Halo Travel Guide: Tampa/St. Pete

Halo Travel Guide: Tampa/St. Pete

My Halo colleague Christie and I recently took a two-day jaunt through Tampa and St. Petersburg (“St. Pete” to locals) to see what’s up, with a side trip to see our friends at Downtown Vaporium in Clearwater (more about them in an upcoming post). Turns out there’s a lot to see, taste, and experience in the area! We navigated charming cobblestone streets and crowded concrete highways to get to our destinations, and had an amazing time at each one. Here are some highlights and recommendations from our trip.

Travel Guide Pt. 1: Music, Movies, Masterworks, and Mingling

St. Pete has some perfect places for the 21+ set to mingle, drink, eat, and enjoy live music. The Canopy, a fourth-story rooftop bar, allows you to do all of those with the sun/stars above and Tampa Bay below. Don’t bring too big of an appetite — it’s a tapas bar. And be careful how you say “tapas bar,” because it can sound like another type of bar for which the area is known. We didn’t get to any of those this trip.

Just down the street at Ceviche, a splendid Spanish restaurant legendary for paella and sangria, live flamenco music heats up the downstairs bar and goes until the wee hours. Whether you like to dance or prefer to people-watch, this is the place.

Outside of Spain, the best place to see actual Salvador Dalí art is in downtown St. Pete. The Salvador Dalí Museum houses many of the surrealist’s masterworks, including “The Hallucinogenic Toreador” and “A Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.” But you’ll be swept off into Dalí’s psyche before you even step inside. Check out the architecture!

For eyepopping art with a local flavor, visit “Mural Alley,” just off St. Pete’s Central Avenue, where masterpieces are painted right onto buildings and even on the dumpsters!

Jannus Live is perhaps the nation’s best-known courtyard concert venue. With brick buildings on all sides, it’s also possibly the loudest, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of music fans from lining up to see the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Candlebox, GWAR, and Flogging Molly over the years. We wish we’d had time to see a show!

Tampa Theatre, open since 1926 (the silent film era), still shows contemporary independent films, plus classics from more than 100 years of cinema. Best bet: Head in on a Sunday afternoon, grab some popcorn, get a seat in the balcony, and enjoy the free theatre organ concert before the movie. The twinkling “stars” on the ceiling and ornate Mediterranean Revival design of the auditorium will capture you before the lights go down.

Tampa’s famed Cuban district, Ybor City, is Florida’s New Orleans, with its black-railed balconies and penchant for wild parades. At night it transforms into a thriving club district.

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Spot the Halo peeps.

Travel Guide Pt. 2: The Food Chain

Feeling famished and fancy? Tampa’s Oxford Exchange, a restaurant/coffee bar/tea bar/bookstore/giftshop, oozes class and sophistication from every inch of its dark wood and white brick walls. The food is amazing. We highly recommend going there around breakfast time for one of their delicious delights.

Many pizzerias claim to offer “New York style pizza,” but Eddie & Sam’s, located in downtown Tampa, really delivers. (OK, they don’t actually deliver pizza, but they give you an authentic experience, down to using water imported from N.Y. to make the dough.) Stop in for a slice or three. The Sicilian (deep-dish square) is about the size of a queen bed, and the traditional triangular slices are pretty generous, too. These are available with a variety of cheeses, toppings, and sauces. Christie and I tried some slices on your behalf. You can thank us later.

Datz, an upscale deli restaurant in South Tampa, is also a must. If you’re feeling especially bold and carnivorous, try their Cheesy Todd (as seen on TV), a hamburger with fried macaroni and cheese patty buns. (I’m just going to let that one settle in for a minute.) Potato chips with ranch sauce and scallions are the perfect complement. There’s plenty to drink, too, with a full bar. The adjacent Dough bakery will satisfy your sweet tooth and then some. If only we’d had room!

If you’re all about the “big cheese,” Central Melt on Central Ave. in St. Petersburg is a must. They’ve taken the grilled cheese sandwich — a comfort food staple — to an art form. Wow. Have napkins at the ready.

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CAUTION: Explicit food porn images.

Travel Guide Pt. 3: The Great Outdoors

Miles of white sand beach. Parking lots big enough to land a 747. Camping. Hiking trails. Birdwatching. A fort from 1898 with giant cannons. If you like history, lots of space to spread out, and nature, you’ll love Fort De Soto Park, located southwest of St. Pete. No fast food restaurants here, but there are a few snack bars. It’s a little remote, but well worth the extra drive. We’re not surprised it’s been called one of the best beaches in the nation.

On a breezy afternoon, Vinoy Park offers a quiet and roomy place to enjoy your day, with an expansive water view in one direction, and St. Pete’s bustling business district just a few steps in the other. It’s a great place to spread out on the grass and relax.

Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard, said to be home of the world’s longest unbroken sidewalk, is one of the most beautiful places to walk, rollerblade, or bike. The land side of the street is lined with stately mansions and well-maintained older homes that you’ll want for your own.

If you prefer a nice walk in a more urban environment, close to restaurants and other businesses, try the Tampa Riverwalk. As you stroll along the Hillsborough River, rowing teams from the University of Tampa practice on one side, while glass skyscrapers dwarf you on the other. At south end is The Sail, a dog-friendly outdoor bar and eatery. At the north end is Ulele, a historic water works building turned into an upscale indoor/outdoor restaurant that serves traditional Florida cuisine.

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This is what January looks like in Tampa/St. Pete.

Travel Guide Pt. 4: A Good Sport

The Tampa area is home to pro football, baseball, hockey, soccer, and arena football teams, as well as MLB spring training games. No sporting events were scheduled during our excursion, but these make for a thrilling time.

Please note, the term “Tampa Bay area” irritates some residents, particularly of St. Pete. Also, though the populated area is called “Tampa Bay” by many, some locals like to point out that the term actually refers to a body of water. Best bet: Just say “Go Bucs!” and you’ll stay in their good graces.

We hope that you enjoyed this tour of the Tampa/St. Pete area as much as we did. If you visit, you can’t go wrong taking these recommendations. Also, be sure to hit us up while you’re here! If you’ve already been to the area, share your own recommendations in the comments below.

The opinions and other information contained in these blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Nicopure Labs LLC, owner of the Halo and Halo Cigs marks.

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Patrick Moody 66 posts

Patrick is overjoyed to be a professional storyteller, aka writer, as he’s terrible at math.

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