1. Things to Do

Get the ultimate Tampa Bay bucket list from Kristen Hare

Crystal Burchhardt performs in The Little Mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs. (MONICA HERNDON | Times, 2016)
Published Nov. 9, 2018

When Kristen Hare moved from Missouri to Tampa Bay with her family, the plan was to stay for one year. That was six years ago, and Hare hasn't stopped living like a tourist. Hare, a journalist with the Poynter Institute and contributor to the Tampa Bay Times, offers the ultimate bucket list in her book 100 Things to Do in Tampa Bay Before You Die. Here are a few excerpts.

— Stephanie Hayes, Times staff writer

Find the mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs

Once you've taken a swim in the clear blue cold springs at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, you'll appreciate the hard-working mermaids here. They've been performing since 1947, and they twist and turn, slipping their hookah-like oxygen tubes around them as they perform. It is not Broadway underwater, but the play of light, the floating hair, and the shimmering tails make for a great show. They perform The Little Mermaid, of course, and a show that includes a set of tricks such as eating and drinking underwater. The shows are also a great chance to wildlife watch, with turtles and fish making regular guest appearances. After you've seen the mermaids, rent a tube and float the lazy river at Buccaneer Bay. You can also enjoy water slides and a river boat cruise that's included with admission.

Hear the bells at Bok Tower Gardens

Recordings of the bells' songs play every half hour from this 205-foot Gothic tower surrounded by a small pool of water and twisting black iron gates in Lake Wales. Bok Tower was built in 1929 by Edward Bok, who became editor of the Ladies' Home Journal. The Dutch immigrant built the fairy-tale tower as a gift to his new country, and it holds sixty carillon bells that ring and sing with live concerts during the weekends through the fall and spring. Bok Tower sits on Iron Mountain, the highest spot in peninsular Florida, and it is surrounded by lovely gardens, mulched paths, and some of nature's own music, too. While at Bok Tower, visit nearby Pinewood Estates, a 1930s home that you can tour throughout the year.

Take in the view at Fort De Soto

Unlike a lot of the beaches in Tampa Bay, at Fort De Soto Park, the skyline's just sky. You won't see any high-rises. You won't see any condos. You'll just see blue water and blue horizon. The area, which was first the home of Tocobaga Indians, played a role in defense during both the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. The actual fort was finished in 1900, and you can see what remains today for yourself. Visit the beach here, for sure, which feels quiet and remote. And before you head back to the concrete and traffic, climb the steep stone steps up to the top of the fort and enjoy the uninterrupted views of Tampa Bay.


  1. The 53rd-annual Rattlesnake Festival will be held Oct. 19-20 at the Pasco County Fairgrounds in Dade City. The weekend event, kicks off with a prelude concert featuring the Bellamy Brothers on Friday, and raises money for the Thomas Promise Foundation. The foundation provides meals for Pasco County school children who do not have regular access to nutritional meals on weekends when school is not in session. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The annual festival offers a family-friendly outing while raising money to feed school children in need.
  2. Kathleen Hudak, historian with the Brooksville Cemetery, tells the story of William Henry, son of Mr. and Mrs. Quitman Varn during a walking tour of the historic Brooksville Cemetery on Tuesday as part of Brooksville's Founders' Week celebration. The boy died from appendicitis in 1913 at the  age of 9. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
  3. MICHELE MILLER | Times 2018
Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts will roll into downtown New Port Richey for the Cotee River Bike Fest held Oct. 11-13. Times (2018)
    The weekend event brings thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to town while benefiting local charities.
  4. Bigger. Taller. Glitzier. A $720 million expansion of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa has added a 14-story hotel, right, next to the casino's original hotel on the left. Richard Danielson
    Nicole Kidman and Christie Brinkley walked the red carpet, and two members of the Wallenda family walked a high wire strung between the casino’s two hotel towers.
  5. The Cotee River Bike Fest will be held Oct. 11-13 in downtown New Port Richey. Times
    Local offerings abound for those wanting to get out and about.
  6. The African American Heritage Trail in St. Petersburg begins at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    It has been five years since the historic trail celebrated its grand opening, but many still don’t know it’s there.
  7. The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride combines dapper duds and vintage-inspired bikes on a ride to raise money for men's health charities. Mari Sabra
    The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride returns to Tampa Bay as local motorcyclists join a worldwide run to raise money for men’s health charities.
  8. Natalie D'Alessandro and Izaac Deal break out into dance during the inaugural Pride Festival in 2018 in downtown New Port Richey. MICHELE MILLER  |  Times (2018)
    New Port Richey gathering will feature a week of lead-up events.
  9. Suzanne Natzke, an artist and teacher with the Pasco Fine Arts Council, arranges her watercolor paintings for an upcoming exhibit, 'Moments in Time.' The exhibit will be held through Oct. 21 at the council's new gallery at Avalon Park West in Wesley Chapel. MICHELE MILLER  |  Michele Miller
    The countywide Council will exhibit work at the Avalon Park West community.
  10. The Tampa Bay Lightning has tapped Cigar City Brewing to bring its Jai Alai, Guayabera, and Florida Cracker beers to Amalie Arena as the team’s official craft beer partner. (Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning) Tampa Bay Lightning
    Cigar City also will move its popular annual Hunahpu’s Beer Festival to Amalie Arena starting next March.