10 days in the Tampa Bay Area with Orlando side trip

Contest entry #5 was written for 5 friends from Kentucky taking an extended vacation in Florida enjoying the beach, live music, great food and theme parks. The actual vacation is for May 20, 2006 – May 30, 2006 but because the vacation could easily be taken in June, July, or August it is a valid entry in the travel writing contest.

Day 1 – Depart Louisville, KY Airport (SDF) at 12:45pm Arrive at Orlando International (MCO) at 2:50pm. Pick up rental car from Dollar Rent A Car (Standard SUV $317.47). Drive to Downtown Disney to see the 6pm showing of Cirque Du Soleil “La Nouba” (tickets range from $61-$95). From Orlando drive to Indian Rocks Beach to our 2 bedroom/2 bath rental condo at Oceanside Condos ($1164.00 one week rental).

Day 2 – Awake to the sound of the ocean waves rushing in. Relax on the beach; make a run to the grocery store and stock up for the week. Visit Guppy’s on the Beach ($18-$25 entrees) for dinner.

Day 3 – Start the day with a relaxing walk on the beach. Travel to Clearwater for a day on the ocean with a full day sailboat rental ($795.00 for 8 hrs). Pack lunch and dinner at PJ’s Oyster Bar ($7-$12pp)

Day 4 – Travel to Tampa for a day of shopping, fine dining and nightlife. Some places to visit are Ybor, South Howard Avenue, and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. (Visit Bern’s in South Howard for nice dinner $18-$30pp.)

Days 5 and 6 – Relax by the pool or on the beach, go fishing on The Pier and check out the amazing sunsets, grill out (our freshly caught meal) and make some new friends! Visit local pubs for nightly entertainment and live music. Jimmy Guana’s is a popular spot.

Day 7 – Last day on the beach- so we breathe deeply and sigh at the sights and sounds we have fallen in love with over the past week. Walk the beach and pick up any last minute seashells. Also visit some of the local orange groves, farmers markets, etc. for the ultimate freshness in fruit and veggies. Visit Keegan’s Seafood Grill for lunch ($6-$9pp) the original Crabby Bill’s Seafood for dinner ($11-$18 pp).

Day 8 – Pack up and head to Orlando. Check into our 3-bedroom/2.5-bath rental condo at Emerald Island Resort ($290.00 for 3 nights). We stop at random places of interest for example the Florida Mall, outlet shops, miniature golf and Pointe Orlando.

Day 9 and 10 – Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures ($99.00 for a 2-day/2-park pass. *Buy online for bonus days and free City Walk Pass). These amusement parks are the ultimate in theme parks. Arrive early and stay late, back to the condo to freshen up then out on the town to City Walk for nightlife. City Walk offers many venues for dancing, dining, and drinking.

Day 11 – Depart the Orlando International Airport (MCO) at 10:45am and arrive in Louisville, KY at 12:50pm.

I hope someone has some great feedback on our trip. I am getting excited and already counting down the days.

Rayna Ortwein

Filed Under: 2006 Summer vacation plan writing contest entries

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  1. Shelley says:

    I just wanted to let you know that I just got back from my first trip to Tampa and it was Fantastic! I’ve also been to Islands of Adventure and Universal in Orlando and they are wonderful also…This trip sounds like it is going to be a blast! Wish I was going!

  2. Shelley says:

    I just wanted to let you know that I just got back from my first trip to Tampa and it was Fantastic! I’ve also been to Islands of Adventure and Universal in Orlando and they are wonderful also…This trip sounds like it is going to be a blast! Wish I was going!

  3. Rayna says:

    Shelley, thanks for your comment! It have heard so many people say they have fallen in love with the Tampa bay area on their first visit. I cannot wait! We are such big kids- I know Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure are going to rock! And since I am the only girl on the trip, I am sure the guys wound not mind if you joined. hehe!

  4. maggie says:

    We visit family every year in the Clearwater area. Forget Guppies it’s not that good. But it’s owned by a father and son duo and their other restaurant, E & E Steakout Grill is superb! It’s about 5 minute away by car but not on the beach. I think it’s on Gulf to Bay Blvd. Although it’s name implies steak, it has everything. Love their tempura shrimp. And get there early and drinks are two for one. Also at Clearwater beach there is Cooters which has a great fish spread. There are also a number of Frenchie’s restaurants that are good. There are a ton of good restaurants in the area. Been to Crabby’s many, many times. If you don’t want to sit at the picnic tables, ask to be seated on “the other side” which will put you behind where the bar is. They have booths and regular tables.

