Tampa Bay Journals

Tampa Bay Treasures

Best of IgoUgo

A December 2008 trip to Tampa Bay by Gigi

Quote: Come along as a local covers hotel, shopping, and fun haunts as well as some of the area's best eats! Not necessarily touristy, but always trendy! Coming soon - Tastes of Tampa Bay - strictly dining guide for good and bad dining experiences in the Tampa Bay area.

Tampa Bay Treasures

Best Of IgoUgo

Overview

Quote:
Tampa is more than Busch Gardens and palm trees - it's Cuban heritage, great dining spots like world-renowned Bern's Steak House and Columbia Restaurant, and hotels that have been here since man began to conquer 'wild untamed Florida' during the great railroad era.Quick Tips: Bring sun screen if you are a pale-face! Seriously, the weather is great, but hot and humid most of the year, definite beach weather. But be prepared with an umbrella for those unexpected (& sometimes violent) summer downpours. And take cover if there's lightning!Best Way To Get Around: Tampa Bay covers a wide area from Tarpon Springs Greek community to Ybor city rich with Cuban history and club night life. Defi...Read More

Renaissance Vinoy Resort

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel

Quote:
Experience the luxury heavy on 1920's influence at this 4-star/4-Diamond Marriott/Renaissance property. This Mediterrean Revivial gem opened on New Year's Eve, 1925 with 375 rooms and was the center of Tampa Bay society. After the grandeur of that period, the hotel struggled, changing hands a couple of times before it closed. Saved from the wrecking ball due to a community campaign, it was reopened in 1992 after a $93 million restoration. Guests today enjoy 360 rooms, 20 suites, and amenities such as 2 heated outdoor pools (one with waterfalls), spa, 12 tennis courts, a 74-slip marina, 18-hole golf course and dining in restaurants (Alfresco, Fred's. Marchand's Grill and the Terrace Room.) R...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

Renaissance Vinoy Resort
501 Fifth Ave Ne
St. Petersburg, Florida
(727) 894-1000

Safety Harbor Resort and Spa

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Safety Harbor Resort & Spa"

Quote:
We put our officials for a local skating competition up in this resort every August and they rave about it! Why? This lovely spa is tucked away in quiet Safety Harbor and offers luxury pampering via health treatments as well as lovely views of upper (Old) Tampa Bay. In 1539, Hernando de Soto believed he had discovered the Fountain of Youth. De Soto named his new discovery Espiritu Santo Springs, or "Springs of the Holy Spirit." By 1936, the five springs were becoming famous for their healing powers. Dr. and Mrs. Alben Jansik bought the springs and rebuilt the facilities. In 1945, the Jansiks sold the springs and sanatorium to Dr. Salem H. Baranoff, who opened the area to overnight visito...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 19, 2002

Safety Harbor Resort and Spa
105 NORTH BAYSHORE DR
Safety Harbor, Florida 34695
727-726-1161

Columbia Restaurant

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant

Quote:
Come savor the Spanish-Cuban flavor at this original Ybor City location open since 1905 at a time when the area was the center for cigar making. Walk into the cool turn-of-the century building decorated in Spanish Colonial style. Beautiful tile work graces walls and floors and a fountain bubbles in one of the dining rooms. Enjoy the excellent selection of Spanish and Cuban dishes - notable are paella, 1905 salad and fresh-made sangria of imported Spanish wines and brandy. The star is the Cuban coffee - the best you will drink anywhere! There is also a Flamenco show for which reservations are required and requires a slight cover charge. The dancers are classically trained here (but the music is n...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 8, 2000

Columbia Restaurant
2117 E 7th Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33605
(813) 248-4961

Bern's Steak House

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant | "Bern's Steakhouse"

Quote:
Make reservations, dress your best and prepare to enjoy a great meal! Opened in 1957 by Bern Laxer, this restaurant serves as the place to entertain business clients, for special occasions including the romantic setting for many marriage proposals (including mine), and as a tourist attraction. My husband refers to his favorite restaurant as a 'temple to wine'. It is that as well as to good food and superior service. On my first visit I remarked that the lobby looked like a cross between the Haunted Mansion and a bordello (as did St. Pete Times food critic Chris Sherman). Except for that, everything is first class! Wine is the star and well worth the extra bucks to order some of their p...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 26, 2001

