May 11, 2015

Why Science Museums Like MOSI Are Fun For Adults

One thing I’m beginning to learn when traveling with kids is that a science center is similar to a children’s museum, only with things adults can play with, too.

Case in point: Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry, MOSI for short.

We brought the kids here while visiting Tampa Bay – and while our visit was shortened due to it falling smack in the middle of one kid’s nap time – I’m using our visit to make an unscientific and untested point that science museums are really just huge children’s museums for grownups.

Which is to say, they’re a lot of fun.

 

Science Museums Are Just Big Children’s Museums For Adults Because…

 

1. The exhibits are interactive

Children’s museums are all about hands-on activities and it turns out, so is MOSI. But they’re not kid-sized, so you don’t feel silly interacting with any of it.

The permanent exhibitions, the giant IMAX dome theater, the planetarium, the flight simulator and the bike on a wire thingy are all stuff adults can enjoy shamelessly without kid in tow.

Yeah, you can can a bike on a cable 30 feet in the air  at MOSI. When we were there, I only saw adults riding this bike though. See? I told you this place is fun for adults.  Photo courtesy Museum of Science and Industry

Yeah, you can can a bike on a cable 30 feet in the air at MOSI. When we were there, I only saw adults riding this bike though. See? I told you this place is fun for adults. Photo courtesy Museum of Science and Industry

And then there’s this: The ropes course and zip line.

With an outdoor setting like this, it's nto so easy getting your kids to go back inside MOSI. Photo courtesy Museum of Science and Industry

With an outdoor setting like this, it’s nto so easy getting your kids to go back inside MOSI. Photo courtesy Museum of Science and Industry

My 3- and 5-year-old were not old enough or tall enough to do it, so we skipped it.

If we didn’t have the short ones with it, you bet both Mr. Wonderful and I would’ve been in line faster than you can fasten your superhero cape.

However, the Kids in Charge! area?

Do not go there without a kid.

That would be awkward.

The Kids in Charge building at MOSI has activities perfectly suited for toddlers, preschoolers and grade schoolers.

The Kids in Charge building at MOSI has activities perfectly suited for toddlers, preschoolers and grade schoolers. My 3- and 5-year-olds really loved this area.

Same goes for the outdoor playground.

With kids only, please.

 

2. You learn stuff through play

We all probably should remember facts about weather.

Mr. Wonderful and Farley see how much they can handle in the hurricane simulator.

Mr. Wonderful and Farley see how much they can handle in the hurricane simulator.

And elementary physics.

And dinosaurs.

And natural disasters.

Mr. Wonderful attempting to explain how earthquakes happen, right before the room started shaking on us at MOSI.

Mr. Wonderful attempting to explain how earthquakes happen, right before the floor started shifting on us in the earthquake simulation room at MOSI.

But we don’t remember any of that stuff.

Visiting a science museum makes relearning it fun.

And, if you’re visiting with kids, it’s fun relearning teaching it to your kids, especially when both of you have that aha! moment at the same time.

 

A few things about our visit

MOSI head titled

We only saw a fraction of MOSI while we were there – you’ll want to factor in several hours for your visit, not two. MOSI recommends a minimum of four hours.

Kids in Charge! is great for elementary-aged kid and younger. They get the most out of the exhibits in that building. That’s not to say you can’t take them around the main building. They’ll like it too, but the STEM concepts may be harder to absorb. They’ll have fun, regardless, so don’t skip it just because you have a preschooler.

 

If you go

Where: 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa


When: Open daily, Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (ropes course and zip line are open Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Website

Disclaimer: I received complimentary admission to MOSI in exchange for writing about my family’s experience there. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

* * * * *

Thinking of flying your family to Tampa? Check out my sample two-day itinerary for Tampa Bay! We crammed a lot in, which I actually wouldn’t suggest. Mix and match my recommended places to see:

The Florida Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Morean Arts Center and Hot Shop

Columbia Restaurant

 

I also wrote about the Allegiant Air direct flight from Omaha to the Tampa Bay area, so check that out, plus if you need a hotel suggestion and you L-O-V-E food and pampering, read my post about Epicurean Hotel in the beautiful Hyde Park area of Tampa.

 

May 4, 2015

Going To Columbia Restaurant With Kids

When you hear a restaurant is the oldest in the state, you kinda want to check it out, right?

They must be doing something right.

That’s how I was when I came across Columbia Restaurant in my obsessive thorough research on good places to eat in the Tampa area.

The exterior of Columbia Restaurant kinda makes you want to go inside without even knowing what's in there, amiright?

The exterior of Columbia Restaurant kinda makes you want to go inside without even knowing what’s in there, amiright?

It kept coming up on lists, and even mentioned by Chowhound users who never bow down to touristy spots.

Named an All-American Icon by Nation’s Restaurant News, one of only 50 restaurants chosen for this honor.

Named to Florida Trend Magazine‘s Golden Spoon Hall of Fame the industry’s highest regional award as “One of the Top 25 Restaurants in Florida.” Named “One of Florida’s Top Restaurants” since 1967.

“If you cherish your palate, visit the Columbia. Try the Paella “A la Valenciana,” the Snapper “Alicante,” and the Pompano en Papillot. Relish the black bean soup and fried ripe plantains. And with every iota of conviction you possess, order the flan. Made in the Cuban style with sweetened condensed milk, this evanescent egg custard tastes like a dream from which you hope to never awaken.” Southern Living

“Folks seek out this landmark for its live music and flamenco dancers and its rich history – co-owner Richard Gonzmart’s great-grandfather founded it to feed local cigar-rollers in 1905. The Cuban sandwiches are melty masterpieces; the 1905 salad, a citywide obsession. According to illustrator Lynn Pauley, who has a house in southern France near Spain, the paella is the real deal.”Every Day with Rachael Ray, – November/December 2005

So I had to go.

But you wonder, Kim, that sounds kinda fancy. How do kids do at a restaurant like Columbia? I’ll get to that.

Does it matter how dining with kids at Columbia Restaurant went if there was at least a mojito involved?

Does it matter how dining with kids at Columbia Restaurant went if there was at least a mojito involved?

A little primer about this wonderful restaurant first

– It’s been a staple in Ybor City, a happening area of Tampa, since 1905.

