Bars and Breweries of Tampa, Florida

+Lowry Parade, 1213 W Waters Ave, Tampa, FL 33604

Probably one of my favorite bars on planet earth, this place has the best vibes and some killer games. Music can really make or break a place. I swear they hijacked my ipod and had some of my favorite bands playing from Rage Against the Machine to Smashing Pumpkins. Great selection of local brews and pac man ghost taps.

On the night we were in there (a Thursday) was free pizza at the bar and free play Nintendo video games – probably any one you could ever think of. WHAT MORE CAN YOU POSSIBLY ASK FOR?

You want more? They have pinball,

foosball, arcade games, and board games too. This place is a real gem.

+New World Brewery, 1313 E 8th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605

Although it’s not a brewery anymore, this is still a kick-butt dive bar. There are globes all over the place for decoration, just my style. Inside you’ll find a few great pinball machines and a foosball table.

Outside you’ll find a patio with some live music. You may even notice the sweet staff feeding a cat, who they affectionately call mama cat, because she had babies. A perfect spot to spend some time in while you’re visiting the Ybor City neighborhood.

+Cigar City Brewing, 3924 W Spruce St, Tampa, FL 33607

We had seen the vivacious Jai Alai cans of beer from this brewery whilst grocery shopping in Publix and had to give the brewery a try. They have such fun flavors! Cubano Espress, Cafe Con Leche, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, Strawberry Shortcake, Good, Gourd, Cucumber Saison, just to name a few..seriously there are so many more. Oh and if you’re a metal fan – ya gotta try the brew they teamed up with Killswitch Engage to make: Alive or Just Brewing! And if you like disc golf they have a whole rack of little frisbees.And if you’re hungry? There was a food truck out back the night we visited.

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Doing Dessert in Tampa, Florida

What is better than a freshly fried donut? Few things in life. The people at the Mini Doughnut Factory [2109 S Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33629] agree with this sentiment.

All of their morsels are made on the spot, coming out hot.

They have obscenely delicious flavors, it’s hard to choose. Good thing they have a box of 16 which comes out to one of each flavor. Coincidence or fate? Who cares! We watched the magic happen, wouldn’t it be fun to have a donut decorating party? Apply to work here and it can be your life.

The finished products were amazing. Perfect tasting donuts with flavorful and colorful toppings.

Some of included cereals, campfire, and cotton candy. For the next week we had a game trying to name all 16 flavors…can you say obsessed?

Chocolate Pi [1205 S Howard Ave, Tampa, FL 33606] is an adorable posh little spot that makes some incredible pastries, tucked away in a corner of the city. It may seem like there is no where to park, but if you are in the know there are a few free reserved spots in the hotel garage next door – just tell them where you’re headed. They have a bit of everything and anything you could ever want. Gorgeous cakes, tempting cupcakes, plenty of macaroons, and even bonbons. What to choose? Look no further than their lemon meringue tart. It is one of the best things I have eaten thus far in life – and it looks as good as it tastes!

The buttery crumbly base holds a perfect center of tangy lemon cream – and the whipped toasted meringues are sticky, sweet, and heavenly. PS: Love that mural across the street.

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Visiting the Tampa Museum of Art, Florida

In the heart of the city located on its riverwalk is the Tampa Museum of Art [120 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, FL 33602].

It is a small museum that is unique architecturally – at night the sides even light up with LED lights.

Outside are some cool sculptures, be sure to walk around the perimeter of the building.

Inside offerings include both modern and classic art.

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Be sure to look at the rotating exhibits to see what’s going on and for any events. Free admission for students with college IDs!

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Visit the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, Florida

Just outside of Tampa there is a power plant whose warm waters are frequented by a diverse group of aquatic and bird life. The Manatee Viewing Center [6990 Dickman Rd, Apollo Beach, FL 33572] is free to visit and there is a lot to do and see. You’ll likely first want to walk on out the boardwalk to catch a glimpse of the manatees. I visited later in the afternoon so they were all snoozing by that point, but I wasn’t the least bit upset about being shafted a manatee sighting. I saw black tipped shark, tarpon, and all sorts of exciting exotic looking fish.

There were plenty of birds around the premises as well, looking for the fresh catch of the day.

Inside there is a great exhibit about the local wildlife

and out on the deck you can even pet the rays in the pool!

When you’re finished with all that you can hit the trails, just over two miles in total, filled with beautiful Florida flora.

It is very exposed out here, so bring water and wear a hat. You can see an observation tower out in the distance, it’s a great destination.

You get a great view of the power plant and the surrounding area from way up high.This is a perfect destination for families and wildlife lovers of all ages.

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Hike at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, Florida

My favorite part about Lettuce Lake Park [6920 E Fletcher Ave, Tampa, FL 33637] is the extensive boardwalk along the shores of the swampy lake.

It isn’t exceedingly long, but I felt myself take such a long time walking it because there were so many observations to make. You can see where the park gets its name, the green vegetation is omnipresent.

With a keen eye you are sure to see gators,

turtles, and snail shells hidden below.

The birding is top notch, you will see plenty of wading birds,

ducks, birds of prey, and other not so commonly seen birds.

At the end of the boardwalk there was a woman kind enough to point out the tail feathers of a barred owl.

Dirt and paved paths also meander through the forest.

Take the spur trail leading to the swamps, you never know what you might find! A beautiful snake was waiting for me as I had the quiet overlook all to myself.

Kayak rentals are available for a different perspective, there are also picnic shelters. The park requires a small admission fee, worth it for what you get to see!

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Guide to visiting Tampa, Florida

Tampa is a huge city with much to offer. There are many well known museums and attractions such as Busch Gardens, Yankees spring training, a zoo and aquarium – but what about the hidden gems of the city! Here are some of my favorite spots, what are yours?

Where to take a hike?

+Lettuce Lake Park has all of the wildlife offerings you could wish for when visiting Florida, plus you can rent kayaks and explore the lake through the water

+Ballast Point Park [5300 Interbay Blvd, Tampa, FL 33611] is great little place to watch the back end reflection of the setting set

+Manatee Viewing Center is just outside of Tampa and is a perfect spot to look for aquatic life in the warm waters by the power plant

Arts and History

+Tampa Museum of Art located on a waterfront park with classic and modern art, it is free for college students

+Ybor City is a historic neighborhood in Tampa which had flourishing immigrant population who played a major part in the cigar industry

Where to eat dessert?

+Mini Doughnut Factory makes their morsels on the spot, they have some real funky flavors

+Chocolate Pi has one KILLER lemon meringue

Where to drink and play pinball?

+Lowry Parade has a great selection of brews and an amazing arcade

+Cigar City Brewing is a good place to enjoy an oatmeal raisin cookie stout

+New World Brewery is no longer a brewery, but still a great place to grab a beer, play some foosball, pinball, and listen to live music

Extra Pinball!

+Tampa Lanes [8105 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33614] is a great place to bowl, and also play some different pinball machines

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Hiking in the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

If you’ve been on a day trip kayaking with manatees, dancing with mermaids, and have some extra time in the area, you may want to hike around nearby Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. The Salt Marsh trails [S Mason Creek Rd, Homosassa, FL 34448] is a small section of the park that has a little over a miles worth of trails. A shaded path leads out to an observation where the view opens up and stretches for miles.

Follow the banks of a winding creek with your eyes, the perfect place to look for birds.

We spotted a clapper rail that was too elusive to photograph. Don’t forget to check in the sky for the swallow-tailed kite.

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