Updated: May 25
In the friendship department, Jaime and I have been incredibly fortunate. We’ve found some truly remarkable people who love and support us. We’re also quite lucky that many of our friends live throughout the country, allowing these two travel bugs to have good reason to visit new areas. Recently, we took a quick trip to Tampa, Florida to visit our friends Randy and Nico, as well as their Adorable daughter, Raye.
Tampa is a quintessential southern Florida city, filled with soring palms, sandy beaches, and balmy humidity. Home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, theme parks, and world-class beaches, Tampa is bustling with things to do, places to see, and adventures to be had! One our favorite things about Tampa is that it is a wonderfully diverse city! Latin culture is very prevalent, but the world is represented in Tampa. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the city received at perfect 100 on the HRC Municipal Equality Index.
When Randy and Nico picked us up at the airport, we were hungry, so our first stop was at Armature Works. Originally a facility to build and house street cars, this reclaimed industry space now serves as community center with event space, beautiful river views, and an artisan market. The developers of this building were able to keep the original building’s high ceilings, exposed brick walls, windows, and skylights. The upscale dining hall is absolutely wonderful, with an eclectic blend of delicious food options at walk up stalls with communal dining spaces. I decided to pick up tacos, while Jaime went for a noodle bowl. It wouldn’t be vacation without ice cream, so we completed our stop with scoops of Astro Craft Ice Cream’s Brown Sugar Whiskey Sugar Cookie and Creme Brulee Cafe Con Leche.
Randy and Nico are season pass holders at Busch Gardens Tampa and were so excited to share the park with us. Their daughter, Raye, is a huge fan of visiting regularly, not only because she gets to watch Frozen on the drive, but because it is really part theme park, part zoo. Raye was so quite as she waved to the monkeys, tigers, penguins, and more. Jaime is not a roller coaster rider (thanks inner ear!), but there was Plenty to keep him occupied with great shopping, food, and shows. The ice skating show “Turn it Up” was certainly our favorite. The beautiful theatre was a great escape from the Florida heat, and the costumes, music, aerial dancing, and strong skating made this show a must-see.
Personally, I had not been on a roller coaster in many years, so I was both excited and nervous to get back on a ride. After walking around the park for a while, Nico asked if I was ready to try it out and we just so happened to be near SheiKra. To say this coaster is intimidating is an Understatement. Billed as an intense coaster, SheiKra takes you 200 feet in the air then holds you over a 90 degree drop, right at the beginning of the ride! From there it is 70 mph twists, turns, inversions, and additional drops to get the heart pounding. When I got off and realized I didn’t die, it was on! We rode just about every roller coaster available. At the end of the day, Nico said, “Joey, I like riding roller coasters with you. You scream A Lot!” Which is a fair assessment of my roller coaster style.
Jaime and I have been known to go on a shopping spree or two, so a trip to the Tampa Premium Outlets was in order. This place is Massive - with over 120 stores in a well appointed shopping area. We hit a few of our favorite stores - including Express, Coach, and Michael Kors - before realizing we had to pack everything we bought in our carry on bag, so we needed to slow down. To be completely honest, that didn’t stop us from going home with three pairs of shoes.
Did you know the Cuban sandwich as we know it originated in Tampa? Remember the diversity we were speaking of earlier? It comes through in the food! Everything you would expect of the traditional Cuban is perfectly executed here, including roasted pork, ham, crusty Cuban bread, pickles and mustard, but in Tampa, an ingredient that was included in the original but often left out today is still included - salami. We stopped by La Teresita to try it out and these ingredients combine for a salty, savory flavor bomb! We couldn’t help ourselves, so we also tried the arroz con pollo, tostones, and the guava and cream cheese puff pastry! Needless to say, we were full but Oh So Happy.
Ice cream may have been the theme of this trip! It almost always seemed to be on our minds, in our thoughts, or the subject of conversation. Randy and Nico took us to their favorite place, Ice Dreammm Shop. This tucked away ice cream parlor may be small, but the flavors are Huge! From classic vanilla to creative flavors like chocolate bacon toffee, the ice cream here is super creamy and delicious. I had Peanut Butter Oreo and Jaime had the Cookies and Dreams. If we could have packed ice cream for the ride home, we definitely would have!
Although it was a very quick trip, we left with some great memories and full hearts. An extra special thank you goes out to our generous friends for hosting us. The only thing warmer than the Florida sun, was their hospitality! We are so looking forward to seeing you guys again!