The Columbia Restaurant café dining room in 1906, one of 15 dining rooms. The restaurant opened the year before this photo was taken. Photo courtesy Columbia Restaurant

The Columbia Restaurant Café Dining Room in 1906, one of 15 dining rooms. The restaurant opened the year before this photo was taken. Photo courtesy Columbia Restaurant

– The place is huge. There are 15 dining rooms in Columbia!

The Columbia’s Patio Dining room, as it looks today, built in 1937. It was designed to resemble an outdoor patio, like the ones in Andalucia, Spain. This is one of 15 distinct dining rooms. The Columbia is Florida’s Oldest RestaurantS, founded in 1905. Photo courtesy Columbia Restaurant

The Columbia’s Patio Dining room, as it looks today, built in 1937. It was designed to resemble an outdoor patio, like the ones in Andalucia, Spain. This is one of 15 distinct dining rooms. The Columbia is Florida’s oldest Restaurants, founded in 1905. Photo courtesy Columbia Restaurant

– The food is Spanish and Cuban cuisine. I got some recommendations on what to order (not just from the above quotes but people I know), particularly the Paella “A la Valenciana,” the world famous 1905 Cuban salad and the white chocolate bread pudding. We ordered all of those, and it Aye Dios Mio, it was so good, particularly that salad. And while I was stuffed from dinner, I couldn’t stop eating the bread pudding.

Columbia Restaurant provided this photo because the one I tried to take at my meal looked half as appetizing. It just doesnt photograph well, folks, but its so good!

Columbia Restaurant provided this photo because the one I tried to take at my meal looked half as appetizing. It just doesnt photograph well, folks, but its so good!

– There are two Flamenco dance performances a night six nights a week, as well as live jazz Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 p.m. to midnight.

 

About our visit

My large group of four adults and four kids under 5 booked a table for the Flamenco show on a Saturday night. When we arrived, there was a bridal party taking photos out front, and approximately 405 families walking in to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and reunions (and a prom party thrown into the mix).

Post-dinner outside @columbia1905 #Tampa #columbiarestaurant

A post shared by Kim Reiner (@ohmyomaha) on

 

Did we feel out of place, dressed like tourists in our sandals and shorts?

Nope. That’s the beauty of this huge, popular place. Everyone wants to be there, so you’ll have couples on first dates, you’ll have couples on anniversary dates, and you’ll have us, with our kids coloring at the table next to you. And it’s fine. Columbia welcomes us all. Well, don’t go sleeveless and you’re fine.

My friend, Dina, and I before dinner at Columbia.

My friend, Dina, and I before dinner at Columbia.

About the food

I’ll get it out of the way, so you’re not sitting here wondering: Yes, there is a kids menu, and a pretty reasonably priced one. The kids weren’t adventurous and they stuck to mac and cheese, mostly, but all four did devour the warm loaf of bread delivered to each of us at the beginning of our meal.

I ordered Columbia’s Original “1905” Salad® with the intention of splitting it halfway through the meal with Mr. Wonderful, who ordered the Paella “A la Valenciana.” I’d come across the salad in a list by USA Today, who named it on a list of “10 Great Places to Make a Meal Out of a Salad.”

Columbia's Original 1905 Salad consists of iceberg lettuce with julienne of baked ham, natural Swiss cheese, tomato, olives, grated Romano cheese and their famous garlic dressing. The signature salad, named for the year the restaurant was founded in Tampa’s Latin district of Ybor City, was inspired by immigrants to the Cigar City: Romano cheese from the Sicilians and the famous garlic dressing used by Cubans to marinate fresh roast pork, plus Florida tomatoes, iceberg lettuce*, julienne of baked ham and Swiss cheese. In the 40s, Tony Noriega, who ventured to New York City during the Depression to find work, added a “secret ingredient,” Worcestershire sauce, to the recipe.

Columbia’s Original 1905 Salad consists of iceberg
lettuce with julienne of baked ham, natural Swiss cheese, tomato, olives,
grated Romano cheese and their famous garlic dressing. The signature salad, named for the year the restaurant was founded in Tampa’s Latin district of Ybor City, was inspired by immigrants to the Cigar City: Romano cheese from the Sicilians and the famous garlic dressing used by Cubans to marinate fresh roast pork, plus Florida tomatoes, iceberg lettuce*, julienne of baked ham and Swiss cheese. The “secret ingredient” to the recipe is Worcestershire sauce. Photo courtesy Columbia Restaurant

Our friends did the same thing, but ordered an appetizer as well.

Did I share my Top 10 salad? Reluctantly. I didn’t want to hand it over, nor was Mr. Wonderful giving up the paella without a fight.

One of The Columbia’s signature dishes is the Paella "A la Valenciana." Photo courtesy Columbia Restaurant

One of The Columbia’s signature dishes is the Paella “A la Valenciana.” Their version, prepared in a traditional paella pan, features clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, calamares, chicken and pork, baked with Valencia rice, extra virgin olive oil, green peppers, Spanish onions, ripe tomatoes, garlic, spices and splashed with white wine. Photo courtesy Columbia Restaurant

It was a hopping Saturday night and dinner took some time. Luckily, between the bread and the diversion of the dancing, it wasn’t an unbearable wait with the kids. They did get a little antsy after they finished their food and we were still working on ours, but they could be forgiven after about two or so hours of behaving.

 

Drinks

IMG_7491_blog

Instagram-ready shot of my mojito and the Columbia menu.

This is a Spanish restaurant, so I was thinking, “Hey, let’s order the sangria!”

But wait. It’s also a Cuban restaurant.

So we ordered a pitcher of mojitos. Our waiter made the pitcher at the table. It’s a nice little touch, though I dare say the mojitos were not packing much of a rum punch.

Our pitcher of mojitos was prepared table side.

Our pitcher of mojitos was prepared table side.

The Flamenco Show

Go the extra mile and get tickets to the Flamenco Show. It’s worth the cost, even with kids. It’s $6 extra per person, and for that price, you get a 45-minute fiery performance of dance (with a stunning male vocalist performing at the end).

Columbia Flamenco

Plan on having dinner and this show be your entertainment for the evening, though, if you’re bringing kids. It’s not a short affair.

The two older kids, both boys and 5 years old, sat still for most of it, and even did a little imitation foot stomping once the show ended. I’d say they enjoyed it.

The younger two kids, both girls and 3 years old, were tougher critics. The music was too loud to them, and they started to lose interest midway through.

