Hillsborough River State Park is a real gem. Though I’ve lived near it for most of my life, I recently took my first visit there.
One of the coolest aspects is the large pool. While it is closed in winter, we could still see how fun it would be for the summertime. They also have a large amount of picnicking spots that come with playgrounds and some good area for biking.
The numerous trails accommodate many levels of hikers. Perhaps the coolest one takes you by the suspension bridge that is fun for all. Hillsborough River is also one of the few places to see rapids in the area and makes this park all that more unique.
If this plethora of outdoor activity isn’t enough, it’s not every day you get to visit a fort. While this one is only a replica, it is still an awesome sight! Fort Foster is a short tram ride through Hillsborough River State Park. Once upon Fort Foster, you are greeted with a large, oval wall made of wooden posts. For more, see our earlier post on Fort Foster.
There’s no need to travel to north Florida for a swim in a Florida spring.
A relaxing afternoon can be found at Lithia Springs Park in the Tampa, Florida area. It’s a refreshing swim at a great price.
Don’t go looking for the same ambience as a north Florida spring, because that’s not what Lithia Springs Park has. There’s no tubing or large areas to swim in. And the swimming area doesn’t feel overly natural because of the cement and railings they’ve built around it. However, the water is clear, the bottom relatively free of debris, and the swimming area separated into shallow and deep areas. You’ll also find a friendly crowd–most are swimming as part of their weekend picnic.
Another thing Lithia Springs is missing is the distinct smell of Warm Mineral Springs. It’s also missing the floating debris and really slippery rocks that are hard to avoid. I’m not dissing Warm Mineral Springs, because I actually quite adore it too–but this is a whole different experience that I’ll write about another time.
The picnic area at Lithia Springs is in great shape and quite shady…full of people laughing and having fun. It’s quite large and there seems to be two distinct areas. There are grills and pavilions, so it’s perfect for a large gathering. There’s also a nice playground and the bathrooms aren’t bad either.
If you live in west, central or south Florida–Lithia Springs is a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts and families. If you want to swim, don’t go in winter because the 72 degree water is a bit chilly. A summer swim feels refreshing, but you wouldn’t catch me there in the winter. For picnics or other outdoor fun in winter, the park would be a great option because they offer a cheaper ticket if you choose not to swim.
Check out Lithia Springs if you’re in the Tampa area and want to have a relaxing picnic and a refreshing swim with friends. Lithia Springs is perfect for a group looking to swim as part of their day outdoors, not those looking to swim all day. Every visit I’ve made has been very pleasant and I find it preferable to the long drive north to the other natural springs of Florida. It’s a true outdoor gem for this area.
Horse owners rejoice!
Any horse owner looking for a new place to ride their horse needs to check out the Stephen J. Wortham Park and Rhodine Scrub Nature Preserve.
We happened upon the park by accident. I wasn’t looking to find a horse-related area, but was excited to see such a space surrounded by other great natural areas. It is a little remote, but perfect for those in the Riverview area or someone looking to escape the city of Tampa.
In addition to the horse-related amenities, it’s a terrific place to fish. I didn’t personally partake in any fishing, but do plan to check it out again with poles in-hand. The pond is right by the bathrooms and playground. If you have kids, you know this type of arrangement is exactly what you need and exactly what is hard to find. You can have a picnic, help your kids fish, take them to the bathroom, and never leave the immediate area. The playground is pretty nice too-it would be a great place for a birthday party. We did some swinging and sliding while we were there and found the equipment to be in good condition.
It was a nice Saturday morning spent in solitude that I highly recommend to anyone in the Tampa area.
Here’s a last-minute list of some 2011 Florida Halloween events to check out this weekend:
Guavaween: An adult event in Tampa’s Ybor City. Everyone needs to experience it at least once. Saturday from 3p till ??
Jacksonville Zoo Spooktacular: A great time at the zoo for the whole family, with Halloween events and food. Oct 28-31.
Halloween Ghost Train on the Seminole Gulf Railway in Ft. Myers: A Halloween murder mystery for adults. Oct 28th-31st.
Downtown Pensacola Trick or Treat: Costumed kids 9 and under can trick-or-treat at about 50 stores. Oct 28th.
Spookover at the Deering Estate at Cutler (Miami area): Adults can spend the night with ghost hunters while searching for a woman in the Victorian dress. Oct 28th.
History Mystery Tales and Tours III (New Smyrna Beach): Take a mysterious walk in downtown New Smyrna Beach on the evening of Oct 28th.
Who made it out to Tampa’s First Food Truck Rally this past weekend?
