Photo: Dru Bloomfield
Once-vacant rental spaces have been clumsily converted into “Super Bowl Warehouses.”
Real estate signs have been replaced by signs advertising homes for rent during Game Week.
Every billboard in town suddenly has a football theme.
Drive for a mile or so down Dale Mabry and you’ll know: the Super Bowl is in Tampa.
You may not have a ticket to the big game, but there are plenty of ways to score big in Tampa Bay.
Here are ten suggestions from this Tampa local:
1. Hit the beach.
Photo: Tony the Misfit
St. Petersburg and Clearwater have some of the cleanest beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Enjoy the solitude and natural beauty of Fort DeSoto County Park, or revel with the entertainers and artisans at Pier 60 in Clearwater.
Wherever you go, you’re sure to see a beautiful sunset.
2. Ride a bike.
With beautiful weather for much of the year, Tampa residents spend most free time outdoors. A bike ride is a terrific way to get some exercise and see the sights without sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Take a spin down Bayshore and pick out your dream home. For a longer workout, choose a route among the 34 miles of the Pinellas Trail.
3. Chow down.
Tampa has some great eats, whether you’re in flip-flops or formal wear. Grouper is the fish of choice around these parts, but the Gulf shrimp is tasty as well. Fans of Cuban food will not be disappointed; Ybor City is as authentic as it gets without driving to Miami.
Savor the “1801 Salad” at Columbia, or venture down Columbus Avenue for a typical lunch counter experience.
4. Shop with the locals.
Fresh produce, homemade empanadas, and beautiful artwork await you at the Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg. Dozens of merchants set up shop outside Progress Energy Field each Saturday from October to the end of May. The market is a great place to find goods unique to the area, and it’s a lively place to interact with St. Pete residents.
If you prefer to shop indoors, head to Mazzaro’s Italian Market for amazing gelato and delicious cheeses.
5. Get on the water.
Paddlers flock to Tampa Bay for the favorable weather and ample rowing opportunities. Sea kayakers enjoy braving the Gulf surf, while river runners will delight in the many launches along the Hillsborough River.
Don’t worry about bringing a boat; rental is available at Ft. DeSoto and Canoe Escape.
6. Mingle with the manatees.
Like Michigan and New England snowbirds, many manatees choose Tampa as their winter home.
Several area aquariums, including Clearwater, The Pier, and Florida Aquarium, will allow animal lovers to get their fix.
To see them in a slightly more natural habitat, check out the TECO powerplant out near Apollo Beach. This manatee viewing center offers visitors educational exhibits, hiking trails, and viewing platforms.
7. Have fun indoors.
Want to get out of the sun?
Serious art enthusiasts should not miss the Dali Museum and its impressive collection of Salvador Dali works.
Giving back to the community helps visitors connect with a place in a unique and intimate way.
Tampa Bay has many ways guests can serve. Join a beach clean-up, offer to help at the Suncoast Bird Sanctuary, or pitch in with Habitat for Humanity for the day.
Read what The Washington Post’s Andrea Sachs says about volunteering in Florida.
9. Find your inner pirate.
The Gasparilla Festival is a month-long party in Tampa. Our festival has a few similarities to Mardi Gras or Carnival, but with pirates.
Expect to see lots of beads, swashbucklers, and booty references. Join in the fun by attending the official Jose Gasparilla invasion, complete with buccaneers and firing cannons, or stick around for the road race in late February.
10. Watch the game.
Although our favorite pirates, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, didn’t make it to the playoffs this year, you can bet we’ll be watching The Super Bowl.
Or at least the commercials.
Nearly every restaurant and bar will be showing the game, but a few places are exceptional.
Try Ferg’s in St. Petersburg, located across the street from Tropicana Field. “Historians” will appreciate the fact that Tampa Bay is home to both the original Outback and the original Hooters. In Tampa, people will be gathering at Champps, which is a five minute drive from Raymond James Stadium.
Are you planning to attend the Super Bowl? Be sure to upload your party photos to your Matador profile. Don’t have one yet? It’s free! Sign up here.