 

Bringing kids to Columbia Restaurant

Columbia with kidsI say, by all means, do it. Few of us have the luxury of traveling with a sitter, so rather than miss out on this gem of a restaurant, bring them along. They have a kids menu, so it’s not like they aren’t ready for your little ones.

The Flamenco Show is something unique enough to surprise them and foot-stompy enough to delight them. And the pretty dresses are fun to look at.

Is it more of a date night place than a family restaurant? Totally. If it’s just you and your significant other on a weekend getaway to Tampa Bay, you’ll have a nice evening gulping your sangria and fighting over the last scallop in the paella.

 

If you go

Columbia Restaurant – Ybor City (there are several other locations, but this is the original)

Where: 2117 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa

Call: (813) 248-4961

Hours: Monday – Thursday (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.); Friday – Saturday (11 a.m. – 11 p.m.); Sunday (noon – 9 p.m.)

Website

 

Disclosure: I was provided a media rate to dine at Columbia Restaurant and write a review about it. We were also provided complimentary tickets to the Flamenco Show.

* * * * *

Thinking of flying your family to Tampa? Check out our two-day Tampa Bay itinerary! We crammed a lot in, which I actually wouldn’t suggest. Mix and match my recommended places to see:

The Florida Aquarium 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

Morean Arts Center and Hot Shop

I also wrote about the Allegiant Air direct flight from Omaha to the Tampa Bay area, so check that out, plus if you need a hotel suggestion and you L-O-V-E food and pampering, read my post about Epicurean Hotel in the beautiful Hyde Park area of Tampa.

April 27, 2015

Exploring The Florida Aquarium

My family spent a fun morning at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa recently. When I was planning out trip, I had asked a friend in Florida what she thought we should not miss and right away she said, The Florida Aquarium. I took her advice and I’m glad we did.

 Florida Aquarium title

We Omahans are spoiled by our zoo and aquarium. Even so, there’s a lot to be impressed by The Florida Aquarium, and a ton of stuff to excite little ones.

It’s worth planning a visit here if you’re in the Tampa Bay area.

You guys. Don't look up.

You guys. Don’t look up.

 

The first level you walk into features the gift shop, access to the large “adventure water zone” called Explore a Shore, and a touch tank with horseshoe crabs. In my opinion, there are much cooler touch tanks upstairs, but just try to shuffle your kids past it without a stop.

Tip 1: Get to The Florida Aquarium when it opens. We enjoyed light crowd at the start of our visit and then, whoa boy, everyone and their grandma showed up. This place is popular.

Now head upstairs and start exploring. The Wetlands Trail feels like an open-air exhibit without being one.

 

Inside the Wetlands exhibit. It felt pretty open-aired while still being under a roof.

Inside the Wetlands exhibit. It felt pretty open-aired while still being under a roof.

Here, you get up close to Florida wildlife, including alligators.

Photobombed by an alligator.

Photobombed by an alligator.

And 14-feet pythons (not Florida natives), birds, turtles and free-flying birds.

Mooch spies some turtles at the Florida Aquarium.

Mooch spies some turtles at the Florida Aquarium.

It was in this area that the kids got to listen to a little educational talk and touch a baby alligator.

You can check out The Journey to Madagascar exhibit in this area, too. Crawl up a tree and be surrounded by hissing cockroaches…if you dare.

These little garden eels were fascinating to my 5-year-old. They're called garden eels.

These little garden eels were fascinating to my 5-year-old. They’re called garden eels.

The Wetlands Trail leads into Bays and Beaches and my 3-year-old’s favorite spot: Stingray Beach.

Mooch loved being able to "pet" stingrays.

Mooch loved being able to “pet” stingrays.

Just past the stingrays is the No Bone Zone where you can feel sea stars, sea cucumbers and other interesting creatures without a backbone.

For some reason, my kids weren't that interested in this touch tank. I'm guessing they thought the urchin and other creatures were prickly.

For some reason, my kids weren’t that interested in this touch tank. I’m guessing they thought the urchin and other creatures were prickly.

I think the areas that were the most indoor fun for my kids were Coral Reefs and Ocean Commotion. There, they saw sharks and strange creatures from the deep blue.

This guy was found in a little room off the Coral Reefs area, featuring sea dragons from Australia and their seahorse cousins.

This guy was found in a little room off the Coral Reefs area, featuring sea dragons from Australia and their seahorse cousins.

A highlight for my son was the LEGO buildings inside different tanks.

Want to win my kids' favor? Put LEGOS and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the fish tanks.

Want to win my kids’ favor? Put LEGOS and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the fish tanks.

The exit for this part of the aquarium just about blew my kids’ minds. It was the end credits to the film about the area projected onto steam coming down from the ceiling.

But all of these fascinating creatures from the ocean and tactile experiences could not hold a candle to the excitement Explore a Shore drummed up in my kids.

Tip 2: Bring swimsuits for your children when you visit The Florida Aquarium.

Explore a Shore, included with aquarium admission, is an outdoor splash garden for little kids (no huge waterslides for big kids or anything like that).

Shooting water cannons at strangers.

Shooting water cannons at strangers.

At the center is a pirate ship surrounded by fountains shooting up from the ground and little misters around animals.

There were a couple little slides at The Florida Aquarium's Explore a Shore.

There were a couple little slides at The Florida Aquarium’s Explore a Shore.

My kids could’ve stayed here all day. If we had, I totally would’ve partaken in a mixed drink from the bar located inside Explore a Shore. Smart way to appeal to parents melting in the Florida sun.

Hello, Caribbean Cantina. You have any drinks with umbrellas in them?

Hello, Caribbean Cantina. You have any drinks with umbrellas in them?

Anyway, there are water cannon type things, a sandbox and little slides for the wee ones. They also have changing cabanas to get your kids in and out of their swimsuits.

 

A view of Explore a Shore from above.

A view of Explore a Shore from above.

The aquarium offers added experiences to make your visit extra special. I’ve been told that the Wild Dolphin Adventure Cruise is totally worth the ticket. There are behind-the-scenes tour options and older kids can do diving adventures in the tanks!

 

If you go

The Florida Aquarium

Where: 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa, Florida

Cost: Adult tickets are $23.95, seniors 60+ are $20.95, kids 3-11 are $18.95 and kids 2 and under are FREE. Save $2 off adult tickets and $1 off senior and kids tickets if you purchase your tickets online!

