We were in the Tampa area for four nights, two with Shawn and Laura and two at Hillsborough River State Park. It was wonderful to be with them and to be in Tampa, which offers lots to see and do, plus some pretty great food.
We went to an interesting restaurant our first night, Ford’s Garage Restaurant. Vintage cars abound and everything automotive is the theme. Onion rings are served on an oil funnel and tires are around the sinks in the bathroom. Very cute decor and the food was excellent. I had the Kobe beef on the high-octane burger with sweet potato tater tots.
Our next day was Veteran’s Day and we started the day with a visit to Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center. The manatees are attracted to the warm water that is produced by the generation of electricity and at peak times, hundreds of manatees are present. It has been active for thirty years with over 5 million visitors. However, our visit was early in the season and we only saw a couple of manatees. We also saw some big fish and a shark.
Next, we headed to Sarasota and Saint Armand’s Circle on Lido Key. There was an Art Show that day and we saw some interesting pieces, however, the parking was horrific. We spent a good bit of time driving around looking for a spot to park. Saint Armand’s has many restaurants and shops. There is a Ringling Brother’s Museum in Sarasota, but we did not have the time to visit. Lunch was at Cha Cha Coconuts—another fine meal.
Dinner was at the award-winning Columbia Restaurant at Ybor City. The restaurant was established in 1905 and is Florida’s oldest restaurant. We were joined by Laura’s mother and aunt and their significant others. Our dinner included a Flamenco show, which was entertaining. The best part of our dinner was the 1905 salad which has an unlikely ingredient, Worcestershire sauce. Delicious! I would also highly recommend the mojitos and the white chocolate bread pudding as well.
Our second full day was overcast with a good bit of rain. We had considered visiting Busch Gardens, but the weather was not great for it. Instead, we visited John’s Pass at Redington Shores. We were able to avoid the rain and do some shopping. We returned via the Sunshine Skyway, a Tampa landmark, and a very cool bridge.
We returned to our campsite on this afternoon. We said goodbye to Shawn and Laura and to the granddogs, Gator and Axel. It was so great staying with them!
On our final full day, we visited Tampa on our own. We went to the Tampa Museum of Art and also had a nice lunch there. The museum featured some ancient Egyptian art and the works of Mernet Larson, an artist upon which I was unfamiliar. Her art was interesting.
The museum is on Tampa’s Riverwalk, which we also visited. It was a warm, sunny day and the walk was very pleasant. We discovered that a branch of the Columbia Restaurant is also on Riverwalk. That 1905 salad was calling us, so we walked for about a mile with frequent stops along the way to get to it.
The Columbia Cafe did not disappoint. Great service, a beautiful view, and another 1905 salad with drinks.
After our early dinner, we took a Lyft back to our car and headed back to the campground. We were on the road to Anastasia State Park, the last leg of our Tampa trip early the next morning.
So long Tampa!