I started seeing the hype a week or so back, and knew I had to attend. The food truck movement is going strong in Miami, but this was the first time I saw some evidence of it in our general area. This rally is the first in a series of rallies, and I think the events will gain more fans for the food truck concept. I can’t wait.
This one was held in the Hyde Park area of Tampa, in the parking lot area of a local church. There was live music, restrooms, and free childcare!! We got there a little after 11 and the lines were already long. The food smelled great and ranged from cupcakes to sandwiches to vegetarian dishes. Some of the attendees are complaining about the execution for the event, but the idea is so great that it can only improve next time. I must admit I only sampled a cupcake—but I will definitely bring more hardy companions to the next event, ones who will not shy away from a line so I can taste more. I hope everyone hangs in and supports this exciting new part of Tampa’s food life. And hopefully Sarasota’s food truck culture will not be far behind!
The Facebook page for the event is here: http://www.facebook.com/TampaFoodTruckRally
Filed under Sarasota, Travel
I’ve been to a lot of local beaches, but Anna Maria Island‘s is one I hadn’t visited much until I met my husband. He says that his family went there a lot when he was young. It’s nice because it has a playground and bathrooms nearby. The water is really close to the parking, which is great when you are toting a lot of stuff. We went there this weekend and last, at two different spots along the beach.
The weekend before last we went to a spot that is to the right of the City Pier. Our timing was perfect, because the tide was really low and we could go out pretty far in the water—which is perfect for the kids. The water was really calm and warm and there was hardly anyone on the beach. We found lots of neat shells in the water too. This past weekend we went to the spot that is to the left of the Pier, between Rod & Reel and City Pier. This is the more populated side of the beach and it was pretty crowded. The water is a little deeper, but that’s great for the adults in the group. You can see the Sunshine State Skyway from both places, but this second spot gives a view of it and Egmont Key and Fort DeSoto. It’s pretty neat to see all these places in one spot. You can even see the glint of the light on the Egmont Key lighthouse as it slowly turns. I wanted to take some pictures of this lovely spot but was afraid of losing the camera in the water.
The Rod & Reel has some great food, according to author Bruce Hunt (@BruceHuntImages). He’s taken some photos of the area and has some nice history and related places to visit in the area in his book, Visiting Small-Town Florida Third Edition. Next time I visit I need to go into some of the neat shops that you find along the way to the beach. I think it would be a great place to vacation as I saw many people on rented bikes and scooters.
So this year I made it a point to go to the DeSoto Grand Parade in Bradenton, Florida. We found a spot near downtown, so we were near the end of the route. What a spectacle! This was an awesome parade. The weather was breezy and cool, which really made the event more fun.
Held every year for almost 70 years, this parade is in the running to rival the Gasparilla Parade in Tampa. I took lots of photos but thought I’d direct you over to the Desoto Historical Society‘s site and to the Bradenton Herald’s website which has stories and pictures for the event. It’s hard to capture the atmosphere of the event without being there or without video but it’s a loud, exuberant, fun parade and crowd. Loud music, beads, and dancing folks abound on the floats and in the streets. They have cool giveaways like beach balls, beads, hats, and candy. The kids had a blast trying to catch all this fun stuff. There are old cars used in the parades that are pretty fun too.
They also have a children’s version of the parade which I didn’t attend. But I’ve heard that parade is perfect for little ones. The night parade went pretty late, but I thought it was pretty family friendly over all.
The DeSoto Historical Society has lots of fun events, like the Seafood Festival, throughout the year. One of the coolest parts is that they dress up like Conquistadors. In the past I’ve seen them at the annual Easter egg hunt at GT Bray with the Easter bunny. It was pretty cool to have the Easter Bunny arrive on their big boat and then kick off the egg hunt. It’s pretty unique.
If you like parades and a fun time, head on down to the DeSoto Grand Parade next year!
A question we get asked a lot goes something like this: “Do you have any books on Sarasota or Tampa or Ft. Myers or this specific hotel or this specific tourist destination?” The answer is often yes, kinda–because we don’t have a lot of books that just focus on certain cities or tourist destinations. We publish a lot of travel titles that are about backroads or small towns or traveling by boat and these contain information about certain cities or hotels or tourist destinations. We often have books that are about south Florida or northwest Florida or all of Florida and relate to museums, gardens, bicycling, fishing, etc. We also have compilations of historical stories that cover the whole state of Florida. We are always happy to answer your questions about our titles. Give us a call and we’ll gladly research what we can for you to see what books might have a certain city or place in it.
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