Website

 

Disclaimer: Thanks to the Florida Aquarium for providing complimentary admission for my family so that I could write this review. 

* * * * *

Thinking of flying your family to Tampa? Check out my two-day itinerary! We crammed a lot in, which I actually wouldn’t suggest. Mix and match my recommended places to see:

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Morean Arts Center and Hot Shop

Columbia Restaurant

I also wrote about the Allegiant Air direct flight from Omaha to the Tampa Bay area, so check that out, plus if you need a hotel suggestion and you L-O-V-E food and pampering, read my post about Epicurean Hotel in the beautiful Hyde Park area of Tampa.

April 25, 2015

Epicurean Hotel In Tampa

Disclaimer: My family was provided complimentary brunch and a lovely bottle of wine and a meat and cheese plate (for me, not my kids). All opinions are my own. This post includes affiliate links.

The Epicurean Hotel‘s lobby lets you know what this Tampa hotel is all about: A front desk made out of wine crates, cute bicycles with picnic baskets propped on a wall (to rent), modern and thoughtful decorations with cookbooks arranged just so.

The lobby of the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa, Florida. Inviting much?

The lobby of the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa, Florida. Cool, huh?

It’s about food. It’s an upscale hotel for those who like to eat. And drink.

My family stayed at the Epicurean during a recent trip to Tampa Bay. I know! The hotel screams “Parents! Come escape from your kids here!” with its award-winning chef, its famous steakhouse, a rooftop bar, outdoor pool, spa and on-site wine store.

Don't you just want to end your day at a rooftop bar like this? Not with kids you don't.

Don’t you just want to end your day at a rooftop bar like this? Not with kids you don’t. (sigh)

I brought my kids to the Epicurean. It’s not our typical choice of hotels – I tend to look for a place with a free breakfast or happy hour and Mr. Wondeful likes places where he’s not paranoid the kids will break something. And while I saw several families with young kids there, I would say it’s designed to appeal to us, the adults, in every way, not to our off-spring.

You're able to rent bicycles from the Epicurean Hotel.

You’re able to rent bicycles from the Epicurean Hotel. Don’t touch those, Farley.

There is an outdoor pool, but we did not get to see it. Our flight out of Omaha was extremely delayed and the downtime I had planned for the pool was tossed out the window. I didn’t even tell my kids there was a pool. shhhh

The hotel is located in South Tampa in historic Hyde Park, a trendy neighborhood that’s an easy walk to Bayshore Drive with its mansions and bayside sidewalk. It’s a short drive from attractions like The Florida Aquarium and the famous Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. It was a drive to get to the beach, but when you’re from Nebraska, 30 minutes is nothing if it means you get to have your feet in the sand in that time.

The Rooms

Epicurean Classic Double Queen room. Photo is provided by Epicurean Hotel (obviously, because our room was strewn with clothes and stuffed animals and crayons. I'm so sorry, housekeeping.)

Epicurean Classic Double Queen room. Photo is provided by Epicurean Hotel (obviously, because our room was strewn with clothes and stuffed animals and crayons. I’m so sorry, housekeeping.)

The rooms are comfortable, like “lounge in your cloud-like bed in a robe while you drink your Tassimo cup of coffee” comfortable. But I had kids. So that didn’t happen.

Our hotel room phone. Had to explain to the kids what it was.

Our hotel room phone. Had to explain to the kids what it was.

The drawbacks to the room is that the basic rooms do not have a bath tub. They have a divine shower with the rain showerhead; us grownups will appreciate and ooh and ahh at. But, kids. Kids got to rain on my parade. I got my sand- and sunscreen-covered kids in there only after some heavy negotiations.

Shower aside, the room was great, with free wi-fi to boot. It’s part of the prestigious Autograph Collection® of Marriott International, Inc., but it felt more like a cool boutique hotel than anything belonging to a chain.

You can totally splurge and get a fab room with a balcony and that coveted tub that kids love.

Go ahead. Book that balcony suite. You deserve it.

Go ahead. Book that balcony suite. You deserve it. Photo courtesy Epicurean Hotel

The food

Epicurean has a couple dining options that don’t feel like hotel restaurants. There’s Élevage and its nationally recognized Executive Chef Chad Johnson, named a 2012 Best Chef: South Region semi-finalist by the James Beard Foundation.

Epicurean's Elevage at night. Photo provided by Epicurean Hotel.

Epicurean’s Elevage at night. Photo provided by Epicurean Hotel.

It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a menu highlights of Lobster & Bacon Hash, a “Duck, Duck, Goose” foie gras burger and a brunch to die for.

The hotel invited my family to try their brunch.

A little coffee while you peruse the brunch menu, madame?

A little coffee while you peruse the brunch menu, madame?

A little tip: If you’re traveling with young ones, get there right when it opens for brunch, at 9 a.m. It’s not busy and the only other people in the restaurant are in your same situation, so you don’t feel very embarrassed when your kid throws his or her Winter the dolphin figurine.

I'll admit it took about 6 tries to get Farley to smile for this picture at Elevage. He is not a morning person.

I’ll admit it took about 6 tries to get Farley to smile for this picture at Elevage. He is not a morning person.

Let’s talk about that brunch. Mr. Wonderful and I opted for Brunch Like Bacchus, a tasting menu featuring dishes like Truffle Vichyssoise and Sourdough Pancakes. Our courses took some time to prepare and, admittedly, not the best choice to make with our kids in tow.

I’d suggest everyone at your table brunch like Bacchus, or save it for another day and order just one dish. I suggest the one below.

The shrimp and grits were my favorite course of the Brunch like Bacchus menu. It is also available as a breakfast entree on its own.

The shrimp and grits were my favorite course of the Brunch like Bacchus menu. It is also available as a breakfast entree on its own.

My favorite was the Shrimp and Grits, which was a choice for the second course. Our waitress confirmed this was the most popular menu item for brunch. I could’ve licked the bowl.

Vacation calls for a mimosa. Cheers!

Vacation calls for a mimosa. Cheers!

There was no kid menu, so we got the kids each eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and toast. Here’s where it would’ve been wiser to split the plate. Neither finished their food and each dish was a cool $16.

Mooch and her lion figurine did not finish the plate of eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and toast. For shame.

Mooch and her lion figurine did not finish the plate of eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and brioche toast. For shame.

They were, however, good sports and sampled some of our food, helping us finish that third course of brioche french toast.

Somehow I found room for the third course, brioche french toast. Farley was a good helper clearing this plate.

Somehow I found room for the third course, brioche french toast. Farley was a good helper clearing this plate.

Now on to the other dining options at Epicurean. There’s the in-house pâtisserie called Chocolate Pi, which serves High Tea daily, and the roof-top bar, Wines & Spirits Edge Social Drinkery, which has a small menu.

How cute is this place? This is Chocolate Pi at Epicurean Hotel. Photo courtesy Epicurean Hotel

How cute is this place? This is Chocolate Pi at Epicurean Hotel. Photo courtesy Epicurean Hotel

There’s also the Epicurean Theatre where you can sign up for cooking demos, and classes like Champagne 101 or Whiskey Making; The Bar at Élevage in the lobby; and Bern’s Fine Wines & Spirits. Across the street from the hotel is Bern’s Steak House.

The hotel has its own cooking class-type room called Epicurean Theater.

The hotel has its own cooking class-type room called Epicurean Theater.

Near the Hotel

I don’t know what kind of vacationer you are, but I like a hotel near things to do. Epicurean is a walkable distance from a trendy strip of restaurants and bars, none of which would be great places to bring your pre-k kids to.

If you’re a runner, you’ll like the hotel’s location near Bayshore Boulevard with its continuous trail along the bay. Gorgeous! You can also rent bikes from the hotel and enjoy the view on two wheels.

Bayshore Boulevard at sunrise. There's a sidewalk along the bay that's perfect for long runs - and it takes just minutes to get to from the hotel.

Bayshore Boulevard at sunrise. There’s a sidewalk along the bay that’s perfect for long runs – and it takes just minutes to get to from the hotel.

The hotel is near Hyde Park Village, great for shopping with a mix of national, regional and local retailers, as well as an upscale cinema. Our quick trip didn’t allow for a chance to check this place out.

If you go

Epicurean Hotel

Where: 1207 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, Florida


Call: (855) U-AWAKEN (829-2536)

EpicureanHotel.com

The Epicurean Hotel touts itself as being located just 15 minutes from Tampa International Airport (TPA), as well as St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE). That all depends on traffic, of course. You can fly directly to PIE on Allegiant Air.

*Partner in the Marriott Rewards loyalty program

 

* * * * *

Thinking of flying your family to Tampa? Check out my sample two-day Tampa Bay itinerary! We crammed a lot in, which I actually wouldn’t suggest. Mix and match my recommended places to see:

The Florida Aquarium

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Morean Arts Center and Hot Shop 

Columbia Restaurant

I also wrote about the Allegiant Air  direct flight from Omaha to the Tampa Bay area, so check that out. Book a Trip with Airfarewatchdog and Save Big!


Save up to 49% or more on Tampa Bay’s 5 best attractions at CityPASS.com - Shop Now!

April 24, 2015

What To Expect When Flying Allegiant Air

There’s a new airline in Omaha, a discount carrier that flies us directly to vacation destinations. Right now, you can fly Allegiant Air to Florida (arriving at to St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport near Tampa) and soon they’ll offer flights to California (arriving at Oakland/San Francisco Airport).

Raise your hand if you like direct flights. High five.

Me too.

Allegiant logo

Allegiant Air offered to fly me and my family to St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport in exchange for telling you all about it.

Allgiant title

Here’s the deal, it’s cheap and convenient to fly Allegiant from Omaha directly the Tampa Bay area, but there are indeed a few catches.

Mr. Wonderful likened it to a hostel. There are certain things you have to accept as part of the deal of a hostel. There are “extras” you’ll have to pay for if you want them at a hostel, like having your own bathroom, right? Don’t complain about how a hostel works just because it’s not like a hotel. Same goes for a budget carrier. Just accept that the lower price means that certain things are “extras.”

So back to those catches…

No. 1. Most things are extra and you’ll have to pay for them. You get one personal item to carry on like a small backpack or purse at no cost, but any other carry-on and all checked luggage is additional. So, just accept that you’ll have to pay a little more so you can bring clothes.

I have a sister-in-law planning a girls getaway with a friend to Clearwater Beach and after comparing prices with other carriers, even with the added fees, the ticket with Allegiant ended up being cheaper.

No. 2. Your seats are randomly assigned at check in. We were traveling with two small children so we were paired two and two. Our two pairs, however, were not randomly assigned next to each other. No big deal. But if it is to you, you’ll have to pay $12 per person to move seats. Want to move your seat assignment to a window? Pay $12.

Side note: Go online starting 24 hours before your flight to check in online. Print your boarding passes at home so you can avoid the $5 fee to have the airline print them out the day of your flight. Plus, checking in early gives you more flexibility with seating.

No. 3. There are only two flights to and from Omaha each week – Thursday and Sunday. We took a Thursday to Sunday trip. It’s a nice length for a quick getaway, but man, we left wishing we had more time there. There’s a lot to do!

 

Flying Allegiant Air – my family’s experience

Allegiant flies out of Omaha late Thursday mornings, arriving in Florida at around 3 p.m. Like most people on our flight, I had planned on taking advantage of the remainder of that day in order to get the most out of our Thursday to Sunday getaway.

Destination: Florida.

Destination: Florida.

Unfortunately, the proverbial “stuff” happened. It was out of the airline’s control, but our Omaha flight was delayed. By, like, five hours. Maybe six. I stopped counting.

What happened? We were waiting for the Tampa flight to arrive, only it had experienced a weather delay compounded by a maintenance issue and the need to re-staff the flight.

I have to hand it to Allegiant. They set up a text alert with ticketholders so they can notify passengers ahead of time if their flight may be delayed.

I didn’t have the alerts set up initially, so we ended up at the airport for the original flight time and marveled at how short the wait was to check in. Well, most everyone else got that notification.

Anyway, I got it set up and we were able to leave the airport to pass some time in downtown Omaha.

Nothing like being stuffed between two carseats. My dad was carting us around Omaha and let's just say my parents haven't had to drive youngsters around for a while.

Nothing like being stuffed between two carseats and impatiently waiting for vacation to start. My dad was carting us around Omaha and let’s just say my parents haven’t had to drive youngsters around for a while.

I could check my texts as well as AllegiantAir.com to see what the inbound flight status was.

Tip: If you have kids and have a long wait at the airport, the Omaha Children’s Museum is a short distance away.

