Relax, college hockey fans.
After a season full of scrapbook-worthy victories, your team has landed at the NCAA Frozen Four — which means you get a two-fer.
On top of the one-in-four chance that you'll see your captain hoisting the trophy, the big games are happening Thursday and Saturday at the Amalie Arena in sunny Tampa Bay. The last three winners had to brave Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — not exactly known for their beaches. Our hometown is also home to good food, interesting local bands and art that you can't see anywhere else.
So, basically, you've gained an Instagram-fueling vacation wrapped in the icy sporting event of the year. Michigan fans are so jealous of you.
We have a lot going on around town this weekend. Aaron Neville headlines the Tampa Bay Blues Festival on Saturday, comedians Joel McHale and Lewis Black perform separately Saturday and Centennial Park in Ybor City is home Sunday to the annual Festa Italiana, a celebration of all things Italian (including food!).
Regular days here aren't too shabby, either.
Our experts in dining, relaxing, art and music have mapped out the perfect plan to make sure you aren't a duster between games.
Let us give you the assist on this one.
— Robbyn Mitchell, Times staff writer
For the formerly frozen refugees of colder climates here for the Frozen Four, Tampa Bay's world-famous beaches may all look alike. But just as every snowflake (or starfish) is unique, the many beaches here have their own personalities and vibes.
There's a lot to love about Tampa's live music scene no matter when you visit. Love jam bands? Swing by Skipper's Smokehouse on Thursday nights for the Grateful Dead tribute Uncle John's Band. EDM? Head to Ybor City for bass-heavy #Pound Fridays at the Amphitheatre or the Filthy Richard Party at the Ritz Ybor. Old-school hip hop? Hit Ol' Dirty Sundays at Crowbar.
Need a little more direction? Here are four great Tampa Bay acts with local concerts this weekend. See if you can squeeze them in between games.
Damon Fowler: The nationally signed blues guitarist is a local favorite no matter where he plays, and he's spent the last few months touring with the likes of George Thorogood and Butch Trucks. He'll perform at the Ringside Cafe, 16 Second St. N in St. Petersburg, on Friday night.
Jeremy Gloff: The eclectic, outspoken singer-songwriter will release his 20th — 20th! — album Those Who Survived with a party and concert at one of Tampa Bay's best watering holes, New World Brewery, 1313 E Eighth Ave. in Ybor City. His lead single When I Was 19 is driving, synthetic power-pop, but over the years his style has run the gamut from folk to pop to dance, so be ready for anything. Swing by late Saturday to catch it.
The Heene Boyz: At noon Saturday, head to Tampa's top metal hangout, the Brass Mug (1450 Skipper Road), for Rock For a Reason, an all-ages festival featuring food, games, family fun and 15 hard rock and metal bands. The main one to know is the Heene Boyz, a teenage trio whose singer and bassist, Falcon Heene, found notoriety as the kid at the center of the "Balloon Boy" hoax. Tickets are $15-$20 on eventbrite.com.
The Wilson Van: If your team gets knocked out early, here's a nice consolation prize: A hometown concert by film and TV star Patrick Wilson and his brothers Mark (the lead anchor for local Fox affiliate WTVT-Ch. 13) and Paul. The Wilson Van plays charity concerts here once or twice a year, mostly classic rock covers (lots of Van Halen) with a few originals. Their shows are always fun, and this one's at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Tickets are $20 at thewilsonvan.com. (As a bonus, young sibling rock duo the Ries Brothers, who have toured with Chicago, will open the show.) — Jay Cridlin, Times pop music/culture critic
We've got more to see than sand and waves in Tampa Bay, and our committed art community might be one of the area's best kept secrets. Contrary to what you've may have heard, there's also some man-made beauty here in the land of Spring Break forever.
Dalí Museum: It has the most comprehensive collection of works in all media by the late Spanish Surrealist, housed in an award-winning waterfront building with a beautiful garden.
Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg: Its permanent collection includes a popular gallery featuring 19th-century Impressionist paintings. It also has the largest and most comprehensive photography collection in the Southeast, with selections usually on view in a special gallery. It is on Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg, surrounded by city parks and across the street from the waterfront.
Chihuly Collection: A museum-like gallery featuring the multi-piece installations by studio glass star Dale Chihuly. It's part of the bustling Beach Drive corridor in downtown St. Petersburg with shops and restaurants.
Tampa Museum of Art: Only about a mile from Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa, the museum features works from its renowned antiquities collection, considered the finest in the Southeast. It is adjacent to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on the Hillsborough River with a riverwalk, dog park and other recreational amenities.
You could probably survive on burgers, fries and arena food for the weekend, but that would be a waste of a perfectly good vacation. For those willing to venture to find photographable and delicious, budget-conscious fare, we've got a few ideas for you around Tampa.
Edison: Food+Drink Lab: Chef Jeannie Pierola's food experiment began in 2012 with the warehouse district feel of the restaurant lending a sort of excitement to trying out the mishmash of a menu featuring maple bourbon glazed black grouper with a side of conch hush puppies and spicy Jamaican fried organic chicken with a banana bacon waffle. Times food critic Laura Reiley praises the restaurant's bone marrow entree, liquid nitrogen milkshakes and glazed baby root vegetables. She called the place "a rollicking, comfortable place at jeans-and-T-shirts prices." 912 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa; (813) 254-7111.
Taco Bus: Owner Rene Valenzuela got his start in the restaurant business as a kid working a street taco stand in Mexico. So Taco Bell this is not. The order at the counter eatery has become a late night staple for downtown Tampa denizens looking to survive a night of drinking. Filling options include all the request meat options and a few vegetarian fillings (butternut squash). 505 N Franklin St., Tampa; (813) 397-2800.
Hattrick's Tavern: If all else fails, there's always the hockey bar. Luckily for Tampa, the local puck guys' hangout is also a stand up restaurant with full menu of meat filled options sure to make anyone's pads a little snug. Specializing in sandwiches, the Hattrick's offerings also dip toes into Florida seafood fare with the dinner grouper piccata and crabmeat stuffed haddock. There's also an appetizer list as long as the entree listing for people who'd just like to graze and catch the game on the big screen. 107 S Franklin St., Tampa; (813) 225-4288.
Istanblu: For a taste of something exotic yet filling, look no further than the gyros and doner kebabs of Ybor City's only Turkish restaurant. The delicacies of the Mediterranean are meat friendly and served with filling sides of white rice and grilled tomatoes. In the middle of the city's prime bar crawl, it's a good start to a night out on the town. The traditional Turkish atmosphere comes complete with a live belly dancing dinner show. 1919 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City; (813) 304-2348.
Grimaldi's Pizzeria: Tucked in the back of West Shore Plaza Mall near Dick's Sporting Goods is a terraced pizza place with red and white checked tablecloths and almost every topping any pie lover could ever want. The chain originated under New York's famed Brooklyn Bridge and has been pitted against other famous brands as the best slice with its coal-oven, thin crust creations. 253 Westshore Plaza B1B, Tampa; (813) 287-2500.