You may have heard. There's a big game in town.
The College Football Playoff national championship game is bringing a host of celebrities, athletes, familiar TV faces and — oh, yeah — fans, to Tampa. In putting the spotlight back on the city, this event has the flavor of past in-and-out party events, from the Republican National Convention in 2012 to the "Bollywood Oscars" in 2014.
Before the Clemson Tigers face off against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday at Raymond James Stadium, we get a spate of parties and concerts. We've got info on parties, tips on parking and transportation and more. Follow tampabay.com/roadtotampa for more goodies from our journalists throughout the event. And keep your eyes peeled for stars! You never know when you might run into Flo Rida at Ikea, or rub elbows with Usher or Eric Paslay at Ulele (totally guessing here; I have no inside info on where the stars will eat or buy a Dyfjord dresser).
Now that that's out of the way, I can practically hear some of you saying it. You don't care! Not at all! You want to stay far, far, away from thousands of people proffering grilled meats and college pigskin pride. We hear you.
Here are some ideas for avoiding this weekend's biggest event entirely.
Life's a beach when you avoid that guy with his belly painted.
Go reconnect with nature on our sandy shores and winding trails, miles from stadiums and parks full of revelers. Take the ferry from Honeymoon Island to Caladesi Island. Explore the Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs or Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg. Catch a sunset at Clearwater Beach's Pier 60. Ride your bike for more of the Pinellas Trail than you ever thought you could (but arrange a ride back if you can't make the same bet the other way).
Bucket list? More like a half-cup of wishes.
You know that reasonably-local thing you always talk about wanting to do, but never do? The time is now. Spend a day at the Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs. Check out the famous mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs. Do a tour of Sarasota by hitting Amish heart-stopper restaurant Yoder's and then hunt for treasures at Sarasota Architectural Salvage. Or try one of those new craft breweries your friends are talking about. Tampa has its share, but so do St. Petersburg, Dunedin and even Largo.
Close the blinds, dear, my stories are on.
As our Times TV nerds will explain in the winter TV preview in Sunday's Latitudes section, tube selection is bigger than ever. Catch up on a Netflix binge like Making a Murderer or The Crown. Finally sit down and watch the last season of Downton Abbey, because you really need to know if Lady Edith finds happiness. The 74th Golden Globes hosted by Jimmy Fallon are at 8 p.m. Sunday. Taboo, Tom Hardy's new limited series (a must-see, according to our writers), debuts on FX at 10 p.m. Monday. While you're at it, get some takeout straight to your door courtesy of UberEATS or FoodNow. Because nothing says "I'm cutting myself off from the world" like a Styrofoam container of onion rings, passed through a crack in the door.