Outside and around Florida, here are some great things you’ll want to do this spring. Get out of your shell and explore!
The best part of living in Tampa Bay — other than, you know, the beach, or the warm weather, or the perfect boating weather — is that we have, literally, thousands of events every month. Trust me — it’s my job to cull through them all. And while we can classify many of them as “visual art” or “music” or “fitness,” Tampa Bay has hundreds of events every week that don’t fit into those tidy little boxes.
Which explains why you’re reading this — you don’t want to miss all these one-off, kick-ass, unclassifiable-yet-amazing events. Herewith, our list of the rest of the best things to do this spring in Tampa Bay.
Forks & Corks.Last year I attended my first-ever Forks & Corks. We often overlook the Sarasota culinary scene, and that’s a mistake. I expected wine, and the event didn’t disappoint. What I didn’t expect was the abundance of exquisite food to accompany that wine. It’s not easy to do food well away from a restaurant, but every single restaurant at the Grand Tasting (this year on Jan. 27) dished up flawless small plates. Go hungry — and thirsty (and consider a hotel; there’s a lot of wine). While the Grand Tasting is the big-deal event, there’s no shortage of other cuisine-forward events. I suggest partaking in at least one, and more if you can swing it. Venues throughout Sarasota. Jan. 24-Jan. 26; Grand Tasting, Jan. 27. 941-365-2800, eatlikealocal.com.
St. Petersburg Celebration of the Arts.The inaugural season of the ‘Burg’s month-long celebration of the arts combines opera, theater, the written word and all kinds of goodies, throughout February and across St. Petersburg. What we’re excited about: Everything the Palladium Chamber Players are doing (we hear watching them play is almost sexual in nature), Keep St. Pete Lit’s Shakespeare class, and the Florida Holocaust Museum’s The Last Days of Shylock. Feb. 1-28. artsofstpete.org.
Paddle the Preserve: Seagrass Ecology.Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to get outside more, or to use that kayak more? Look no further: Weedon Island has a paddle that combines paddling the preserve with learning about seagrass. Remember, on this day everywhere else in the country, Americans are cold and miserable. Take advantage of this gorgeous winter, and go paddle. Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Island Dr., St. Petersburg. Feb. 2: 2 p.m. 727- 453-6500. Tickets on eventbrite.com.
Seminole Tribal Fair & Pow Wow. While we have Seminole tribal land in Tampa, the Seminole Tribe of Florida holds its annual Pow Wow further south, down in Hollywood. It’s still worth the drive, because the tribe not only broke ground for other Indians across the country when it paved the way for Indian casino gambling, it also has a culture unlike any other in the country. The Pow Wow features Seminole food, art, handcrafted items, gator shows and film. Country singer Gretchen Wilson headlines, too. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Feb. 8-10. semtribefairandpowwow.com.
Quest for the Emerald Paw. It’s a citywide scavenger hunt that benefits Friends of Strays, and while I could go on and on about the fantastic cat we adopted from them late last year (shout out to Mizzen Mast née Autumn), or how they take in more homeless animals than you might think, or how they have a pet food bank, let’s talk about the last time you went on a scavenger hunt. When was it? What’s that? You can’t remember? Guess you’d better get your shit together and organize a team, then, huh? Friends of Strays Animal Shelter, 2911 47th Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Feb. 9: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. friendsofstrays.networkforgood.com.
Bay Area Renaissance Festival. By now, you know what RenFest means. We’re just putting this here so you can plan accordingly to eat Scotch eggs and watch a live chess match. You’re welcome. Feb. 16-Mar. 31, weekends. bayarearenfest.com.
Lights, Camera, Action!: The History of Cinema at Weedon Island.When people first started moving to Florida, they had all kinds of wacky ideas, like gator wrestling, draining the Everglades and… a film studio in the swamp? Sure, why not? Oh, Florida… you so crazy. Learn about the short-lived film studio at Weedon in this one-hour talk. Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Island Dr., St. Petersburg. Feb. 23: 10:30 a.m. 727- 453-6500. Tickets on eventbrite.com.
Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.For art lovers, this weekend is the best one of the year. With juried art shows, an emerging artist exhibit and art-related activities crammed into the weekend, it’s a riverside art extravaganza not to be missed. In and around Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N. Ashley Dr., Tampa. Mar. 2-3. gasparillarts.com.
History by the Pint: Beer and Brewing in Tampa Bay.Yeah, yeah, you know Tampa Bay has a wealth of breweries now — but guess what? We have a 122-year history of making beer here. Learn about it so you can one-up your out-of-state friends who want to Colorado-splain the craft brewing scene to you. Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Old Water St., Tampa. Mar. 2-Aug. 11. 813-228-0097, tampabayhistorycenter.org.
Buildings Alive!The annual Ybor City architecture hop returns. Bring a camera and prepare to be impressed, because the buildings here are, well, impressive. Ybor City Museum State Park, 1818 E. 9th St., Ybor City. Mar. 7: 5-9:30 p.m. Tickets on eventbrite.com.
38th Annual Antiquarian Book Fair.I’m not going to lie to you: I have no business going to this three-day extravaganza of books, because if I bring one more book into our house without removing one, it’s entirely possible my husband will leave me. I’m probably still going to go, because this annual event is like catnip for book lovers. Who can resist an entire coliseum filled with books, maps and paper collectibles, many of which are rare AF? Not me, that’s who. And probably not you, either. St. Petersburg Coliseum, 535 4th Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Apr. 26-28. Tickets on eventbrite.com.
SunLit.It’s the area’s flagship literary festival, with every type of bookish, writing-ish, wordy-ish event you can picture. Keep St. Pete Lit oversees the festival and, for a week or so every April, they take over South Pinellas. This year there’s rumors they may expand the dates, but for now, it happens Apr. 15-28. Watch keepstpetelit.org for updates.