Category Archives: Florida

TPA

Sometimes you find the place where your soul lives, and I think mine resides in Tampa, Florida. There are many reasons to love the city, including: the countless outdoor festivals, Bayshore Boulevard (my favorite place for a sunset run), a subtropical climate, diverse restaurants, the Tampa Bay Lightning (aka the best hockey team around), and gorgeous white sand beaches. I traveled back to Tampa for the first time in nearly 3 years this February for the Gasparilla Distance Classic, and to visit with one of my best friends.

 

Gasparilla is a season in Tampa running from mid-January to mid-March; the biggest event is the Parade of Pirates, held annually on the last Saturday in January. On this day, the pirates invade the city and celebrate with the country’s third largest parade. Different pirate krewes create many of the parade’s elaborate floats, and they throw beads to spectators. Other community events during the season include the Gasparilla International Film Festival, the Gasparilla Music Festival, the Sant’Yago Knight Parade, and the Gasparilla Distance Classic.

I didn’t train for the race since my decision to run the half-marathon was impulsive, but I think muscle memory carried me through. The course followed much of the same route I would run in college through Davis Island and along Bayshore. The race started before dawn, but it was already humid and warm; still, it was nice to run comfortably in shorts and a tank top.

 

The weather all weekend was beautiful, and we spent much of it outside. After the race expo on Saturday morning, we went to the beach in St. Petersburg. We also had lunch at No Vacancy, a new restaurant/bar in downtown St. Pete. It has a retro motel theme, and a great outdoor lounge with plastic pink flamingos.

 

^ Downtown St. Pete always has a lot of really great street art!

 

^ No Vacancy; I ordered a jerk chicken sandwich, which I would highly recommend!

  

^ Polaroid beach shot; the pink building is the Don Cesar, an old hotel rumored to be haunted

Other weekend highlights included an afternoon in Hyde Park with a stop at The Hyppo for homemade, all-natural ice pops; a long walk along the newly-renovated Riverwalk; brunch at Oxford Exchange, arguably the most photogenic place in the city; and the new food halls, Armature Works and the Hall on Franklin.

 

^ Riverwalk; the sculpture outside of the Amalie Arena – go Bolts!

 

^ Hyppo pops; interior shot of Oxford Exchange

 

^ Armature Works

Though I always talk about wanting to move back to Tampa, I had started to wonder if I was chasing the past. If I move back, my life still won’t be what it was in 2014. But, my weekend in Tampa was a positive reaffirmation that I love the city as much as I thought I did. It’s undergoing a lot of development, and there are a lot of exciting new places to explore.

 

Walt Disney World: December 2018

Most of the trips I planned in 2018 revolved around a race, but I decided to go to Orlando to visit my best friend, no running required. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Sunshine State, and I really think it is my place. I felt my heart lift as soon as the plane landed and I saw the palm trees.

 

The Disney College Program gave me some of my best friends, plenty of great memories, and a new approach to Disney trips. I have always loved visiting Walt Disney World, but I previously felt pressure to get on every single attraction, especially given the expensive ticket prices. Spending months with unlimited time in the parks really mellowed me out; I can skip the attractions that aren’t worth the wait time, and I can enjoy sitting down to eat without feeling like I need to keep moving.

Shannon and I decided to visit Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom (because no Disney trip is complete without a view of the castle). Visiting during the holiday season was especially wonderful with all the beautiful Christmas decorations and the extra seasonal food menus.

 

Hollywood Studios

I saw the construction begin on Toy Story Land back in 2016, but it was amazing to see the finished product. The attention to detail was meticulous, and I was overwhelmed with nostalgia.

 

While there are several good rides in the park, it is still undergoing serious renovation, so it can feel like there isn’t much to do. Then again, I am probably still bitter and mourning the closure of the Great Movie Ride, which used to be my favorite attraction in the park. The park was not as crowded as we anticipated, and with FastPasses, we were able to avoid long wait times.

 

 

Epcot

Epcot has always been, and will always be, my favorite of the Disney parks. I particularly love the World Showcase, which is a fun way to travel the world in an afternoon. The park’s “Festival of the Holidays” began in November and added holiday kitchens with separate menus in each of the country pavilions. I was most excited to try the turkey poutine, since I tried the Canadian dish for the first time this year in Vancouver.

 

 

Magic Kingdom

This park absolutely has the worst food, but the snack options are the most memorable, from the tangy Dole Whip to the salty Mickey pretzels and popcorn. Plus, it feels the most classically Disney, with rides that have inspired animations and vice versa. Since I worked in Magic Kingdom watercraft, I have many memories of this park and its surrounding bodies of water. I used to especially love watching kids catch their first glimpse of the castle from the ferry docks at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC).