Florida Vacations – Start yours at Tampa International Airport

Florida vacations – start yours at Tampa International Airport

For those who think all airports are the same, think again! Tampa International Airport (TIA) has been voted one of the top five layover airports in the world by Huffington Post, because of its simple hub and spoke design, pay per use lounges, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour food options and friendly staff. That’s not the only reason that a Florida vacation that begins at TIA starts well – the airport is committed to providing a great experience for all travelers, today and into the future.

 

Tampa International Airport – the future of vacation travel

TIA is located at 4100 George J Bean Pkwy, Tampa, FL 33607, USA, a vast airport site that gives the city many imaginative options when planning how to meet the needs of its millions of vacation travelers.

Back in 2011, the airport team began to update the master plan that manages the use of the 3,300-acre site. Three phases of expansion have been planned to accommodate a further 17 million passengers every year, bringing the total vacation rental and holiday trade to over 35 million annually.

What makes the TIA process fascinating is that the airport has chosen a ‘build as required’ approach, so that minimum disruption to current passengers is balanced by the needs of this ever-growing tourist center. So, for example, Tampa International Airport car rental is being made easier by creating a 2.6 million square foot purpose built rental center at the airport entrance, alongside new airport parking.

 

Historical Tampa – from the air

In 1928 Tampa City built Drew Field, six miles west of downtown Tampa. Beginning in 1938 Drew was a military airfield, used as a training center for 120,000 combat air crews in the European and Pacific theaters. In addition, locally based antisubmarine patrols flew from the field until that duty was taken over by US Navy and Coastguard. Aircraft flying out of Tampa included the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Douglas C-47 Skytrain, North American AT-6 and North American B-25 Mitchell. Tampa reverted to commercial flights after the war ended becoming a popular destination for travelers from around the world.

 

Traveling through Tampa International Airport

For those who are fascinated by air travel, there is an excellent master plan to the airport alterations that gives every detail that an airport buff could require. For less enthusiastic visitors, a simple Tampa International Airport map shows why this airport is beloved by the jet-lagged – the wheel shaped layout makes it so easy to find your way around, no matter how long your flight has taken.

Cigar City Brewing, as mentioned in our Top Ten post, Colombia Restaurant – the oldest continually owned restaurant in the hands of the same family – and Goody Goody, a ‘50s themed hamburger restaurant which is a local favorite, can also be found on the airport site.

TIA recently became the first airport in Florida to receive the StormReady designation, certifying that they have met an extensive list of criteria set by the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) in ensuring the airport is prepared and ready to respond quickly to any severe weather heading our way.

Just six miles from downtown Tampa, this international airport has one other great benefit for long-haul passengers – it’s a hop and a skip from the city center and onward travel to vacation rentals like ErehwonRetreat. With five stars for cleanliness, and four stars for seating and queuing times on the Kytra site, Tampa is highly considered as a friendly, clean and swift to navigate airport, great marks, particularly given its international status.

 

Florida vacations begin here

A record-breaking 60.7 million tourists visited Florida in the first half of 2017 – a 4.1% increase on travelers over the same six months the previous year. The breakdown is 53.2 million domestic visitors, alongside 2.2 million Canadians and 5.3 million other overseas vacation travelers.

Tampa International Airport parking just got easier too … alongside the new parking center, there are three rideshare companies now authorized to pick up fares: Uber, Lyft and Wingz. These three alternatives to the classic airport taxi will help reduce congestion around the airport and give visitors more choice on how to get to their vacation destination outside the airport. Whether you’re flying from within the USA, or traveling long-haul from the other side of the world, there can’t be a better way to start your Florida break than at Tampa International Airport.

