Earlier this month, I booked a brief getaway to Tampa with my boyfriend and his family. It was a much-needed vacation in the sun. Especially since the morning that we flew out, Chicago looked like this:
Day 1: Dali Museum. After we flew into Tampa, we decided to visit the Dali Museum on our way to the beach house near Clearwater. I was quite impressed with their collection – who knew St. Petersburg was the home of a Dali Museum? They even had a temporary exhibit of paintings from the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. I really loved the Ghost of Vermeer painting and the Lincoln in Dalivision painting, which looks like Lincoln up close but then turns into Gala Looking into the Mediterranean Sea. Although museum entry was slightly expensive at $21, I’d recommend checking it out if you’re into art. And you know I couldn’t leave without visiting the gift shop and picking up a cool scarf featuring Dali’s ants.
Day 2: Day two was pretty low key – the weather was warm and sunny and perfect for the hot tub. Ultimately, isn’t that what Florida is all about anyways? We actually saw dolphins out in the water right in front of the beach house. It was pretty amazing. Not so amazing was the big black snake that came out of nowhere and tried to kill me. But my favorite animals to watch were the pelicans. They would glide so gracefully over the water, scouting for fish. Then, when they spotted one, they’d all of a sudden lose all composure, and with their legs flailing all over the place, quickly dive into the water to catch their food.
Day 3: Belleair Beach’s Mansions. It was a little chillier this day, so I ended up taking a two-hour walk along the beach, dressed like a true Floridian in pants and a sweater, although it was in the 70s (I think). Driving the other day, I had seen an area of huge houses along the beach, so I wanted to check them out firsthand from the beach side. I just love the pastel-colored houses along the water. I want to live in a lime green house one day…
Day 4: Succulent seafood & live sea animals. One of my favorite things we did in Florida was eat. Ok, that’s one of my favorite things regardless of where I am. But I especially enjoyed the fresh seafood from Florida – I think my new favorite fish now is sea bass. I even partaked in oysters, clams and mussels. I’m not typically a fan of shellfish, but throw some cheese, butter and breadcrumbs on them (a la Chicago-style oysters or clams casino) and I’m game.
Of course, I also enjoyed the live sea animals. On Day 4, we checked out the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is home to Winter, the tail-less dolphin of that movie, A Dolphin’s Tale, and other animals who need extra care. I was worried it would be kind of depressing, but it was a nice if overpriced detour. The coolest part was getting to pet stingrays as they swam by in an aquarium.
Day 5: Busch Gardens. My last day in Florida was really a half day, so I embarked on an accelerated tour of Busch Gardens with the two hours we had to explore before I had to head to the airport. I wish I had more time to check out more animals, but I did get some awesome views of bright flamingos, playful sea otters and (my favorite) a few large cats.
Ultimately, my first time in the Tampa Bay area proved to be relaxing, and the perfect getaway from Chicago’s freezing temperatures and snow storms. Bye, Tampa!