Five Things Every Republican Should Do in Tampa Bay

Heading to Tampa Bay for the Republican National Convention? Here are five things locals think you should do while there.
Republican National Convention, elephant, Tampa Bay, Florida
This fiberglass elephant is just one example of the 'herd' that can be seen all over Tampa Bay, Florida, for the Republican National Convention.  (Tampa Bay & Company)

Dozens of fiberglass elephants will line the streets of Tampa Bay, leading the way for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, plus 2,286 delegates and 2,125 alternate delegates, not to mention the 55,000 other people arriving for the Republican National Convention that begins on August 27.

Tampa Bay asked its residents to vote on which activities are “must-dos” for Mitt and Co., assuming they get a little time away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the convention. Here are the results:

1. Dive with sharks at the Florida Aquarium
Not sure if this is a dig on Romney or a legit recommendation, but the aquarium’s Dive with the Sharks program is a tourist favorite. Certified SCUBA divers can swim with tiger sharks, green sea turtles, and moray eels in the Coral Reef Exhibit. Not certified? Not a problem. The aquarium has exhibits to keep GOPers of all ages occupied.

2. Visit Ybor City
As Romney courts Hispanic voters, a visit to Tampa’s Latin Quarter, Ybor City, should be on his list. This National Historic Landmark was once the Cigar Capital of the World, until the emergence of Fidel Castro and the U.S. embargo on Cuban tobacco. Speaking of… here’s a good piece of trivia: Ybor’s Parque Amigos de Jose Marti contains the only Cuban-owned soil in America. Ybor City’s quaint vibe by day gives way to a raucous club scene at night; more socially conservative Republicans might want to make their way out of the neighborhood by 10 p.m.

3. Try an authentic Cuban sandwich
A great Cuban sandwich starts with the prefect piece of 9-inch Cuban bread, sliced long. Layer ham, roasted pork, salami, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard (in that order), then butter the top and heat in a press until it’s crisp. Al Gore prefers the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, which could be a bit awkward if Mitt makes an appearance, but Columbia Restaurant and Gaspar’s Grotto get high marks from locals, too.

4. Jog or bike on Bayshore Boulevard
It may not be 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but Bayshore Boulevard has plenty of stunning historic homes along the way. The road lines Hillsborough Bay, and the 4.5-mile accompanying sidewalk is said to be the world’s longest continuous waterfront sidewalk. Mitt and Ann will have plenty of company here; it’s a popular exercise route for locals.

5. Feed giraffes on safari at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Being on the campaign trail is no doubt akin to a roller-coaster ride, so Mitt and Paul should feel right at home at Busch Gardens. Beyond the park’s 16 thrill-seeker rides awaits a world-class zoo, with a lot of opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals. The safari outings are always popular, but perhaps the Elephant Insider experience might be the most appropriate here.

Bonus: Although Mitt Romney abstains from alcohol, some of you convention goers might need a drink here and there. Keel & Curley Winery claims to be the Napa Valley of Tampa Bay, though its signature wine is made from blueberries rather than grapes. Give it a shot, or a sip, and then head to Fred Howard Park for access to a Gulf of Mexico sandy white beach. The GOP will still be there when you get back.

Published: 13 Aug 2012 | Last Updated: 15 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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