The Super Bowl is barely two weeks away. Two lovely, glorious weeks that can not pass fast enough.
Here in Tampa, ground zero for Super Bowl XLIII (or 43 for the non-Latin counters), you can almost taste the tension. You can feel the fervor. And you can definitely hear the hype. The news can't stop talking about the game, people are already planning their parties (or some cases, their escapes), and the fan bases of the four teams left in the postseason chase are making their travel arrangements. There is no doubt thousands upon thousands of fans are coming to Tampa by land, by sea, or by air.
According to the local news, most fans will be arriving sometime during Super Bowl week, with at least a few days to spare before the big game. No doubt, many fans will spend more than a few days in Tampa. So for these fanatical followers of the hallowed pigskin, I present a local resident's 11 ways to keep occupied while you wait in joyous anticipation for kickoff.
11. Visit the carnies - Just outside of Tampa lies the sleepy little town of Gibsonton, winter home of generations of circus folk. According to Tampa Bay Online, carnival workers have been coming to Gibsonton since at least the 1930s. Kinda like the Super Bowl in a way. (For more on Gibsonton, check out this History Channel video.)
10. Search for ghosts - Like most areas with history, the Tampa region has its share of places seeped in the paranormal. According to this USA Today article, there are haunted hotels, bookstores, bridges, and theaters. There are even stories of ancient buccaneer Jose Gaspar haunting his old stamping grounds. For more, check out the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg.
9. Watch some rasslin' with the Afro-Squad - I'll admit, this is a shameless plug, as I am a card-carrying member of the Afro-Squad. But the fact is every Thursday night the Afro-Squad meets up to watch Florida Championship Wrestling live and in action. Located on one of Tampa's main roadways, Dale Mabry Blvd, FCW is the top minor league of the WWE. Here is where the stars of tomorrow perfect the skills that will launch their careers. And there to root them on is a bunch of people of all ages in Afro wigs and sunglasses. Don't worry if you don't have a 'fro, we usually bring extras.
8. Check out some tunes - Although cities such as Chicago, Nashville, and Austin have far lengthier histories and more vibrant music scenes, Tampa has it's niche in the American music scene. Going back, Tampa can lay claim to two very influential figures: Hudson Whittaker, a.k.a "Tampa Red", and Ernest Evans, a.k.a "Chubby Checker". (As the name implies, blues legend Tampa Red hailed from Tampa prior to making it big in Chicago and although Mr. Checker wasn't from Tampa, he did get the inspiration for The Twist from some Tampa teens.) Today the legacies of Tampa Red and Chubby Checker are alive and well at places such as Skipper's Smokehouse, where you can get a fantastic fish sandwich while listening to the best of local funk, rock, and blues.
7. Hit up the Original Hooters - Not far from Tampa, in beautiful Clearwater, Florida lies the mecca of all that is good. A place where the beer is cold, the wings are hot, and the girls wear little orange shorts. Of course, I am talking about Hooters. Not just any Hooters, but the first ever Hooters. Now you can see up close and personal where the dream of world run by Hooters began. And what a world it will be.
6. Rock out with your chips out - Since the Super Bowl won't be held in Las Vegas anytime soon, Tampa may just have the closest gambling spot to any Super Bowl-hosting stadium: the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. What can be more alluring than slots, poker, buffets, and walls and walls of rock'n'roll memorabilia? I can almost guarantee the casino will be the place to be, full of celebrities and VIPs from the A-list to the D-list. Be on the look out for famous gamblers Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and ESPN writer Bill Simmons.
5. Chat with a chimp or curse in fluent kangaroo - Step away from the urban jungle of Tampa and step into the safari at Busch Gardens, Tampa's biggest amusement park. Busch Gardens features a plethora of wild roller coasters, a bunch of African-influenced performances, and a wide array of animals, from rhinos and giraffes to the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales, stars of numerous Super Bowl ads.
4. Support our local ladies - According to a 2006 FinancialFlorida.com report, Tampa ranked number 3 in in adult entertainment establishments per capita. They are everywhere. From the dance clubs to the video stores, there are plenty of places to find that extra bit of attention in the Tampa Bay area. Sadly, due to the poor economy, many of the women employed by the clubs have had to work long, tough hours to make ends meet. So please, swing on by and give a few dollars or better yet, a few hundred dollars to the women of our local economy.
3. Consume a fresh adult beverage or two - Surprisingly, Tampa can hold its own with many cities in regards to beer production. Tampa is the home of notable breweries such as the Yuengling brewery (guaranteed to be hot spot if any Pennsylvanian teams make the big game), and the Tampa Bay Brewing Company as well as several beer bars, brewpubs, and beer stores. Remember, life is too short to drink bad beer.
2. Chill at Channelside or hang in Ybor City - Located in Tampa are two entertainment districts, the renovated Centro Ybor and the newer Channelside. Both areas feature numerous restaurants, bars, dance clubs, shops, and movie theaters. Both offer adequate parking, with several parking garages to choose from. The two however, do have their differences, as Ybor City is more artistic, and Channelside offers a walk to both the Florida Aquarium or the St. Pete Times Forum, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, if for whatever reason you are undecided as to where to hang out, just take the trolley from one to the other.
1. Get ready for some football - You didn't come all the way to Tampa to take a tour of the city. You came to see some football. And by the looks of the local construction, the NFL is getting ready for you. Opening days before the game, the NFL Experience is full of events and activities guaranteed to occupy even the most impatient fan. Of course, keep your eyes open for celebrities galore, including ex-players and numerous members of the media. Heck, you might even see me.
(For even more things to do, including a few restaurants and some stuff for the kids, see The Tampa Bay Real Estate Insider.)