Florida and Golf – a long love affair

Florida and golf – a long love affair

 

 

When Colonel J Hamilton Gillespie built a small practice golf course in Sarasota in 1886, he began Florida’s love affair with golf. Henry Flagler, the railway tycoon, immediately commissioned Alexander Findlay to build a golf layout around his Palm Beach hotel, The Breakers; it was the first regulation 18-hole golf course in Florida. By February 1913, the San Juan Hotel in Orlando was hosting a meeting to form the first state golf association and by 1915 the first Amateur Championship was held at the Tampa Automobile and Golf Club. This club known today as Rocky Point Golf Club open in 1911. During WW II, the Federal Government closed the course and built barracks on the property to house prisoners of war. Recent guests who visit each year quoted Chris Perry when returning from “Streamsong” a unique course built on a former phosphate mine, “the worst club in my bag was my brain.”

 

Golf vacation – Florida a golden destination

Many of Florida’s golf clubs date back to the golden age of Florida travel and for vacationers seeking to combine a great round of golf with some glorious architecture on well-established greens need look no further than:

 

Babe Zaharias Golf Club was established in Forest Hills, North Tampa, in the 1920s, when it was known simply as Forest Hills. In 1950 Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias became the female golf professional at the course and within a year had bought the place – changing the name to Tampa Golf club. As a professional golfer Babe Zaharias won 10 LPGA major championships before her untimely death at the age of 45, after which the club was abandoned, but in 1974 the City of Tampa purchased, restored and renamed the club which is a challenging and rewarding course for the average vacation golfer.

Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club was also created in the 1920s. It was built on the system of ‘returning nines’ – two loops of nine holes, both starting and finishing at the club house. It was innovative at the time but has become the classic design for most recreational golf clubs since. Sebring Golf Club was begun in 1925 and finished in 1929. As with many older Florida courses, Sebring combines a laid-back approach with some demanding holes, not least the second hole which turns through nearly 90 degrees and tempts the inexperienced golfer to ‘cut the corner’, often with frustrating consequences!

Women and golf in Florida

The Sunshine State has a long history of encouraging women golfers. In 1895 when a fire broke
out in St Augustine, the women taking part in a golf tournament chose to forgo their winnings and donate them to the families of the fire victims. In the 1920s the Tallahassee Country Club allowed women to play at any time without a male ‘sponsor’ present, an unusual attitude at this period, and in 1925 The Palm Beach Golf Club (now known as The Breakers) chose a female golf professional Miss Bessie Fenn, who went on to run the club for 34 years. This forward-thinking approach continued throughout the State’s history, making it one of the most welcoming venues for female golf vacationers.

 

 

 

Florida – vacation destination for every golfer

So, whether you’re looking for a golf course that will push you to your limits, a country club where the architecture is redolent of heritage and style, or a family friendly venue that combines excellent golf with great service and superb scenery, then look no further than Florida!

Train Travel to Florida – reliving the golden age

 Train Travel to Florida – reliving the golden age

 

 

 

Snowbirds aboard! From 1925, vacationers heading for Florida had a new way to travel – the Orange Blossom Special – a deluxe passenger train that connected New York City and Miami during the winter. The train sped over 1327 miles through Washington DC, Richmond, Raleigh and Savannah, with a limited section continuing to Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The area was booming and vacation rentals in Florida were let as soon as they were available. By using fast, elegant trains, the railway company hoped to persuade influential and busy people to move to the Sunshine State for the winter. It succeeded beyond anybody’s expectations – the journey took around 35 hours and during the trip, passengers were regaled with superb food, vintage wines and liquors and exceptional service. So famous was the route that it was immortalized in song by Ervin T Rouse and Robert Russell “Chubby” Wise – perhaps the best-known recording of the song was by Johnny Cash. The paint scheme for the train, in lime, orange and lemon, was meant to suggest the hues of Florida’s citrus orchards and it was so distinctive it was granted a patent.

 

 

Florida Vacation? Take the train

So, are the golden days of travel to Florida behind us?  Not so. There are two ways to travel to Tampa, via The Silver Service or the Auto Train.

 

The Silver Service – New York City to Miami

Two trains, the Silver Meteor and the Silver Star make vacation travel to Florida a breeze. With dozens of exciting destination stops en route, reserved coach seating and comfortable sleeping berths, both trains give vacationers a taste of the elegant transport of previous generations. Silver Meteor offers inclusive traditional dining car meals in the ticket price, while on Silver Star the food service is simply sandwiches, snacks and drinks – a cheaper option, particularly suited to student travel. The Palmetto offers business class travel, ideal for those heading to a convention or business meeting in Florida and needing a stress-free travel option. Trains run every day and the journey time is around 28 hours, depending on your start and finish points.

