With all the trails hiked and the river paddled, we decided to spend our final day at Hillsborough River out of the park and in the city. Tampa and St. Petersburg are only about an hour away and with lots going on in both cities we figured we could easily make a day of it. First stop? The St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market. I’m all for a farmers market, and when the market also has live music, local crafts and prepared foods you can bet that’s where I want to spend a few hours.
It turned out to be a very lively and well-attended market. The band was set up center stage with a large area of folding chairs and tables for people to sit and enjoy the music while munching on the local goods.
We wandered all the aisles, picking up a loaf of crusty multi-grain bread at one booth, a jar of local honey at another and some fresh produce at a few others. I even remembered to bring our small cooler along so the green goods would stay fresh throughout the day.
By far the prepared foods booths had the biggest presence at the market. Every aisle we walked down was peppered with vendors selling sweet and savory goods with origins from all over the world. There were Italian pastries, Mexican tamales, French crepes, and pretty much anything else you could think of.
Although it wasn’t yet lunchtime, with all the good smells wafting through the air, we couldn’t resist sampling some of the goods. Tim got a naan wrapped chicken sandwich with fresh spinach and curry sauce while I went with a southwest black bean filled empanada. We both had an almond cookie with two kinds of jam from the Italian pastry booth.
It would have been easy to stay there for hours eating our way around the market, but we had a full day planned so we reluctantly moved on. From the market, we walked over The Dali Museum. As expected it was very busy. Most museums are on the weekends, but as they usually close around the time Tim finishes work we’re limited to weekend visits only.
In retrospect, we probably should have gone on Thursday when they have later hours and a special $10 entry fee after 5 pm. There’s no way it could have been any busier, and since the museum was smaller than expected it only took us two hours to see it all. Regardless, we enjoyed both the Dali portion of the museum and the special Frida Kahlo exhibit. I’ll spare you my commentary and share a few shots of my favorite pieces.
After we finished up the Kahlo exhibit, I checked the time on my phone and noticed that I had a voicemail from a Tampa number. Hmm…I don’t know anyone in Tampa, who could it be? Turns out it was the state park wondering why we hadn’t checked out. Wait, what? But we don’t need to check out until Sunday — or so I thought. Except after finding the reservation in my email, it turned out that we were indeed supposed to check out on Saturday at 1 pm. Whoops. It was almost exactly one o’clock when I called them back to apologize and explain what happened and that we were an hour away. The ranger was very nice and told me it happens more often than you would think. So our museum time came to an abrupt halt which meant we missed out on the small garden labyrinth and didn’t have time to peruse the gift shop, but at least we got to see both exhibits.
The state park was completely full for the night, so on the way back we researched nearby RV parks and decided to spend the night at the Lazydays RV Resort in Sheffler. It would put us only 20 minutes from downtown Tampa and allow us to salvage the rest of our city adventures.
I don’t have much to say about the Lazydays since most of our time spent there was during the night, but it seemed okay for an RV park. The $50/night price tag was a bit steep, but each site had a small slice of grass and some trees. While the park was laid out nicely and the sites level, they did seem on the short side though and I noticed everyone had their towed and tow vehicles parked at odd angles to fit in the site. The photo above was taken in the morning when we were hooked up, but even unhooked we had to wedge the truck in to get it off the road. The location was perfect though, and not long after arriving and setting up we headed back into the city to finish our day.
First, we made a stop at Trader Joe’s to stock up on dried fruit and nuts. They are one of the few stores where I can find consistently good quality dried mango with no sugar added. We bought five packages :) Have you ever noticed that all Trader Joe’s locations have tiny parking lots? This one was so tight, and the store so busy, that they had an employee directing traffic. We got in and out pretty quickly and then made our way to the main event of the afternoon/evening — Cigar City Brewing.
Tim has been enjoying the Cigar City brews all winter long and was excited to learn that their brewery and tasting room was located nearby. We’ve done a number of brewery tours around the country and after some pretty boring experiences have decided that a simple visit to the tasting room is enough for us. But the Cigar City tours got great reviews and they give you samples to drink while on the tour which was enough to convince us to give it try.
Turns out we made the right choice as this was the by far the best brewery tour we’ve ever been on — and that’s not the beer talking (okay, maybe the beer helped a bit). Seriously though, our tour guide was passionate and knowledgeable and eagerly answered all of our questions. At each stop on the tour we got to sample a different beer and twice we were offered refills. A big part of the reason why the tour was so awesome was because our guide, Jon, was simply good at giving tours. He was obviously enthused about the product and shared with us a wealth of information not only about Cigar City but about craft beer in general. We learned everything from the origin of the brewery name to their recent expansion into North Carolina. Also, did you know that there is a beer version of a sommelier? It’s called a Cicerone and Jon had recently passed the first level certification. Interesting stuff for sure.
After the tour, we grabbed some wood fired pizza from the food truck out back and went into the tasting room for what else…more beer! I tried and enjoyed the Guyabera, a citrus infused pale ale, while Tim went with the White Oak Jai Alai and the Oatmeal Raising Cookie, which he liked but I found disappointing considering the yummy sounding name. Oh yeah, and the pizza from Engine 53 Pizza was excellent.
We had a great experience at Cigar City Brewing and if you find yourself in the Tampa area I would highly recommend visiting the tasting room and taking a tour. It’s a fun way to try some of their beers not available in stores, and the rotating food truck schedule ensures there’s always something tasty to eat.