Our flight ended up being delayed even longer than anticipated, so we did have to spend some time waiting at the Omaha airport.

Allegiant took care of all of us passengers, though. They set up a courtesy table of free beverages and then handed out meal vouchers.

Waiting eagerly to board our plane.

Waiting eagerly to board our plane.

Some people did lose their cool – if they were planning quick trips like me, they were losing valuable vacation time. I had to cancel dinner reservations and neglect to tell my kids there was a pool at our hotel because that was going to be our Thursday entertainment.

By the time we returned to the airport – 2:30ish – there was no plane in sight. We were told the plane would be arriving in Omaha by 3:04. “The computer still shows an arrival time of 3:04,” we were told… but the actual clock was saying 3:20 and there was no plane in sight.

So we waited. Incidentally, this was about the time of day we all had planned on being in Florida. I bet some planned on already being sunburned or drunk by 3:04 Omaha time.

Those losing their marbles were passengers, not anyone with the airline. I watched airline personnel be very accommodating with people. One family traveling with a toddler asked if there were any open seats for him – they’d intended on him sitting on their laps but after the wait, they knew he’d need a chair to sleep on. Allegiant found some unoccupied seats on the flight and let them move without charging for that extra seat.

In spite of the delay and some frustrated passengers, our crew was cheerful and kinda funny. I like happy flight crew, but the perkiness wore on other passengers after the long day.

They offered in-flight snacks and beverages at a cost. I had packed snacks and filled up our water bottles, so that didn’t matter. I recommend that route, saving your money for rum drinks. Right?

There was no in-flight entertainment – you had to bring your own portable devices if you wanted music or a movie. No wi-fi, either.

By the time we arrived, patience had worn a little thin.

The wait for our luggage felt like a long time, mainly because everyone was up way past their bedtime.

The wait for our luggage felt like a long time, mainly because everyone was up way past their bedtime.

St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport

You aren’t technically arriving in Tampa, though you’re close to it. St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport is, obviously, closer St. Petersburg and Clearwater, and the other smaller, beachy towns. If your main plan is to hit the beach, opt for a hotel in either of those cities.

Sunset at Clearwater Beach.

Sunset at Clearwater Beach.

Tampa isn’t far, but it’s still a 20- to 40-minute drive depending on traffic. We arrived late and had to get a rental car, so by the time we hit the road, it was 10-ish.

The nice thing about this airport is that several rental car agencies have cars parked on-site at the airport, so it’s easy to walk out of the airport and to your car. It’s also quick and easy to return the car.

 

Flying back to Omaha

St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport is smallish, but don’t be fooled. It’s a tourist destination and a lot of people head home on Sundays. Don’t arrive as if you’re catching a flight out of Omaha – allow plenty of time for check in.

Where did all these people come from?!

Where did all these people come from?!

We arrived late for our return flight – a puking kid, an unplanned bathroom stop and a stop to fill up gas in the rental car will do that. By the time we were at the airport, there was an incredibly long line for the Allegiant counter.

Ticketing agents hustled people on our Omaha flight to a separate, shorter line and we made it onto the plane with minutes to spare. Whew.

Would I recommend Allegiant?

Heck yeah. I consider two things when booking a flight: Which flight is the cheapest and which one gets us there the fastest. Nonstop flights trump all else.

If you’re on a budget, you can’t beat a cheap ticket for a direct flight to a tourist destination. If you like a little pampering, or you like knowing your entire trip cost up-front, look for a different carrier.

And FYI, Allegiant partners with more than 20 of the most popular hotel properties in the Tampa Bay area, provides low-cost car rental service through its partnership with Alamo Rent a Car and offers great deals on local activities. Omaha travelers can book their entire Tampa Bay vacation for less by visiting Allegiant.com.

 * * * * *

Thinking of flying your family to Tampa? Check out my two-day itinerary for Tampa Bay! We crammed a lot in, which I actually wouldn’t suggest. Mix and match my recommended places to see:

The Florida Aquarium 

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium 

Morean Arts Center and Hot Shop

Columbia Restaurant

If you L-O-V-E food and pampering, read my post about Epicurean Hotel in the beautiful Hyde Park area of Tampa.

April 20, 2015

2 Days In Tampa Bay With Kids

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions expressed on the blog are my own. Allegiant Air provided complimentary roundtrip airfare for my family. I was provided complimentary passes to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Morean Arts Center, The Florida Aquarium and MOSI. Epicurean Hotel provided free brunch for my family at Elevage.  This post contains affiliate links.

Two days in Tampa Bay is a fun, quick getaway for Omaha families. In early April, Mr. Wonderful and I took the kids – ages 3 and 5 – on a whirlwind weekend trip to southwestern Florida. We crammed a lot in. I had a plan (and I had some local advice on what to do, as well).

2 days title

Skip past the “Getting there” section if you want to read a sample two-day itinerary.

Getting there

Allegiant Air offered to fly me and my family to St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport in exchange for telling you all about it. The beautiful thing about that flight? It’s direct. No schlepping kids on and off planes for an extended layover. 

Love that.

Destination: Florida.

Destination: Florida.

The downside? There are only two flights to and from Omaha each week – Thursday and Sunday. You’ll have to plan your trip around those days, but really, Tampa is as good of a getaway for a weekend as it is for a week. We took a Thursday to Sunday trip. We were to arrive Thursday afternoon, but due to some major delays (I’ll tell you all about it in my Allegiant Airlines post), we didn’t get in until night time. It affected our plans big time, but we still managed to have a ton of fun. 

You can pack a lot in over the course of two days in Tampa.

Arriving at St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport

You aren’t technically arriving in Tampa, though you’re close to it. Tampa isn’t far, but it’s still between 20 to 40 minutes away depending on traffic. The beaches are closer to this airport, if that’s what you were headed for on a trip to Tampa Bay.

Our rental car was on site at the airport, which was super convenient. We decided to fork over extra money at Enterprise to drive this beauty.

I let Mr. Wonderful arrange the car rental and we ended up with a Mustang convertible. I would've booked the budget sedan, so this was a nice surprise.

I let Mr. Wonderful arrange the car rental and we ended up with a Mustang convertible. I would’ve booked the budget sedan, so this was a nice surprise. (Ignore that Alamo sign, that’s just where we had to park the car)

It fits two car seats (well, technically, Farley was in a booster), and the experience of feeling an ocean breeze with the top down is memorable!