 

Auto Train – Washington to Orlando

This 855 mile train service caries both passengers and their four tire/ 2 axle vehicle or motorcycle. Whether you rock a van or travel with a jet-ski, this non-stop train journey gives you a chance to travel in comfort and still have your own vehicle at the other end of your trip. Comfy coach seats give you a chance to nap on the way, or you can reserve a roomette with nearby restrooms … or go the whole hog and hire a bedroom with daytime seating, private restroom and shower and attendant service to convert your seats to beds overnight. Not only that, but all meals are included.

This travel option really brings the best of both worlds – relaxing transport to your Florida vacation rental and the comfort of being able to drive your own automobile when you arrive. The 17.5-hour journey makes a pleasure of getting to the Sunshine State.

 

Caught the train bug? A rail pass brings Florida to you

It seems every year we have guests who fly into Seattle, or San Francisco or Los Angeles and spend a few weeks riding such famous trains as the Empire Builder, California Zepher, SW Chief to Chicago and then on to New York or Washington DC before traveling to Florida.  Available in 15, 30 and 45-day options, Amtrak’s rail pass allows you to get on and off the train wherever you choose – why not consult our guide to the local area’s attractions and events and plan an itinerary that includes all that’s best in Florida?

Reasons to visit historic, affordable Tampa

Reasons to visit historic, affordable Tampa

Tampa is rich in history, geography, weather and cuisine, so here are a few of our insider tips to help rental vacationers make the best of their Tampa trip.

1. Tampa’s got history

Best kept secrets in Tampa include the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel where Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders mustered here before heading to Cuba – Remember the Maine. Tampa’s exotic history may not be obvious to a vacation rental visitor but 150 years ago it was the railhead for cattle shipments to Cuba. This influenced almost every aspect of Tampa life, and today visitors can take a trip on an electric streetcar from Tampa to Ybor City whose architecture reflects the area’s Spanish-Cuban roots, with a style reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Beautifully renovated cigar factories make clear the strong links between the two nations.

2. Sandwiches and Coffee

Ybor City was once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World” – it boasted 200 factories with 12,000 cigar-makers who rolled 700 million cigars a year, outproducing Havana. Difficult to believe? Not if you try Tampa’s strong coffee and satisfying pressed sandwiches – both part of our Cuban heritage.  Where do you find the best of both? That depends on who you ask, but the family-run Aquila is a great start; fabled for their delectable roast pork. In nearby Seminole Heights Jet City Espresso (5803 N Florida), just half a mile from Erehwon Retreat, is hosted by Jessica Conlan and her cozy bungalow dispenses coffee, espresso, chai latte and her signature Cafe Borgia, a honey-and-orange-infused latte. For pure Cuban coffee, kick it old school at El Molino, a simple café attached to Ybor City’s Naviera Coffee Mills, which has been in business for nearly a century (2012 E. 7th Ave.).

3. Beer city

Recently rated one of “America’s Top Ten Emerging Beer Towns”, Tampa has a bounty of brews to tempt vacationers. Cigar City Brewing (3924 W. Spruce St. an industrial estate near the airport) salutes its hometown by brewing up some very Tampa beers: a bright, fruity Guava season (the city’s nickname is the Big Guava) and the rich Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout -it’s what makes Cigar City famous.  For more of the local good stuff, head to Seminole Heights where The Independent was one of the pioneers of the craft beer movement in the Tampa Bay area and continues to offer rare and unique beers and wines from around the world. In the same neighborhood, Angry Chair has a unique tasting room with diverse offerings. Folks love C 1949, a quaint, dog-friendly little hole-in-the-wall beer garden with plenty of seating, live music and rotating food trucks outside. Finally, take in America’s oldest beer-brewer, which has a home right here in Tampa Bay. The Yuengling Brewery, complete with a “biergarten” where you can sample Yuengling’s rich heritage, offers free tours of the facility Monday-Friday.

