Friday, June 22, 2018
Events

From beaches to swims with manatees, oh-so-Florida ways to spend the holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year — according to the song — but your Christmas doesn't look anything like the idyllic snow-blanketed scenes on every TV station.

What you have is even better. Christmas in Florida is one of the most pleasant times of the year for the Sunshine State with temperatures maxing out in the mid 80s and dipping into the 50s at night.

So while your friends and relatives spend their holidays shoveling snow or dodging chilly rain, you can head outside to experience the best parts of Florida without dealing with the sweltering heat of every other time of the year.

There are plenty of outdoor activities this week no matter your preference. From leisurely strolls to full-on camping trips, local businesses are here to accommodate if you want to get outside. And if you're not really an outdoorsy person, there's always a slew of concerts and parties taking advantage of this magnificent weather.

Just remember take selfies hashtagged #XmasInFlorida to elicit the right amount of jealousy from friends.

Five outdoor activities for the holidays

Try out that new bike

Hit the Pinellas Trail, one of the best paved bike paths on the west coast of Florida. Other options: the Withlacoochee State Trail or Suncoast Parkway, a favorite training ride for Tampa Bay area roadies and triathletes. Don't forget your helmet.

Pitch a tent

The holidays are a great time to go camping. Nothing says Christmas like a good campfire. Florida has the best state parks in the nation. Local favorites include Hillsborough River State Park, Myakka River State Park and Lake Kissimmee State Park.

Tour the tunnels

If you have guests in town, take them to Sarasota's Lido Key where you will find several outfitters offering kayak or canoe tours of nearby mangrove tunnels. The trip takes about an hour, and it is ideal for beginners. Bring your binoculars and bird book.

Take a beach hike

There is no better way to bring in the new year (or Christmas) than a long morning walk on the beach. Top beach walks include Fort De Soto County Park, Clearwater Beach, Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island State Park. Resist the urge to go barefoot — the sand can get cold.

Swim with the manatees

All it takes is one good cold front to get those manatees moving toward Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River. December and January are peak months for manatee viewing. Remember: Look but don't touch. There are a half-dozen reputable companies that offer tours of the springs. Get there early.

Local events to wrap up 2015

Ooooh, pretty

More than 750,000 twinkly lights, lasers and animated figures deck the paths of the Florida Botanical Gardens, 12520 Ulmerton Road in Largo, every night for Holiday Lights in the Gardens. Proprietors suggest a $4 donation, and kids under 12 can see the new 6-foot-tall snowman for free. The lights begin at 5:30 p.m. and run through 9:30 p.m. through the end of the year. (727) 582-5800.

Rock on, Santa

Jingle all your bells and grab a couple of beers while you're at it Friday night at the New World Brewery's annual New Granada's Xmas Night Extravaganza featuring Meatwound, Rec Center, Empire Cinema and Mountain Holler. $10. Doors open at 8 p.m. at 1313 E Eighth Ave. in Tampa. newworldbrewery.net.

Quicker snappers

The beauty of untouched Florida awaits for those budding photographers who'd like to see the wild side of the state. The seasons of photography hike will take people through the Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs, at 8:30 a.m. Saturday for free. Preregistration is required. Sign up at brookercreekpreserve.org/guided-tours.htm.

Spread your wings

Run off that Christmas dinner at 10:15 a.m. Sunday at the Hooters End of the Year Last Chance Beach 5K. The $40 race includes a separate 1-mile ocean swim at 9:15 a.m. for the daring, and free beer and wings at Hooters for the registered. The race starts at Hooters and the Lookout Bar, 381 Mandalay Ave. at Clearwater Beach. tbtim.es/hooters5k.

Is that Jeter's house?

Tour Davis Islands the fast way with a 15-mile bike ride around the well-to-do enclave at 8 a.m. Sunday. Riders must bring helmets and maintain a 10 mph speed. The free meetup begins at the Hillsborough Community College Corporate Training Center, 39 Columbia Drive in Tampa. Call (813) 598-4944.