This is Farley on our drive from the airport to our hotel on Thursday night. A Mustang lover is born.

This is Farley on our drive from the airport to our hotel on Thursday night. A Mustang lover is born.

Where to stay

If you want all things beachy, you’re better off finding a hotel on the St. Petersburg/Clearwater side of the bridge. If you want a mix of beach and city (like museums or Busch Gardens), Tampa is a better choice.

We opted to stay in south Tampa at a gorgeous place called Epicurean Hotel, located in Hyde Park.

Just beyond the main lobby of the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa is this inviting sitting area. While the family slept in, I was relaxed on one of these couches with a cup of coffee. Loved it.

Just beyond the main lobby of the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa is this inviting sitting area. While the family slept in, I was relaxed on one of these couches with a cup of coffee. Loved it.

It was a 20-mile drive from St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport – when we had to do it at 10 p.m. The hotel is near attractions and restaurants my family wanted to go to on our trip, so it made sense. Check back to this blog in a week to read more about Epicurean!

 

Two days in Tampa

With Allegiant’s schedule, you’ll arrive in Florida on Thursday afternoon. Usually. For this post, I’m writing as if you only had Friday and Saturday there.

I planned our days out to allow enough time in the car between attractions so that my youngest could nap. I was optimistic. You can be, too, but between you and me, things like that never go according to plan.

 

Day 1

For our first day, we had breakfast at Dough, a few minutes of a drive from our hotel. They’re known for their donuts – you’ll be tempted to order them all.

"Um, yeah...can you just give me one of everything?"

“Um, yeah…can you just give me one of everything?”

The kids picked out a chocolate M&M donut and a s’mores donut (hold on to your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen). I tried the pistachio donut and Mr. Wonderful ordered the winner of the morning, maple and bacon donut. Get that one, for sure!

Behold, the maple and bacon donut (and a southwestern quiche).

Behold, the maple and bacon donut (and a southwestern quiche).

We also ordered coffees, milk and some quiche (I recommend quiche lorraine), and later, an oatmeal when Mooch’s tummy was upset and she actually wouldn’t eat a donut.

Sufficiently sugared up, we drove a short distance to The Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa. Much larger than the aquarium at Omaha’s zoo, The Florida Aquarium puts you up-close to a lot of animals.

Mooch spies some turtles at the Florida Aquarium.

Mooch spies some turtles at the Florida Aquarium.

The kids got to touch a baby alligator, stingrays, sea urchins, starfish and more.

Both kids loved Explore a Shore, the outdoor water adventure zone, included with admission. Definitely pack swimsuits to change the kids into (there are changing rooms outside).

Once the kids spotted this spraygarden, there was no getting them to stay indoors at the Florida Aquarium.

Once the kids spotted this spraygarden, there was no getting them to stay indoors at the Florida Aquarium. This picture only shows about a third of what’s out there.

Lunch was at one of the Taco Bus locations downtown (located very near the Glazier Children’s Museum). I’d heard good things about it, and wasn’t disappointed. It seemed less a tourist spot than a quick place for nearby office workers to grab lunch.

Everyone must stop for the Taco Bus.

Everyone must stop for the Taco Bus.

Farley got his usual chicken quesadilla and Mooch, her usual rice and beans. I tried a salad topped with grilled portabella mushrooms and a tangy avocado dressing and Mr. Wonderful ordered a humungous burrito.

We topped everything off with ice cream bought at CVS. I’m going to kick myself if someone comments saying I was a block away from the city’s best ice cream shop. That’d be my luck.

Rockin' the shades and a Drumstick.

Rockin’ the shades and a Drumstick.

Our next destination was Clearwater Beach, with a little nappage along the way – after stopping several times trying to find pillows to make the uncomfortable rental carseat bearable.

We visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the dolphin from “A Dolphin Tale.” Farley was totally in love with this place, loving every minute of it, even getting soaked by Nicholas, the dolphin.

If you're familiar with "A Dolphin Tale" and its sequel, you'll recognize this place as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

If you’re familiar with “A Dolphin Tale” and its sequel, you’ll recognize this place as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

You’re probably wondering how it compares to the first aquarium of the day and if it’s worth going to both. They’re vastly different places and the experience is not similar. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is much more like a functioning marine animal hospital, and the Florida Aquarium has bigger variety of animals and more elaborate displays of animals in natural settings.

We had a celebrity sighting on our way leaving the aquarium – it was all Hulkamania up in there.

Hulk Hogan spotted outside the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Oh yeah!

Hulk Hogan spotted outside the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Oh yeah!

Our next stop was an early dinner at Frenchy’s Saltwater Café. Frenchy’s is a well-known local chain of restaurants (five in all). Several people recommended it, suggesting we try the grouper sandwich, so I had to oblige.

Believe the hype. This is a tasty grouper sandwich.

Believe the hype. This is a tasty grouper sandwich.

It’s well worth going there! The waiter was friendly, the atmosphere was low-key and fun, and after a long day of running around, it was perfect for kicking back.

All smiles at Frenchy's Seaside, a walkable distance from Clearwater Beach.

All smiles at Frenchy’s Seaside, a walkable distance from Clearwater Beach.

But there was a beach to see, so we weren’t there for long.

Clearwater Beach was a busy place, even after dinner when things cool slightly.

There's a stretch of fine, powder sugar-like sand to cross before reaching the water, and you bet kids are going to run it all the way to the water's edge.

There’s a stretch of fine, powder sugar-like sand to cross before reaching the water, and you bet kids are going to run it all the way to the water’s edge. That’s the famous Pier 60 in the background.

We didn’t mind. The gentle waves and powdery white sand were inviting.

This was just a beautiful evening. Sunset at Clearwater Beach.

This was just a beautiful evening. Sunset at Clearwater Beach.

I regret rushing the kids out of the water to check out the Sunsets at Pier 60 festivities. I had heard it was a nightly street festival type deal, with street performers and vendors.

Vendors set up their tables along the pier. I left the kids with Mr. Wonderful while I browsed the goods, it was just to crowded to keep track of little ones here.

Vendors set up their tables along the pier. I left the kids with Mr. Wonderful while I browsed the goods, it was just to crowded to keep track of little ones here.

It was neat to see, but I think the kids would’ve liked staying in the water a little longer.