4. Manatees, the cutest animals on the planet

So, you might not think a giant power plant is the best vacation spot, but the adorable manatees who winter in the warm waters adjacent to the gargantuan Tampa Electric facility (6990 Dickman Rd., Apollo Beach) think it’s just perfect. The utility company has constructed a popular Manatee Viewing Center, with exhibits that teach visitors more about these friendly beasts, surrounded by other delights including butterfly gardens. Winter vacation rentals are the lucky ones because the manatees tend shove off around mid-April, once the weather gets warmer and return by early December.

5. The great food offerings of Seminole Heights

Make tracks for the neighborhood’s Taco Bus, a hipster-junkyard set-up with a very good food truck and outdoor seating; it’s open weekends all year round (913 E. Hillsborough Ave.) For something more elegant dine at the James Beard nominated ‘The Refinery’ (5137 N. Florida Ave.) Finally, drop into Ichicoro, a unique fusion of Asian and Cuban ramen (5229 N. Florida Ave.) or a check out Ella’s Folk Art Cafe on Sundays (they’re known as “Soul Food Sunday”) for chicken, waffles, live music and fun cocktails like the Po-mosa, combining Narragansett beer and Tang (5119 N. Nebraska Ave.). 

6. Key Lime Pie

So, it might be a staple of the whole South but it began in the Keys. The key lime tree arrived in Florida in the 1500s and recipes for the pie began appearing as early as the late 1800s, though it became really popular in the 1930s. Some restaurants make it with graham cracker crust, others with pastry. Either way, it’s a must-have several times over and in Seminole Heights we love Trips Diner for this very special confection.

7. The world’s longest continuous sidewalk

Tampa is a record breaker. Bayshore Boulevard, which runs along Tampa Bay through the city’s pleasant Hyde Park neighborhood and on to points south, isn’t just the city’s most scenic street, it’s also a four-and-a-half-mile linear bay-front park favored by local joggers and walkers. It’s a fantastic way to work up an appetite for lunch. On Sunday follow the in-the-know local foodies and make a beeline for lunch at the Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida (a.k.a. the local Thai Buddhist temple). Here, food vendors set up mid-morning every Sunday, dishing out authentic Thai eats (cash only) to a hungry audience. Stick around to enjoy the riverfront grounds (5306 Palm River Rd.)

Python at Busch Gardens by ClaudiaTampa398. The kids will totally dig it

With exhibits that combine the educational with the awesome, the Glazer Children’s Museum – a 53,000 square-foot spa which opened its doors in 2010 – has been a hit with the younger set from day one, featuring climbing structures that teach about water, a firehouse with a working pole (and a “fire truck” you can drive), plus many more items that make learning fun. The nearby Florida Aquarium offers exhibits that range to the dramatic (anyone want to swim with sharks?) to the educational. Still got energy? There’s always Busch Gardens, Tampa’s most famous family attraction.

9. Life’s a beach

It certainly is in Florida which might be the third most populated state but still has miles of beach not covered in footprints or fishing lines. One of Florida’s greatest beaches and hiking areas is at Ft. Desoto State Park, with its nearby historic beach community of Pass-A-Grille. Travelers from St. Petersburg and Tampa began visiting Pass- A-Grille as long ago as 1857 and have never stopped.  Great beach-combing, quaint shops, sunset dining, it makes for a perfect day. And talking about perfect days – according to the National Weather Service, the sun shines, on average, 361 days a year in Tampa Bay.

10. Perfect vacation rentals

There are 2,000 restored Craftsman and Mediterranean bungalows in Seminole Heights where you can find well reviewed Arts and Craft vacation rentals like Erehwon Retreat (5801 N Suwanee Ave).  Proprietor owned vacation rentals give their guests the lowdown on all that’s best in the local area … so your trip is unforgettable and your memories are wonderful.

We have a comprehensive listing of Area Attractions & Events where you can find details, maps, addresses, and links to the area’s entertainment.