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)
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. Clockwise from left: Cheesy Sriracha Funnel Cake Bites, Piña Colada Candy Apple, Candy Corn and Cheeseburger-On-A-Stick [Courtesy of the Florida State Fair]
    Cheesy Sriracha Funnel Cake Bites, Piña Colada Candy Apples and more are coming to the Florida State Fair.
  2. Draped against the St. Petersburg skyline on Tuesday evening on January 14, 2020, the Bella Vita is visible as it docks in Port St. Pete. The yacht is nearly 250 feet long and costs about $650,000 to charter for a week in the winter, according to broker Moran Yacht and Ship. It can accommodate 12 passengers between its six staterooms and six decks, and a staff of 22. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Meet the Bella Vita, a yacht almost too luxurious to believe.
  3. An Australian shepherd named Waylon gets some pampering from Kathryn Ross-Nash at the Florida Gulf Coast Classic Cluster of Dog Shows held Jan. 9-13 and Jan. 15-19 at Florida Classic Park in Brooksville.  Ross-Nash of Bradenton is an owner/breeder/handler of Australian shepherds and has been showing dogs for 30 years. "I love the show. Love the set-up, and I'm close to home," she said. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
    Annual Florida Gulf Coast Cluster Dog Show draws thousands of dogs to Brooksville from around the country. The winners go on to the Westminster show in New York next month.
  4. Ava Calvin, 5, participates in a unity dance during the First Night of Kwanzaa in St. Petersburg ceremony on Thursday evening. [BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    In St. Petersburg, community gathers for annual tradition.
  5. Clearwater may soon vote to allow commercial megacycles to ply the streets downtown and on Clearwater Beach. They'll be missing a key ingrediant, though: Beer and wine. [Pedal Pub]
    One operator calls the proposed ordinance a deal killer without beer and wine. The city council on Thursday will discuss a six-month pilot program.
  6. As with last year’s Christmas program at Northcliffe Baptist Church, the special event this year will include music, narration and skits. [Northcliffe Baptist Church]
  7. Alligator Attraction started offering sloth yoga classes in November. []
    Sloth yoga and other sloth activities are becoming more popular around the Tampa Bay area, but some say it puts the animals in peril.
  8. Charlie explains to his parents and sister, Beth, that the best thing about church is that there are no Herdmans there. Pictured, from left: Sarah Krug as Mother (Grace Bradley), Amber Marino as Beth, Frank Miller as Father (Bob Bradley) and Jude Mys as Charlie. [Kristina Mitten]
    Live Oak Theatre presents ‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever'
  9. Classic Reflections Carriages is offering carriage rides starting at 6 p.m. Dec. 19-21 throughout downtown Brooksville. Reservations are made in person on each event date, starting at 4 p.m., in front of the historic courthouse. [Brooksville Main Street]
    Holiday events in Pasco and Hernando counties
  10. Glenn Woods, 62, shapes a decorative bottle made with a blend of porcelain clays at Pottery Boys Clay Studios on Nov. 18  in Palm Harbor. Woods and his partner, Keith Herbrand, 56, have created dozens of pieces, including holiday decorations, vases, coffee cups, bowls and platters for the Tour de Clay, a progressive tour of five pottery studios in the Tampa Bay area featuring the work of 33 artists from near and far. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The annual effort supports working artists and benefits charity.