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Ernest Hooper: 'You haven't lived in Tampa Bay until you have …'

Tried and true traditions typically guide us when we welcome visitors.

We long to show them what it means to be a Tampa Bay resident, but of course, those definitive experiences change as we add favorites, make new discoveries and witness how the big news events of the year reshape our perspective.

So for the ninth consecutive year, I present the "You haven't lived in Tampa Bay until you have …" list. Feel free to email your own suggestions.

You haven't lived in Tampa Bay until you have …

… seen dolphins swimming in the gulf at sunrise.

… had L.A. Fitness purchase your fitness center and get rid of your favorite classes.

… gone canoeing on the Withlacoochee River.

… wondered how the Lightning's Jeff Vinik remains the most popular sports franchise owner in Tampa Bay, even though the NHL has yet to stage a game for the 2012-13 season.

… driven down Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa looking for Jill Kelley's house.

… learned about the life-changing work of Starting Right, Now.

… strolled through the downtown charm of Dade City searching for antiques.

… gorged on the red beans and rice at Ribit's in Tampa.

… devoured the Montreal Sandwich or one of the other farm delights at Boca, in Hyde Park.

… worried that the University of South Florida athletic program is going to end up in a conference with Slippery Rock, Coastal Carolina, Hawaii-Hilo and Mount St. Mary's.

… seen a Republican National Convention attendee, dripping in sweat, go into Greiner's Clothing to purchase a new shirt and tie.

… marveled over the Rigatoni Crostata at Bella Brava in St. Petersburg.

… gotten excited about the $1 million renovation planned for Tarpon Springs' Sponge Docks.

… worried about the $50 million renovation planned for St. Petersburg's Pier.

… communed with nature at Starkey Wilderness Park in Pasco County.

… counted the number of politicos and VIPs having lunch on any given day at the new Oxford Exchange in Tampa.

… made a midnight run to the Krystal in Plant City.

… attended the award-winning Uncorked Food & Wine Adventure at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort.

… signed up for the Columbia Restaurant's Richard's Run For Life just to chow down on the paella and beer.

… digested fluoridated water in Pinellas County.

… salivated over the impending arrival of Taco Bus in Brandon.

… dined on the top deck of the Refinery in Seminole Heights.

… rediscovered the savory flavors of the Seabreeze at a food truck at U.S. 301 and Causeway Boulevard.

… taken in the flavors of the Florida Strawberry Festival.

… seen Fernando Rodney's arrow sail into the rafters of Tropicana Field. (True Rays fans actually can see it.)

… voted for and against Charlie Crist.

… dined on Bandeja Paisa and Bandeja Montanera at La Pequeña Colombia on Armenia.

… watched an unassuming elected official become front-page news for all the wrong reasons.

… seen a former county commissioner carted off to prison.

... asked "Why are local officials so hellbent on destroying the Friendship Trail Bridge?"

… zeroed in on some super sausage at Mazzaro's Italian Market.

… attended a cool weekend event or food truck rally at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

… become an honorary consul for a nation halfway around the world.

… laughed at the Tampa parodies on The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. Hey, with greater self-confidence, those skits can't faze us. We know who we are and why we love it here. Relax.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper: 'You haven't lived in Tampa Bay until you have …' 12/27/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 27, 2012 3:30am]
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