    Fort Desoto is not a far drive and quite interesting. It has a very nice beach.

    If you want a good Sunday brunch try either the Biltmore which is in Bellair (very close) or on the way to Fort Desoto there is the Don Cesar, a very old, pink, luxery hotel.

    Personally, I’d skip Ybor City. It’s about 2 or 3 blocks only and they often have “problems” in that area.

    Indian Rocks beach is not as “soft” as Clearwater, but if Clearwater is really packed, go to Sand Key, it’s just before the bridge to Clearwater.

    I could go on and on since we go there so often and we’ve probably done everything.

  5. Goofy says:

    I lived in the Tampa bay area for 12 years. Something you are missing is to check out the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs.. just north of Clearwater.. also Howard Park is a better beach not as touristy… you can sometimes see Dolfins swimming in the water. Also a big thing seems that you guys are missing is Busch Gardens.. which Universal has a ticket that will enable you to go to US.. IOA and Busch gardens.. it is a fun park and I do reccomend it.

    Also Lowery Park Zoo is a good day out in the sunshine or even take in a canoe ride on the Hillsbourgh river and see all the wildlife Florida has to offer.. you will even see Alagators in there natural habitate. like 2 feet in front of you..(I had a great time doing this)

    As for resturants.. Berns is excellent.. also in Ybor city there is a great resturant by the name of Speggitti warehouse I reccomend that also.. the Italian Wedding soup is to dye for.. 🙂

  6. Rayna says:

    Maggie, Thanks so much for all of the great info! I think we will skip Guppies and go for the E&E Steakout Grill you suggested. And what a great idea to have a nice sunday brunch! I found the Don Cesar while doing a search for our vacation and it looks so beautiful. I had heard that ybor city was kind of rough… 😉 I hope the sand at Indian rocks beach is not to bad, our condo is directly on the beach. Have you been to Egmont Key? We thought about renting a boat and going there.

    Goofy! 😉 WOW- you gave some great info too! Thanks! What is at the sponge docks? I have never seen dolphins swimming in their natural environment, I cannot wait! Would Busch Gardens take up an entire day? I orig. thought about going there too but thought it may be to many parks.

    A canoe ride on the Hillsbourgh river sounds wonderful, how far is it from Clearwater? I have also heard of Bern’s, is it more upscale? (I love to get all dolled up- gives me an excuse to buy a new dress… 😉

    Ok sorry for so many questions, but you guys gave me so much awesome information. Thanks again!

  7. maggie says:

    Haven’t heard of Egmont Key. I have to say that the Tampa area is pretty informal for dress-up in dining, but E&E you could dress up if you wanted and I forgot about Heilmans on Clearwater Beach. It’s a little up-scale and very good. They have a piano player during dinner. Busch Gardens is fun and the beer is free! I thought about that but I’m kind of a one amusement park is enough person. By the way the Don Cesar is very expensive, but there is a ton of food to eat.

    So many other places, the aquarium and the Dali museum in St. Pete. Oh and if you want to see dolphins, at the Clearwater Bch marina they have a boat that takes you on dolphin encounters for about $10.00. You will see many. And if you go up to Tarpon Springs (personally not my fav) you could eat at Bon Appetit on the way to or back. Tarpon has alot of Greek restaurants because that’s who settled there.

    Enjoy.

  8. excalibur22 says:

    That sounds like a lot of fun! I’m especially jealous of the sailboating part. I have a friend who knows how to sail and he has taught me a few things so I’m dying to get out and try it again. I also didn’t realize that there is a Hard Rock Casino down there. And then going to Universal Studios in Orlando…wow. My wife and I have an anniversary coming up. I might have to take a few of your ideas 😉 Thanks!

  9. Sozu says:

    Enjoy Burns. It really is the best. The Pier is good for a short visit. Fort DeSoto has gotten realy popular, but is always worth the visit.

    Sponge docks are a bit of drive and can be missed, but also worth it!

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