I usually get out of town for the birthday, this year I decided to stick around the Tampa Bay area to celebrate.
Thursday - After doing a little shopping at the Westshore Plaza and International Plaza(I hate shopping but its nice to have these places only about a mile from each other), went downtown Tampa to explore the new Tampa Bay History Center. I stopped by my buddies place, and we went over to the center, where they share a parking lot with the Forum, at $5.00 for the day. Before going thru the History Center, we grabbed a table on the huge outdoor patio area of the Columbia Cafe, it overlooks the Channel and Harbour Island, and the most the tables are shaded from the sun...it was yet another beautiful day in paradise. Ordering the 1905 salads and Cuban Sandwich's we were all very pleased with the attentive service, and the huge portions of very delicious foods. Only in Tampa can you get authentic 1905 salads, with an "Italian" type dressing mixed throughout the lettuce and tomatoes, meats and cheeses, like a chef salad but Tampa style...and the Cuban's, HUGE foot long on fresh pressed cuban bread, they take a piece of what each immigrant brought to Tampa (Cubans/Spanish - Roast Pork, and Swiss Cheese; Italians - Salami; Germans - Boiled Ham) with sliced pickles and a mustard/mayo combination. After filling the bellies, it was time to explore the History Center...$12 gets you into the center, and about 2.5 hours you can explore each and every exhibit(shorter if you by pass some of the exhibits), there is a great movie about the fist explorers to the Tampa Bay area, and an animatronic/movie with some special effects detailing the Seminole Indian Wars. Cigar City has many interactive short movie trailers that really explain how Tampa came to be what it is today, and there are many artifacts from the early settlers to Tampa dating back to the 1500's. The second floor is even more interactive, there aer HUGE maps where you can locate many landmarks, see how the city has progressed, learn about the different towns and cities throughout the Tampa Bay area(like Rattlesnake, FL where the present day neighborhood of Port Tampa City and Bayside West now reside...interesting story)....lots more to see, they explore the many festivals, the Port of Tampa, sports franchises, Agriculture and Farming and Ranching, and Tampa Bay area during the wars. Travelling exhibits are to open on the third floor stating in September.
Thursday evening, my family and a couple of close friends gathered at Malio's for the birthday dinner...one of the finest restaurants in the Bay area. Ive reviewed them before, and still consistently great...attentive, friendly service....and thru May 31st, all the steaks are 1/2 priced from 4pm-7pm each night! My 22oz bone in Rib Eye is regularly $39.00, but is $20 on the menu....all was enjoyed at Malio's from the perfectly seasoned and grilled steaks, ala a carte sides like Mac n Cheese, Spinach, Baked Potato's, and Asparagus, to the HUGE slice of birthday cheesecake we split amongst all of us. Thursday night ended with a few of us heading to the Green Iguana South Westshore to finish the night with some live music.
Friday, went and got the car detailed, and take care of some errands, and went over to the new Floridian cafe, they are famous for their Cuban Sandwich's over on Treasure Island for years, and finally opened up a small shop on Kennedy Blvd(yes, Cuban's again---I love them)....with only a few tables inside and a counter, we were able to beat the lunch crowd which drew lines in this place, and scored a table....the 10" Cuban was big, and I ordered fries with a special gravy for a side...and again, the Floridian did not disappoint.
Friday evening, there was quite a few of us that met up downtown Tampa for the last installment of the "ECO-lution" week, and met at Fly Bar...the Ecolution Tour gives city of Tampa residents an opportunity to explore the urban areas of downtown Tampa(Channelside, Ybor City, and the CBD of downtown), there are over two dozen establishments, from bars, to restaurants to museums, that all provided discounts or specials for those involved on the tour, and you were also given a free all day pass for the transit options to get you around via Green Line trolley and the TECO StreetCar system. Some of the establishments visited throughout the night included Fly, SPAIN, Tina's Tapas, Gaspar's Grotto....
Saturday was yet another bright and sunny warm day, perfect for bringing the dogs to the beach in the morning before heading downtown Tampa to the annual Dragon Boat races and Asia Fest. Celebrating the Asian cultures(like Korean, Philippine, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, etc.), there were cultural exhibits and dances, but the best part of this small festival is the food...trying all Thai food for this years festival. The Dragon Boat Races were going strong, with a race almost every 15 minutes...its authentic, and Tampa is lucky to be able to hold this annually, live music and again more food was available for the spectators.
Saturday evening, we all went over to downtown St. Pete for the Rays game against the Red Sox...before heading the Tropicana Field, we went over to Fresco's, an waterfront restaurant with outdoor seating and bar area...very nice views of the Marina and Pier in downtown St. Pete...some other friends of ours were attending the American Stage in the Park production of Altar Boyz, and annual outdoor plays they do throughout the year, so we met with them briefly on the bridge to Demen's Landing, then walked the Baseball Blvd(Central Avenue) walkway from the waterfront about 12 blocks to Tropicana Field, stopping at Mastry's and then Ferg's before entering the Stadium...game was alot of fun, (Nachos were a highlight, piled with LOTS of BBQ pork and chicken, and yummy ladled nacho cheese)...but we lost to the Red Sox, but overall beat them in the 4 game series. Stopping by Fresco's one last time after the game, we ended the night at where else, bu the Green Iguana South Westshore.
Sunday was a day to relax in the beautiful day, and catch an independent film, "The Great Buck Howard" at historical Tampa Theater in downtown Tampa, and then dinner at Paninoteca on the corner of Twiggs and Franklin, for some great Mediterranean food, eating outdoors of course to take in the beautiful evening to end this long great birthday weekend in Tampa Bay.