Street performers abound at Sunsets at Pier 60. Bring extra cash or suffer the wrath of tired kids wanting balloon animals.

Street performers abound at Sunsets at Pier 60. Bring extra cash or suffer the wrath of tired kids wanting balloon animals.

Bring extra cash because there’s a lot there to tempt your kids, from inflatables, to balloon animals to henna tattoos.

On weekend nights, they show a free, kid-friendly movie by the pier, so we laid our towels down and watched the old school “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” It was pretty late, so Mooch was ready to crash.  Sticking around for the entire movie (with intermission) made for a very late night for the kids.

We were hungry once back at the hotel, so Mr. Wonderful picked up some ‘za by the slice at New York New York Pizza. Yummo.

And no, I didn’t get them balloon animals. I am, in fact, the meanest mommy.

Day 2

We slept in after the late night at Clearwater Beach. We had an early brunch at Epicurean’s Elevage – they have a foodie’s dream of a brunch on the weekend. If you go right when it starts, 9 a.m., you’ll be with other families with young kids and not feel like a bother to the child-free crowd.

I'll admit it took about 6 tries to get Farley to smile for this picture at Elevage. He is not a morning person.

I’ll admit it took about 6 tries to get Farley to smile for this picture at Elevage. He is not a morning person.

We met friends in St. Petersburg and visited the Morean Arts Center, timing it right to enjoy the free kids’ art activities. It was not a typical tourist thing to do, which made it a nice change of pace.

Taking a break from go-go-go vacationing to paint some pictures with new friends. The Morean Arts Center is located in St. Petersburg.

Taking a break from go-go-go vacationing to paint some pictures with new friends. The Morean Arts Center is located in St. Petersburg.

It was hard to get everyone to leave the room when it was lunch time for the art instructor, it was that inviting and fun of a place for kids.

The boys all found something to love about one of the temporary exhibits at the Morean Arts Center. I swear didn't even pose this. It was like, "Whoa! And look at that!" "No! Look at this!"

The boys all found something to love about one of the temporary exhibits at the Morean Arts Center. I swear didn’t even pose this. It was like, “Whoa! And look at that!” “No! Look at this!”

We checked out the current exhibits at Morean before going next store to the Morean Hot Shop to watch a glass blowing demo.

We watched a live glass blowing demonstration at the Morean Hot Shops.

We watched a live glass blowing demonstration at the Morean Hot Shops.

Ours were the only kids there (evidently, it was a perfect beach day). If you have time, take the 1-mile drive or walk to the Chihuly Collection, included with your St. Petersburg Art Experience ticket. Our group of cute but nearing-nap-time kids made the decision to skip the glass exhibit easy, but I’m bummed I missed it.

Lunch was at nearby Bodega, a popular Cuban sandwich shop.

Most seating at Bodega is outdoors, though Bodega's juice bar next door is air conditioned and you can bring your food in there.

Most seating at Bodega is outdoors, though Bodega’s juice bar next door is air conditioned and you can bring your food in there.

It’s walkable from Morean, but in the heat of the day and with small kids, it probably would’ve been better to drive.

Waiting for our food to arrive at the juice bar next to Bodega. You can hum the "Jeopardy" theme song in your head.

Waiting for our food to arrive at the juice bar next to Bodega. You can hum the “Jeopardy” theme song in your head.

Expect a wait. It was a tough one with four kids in tow. Oh, but that Cuban sandwich was divine. I may have been the only adult to say it was worth the wait, but whatever. I loved my sandwich.

If you're headed to Bodega in St. Petersburg, get the Cuban sandwich. You're welcome.

If you’re headed to Bodega in St. Petersburg, get the Cuban sandwich. You’re welcome.

The kids crashed in the car and we debated on our next step. But, I’m a checklist kind of girl, so we drove the long drive to MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry. I knew the kids would love it but I didn’t know how long they’d nap.

Spoiler Alert: A long time.

Head to the Kids in Charge building for activities perfectly suited for toddlers, preschoolers and grade schoolers.

Head to the Kids in Charge building for activities perfectly suited for toddlers, preschoolers and grade schoolers.

We didn’t get much time at MOSI, the pitfalls of a quick getaway weekend, huh? We explored Kids in Charge, a building dedicated to younger kids with a lot of fun activities. We also checked out some of the activities for Robotics Week and the weather exhibits. There was so much more we missed out on.

We met our friends for dinner at Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City (a neighborhood in Tampa), a place that always seems to be on top 10 lists of places to eat or things to experience.

Four adults and four children at a Flamenco dancing show and not a single person cried. Columbia Restaurant with the win.

Four adults and four children at a Flamenco dancing show and not a single person cried. Columbia Restaurant with the win.

We had reservations for the Flamenco dance show. Plan on spending your whole evening here if you’re watching the show.

The kids liked the dancing and tried mimicking it later (admittedly, the two 3-year-olds didn’t like how loud it was). The food was superb, and the kids food was reasonably priced.

 

What I’d do differently

Mooch dressed for the beach and impatiently waiting for dinner to wrap up at Frenchy's Saltwater Cafe.

Mooch dressed for the beach and impatiently waiting for dinner to wrap up at Frenchy’s Saltwater Cafe.

I’d probably spend more than two days there, that’s for sure. We fit a lot into our weekend, but didn’t get any downtime. Next time, I’ll plan some relaxation and pool time in.

Facebook fan tip: Sherri recommended visitors look into purchasing the Tampa Bay City Pass. Three of the places we visited are included in it. For $99 for adults and $84 for a child ages 3-9, you get admission into Busch Gardens, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, The Florida Aquarium,  and the Chihuly Collection or MOSI. The price to Busch Gardens for an adult is at least $75 alone. One CityPASS booklet saves up to 51% on admission to the 5 best attractions in Tampa Bay! Shop Now!.

Want to know more about the trip? Read these posts about family-friendly things to do in Tampa Bay and how to get there.

Allegiant Airlines 

Epicurean Hotel

The Florida Aquarium

Columbia Restaurant

Clearwater Marine Aquarium 

Morean Arts Center and Hot Shops

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

It’s inexpensive to get to Tampa Bay. We flew via Allegiant, but you can find deals with other airlines. Book a Trip with Airfarewatchdog and Save Big!


Save up to 49% or more on Tampa Bay’s 5 best attractions at CityPASS.com - Shop Now!