Downward Dalí

Relax your mind and take in exceptional views during the Yoga + Dalí class Sunday at the Dalí Museum, 1 Dalí Blvd., in St. Petersburg. The vinyasa/ashtanga-based class opens its doors at 11:30 a.m. to start at noon and costs $15 for guests and $10 for members. Bring your own mat and towel and stretch in the Avant-Garden, weather permitting. thedali.org.

Party time, excellent

Get wrapped up in all the hype of the Outback Bowl without having to pretend to root for one of the teams in the stadium — and while enjoying the great Florida weather at the beach. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, live music, skydivers, tug-of-war and other fanfare will greet the Tennessee Volunteers and the Northwestern Wildcats during the Outback Bowl Beach Day at Pier 60, 10 Pier 60 Drive on Clearwater Beach. See more details at outbackbowl.com/events, and for more bowl-related fun, see Page 3.

   
Comments
See Datz pastry chef Alicia Wolding on Netflix’s Sugar Rush

See Datz pastry chef Alicia Wolding on Netflix’s Sugar Rush

When Alicia Wolding joined Datz as the new executive pastry chef last year her hair was rainbow — pretty much the whole ROY G BIV spectrum in cascading tresses. More recently, it’s bright purple, somewhere between iris and lilac. This is the color yo...
Updated: 9 hours ago
St. Petersburg couple drive a minivan, volunteer at church and were CIA spies

St. Petersburg couple drive a minivan, volunteer at church and were CIA spies

What's it like to start a family when you're working for the CIA? Jihi and Andrew Bustamante know.
Published: 06/22/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 23

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 23

St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride’s popular parade has moved to downtown St. Petersburg’s scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at...
Published: 06/22/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24

Summer Classic Movie Series: See 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird. 3 p.m., Tampa Theatre, 711 Franklin St., Tampa. $10, $7 members. (813) 274-8982; tampatheatre.org.St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue’s Grand Central Distr...
Published: 06/22/18
Review: Look inside the tent of a Gibsonton-based sideshow in Tessa Fontaine’s memoir ‘The Electric Woman’

Review: Look inside the tent of a Gibsonton-based sideshow in Tessa Fontaine’s memoir ‘The Electric Woman’

Grief can unhinge us, disconnect us from our daily lives, make us do things we’ve never done. Grief made Tessa Fontaine run away and join the circus.To be more exact, the sideshow: World of Wonders, the last traditional traveling sideshow in the coun...
Published: 06/21/18
Luke Bryan talks love, acceptance and his growing depth before Tampa stop

Luke Bryan talks love, acceptance and his growing depth before Tampa stop

It’s been awhile since Luke Bryan crashed our party. The country music superstar who has racked up awards hasn’t blessed us ’round these parts in awhile. Bryan last played Tampa back in 2015. "We played many multiple nights at the (MidFlorida Credit ...
Published: 06/21/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 22

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 22

Daryl Hall and John Oates with Train : The legendary number-one selling duo and Train perform full sets and a joint set. Kandace Springs opens. 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $45.75-$125. (813) 301-2500; amaliearena.com.St. Pete ...
Published: 06/21/18
Three movies are in the works about Hulk Hogan and Gawker. Will they remember who’s the victim?

Three movies are in the works about Hulk Hogan and Gawker. Will they remember who’s the victim?

Sonny BunchAccording to Vulture, there are three separate movies in the works about the downfall of the New York-based gossip blog Gawker.One is based on the book Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue; it will be a...
Published: 06/21/18
Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Last year’s St. Pete Pride went smoothly, despite some behind-the-scenes drama involving the decision to relocate the parade to the downtown waterfront, rather than the Grand Central District, where it had traditionally been held. After all, the Gran...
Published: 06/21/18
Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Pińa Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Pińa Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

"Hooray, it’s summer!" exclaimed no Floridians. But if it’s summer proper and not just the usual year-round weather, you might as well embrace the heat and humidity with a trip to the beach, accompanied by some suitably refreshing beers. While you’r...
Published: 06/21/18