Our summer vacation this year in Florida was a mild version of a personal hell because of the 86C heat paired with 87 degree humidity. Considering that I lived in the Philippines for most of my life, Florida in the summer is a different kind of beast. It was hot, sticky, and I was sweating in all my nooks and crannies. Although if you do love this kind of torture, then sure, Florida is the place to be. While our main intention was for me to meet Nick’s dad’s side of the family (which was actually lovely, Grandma Pat and her boyfriend Ray 4ever!), we definitely took it as an opportunity to enjoy ourselves away from work and a have a little break from being dog parents. Here are my personal picks of things to do around the Tampa Bay Area:
Note: There is no beach on my list, because believe it or not, Nick and I are just bad at being at the beach. I personally would rather swim in a pool (at night) and lay poolside. And Nick does not enjoy burning too quickly under the sun and doesn’t like to swim anyway. We’re very antsy vacationers and like to be on our feet a lot when we’re on vacay.
- Breathe some fresh air and see some flamingos at Sunken Gardens. (St. Petersburg, FL)
Flamingos are Nick’s favorite (spirit) animals, so I was really excited for this one. It’s also my first time to see flamingos up close. They are cute, but weird animals. I mean for birds that are hot pink, they sure have the personalities to match. This place screamed Insta-worthy. Lots of beautiful plants and lush greens, flowers and koi fishies. There were also parrots who yelled “Hi baby” every ten seconds, which was fun at least for the first minute. We went on a Friday, so it wasn’t crowded at all. We also got a Groupon deal — $12 for the two of us compared to $30 so that was great.
2. Do some crate-digging at Jerk Dog Records. (Bradenton, FL)
Whenever we travel, we try to make it a point to visit at least one local bookstore and one local record store (Support local!!). Nick is an avid record collector, so I have been influenced to enjoy this activity with him as well. For this particular trip, we found a cute little artsy hipstery ‘punk’ village in Bradenton and discovered Jerk Dog Records. It’s a small living room garage area converted into a store with the owner behind the register. The owner was very nice and talked to us about their little town. I learned something about cowpunk (don’t ask me more about it), Nick got himself an LCD Soundsystem record and I found myself a The Modern Jazz Quartet record in the dollar bin. Lovely.
3. Walk and bike along the Tampa Riverwalk — start at Armature Works, end at Sparkman Wharf. (Tampa, FL)
I definitely underestimated the heat when I suggested to walk this 3-miler park at 2pm. We started walking from Armature Works, after I had some Empamamas and a ginger lime margarita. By the time we reached the end at Sparkman Wharf, our shirts were drenched in sweat. We were not gonna walk back, so we rented those city bikes to at least enjoy some breeze while pedaling back to the car. It was the first time Nick and I biked together in a city. Well, second time actually, because the first one was in Seattle, with me on a motorized bike freaking out going over a hill on the way back to our hotel. It doesn’t count because it didn’t even last for two minutes. I always feared biking in the city, after that traumatic experience I had biking in D.C. At least this time it was more chill because I wasn’t biking beside 6-wheeler trucks and it went on for about 30 minutes. I enjoyed it!
4. Have a romantic date night at a rooftop bar overseeing the water. (St. Petersburg, FL)
We went to a rooftop bar called Pier Teaki at the St. Pete Pier. Love the view! And I love that there’s a trolley that comes every 15 minutes to pick up anybody who doesn’t feel like walking the whole strip. Food was okay. Their cocktails, I have nothing to write about. But great vibes!!! I was also already tipsy by the time we were there, so Nick succeeded on that one. 😉
5. Must-try: No Vacancy‘s frozen Pain Killer cocktail. (St. Petersburg, FL)
6. Must-try: Pig Out BBQ‘s fried mac and cheese. (Bradenton, FL)
7. Hang out at Grassroots Kava House and play Bandingo on Thursday nights. (Ybor City, FL)
8. Do some window vintage-shopping. (Sarasota, FL)
9. Go to the casino and win in roulette.
10. Spend an afternoon at the Ringling Museum. (Sarasota, FL)
We went to see The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on a Monday, so it was free. I love European art, so this one was a winner for me. We had a great time walking through Baroque and the Renaissance eras. The particular room that stood out to me was the one with still life art. Paintings of food as real life people – if only I can remember the artist!!