A number of years ago, one of my very best friends gave up a cherished Manhattan apartment that she had called home for well over a decade. She had a two-year-old son at the time and the rising costs of living in New York City were making it harder and harder to provide adequately for him. So rather than stay and struggle, she made the very responsible decision to abandon her beloved urban dwelling and head to Florida where paying rent doesn’t require that you forfeit other luxuries, like eating food.
Leaving New York was devastating for her, however I must admit, it’s worked out really well for me! Lisa moved to the coolest little hippie beach town right outside of Tampa and now twice a year I get to galavant all over its sandy shores. Here are a bunch of reasons why you should too:
The Holiday Inn
When has the Holiday Inn ever been part of a list of reasons to visit somewhere before? Never, as far as I know but I’m throwing it right up there at the top because the one in Indian Rocks is totally worth checking out. First of all, yes, that is a lobby with its own mini golf course and second of all, it has a pool with a pirate ship in it.
But let’s say you’re not five years old.
No worries! There’s a Tiki Bar where you can literally get buckets of booze, as well as volleyball courts and a white sand beach across the street.
If you want to stay right on the water though, there are TONS of little vacation rentals all along Gulf Boulevard starting at $64 per night. You can save money by sleeping at one of the cheaper places and still take advantage of the Holiday Inn’s pool because it’s open to the public on the weekends.
Food, Food and More Food
You will never run out of places to eat in Indian Rocks. One of my favorites is Crabby Bills. About twice a year I allow myself to eat something that had parents and it’s almost always crab legs. At Crabby Bills you can get them with dollar fifty drinks during happy hour.
Other great spots are Guppy’s and Los Mexicanos, which has the most amazing queso dip. Almost all of the restaurants have outdoor seating and a number of them offer live music. While I’m at it however, there is this one little ice cream place that has the friendliest employees of anywhere I have ever been. It’s called Panama Coffee and Tropical Ice Cream. And they’re open til ten! I know to us New Yorkers that doesn’t seem like a big deal but Indian Rocks is right next door to where Cocoon was filmed. An ice cream joint that’s open til ten, seven days a week, is something to be applauded.
All of these are within walking distance of the Holiday Inn but you can also take a beach trolley for two dollars into Clearwater if you want explore a bit and don’t feel like renting a car. Then you should go to Frenchy’s during sunset for a grouper sandwich.
The Drum Circle At Treasure Island Beach
This is hands down one of my favorite things to do in Florida. It’s not exactly in Indian Rocks, but every Sunday evening, you can take that nifty trolley I was talking about earlier to the beach in Treasure Island about a half an hour away and join a hundred other people for a party on the sand.
The gig gets started around three hours before sunset. There’s a Publix directly across from the circle where you can get food and drinks to bring out with you, so take a blanket and make it a picnic.
Or you can bring some bongos and get in on the drumming. I don’t play drums because I have absolutely no hand-eye coordination and my arms just kind of flail all over the place when I try to pound them in rapid succession on something, but I can shake it, so I bring a jingly skirt and a loud necklace and bounce around a lot.
P.S. This event used to go until as late as eleven P.M. but last year a bunch of spring breakers got out of hand and I heard that now they shut it down when the sun sets, which is lame but you never know, they may have lightened up a bit since then.
I used to love roller coasters but now that I’m getting a little older it’s harder and harder to keep from having a stroke when I’m on them. Good thing I went to Tampa’s finest theme park on the slowest day of the year with a six-year-old who had never been on anything that flipped him upside down before. Since there were so few other patrons, we didn’t even have to get off the rides if we didn’t want to and Cairo took full advantage, making me ride the Scorpion about fifteen times in a row. However if you don’t want to risk having a seizure, there are other things you can occupy your time with like climbing all over this thing.
Besides the rides, they have all sorts of shows and fun animal attractions like a safari and you can even be an elephant keeper for an hour. Also, once you buy a ticket, it’s good for the entire year so you can come back to Tampa over and over and over again!
There’s Pirates Everywhere
I mean if you’re into that kind of thing (I’m into that kind of thing) it’s pretty cool.
They love them some buccaneers down here and if you didn’t get your fill at the Holiday Inn’s pirate pool, you can always take a pirate cruise.
Or you can go play mini golf at Smuggler’s Cove and feed live alligators.
Rent A Boat And Go To A Beach Party Like In Miami Vice
I was like nine when Miami Vice was in its heyday so I don’t remember actual episodes, more just the sound track with Phil Collins and that awesome song they played during the opening credits where a boat was flying through a bridge type thing similar to the one in the back of this photo. So I can’t say with any validity that the party on the beach outside of Shepard’s Hotel is anything like what Don Johnson used to frequent but it’s enough fun just to pretend.
You can get a boat straight from the Holiday Inn (damn, I love that Holiday Inn) for relatively cheap depending on how many people you plan on cramming into the thing. It’s $319 for the whole day. I kind of think it’s weird that they just hand out boats all willy nilly to anyone who asks for one but my brother said they just hand out cars as well so I guess that’s similar. At any rate, here is what the beach party looks like:
I hope you’ve found my little mini guide to traveling in the Gulf to be somewhat helpful, even though if we’re being real about it, all I did was trick you into looking at my vacation photos.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go call the Holiday Inn and invoice them for all this freaking advertising.