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1st trip to Tampa area need help pls

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1st trip to Tampa area need help pls

Husband, daughter 9 and I will be travelling to the greater Tampa area the second week of March 2014. It is our first trip to the area. We will be spending 5-6 nts there. We are booked at a resort in St Pete's Beach and will have a rental car and seriously don't mind driving to see/do things.

I need some help on what to do. We know we want to go to Busch Gardens for sure. Here are some things we like animals (esp animal encounters), water activities, shelling, quaint shops especially with art but otherwise not big shoppers, casual fun restaurants esp local places with good food and atmosphere. I have poked around on the forums....some of the things that appeal to me are

big cat rescue

swimming with the manatees (who with/where is it best to do this)


ghost tours

John Pass or Pass-a-Grille (sp?)

maybe a baseball game or spring training, or a car race if any going on

What should be on our list of MUST-DOs and next best if time?

Since we are staying on the beach (I love my morning walks on the beach) and will have just spent 8 days in Turks and Caicos we're not really thinking of spending a lot of time hanging at the beach...maybe a afternoon.

Also while in the area we would like to look for some real estate - not in Tampa but in nearby communities which would have boat access to the gulf. I have no idea how to really get started and need some suggestions. Can anyone help tell me some of the communities we might want to visit to scope things out. And we do not have a $1mil plus budget unfortunately so not looking for those enclaves.

Thanks in advance for the help.

Tampa, Florida
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1. Re: 1st trip to Tampa area need help pls

In Pass-A -Grille, a nice place to watch the sunset is the upper deck of the Hurricane Restaurant.

If you are interested in aquariums The Florida Aquarium is the biggest in the area; if you visit there combine it with a trip to nearby Ybor City and have lunch at the historic Columbia Restaurant and take in the neighborhood sights. There are a few art galleries in Ybor. On your way back take Bayshore Boulevard to see the beautiful waterfront mansions (it intersects with Gandy Boulevard which will take you all the way back to St. Pete).

Speaking of aquariums, you may want to visit Winter the dolphin from the movie A Dolphin Tale, who lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. I'd only visit The Seabird Sanctuary if someone in your group particularly loves birds; its mostly a home for opportunistic pelicans! I haven't been to Big Cat Rescue but it has been on my to-do-list forever.

Take a drive over the scenic Skyway Bridge and visit Anna Maria Island; stop and have a sunset drink or dinner at the Sandbar Restaurant.

If you want to get away from the tropical scene, take a canoe ride down the Hillsborough River at the Hillsborough River State Park.

You are going to be here at peak spring tourist time, so just factor in some extra time to get to these places.

Saint Louis...
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2. Re: 1st trip to Tampa area need help pls

The best place to see the manatees is Crystal River Florida. They spend the winter in Kings Bay and Three Sisters Springs. (It is about 75 miles north of Tampa)

Saint Louis...
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3. Re: 1st trip to Tampa area need help pls


this is one of the more well known manatee tour cos. Birds Underwater.

Gallatin, TN
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4. Re: 1st trip to Tampa area need help pls

I second going to Anna Marie Island. GORGEOUS. Little town of Holmes Beach is very nice. Very "Old Florida". The Rod and Reel as well as Rotten Ralphs have good seafood. GREAT breakfast at Gulf Drive Diner--I think that's correct name. Only been there once and was really good.

Tampa, Florida
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5. Re: 1st trip to Tampa area need help pls

I would include Fort De Soto Park a must do. Trip Advisor lists it 4th of the top 25 beaches in the US. It is also very close to where you are staying. Try to avoid a weekend visit as it is less crowded. I love Anna Marie Island too, but the shelling is not good there. I think Tarpon Springs is worth a visit. It is one of those unique little towns with good food, interesting shops, art museums, and beaches. It is small so you can see a lot in a day. I have not been to the Big Cat Rescue but hear good things about it. I second canoeing at the Hillsborough River State Park. Have fun!

6. Re: 1st trip to Tampa area need help pls

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