After some time off spent with family, I am back! What fun it was to show our visitors around our new home. It was a great excuse to take a little staycation. When you live in a popular vacation spot, you don't have to go far to feel like you've gotten away from it all, so that's what we've been up to this last week. We hit some touristy areas and some less visited hidden treasures! I like to think of this as Round One. All of our visitors, so far, will be coming back again. So, I came up with a list of spots for visit number one, and all of our visitors so far have gone on basically the same tour, with minor adjustments. Next round, we'll change it up, but here is our basic Round One visit:
Day One-Fred Howard Park
At the two hour mark, most everyone is ready to go. The next stop? Tarpon Springs for shopping, eating and some history on sponge diving. This visit, I found the best homemade soap shop! Getaguru soaps is dimly lit, incense-filled and just, plain dreamy for this wannabe hippie. It is apparently the oldest shop on the Sponge Docks, and the olive oil soap? Oh my gosh, my skin has never been so soft! I picked up a bar of orange-clove soap the first day, then had to spring back for a bar of rose and a bar of patchouli scented soap the next day. It's true love.
Day Two- Clearwater Beach and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
This is the super touristy part of the Round One visit. What a beautiful beach! It's enormous and parking isn't quite as easy, but there are bigger waves and lots of space to spread out. Again, having learned the joys of the beach umbrella/chair rental, we grabbed a lovely setup, and got to the business of playing in the sand and surf. Chasing little guys around the beach gets exhausting, so at that two hour mark, we were once again, ready to move on.
The next stop? You guessed it! We made our way to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. What a cool place. This is the spot where Winter and Hope, the dolphins from A Dolphin's Tale, live. If you recall, Winter was injured, rescued and fitted for a prosthetic tail. This is the aquarium where that all took place. We saw the famous dolphins being trained, as well as, otters, pelicans, sharks, and my favorite, the sea turtles. Did you know that their spines are connected to their shells? They could feel the trainers scratching their shells!! I had no idea. This is a lot smaller than I thought it would be, with far fewer animals, but what a very neat place. A must-see while in Clearwater!
Day Three- The Manatee Viewing Center and Local Shopping
The final stops on the Round One visit include shopping at our local shops and a visit to the Tampa Electric Company Manatee Viewing Center. During the winter months, when the waters get cold, the Manatees move toward warmer spots. One of these is in the water outside the power plant. As the months move on and the waters begin to warm again, fewer can be seen. The first time we visited in February, there were many! This last time, there were very few, but it is still a bizarrely, cool stop. For one, you might get lucky and see a manatee, but there is also a very pretty nature path. It runs right through a thatch of mangrove trees. And, of course, there is the gift shop! Yes, I need another manatee Christmas tree ornament! Don't we all?
While not everyone saw all of this, each of them saw some of it. We had a great time being tourists in our own neck of the woods, and can't wait for Round Two!!