Bern's Steak House
1208 South Howard Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33606
(813) 251-2421

Bern's Steak House

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant | "Side Bern's"

Quote:
I went to the original Side Bern's when it first opened (we have our receipt with customer #001 to prove it). Back then it was a casual bistro featuring light fare & some of Bern's famous desserts. It's a whole new world now - One World Under Food to be exact! Chef Jeannie Pierola (who also serves as Culinary Director/Executive Chef of Bern's) has created another masterpiece! The decor is modern with geometric shapes in light aqua, pale yellow & olive with red brick floors. The food is an international blend of fusion cooking, Thai, Indian, Asian, Pacific Rim. While I haven't eaten there yet, menu items of Coconut Chicken Soup & Wok Seared Tuna Mignon have my mouth watering....Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 26, 2001

Bern's Steak House
1208 South Howard Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33606
(813) 251-2421

Mise En Place Restaurant

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant | "Mise en Place"

Quote:
This restaurant bills itself as serving 'New American Food". It's difficult to peg what the cuisine is. I can only describe it as a mix of American, Florida, Mediterrean, Carribbean, California - an unexpected and unusual combination of ingredients. The menu changes every week. Some examples of appetizers/entrees are: Alligator Scallopine (Is this where the meat from those alligator attacks might be going?!) Marty's Wild Game Plate - ostrich, boar, shrimp andouille & rabbit Roasted Pork Guava sushi roll Soft shell crab with banana lime viniagrette My advice is be adventurous and you can experience something new. The night we dined, it was a light mid-week crowd, ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 6, 2001

Mise En Place Restaurant
442 W. Kennedy Blvd
Tampa, Florida 33606
(813) 254-5373

Cheesecake Factory

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant

Quote:
If long lines & even longer waits are any indication of a restaurant's popularity, then Cheesecake Factory is right up there with Outback Steakhouse and Carraba's. Seems like no matter what time you go, you will wait. You are given a pager which has a pretty good range (you can browse through the nearby shops). Stranger still, is when the thing vibrates, after you give the thing to the hostess, there is another wait for a seater to seat you. The place is busy and noisy! (I think it could definitely do without the muzak.) Drink orders are taken quickly, but then there is sometimes a long delay before your order is taken. Once taken, the food isn't long in arriving. The menu is 20...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 10, 2002

Cheesecake Factory
2223 N West Shore Blvd
Tampa, Florida 33607
(813) 353-4200

CK's Revolving Rooftop Restaurant

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant | "The View"

Quote:
For the best views of Tampa Bay, take a leisurely spin in this revolving restaurant formerly called CK's, while enjoying fine Continental dining. A little pricey, but worth the trip. The restaurant has been recently refurbished and sports new light wood laminate flooring and carpet so decor is fresh. Open only for dinner. Dinner features entrées starring Florida seafood prepared with a Caribbean or Asian touch, as well as beef, lamb, and veal prepared is fresh new ways. The View has some of the best coffee on the planet as well awarding winning key lime pie and other desserts to finish your meal. Holiday buffets at Thanksgiving and Easter are popular and reservations are required (s...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 10, 2002

CK's Revolving Rooftop Restaurant
Tampa International Airport Marriott
Tampa Bay, Florida 33602
(813) 878-6500

First Watch Restaurant

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant | "First Watch"

Quote:
Let First Watch be the first place you go in the morning. This is my kind of restaurant - all non-smoking and healthy but hearty breakfast fare. Be prepared for a wait, especially on Sunday mornings, as this is a popular place. Don't let the healthy tag scare you off. This is not a 'tufu & sprouts' place. Just good food made fresh with less fat. You can get eggs and breakfast meat, but you can also dig into the daily fresh made muffins, omelets, egg crepes, waffles, pancakes, granola and skillets. Try their own version of Eggs Benedict with turkey, avocado, and Hollandaise light (as it should be). Service is fast & friendly. Lunch is also served. Menu items include creative...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 19, 2002

First Watch Restaurant
2569 Countryside Boulevard
Clearwater, Florida 33761
(727) 712-8769

Dish

Restaurant

Quote:
Funky, chunky, modern decor is home 'creations-type' meals. You visit 'the Market' - stations set up with selections of veggies, meat, pasta, and sauces. Each day 14 of 40 possible sauces are offered ranging in taste from plain to spicy (4 flames!). You then take your selections to the 10-foot circular grill to be cooked. There are as many as 7 cooks during peak meal times. If you play your cards right, you can end up creating a healthy, hearty, delicious meal. Everything is incredibly fresh and clean. Lunch is a tiered pricing structure - one trip, with or without salad, or all-you-can-eat. Dinner is all-you-can eat for $14.95 as is the Sunday brunch from 10:30am-1pm.<.p> Open for l...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

Dish
1600 East 8th Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33605
(813) 241-8300

Gallery Eclectic Bistro

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant

Quote:
This is the first in several installments about restaurants at the International Plaza - the newest and most upscale mall in Tampa. The BayStreet complex is attached to the mall and open long after the mall closes at 9pm. Many of the eateries are not your run-of-the-mill fast food places, so they are worth checking out. Eclectic is the right word for the decor of this place - part art gallery with modern paintings and sculptures that are acutally for sale; part warehouse look with girder ceiling, air ducts, steel, wood and tile. My personal favorite - the real leather booth seats. Comfy! Despite losing our reservation, the place wasn't busy due to the early hour so we were able ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 8, 2002

Gallery Eclectic Bistro
2223 North West Shore Boulevard
Tampa Bay, Florida 33607
(813) 353-3838

Restaurant Hapa

Restaurant

Quote:
In the land of buccaneers, there is a hidden culinary treasure waiting to be discovered in the most unlikely place—a strip mall in Oldsmar—Restaurant Hapa.‘Hapa’ means ‘harmonious blend’; an appropriate name. Blending comes in many forms, starting with some of the tableware-a mix of antique treasures including salt cellars with tiny serving spoons, china sugar and creamers, and other items. This mix-and-match approach is tasteful, not kitschy. The menu is an artful blending of French and Asian cuisine, creating intriguing tastes. The selection is brief, a few starters and salads, then three or four entrées under the two headings ‘Things That Change with the Seasons’ and ‘Things th...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 12, 2007

Restaurant Hapa
3970 Tampa Rd
Tampa Bay, FL
(813) 749-8400

Prime Outlet Shops at Ellenton

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Quote:

This factory outlet mall is located off I-75 (exit 43), approx. 30 miles south of Tampa. Well worth the drive for the true shopaholic with big names like Ann Taylor, Nike, Reebok, Vanity Fair, Danskin, Liz Claiborne, Jones New York, Aigner, Ralph Lauren, & more. Bargains for those who know their merchandise and pricing. Example: a $60 Ann Taylor silk wrap blouse for $25!). Housewares bargains are featured at Corning, Royal Doulton, Black & Decker, etc.

TIP: Check at the information booth for a booklet of money saving coupons.

Web site: Prime Outlets.com has special discount offers.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 10, 2002

Prime Outlet Shops at Ellenton
5461 Factory Shops Blvd
Ellenton

Clearwater Beach

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Quote:
Large expanses of white sand beach and warm Gulf water make this one of the most popular and crowded beaches in Tampa Bay! Definitely a big hit with the college crowd, (Try to avoid this beach during Spring Break!) but lots of families come here too. Traffic to the beach is very slow going. Traffic funnels down Hwy 60 west (Gulf-to-Bay, narrowing through downtown Clearwater, and then onto a bridge, the only way to the beach, which is actually on a key. Not so fun on a hot day with whiny kids in the car! Parking is an additional headache, limited to metered city lots. Don't park just anywhere (or in hotel lots where you are not a guest) as parking restrictions is strictly enforced....Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 10, 2002

