- Don’t miss the evolution of Florida’s maps in “Charting the Land of Flowers: 500 Years of Florida Maps,” a 150-piece exhibit opening September 21 at the Tampa Bay History Center. The collection is the most comprehensive exhibit of Florida cartography ever presented, tracing six centuries of Florida history in an unusual art form.
- From Little Havana to Ybor City, Florida has a serious history with the cigar industry, and the future is anything but smoky. Check out our favorite stores to buy the best cigars in Miami and Tampa from our special Viva Florida 500 issue, celebrating 500 years of Florida.
- The Weekend: Explore the inner Gulf Coast. A trio of Tampa-area cities — Brooksville, Dade City and Floral City — delivers the back-in-time charm of 1880s Old Florida with plucked- from-the-past town squares, historic architecture and even an Out of Africa experience.
Start Here: The historic Mary Coogler Cottage (352-796-6857), a 1930s bungalow, is tucked along a canopied street just a short stroll from downtown Brooksville, which is a great place to base yourself.
1. Old Florida shopping is tops in downtown Brooksville. Look for Native American jewelry at Peacetree Trading and antique furniture at House of Passage, which also sells Simply Caprine, the fragrant Floral City-made goat soap stashed in MTV Movie Awards celebrity swag bags. Indulge in high tea under the oaks at the Tilted Teacup or hop in the car for the right-from-Sicily flavors of Papa Joe’s.
2. Please feed the animals in nearby Dade City. Enjoy a motorized or camelback safari of the 47-acre Giraffe Ranch, a farm and wildlife preserve, and you can hand-feed giraffes, pygmy hippos, zebras, warthogs and the hybrid donkey-zebra, aptly called a donkra. Tours are offered twice a day, but must be reserved in advance.
3. Floral City is the midpoint of the 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail. To explore in style, hop on a rental recumbent bike from Hampton’s Edge. The paved and mostly flat linear park passes rolling equestrian estates and plantations and even an 1800s graveyard. Visit the Shamrock Inn for a cold one after the ride, before exiting town via the 125-year-old Avenue of the Oaks.
- The Weekend: Enjoy a wine-centric weekend in Tampa. The famous Bern’s Steak House in Tampa is one of the state’s best spots for beef, yet some may argue that it’s really the wine that makes dinner here so perfect. Boasting Florida’s largest wine list, with more than 6,800 options, the restaurant is a culinary experience worth wrapping a weekend around. Or better yet, visit in April for the annual Bern’s Winefest.
Start Here: Check into the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel. From here it’s an easy drive or taxi ride to SoHo, the South of Howard Avenue dining district, where Bern’s and other restaurants line the streets.
Weekend To Dos:
1. Plan on spending an hour or more at Bern’s Fine Wines and Spirits shop. The store stocks wines that are among the highest rated by Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate’s respected wine critic Robert Parker. A knowledgeable staff makes shopping for wine here not only fun but educational as well. Buy a case of 12 (mixed bottles count) and receive a 10 percent discount.
2. Bern’s Steak House has been an institution since 1956. Make your reservation a month in advance if you want weekend primetime seating (7 to 9 p.m.). With seven dining rooms, the restaurant is buzzing as waiters balance huge trays of sizzling thick steaks, and sides like twice-baked potatoes and black truffled creamed corn. Any of Bern’s three sommeliers will help you navigate the wine list and choose a bottle from the cellar, which holds 5,500 red wines, 1,000 white wines, 200 sparkling wines, plus madeiras, ports and sherries.
3. After dinner take the tour of the wine cellar and kitchen, which is part of the dining experience and offered to all guests. Then head upstairs to the Harry Waugh Dessert Room and slip into one of the wooden dining nooks, designed to resemble a wine barrel, and order a retro Baked Alaska or a glass of Inniskillin Vidal Icewine.
- If you prefer your history served with a side of deep-fried snacks, then grab a napkin and get ready to dig in. The Florida State Fair returns to Tampa on Thursday, Feb. 7, offering a 12-day mix of edibles, concerts, rides and exhibits.
- Nothing shouts summer fun louder than these resorts’ over-the-top swimming pools — and cool lagoons — with lazy rivers, crazy slides and even a new splash park. We found bodies of water that are perfect for everyone!
- Old favorites combine with up-and-comers to top the "must-do" list in Florida's city by the bay.
- Here are four amazing getaways where you can dive reefs, ride waves and catch fish—all just a short car drive away.
- I spent my weekend hobnobbing with Tampa’s oenophiles at Bern’s Winefest. If you like good food and wine, no doubt you’ve been to Bern’s Steak House, but have you been to the restaurant’s wine festival?