[ Tampa ]

Here's the thing about travel: it doesn't always come up to your expectations. And then sometimes travel really, really, really blows your expectations out of the Gulf waters. Take me and Florida. I didn't make much of an expectation for what Tampa would be like when I made plans to visit friends. Maybe it was my classic allergic reaction to liking what's popular or maybe I was just on a roll with "have no high hopes, have no hopes dashed" and it extended to the realm of what Tampa would be like. But oh my goodness, do I love Tampa now.

First of all, the weather. My traveling-buddy, Morgan, and I were ushered out of Virginia in freezing rain and welcomed into Florida with a solid eight days of the best of all possible weathers. Warm without being hot, breezy and sunny and utterly beautiful.

Then you've got Florida's peculiar brand of Spanish moss-clad trees cozied up next to palm trees and pristine white beaches. Walking on those beaches (particularly Siesta Key) was like walking in flour. By the time we left the beach, we felt like little powdered-sugar doughnuts, the sand was so fine and stuck to you so badly. I got a grand sunburn but it will tan off nicely, so I don't mind.

Third, we can discuss art: I was able to tour the Salvador Dali Art Museum in Tampa with a friend a day or two after our arrival. I hadn't known much beforehand about Salvador Dali and his art (beyond "Melting Watches"), so to be able to tour so many prime examples of his work and to see the exhibit paralleling the lives of he and Walt Disney and culminating at their friendship and work-partnership, was pretty amazing. What a great artist. There is so much to see and consider in his work. And can we talk for a moment about the stunning, picturesque clarity of his style? Many digital artists can't get that level of technique in their work, let alone do it with a brush.

Fourth, we'll touch on the food. Besides an emergency stop at Chick-fil-A and one lunch at Chipoltes, our friends made certain that we ate at new, exciting, or unique places while in Tampa. That being said, we spent a fortune on coffee and food, devouring the town as only real food-appreciators can.  On the way home, I listed my favorites in my journal:

A photo posted by Rachel Heffington (@lipstickandgelato) on

I tried some of the best sweet potato fries I've ever eaten. I tried conch fritters and had shaved ice for the first time. There were so many firsts on this trip alongside many favorites. Tampa is such an up-and-coming place. I wish it wasn't a fourteen hour drive because if it was as close to me as DC? You can bet I would be there in a flash, sitting on the UT campus watching rowers on the river. Rather than go on in words about Tampa, I'm filling the rest of this post with photos. And as far as food goes, consider that list full of my recommendations for places that should not disappoint if you ever end up hungry in Tampa!

we were forbidden to use the taco bell bathroom without purchasing a food item beforehand. cinnamon twists happened.

Tampa's pretty darn cool.


  1. Awww, I love Tampa. I have family down there, and I've visited every year that I can remember. My very favorite restaurant there is Venus; it's in Largo, which isn't too far away. Their chicken souvlaki is heavenly.