Clearwater Beach
Gulf of Mexico, Pinellas County
Clearwater Beach, FL

The Florida Aquarium

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Quote:
Eyes are drawn to this modern structure with sections of the glass-domed roof (that resemble shells) reflecting in the waters off Downtown Tampa. It should be no surprise that a building with such visual impact should house the beauty of over 10,000 aquatic plants and animals that live in and around the sea. There is so much to see. The aquarium (which has been open since March 1995) is very well laid out for easy walking and is divided into several areas: Wetlands - See a natural spring, mangroves, marsh grass and cypress swamp habitats, stringrays, and even a shaky bridge over a gator hole. If you don't like creepy things avoid the Frights of the Forest which includes sna...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 11, 2002

The Florida Aquarium
701 Channelside Dr.
Tampa, Florida 33602
(813) 273-4000

International Plaza

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Quote:
Tampa's newest mall brings long awaited upscale retailers and fashion sense to our city. Not since Sak's has there been a place a gal can actual buy a real ball gown or super chic clothes at. (Hey, I admit it - I'm a material girl!) I swear you can smell the 'money' just mingling with the clientele. This mall is so popular, they even run shuttle busses to and from the nearby Tampa International Airport. Anchor department stores are Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, & Lord & Taylor (yea!) as well as local favorite Dillards. Many of the 100 swank speciality boutiques are not included in other area malls - Tiffany & Co. (of the little blue box fame), Louis Vuitton, Nicole Miller, Agatha Pa...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 19, 2002

International Plaza
2223 Westshore Blvd N.
Tampa Bay, Florida

Quote:
Their slogan says it all: "Over 35,000 sqft of Everything For Christmas." If you love Christmas, you shouldn't miss this. The height of the season for best selection starts as early as September. There are ornaments on almost every theme imaginable and the tree room featuring 100 artifical trees is incredible. This room also includes animated figurines - Santas, elves, animals, snowmen. (TIP: Go before Halloween, especially if you want the best selection and prices on artifical trees.) For collectors, they have items from Dept. 56, Hallmark, Disney, Annalee, Precious Moments, Radko & more. These are available year-round. Be sure to check out the case of second-market collectibl...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 20, 2002

Robert's Christmas Wonderland
2951 Gulf To Bay Boulevard
Clearwater, Florida 33759
(727) 797-1660

Quote:
Looking for a quiet, pristine beach on with sugar fine sand? Pass up the crowded beaches for Honeymoon Island State Park & Caladesi Island, voted one of the top 10 U.S. beaches by "Dr. Beach". Honeymoon Island was a link in the chain of barrier islands that extends from Anclote Key south to Cape Romano. In 1921, a hurricane split the island, forming Hurricane Pass and Caladesi Island to the south. Americans got their first glimpse of Honeymoon Island in the early 1940's through newsreels and magazine ads which promised undiscovered pleasures for newlyweds. The palm-thatched bungalows, or cottages, sub-tropic climate and balmy breezes seemed perfect. Visitors can ob...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 8, 2002

Honeymoon Island State Park/Caladesi Island
1 Causeway Blvd
Tampa Bay, Florida

Spring Training

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Let's Play Ball! - Spring Training"

Quote:
Since World War I, Florida in March has meant Major League Baseball spring training – the "Grapefruit League". Two Florida localities, Tampa Bay and greater Miami, now boast Major League teams of their own, playing during the six-month regular year. However, both of these clubs train in tiny outdoor parks like their brethren, preserving the pleasant tradition of (mostly) day games before small crowds. The atmosphere is distinctly minor league – the summertime role of many Grapefruit League stadiums — mixed with spring break high spirits. It is a rite of passage for many baseball fans/grandparents who introduce their children/grandchild to this all-American past time. Four Tampa Bay venues ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

Spring Training
Throughout Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay, Florida

Ybor City Cigar Museum & Visitors Center

Attraction | "Ybor City Cigar Museum & Visitors Center"

Quote:

Operated by the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce and Ybor City Museum Society. Presents the history of cigar making in Ybor City. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun Noon-6pm.

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

Ybor City Cigar Museum & Visitors Center
1600 8th Ave, Centro Ybor
Tampa Bay, Florida

Quote:
A good museum, housed in a century-old former bakery building, that promotes the history of this area of Tampa. Open daily 9am-5pm Cigar rolling demonstrations on Friday & Saturday from 10am-1pm.

Walking Tour on Saturday at 10:30am to view historical aspects and houses of area.
Cost: $4.
Ybor City Stroll - Fridays at 11am
La Casita Tours - Cigar Maker's House. Daily from 11am-3pm on the hour.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

Ybor City State Museum
1818 E 9th Ave
Tampa Bay, Florida

Henry B. Plant Museum

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Henry B Plant Museum"

Quote:
Just about everyone (myself included), when first catching a glimpse of the shiny silver minarets amid the office buildings of Downtown Tampa, incorrecty guesses this is a mosque. Not even close. Once the grand Victorian era Tampa Bay Hotel, the museum and National Historic landmark offers a glimpse of the luxurious lifestyle during the Victorian era. The hotel, designed in quirky Oriental/Moorish style, was the creation of Henry Plant, who developed the the Port of Tampa with his railroad and steam ship line. He hoped to bring the elite to vacation to experience the 'real Florida'. The hotel with 500 rooms on 6 acres opened in 1891 as the first hotel in Florida with electric lights, steam heat, an...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

Henry B. Plant Museum
401 West Kennedy Boulevard
Tampa, Florida 33606
(813) 254-1891

The Pier

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Quote:
Jutting out into Tampa Bay, this 5-tiered structure offers spectacular views of sparkling blue waters of Tampa Bay. On a clear day, you can see the skyscrapers of downtown Tampa to the north, as well as sailboats dotting the water in good weather. Other than that, this local found the Pier boring. It's main appeal must be to tourists. Housed in the complex are several restaurants (a branch of Ybor's Columbia, Cha Cha Coconuts, and Cafe Lido Italian). On the second level is a small aquarium with tanks not much larger than much larger than some home wall tanks I've seen. Kids and out of staters might be fascinated with the few examples of native Florida marine life, but the only thing I foun...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

The Pier
Beach Drive
Tampa Bay, Florida

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Attraction | "Busch Gardens"

Quote:
A blend of thrilling rides, one of the country’s premier zoos featuring more than 2,700 animals, live shows, restaurants, and shops provides fun for every member of the family. So much to do and see. Guaranteed to tire the kids out. Favorite Rides Sharp a large spinning raft with 11 other adventurers as you navigate swift-flowing white water obstacle course. You will get wet, but it feels great on those scorching Florida days! Thrilling Roller coasters - Not for the faint hearted! Pick from Gwazi (the Southeast’s largest and fastest double wooden roller coaster, with almost 7,000 feet of track. Racwe through six "flyby" maneuvers in which trains pass within feet of each other ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
3000 East Busch Boulevard
Tampa, Florida 33612
(813) 987-5000

Bern's Fine Wine & Spirits

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Quote:
Bern's Fine Wine & Spirits is located just up the street from Bern's Steakhouse on the corner of South Howard & W. Morrison Avenues, Tampa. Opened in 1996 as an offshoot of the famous steakhouse to sell some of the wines that patrons have enjoyed in the restaurant. Beautiful wood floors and racks show off the large selection from the major wine producing countries of the world (displayed in the store by type & country) as well as champagnes and a small selection of cognacs & brandy. Great place to buy gifts for the wine-lover on your list. There are small wine tastings held throughout the year and a charity Wine Fest every spring. Cigar aficionados will appreciate the climate controlled cigar room.

Ybor City

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Quote:
Ybor City is the Latin section of Tampa made famous by it's once prosperous cigar factories. Now it is being slowly revitalized with shops, night clubs, and restaurants, while preserving as much of the original architecture as possible. Even so, I still find this place somewhat depressing due to the many closed storefronts, tattoo and body piercing parlors, and general rundown appearance that is prevalent here. It may be worth a look to adults interested in the Cuban history and architecture, but there is nothing here to appeal to young children. The area is popular with the young adult clubbing crowd, who fill the night clubs and bars and cruise 7th Avenue. Points of Interest -...Read More