hubbly Bubbly location, but let it be noted that if they ever expand to Tampa you will find me there on opening day! After our great morning and lunch we decided for one more adventure in Winter Park before heading back to relax by the pool. Can you believe it was only noon…

Our final Winter Park destination was a Scenic Boat Tour, which offers tours through the various lakes and canals in the area.IMG_0712 The hour long boat ride was interesting and beautiful as we toured the giant lakes with views of Rollins College and large estates. Our captain filled us in with the history of Winter Park and the large estates throughout our 60 minutes. I must say, it was probably better suited for a fall or spring day, as the boats cannot be covered due to the canal bridges.  If you find yourself on a boat tour bring the SPF and a pair of sunglasses! All in all, it was a great tour led by wonderful locals and the hot day made our afternoon by the pool that much more refreshing!

FullSizeRender 9We wrapped up our staycation relaxing by the pool enjoying the warm sunny day. If you ask me, our hour and a half away staycation felt more like a wonderful destination trip… And the best part? Not dealing with the airport chaos. Staycations are the perfect way for a quick getaway for those with busy schedules or limited budgets. During your next free weekend try exploring the places around you and seeing what your state has to offer. You will be surprised what hidden gems you may discover, all while supporting your local economy!

 

I would love to hear what you discover around your area!