In October, the American Planning Association named Ybor City's Seventh Avenue one of the 10 greatest streets in the nation, based on categories like unique architecture, character, user-friendliness and history. We agree, Seventh is great and all, but is it really one of America's best? Here are our picks for the 10 best streets in Tampa Bay (aside from Seventh, of course.) — Jay Cridlin firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Main Street, Safety Harbor
From the Whistle Stop Grill & Bar to the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Main Street strikes just enough of a balance between kitsch and practicality to make it eminently walkable.
9. Meridian Avenue, Dade City
Small-town downtowns aren't dead in Florida; you just have to drive out to the country to find them. Like Collins Street in Plant City, Dade City's Meridian Avenue is a charming outpost of Americana that feels miles away from the gridlock of Tampa. (Okay, fine, it is miles away. Still, it's worth the trip.)
9. Eighth Avenue, Ybor City
Seventh is for suckers. All the cool kids know Eighth is where the party's at. Here, you'll find family-friendly fun (Gameworks), trendy shopping (Urban Outfitters), sweet late-night destinations (Club Skye, Mema's Alaskan Tacos), hip music venues (the Orpheum, New World Brewery), GaYbor hangouts (Streetcar Charlie's, MC Film Festival) and even a genuine slice of Cuba (Jose Marti Park is technically owned by Cuba). Just watch out for streetcars.
7. Central Avenue, St. Petersburg
The closures of fun new restaurants like The Kitchen and The Table have taken a bit of the shine off Central, but there's still too much interesting stuff going on here — Pincho y Pincho, Z Grille, the Emerald, the State Theatre, Gaslight Antiques and shopping in the Grand Central district — to leave it out. Our only complaint: It's all spread way too thin.
6. Beach Boulevard, Gulfport
All writers are mandated by law to refer to downtown Gulfport as "funky." But one trip to this artsy little waterfront enclave and you'll see why: This walkable borough encompasses a park, a theatre, a ballroom, a beach, fun shops and a handful of worthy date-night restaurants.
5. Franklin Street, Tampa
Aside from construction, we have no idea why some parts of Franklin are open and others aren't. But this brick-lined stretch — home to the Tampa Theatre, the Hub, Fly Bar & Restaurant and new condos and restaurants — is a nice break from the traffic throughout downtown.
4. South Howard Avenue, Tampa
SoHo is as fine a party destination as Seventh Avenue, and it's got the heavy-hitting restaurants to prove it: Bern's, SideBern's, Bella's, Sally O'Neal's, the Lime, T.C. Choy's, Cheap, Ciccio & Tony's, Ceviche. (Good luck finding a place to park, though.)
3. Beach Drive, St. Petersburg
From Al Lang Field to the Vinoy, from the Museum of Fine Arts to Coffee Pot Bayou, one word best describes this lazy but attraction-filled stretch of near-waterfront roadway: calm. (That is, as long as the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg isn't in town.)
2. Main Street, Dunedin
Cozy Main Street feels inviting yet intimate, and offers everything from fine dining to fine antiques to cheeky little boutiques. Not to mention a seemingly endless series of street festivals (like Saturday's Antique Fair).
1. Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa
There's a reason this is a mecca for joggers, cyclists and mansion hunters: It's a beautiful north-south straightaway, right on the water, with few traffic lights and no ugly commercial blight. Those planners picked Tampa's wrong signature street — we'd put Bayshore up against Seventh any day.
Contributing: Susan Thurston