TBBW’s guide to ‘Summering in Place’

Hotels and attractions you can drive to this summer

The tourism and hospitality industry took a major blow this spring when COVID-19 brought everything to a screeching halt. Here’s a guide of hotels and attractions in your own backyard, or a short car drive away, to help you plan your “Summering in Place” trips.

ATTRACTIONS

Hillsborough County

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, 10165 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa

About: Busch Gardens is more than 300 acres of animals, thrilling rides, performances and more. The African-themed attraction is owned, and operated, by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.

Before shutting down, because of COVID-19 restrictions in March, the theme park had annual attendance of more than 4.1 million. Before closures, Busch Gardens was finishing up construction on its newest coaster makeover, Iron Gwazi.

If roller coasters aren’t your cup of tea an entire day can be made up of simply walking around the park and marveling at the animals.

VIP treatment: Busch Gardens offers a few upgrades to add a little exclusivity to your visit. Serengeti Safari Tours offer a closer experience viewing giraffes, zebras and ostriches, even allowing guests to hand-feed giraffes. For an additional $39 a person, you, too, can go off-roading in Tampa’s little Serengeti plains. Or, go all out and splurge on the All-Inclusive Upgrade package, which includes the same tour mentioned above, also, an all-day eat and drink plan, unlimited Quick Queue access, providing front of the line privileges for rides, among a long list of other perks. This package is $199 per person.

Isn’t that special: For Florida residents, Busch Gardens offers a pretty sweet deal in its Fun Cards. Branded as “pay for a day, play all year,” the Fun Cards provide entry to Busch Gardens, and Adventure Island, for the rest of the year for $110.99 a person.

Contact: 813.884.4386 | buschgardens.com/tampa

Adventure Island Tampa Bay, 10001 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa

Adventure Island Tampa

About: Across the street from the high-flying roller coasters at Busch Gardens is the water park sister attraction Adventure Island, which is 30 acres of a Floridian’s dream to cool off during the brutally hot months of late summer. The park is also in the family of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.

Days before attractions were forced to close, because of the COVID pandemic, the water park opened its newest water slide, Solar Vortex.

VIP treatment: One of the nicest ways to enjoy Adventure Island is to splurge and upgrade your seating area. Lounger sets with two chairs and an umbrella start at $29.99. But for the real VIP treatment, a cabana is the way to go. There are a variety of cabana options, depending on where in the park you want to be stationed for the day. The new Hideaway Beach Cabanas, which start at $139.99, includes seating for six people, a mini-fridge and several other perks, while a Super Cabana rental includes seating for up to eight people and starts at $249.99.

Isn’t that special: For Florida residents, Fun Cards provide entry to Busch Gardens and Adventure Island for the rest of the year for $110.99 a person.

Contact: 813.884.4386 | adventureisland.com

The Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa

The Florida Aquarium

About: The Florida Aquarium participates in, and promotes, stewardship of the natural environment as part of its mission of conversation. As a nonprofit organization, the Florida Aquarium provides an opportunity to see more than 8,000 aquatic, and terrestrial, animals and explore ecosystems.

Before closures, because of COVID-19, nationally renowned art exhibit Washed Ashore arrived at the Florida Aquarium thanks to a donation from Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny.

That exhibit has been extended for two months, until the end of October. Interactive exhibits Moon Bay, No Bone Zone and Sting Ray Beach have also reopened.

Online reservations were required as of June 1, as were masks on guests.

Contact: 813.273.4000 | flaquarium.org

Pinellas County

The Dalí, 1 Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg

About: The Dalí Museum cares for, and shares, an expertly curated collection of Salvador Dalí’s work, preserving his legacy for generations to come. And through Dalí -inspired events, exhibits & experiences, the museum serves as an active resource in the cultural life of our community and the world at large.

At press time on May 29, the museum was still closed to COVID-19.

The Dali

VIP treatment: When the museum reopens, there will be private tours available for groups of 10 or fewer, for a fee. These tours can be tailored for visitors, based on a variety of topics: the popular ProvocaTours, psychology and relationships, religion, garden/nature, symbolism for students and families, architecture, etc. The private tours are one-hour-long but can be extended for an additional fee.

These private tours will be the only docent-guided tour options in the galleries when the museum reopens, until further notice.

Isn’t that special: There are museum memberships at several levels that offer a variety of benefits.

Contact: 727.823.3767 | thedali.org

Sunken Gardens, 1825 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg

About: Sunken Gardens is a botanical paradise amid a bustling city. As St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum, this 100-year-old garden is home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the region. Here you can stroll through meandering paths, lush with exotic plants from around the world. Explore cascading waterfalls, beautiful demonstration gardens, more than 50,000 tropical plants, and flowers. Sunken Gardens reopened in late May but as of May 29, tours, workshops, classes, programs and photo sessions were still canceled until further notice.

VIP treatment: Enjoy valuable “members only” benefits while helping to support new educational opportunities, children’s programs, special events and plant collections. As a member, you will receive unlimited free admission for one year to this unique tropical garden that offers spectacular plant displays, cascading waterfalls and tranquility.  

Contact: 727.551.3102 | stpete.org/attractions/sunken_gardens

Sarasota/Manatee County

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 900 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota (pictured at top of page)

About: Originally the home of William and Marie Selby, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens today is an urban, bayfront oasis showcasing a living collection of rare and beautiful tropical plants. The gardens is also a world leader in the study, and conservation, of plants; particularly epiphytes—plants adapted to live in the tree canopy including orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads and ferns.

Since 1973, scientists from Selby Gardens have ventured into some of the world’s wildest places to identify, study, collect and learn from these resourceful, remarkable plants. As a result, it has developed a rich body of knowledge to share with present, and future, generations.

Today, the property is double its original size and now contains nearly 15 acres, housing 12 buildings (including seven greenhouses) transected by a brick-laid avenue in a residential neighborhood on the shores of Sarasota Bay downtown.

VIP treatment: There’s a self-guided group experience available for groups of 10 people or more, at a cost of $18 a person. During major art exhibitions, the price for groups is $23 a person.

Contact: 941.366.5731 | selby.org

The Ringling, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota

About: Today The Ringling, the state art museum of Florida, is home to one of the preeminent art and cultural collections in the United States. Its story begins nearly a century ago, with the circus impresario and his beloved wife’s shared love for Sarasota, Italy and art.

Some venues and experiences may be limited, or unavailable, as we continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19.

VIP treatment: Members of the North American Reciprocal Museum Association or Museum Alliance Reciprocal Program, Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums or Southern Reciprocal Membership Program who present their membership card indicating their affiliation, are entitled to complimentary admission to the Museum of Art, and Circus Museum, 15% discount in the museum restaurants and a 10% discount in the museum stores. Admission to Ca’ d’Zan, programs and special events are not included.  

Isn’t that special: If you wish to extend your visit, a three-day pass may be purchased in advance or you may upgrade your single-day admission at the admissions counter before closing. Three-day passes are valid for three consecutive days of museum admission, which includes the Museum of Art and Circus Museum. Please note that Ca’ d’Zan is not included and passes are nontransferrable.

Contact: 941.359.5700 | ringling.org

Orlando

Universal Orlando Resort, Various parks and attraction locations in Orlando

Universal studios sign at night in Orlando, Florida

About: If the mouse isn’t your thing Universal Orlando Resort offers an alternative, and often-preferred, theme park experience. With two theme park options; Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and its own water park, Volcano Bay, in addition to its shopping and restaurant destination in City Walk, there’s plenty to do.

Another major draw is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which now offers a joint experience at both theme parks. Important to note that separate admission is required to enjoy both sides of the Harry Potter experience.

Like everything else, it closed all operations during the COVID-19 crisis but has since reopened all three of its parks with new procedures, such as temperature checks and a facemask requirement.  

Contact: 407.363.8000 | universalorlando.com 

Walt Disney World, Various parks and attraction locations in Lake Buena Vista

About: In case you are new to planet Earth, Walt Disney World is a large property, owned by Disney, in the Orlando area, about 90 minutes east of Tampa.

Epcot

There are four major theme parks—Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney Studios—and a shopping and dining destination called Disney Springs. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will open on July 11 and Epcot and Disney Studios will open on July 15. Disney Springs reopened in May.

There also are two water parks on Disney property: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Blizzard Beach had been closed for refurbishments since before COVID-19 closures. Neither water park had announced reopening dates as of press time for this issue.

Because of COVID-19, all establishments at Walt Disney World have implemented new policies. Access to parks now requires a reservation, temperature checks before entry and facemasks for entry.

VIP treatment: Under normal operating times, Walt Disney World offers a number of VIP tours, dining experiences and value-added experiences at its theme parks and resorts; however, the company is limiting much of these opportunities while it opens in its two first phases. It is best to call ahead and find out what opportunities are being offered during the time of your visit. Fear not, Disney cast members are notoriously cheery and helpful over the phone.

Contact: 407.939.5277 | disneyworld.disney.go.com

HOTELS & RESORTS

Orlando

Disney’s Riviera Resort, 1080 Esplanade Ave., Lake Buena Vista

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, 6550 Adventure Way, Orlando

Disney’s Riviera Resort

About: It’s not a Florida vacation without Disney or Universal (or both). At Disney, check out The Riviera; you’ll be transported to the Mediterranean, or the streets of Europe, with the inspired brilliance of Disney architects. Glamourous, but demur, artistic but restrained, the Riviera proves that Disney is a magical place for adults too. Or travel back in time to Universal’s The Cabana Bay Beach Resort, a retro-Florida look, complete with bold colors and perpetual family excitement. Fun and funky, ride the Dive Tower waterslide into the pool, one of two on the sprawling resort, or channel the 1950s with family bowling bonding at the 10 lane Galaxy Bowl.

VIP Treatment: At Universal, or Disney, there’s always an abundance of ways to boost your stay and Florida residents have long enjoyed discounts for the hotels and early entry into the respective parks. With the new normal settling in, be sure to update yourself on official openings and hotel availabilities and amenities to make the most of your stay.

Contact: Walt Disney World, 407.828.7030 | disneyworld.disney.go.com; Universal Orlando, 407.503.4000 | universalorlando.com 

The Ritz Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando

About: For those not into magical kingdoms, or fantastic beasts, luxuriate in a lakeside haven, an adult playground that welcomes all ages at the sophisticated Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, Grande Lakes. With the award-winning Ritz Carlton Spa, a Greg Norman-designed golf course and 11 dining and wining options, the Ritz-Carlton pampers the upscale in a natural Florida oasis. It’s serenity, and relaxation, alongside distinctly Floridan outdoor perks: mountain bike or multiperson surrey bike riding over the 500 acres; kayak or pedal boat adventures down the lazy river; tennis or bocce ball courts; fishing or a sunrise safari.

The Ritz Carlton Orlando

VIP Treatment: Upgrade to Club Level to enjoy true VIP treatment. Branded as a “hotel within a hotel,” Club Level features a personal, dedicated concierge team for your individual needs from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., 24-hour access to the Club Lounge, with all its gourmet offerings, complimentary Kids Day Time Programming for up to three children and more.

Isn’t That Special: Valid through the end of the year, the Ritz-Carlton offers a special Teacher Appreciation rate to recognize the hard work of educators. Starting at $229 a night, teachers and their families can take a well-deserved break in style and substance.

Contact: 407.206.2400 | ritzcarlton.com

Hillsborough County

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 5223 Orient Road, Tampa

About: Soundtrack your summer fun here. Even if you bypass the casino—but you won’t—you’re destined to create a magical memory with music. A Fender guitar graces every room, and guests can create personal playlists with Hard Rock’s “Sound of Your Stay” program. And everyone loves the casino. One of the largest in the United States, the Hard Rock Casino harmonizes the hotel with more than $1 billion in revenue each year and plans stringent safety measures to best use their enormous space: 10 restaurants, more than 5,000 slot machines and more than 200 table games, including a special poker room.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

VIP Treatment: Amplify your stay with a visit to the Rock spa, with massages, starting at $135, plus offerings from a full salon, Beauty Bar and Gentlemen’s Corner. There’s also a full-day or half-day VIP suite featuring facials or massages. For the real deal, take advantage of your Seminole Wild Card for special VIP upgrades and amenities.

Isn’t That Special: Southern hospitality extends to both Florida and Georgia residents for up to 20% off your special, “rock-star stay-cation.”

Contact: 1.866.388.4263 | seminolehardrocktampa.com

Epicurean Hotel, 1207 S. Howard Ave., Tampa

About: Foodie for thought? Combine your love of the gourmet with the grandly gorgeous, at the Epicurean Hotel. Nestled in the SoHo district of South Tampa, steps away from the legendary Bern’s Steak House, Epicurean lives up to its name. From artisan cheese to a Cabernet’s terroir, Epicurean promotes pleasure for “lovers of all life’s flavors.” Work up your appetite with the hotel’s complimentary bicycle use to pedal around the Bay area, fitness center and pool or savor yourself with indulgence at Spa Evangeline. After a fine meal, unwind further at the Edge Rooftop Cocktail Lounge with handcrafted cocktails and Dionysian tastes.

VIP Treatment: Foodies’ Dream Escape, in collaboration with Bern’s, is one way to appease your appetites at the highest level. Featuring a private tour of Bern’s, and the wine cellars, savor some Tampa history alongside an impeccable meal, perfectly seasoned with a $50 discount for hotel guests.

Isn’t That Special: Epicurean offers a special, Florida Friends and Family package, with up to 30% off on rooms, two complimentary glasses of house wines, or beers, and bicycle rentals for two to explore nearby Bayshore Boulevard or Hyde Park Village. Through June 30, there’s also a Community Caregiver Rate to give back to first responders.

Contact: 813.999.8700 | epicureanhotel.com 

Pinellas County

Berkeley Beach Club, 109 Eighth Ave., St. Pete Beach

Berkeley Beach Club

About: Rooms at the Berkeley Beach Club are designed to bring coastal architecture, and sensibility, to the Gulf Coast, capturing the magic, magnificence and comfort of Pass-a-Grille. Architect Stephen Smith, and designer Grace Borgeson, partnered in the collaborative project, offering a soulful design. The thoughtful nature of the amenities, and service, give an entirely new meaning to the concept “bed and breakfast.” The hospitality, inspired by the heart of the Mise en Place organization, is an expression of the magic of Pass-a-Grille you will find wholly fulfilling. The Dewey Bar & Grille, and The Rooftop at the Berkeley Beach Club, provides two opportunities for wining and dining.

Contact: 727.228.1000 | berkeleybeachclub.com

Karol Hotel, 2675 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater

About: The newest gem of Bay area boutique hotels, find refined luxury near Feather Sound in Clearwater at the Karol Hotel. The Karol adds romantic sparkle to your summer retreat. Named after famed Florida developer Fred Bullard’s wife, The Karol debuted in February of this year in time for the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. Designed in tandem, the hotel boasts personalized flourishes from these long-time Pinellas residents, like K Club Bar and Bistro or the Vantage Rooftop, where the best of the Bay, and downtown, spreads out in endless views to be toasted with original cocktails and gourmet offerings.  Enjoy the Karol’s fresh elegance, artistic refinement and savor the serenity of secluded luxury, all within easy access to the Westshore district of Tampa or the Pinellas beaches. 

VIP Treatment: For pure indulgence, book the Premium Bay Suite. Two king beds in two separate bedrooms divided by a shared, spacious common area. The artisan pantry delights the palate while the marbled floors, and breathtaking views, keep your indulged top to bottom. 

Isn’t That Special: Florida residents enjoy up to 35% off their room plus complimentary cocktails at the Vantage Rooftop Bar.

Contact: 833.928.1437 | thekarolhotel.com

Tradewinds Islands Resorts on St. Pete Beach Island Grand Beach Resort, 5500 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach

RumFish Beach Resort, 6000 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach

About: The Tradewinds brand offers two resorts on St. Pete Beach, both with direct access to one of the most-loved beaches in the Tampa Bay area. The Island Grand is the larger of the two resorts with 25 resort acres, a floating ocean water park, 10 restaurants and bars and five pools. RumFish, while smaller with six resort acres, boasts a 33,500-gallon aquarium.

VIP treatment: Tradewinds offers a number of packages that include cabanas, trips to local attractions and much more added perks.

Isn’t that special: The resort is offering a Florida, and Georgia, resident offers, which takes 15% off rooms and suites.

Contact: Island Grand, 727.367.6461 | RumFish, 727.360.5551 | tradewindsresort.com

The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg

The Vinoy

About: There’s old-fashioned R&R for the whole family at the Vinoy, in St. Petersburg. Perfect your game at the Vinoy Golf Club, once the old Coffee Pot Golf Course on Snell Island, which was redesigned by renowned golf course architect Ron Garl, or sign on for the tennis complex or Kid’s Camps. Enjoy an elegant renewal at the spa with special offerings for kids. Designed in 1923, and with a $93 million restoration and expansion in 1992, the past meets the present in luxury. With its private marina boasting boat tours of the bay, the historic charms of downtown St. Pete at your doorstep, plus the full amenities of modern hospitality, the Vinoy guarantees a memorable experience for all.

VIP Treatment: Experience the very best of the Vinoy’s unique ambiance by reserving a private room at Marchand’s Bar & Grill, the Vinoy’s historic dining room. Decorated in original murals and mythological motifs inspired by the 1920s excavations of Pompeii, the décor lends a grand elegance to this historic restaurant. No stay at the Vinoy is complete without sampling its award-winning, farm-to-table cuisine, complete with its own craft brew, Paul’s Landing.

Isn’t That Special: Bring grandpa and grandma along with the special Senior Discount, at least 15% off your room rates. Qualified government employees and military personnel are also eligible for special rates and offers.

Contact: 727.894.1000 | marriott.com 

The Fenway

The Fenway Hotel, Autograph Collection, 453 Edgewater Dr, Dunedin

The Fenway Hotel is a historic, Jazz Age hotel boasting 83 standard rooms and suites, a resort-style pool, the signature HEW Parlor & Steakhouse, and HiFi Rooftop Bar. With rates starting at just $125 per night, Florida residents may receive up to 20% off room rates, as well as two complimentary beverages, and bike rentals for two to explore charming Downtown Dunedin. The package is valid until Aug. 31. The Fenway is a member of the prestigious Autograph Collection® of Marriott International, Inc. (NYSE: MAR).

Contact: 727.683.5999 |  FenwayHotel.com 

 

Manatee County

Mainsail Beach Inn, 101 66th St., Holmes Beach

Mainsail Beach Inn

About: Looking for something off the beaten path? Head for the total Florida beach scene here. Branded as “barefoot elegance,” these cozy but classy accommodations offer 12 stunning condominiums, and townhomes, to choose from on Anna Maria Island. An island trolley will also take you to Bean Point, the tip of the island for marine exploration, or Bradenton Beach to check out more powder sand. It’s your own private beach house with all the services, and amenities, of world-class hospitality. Sun and sea, beach towels, chairs and umbrellas included with kayaks, beach bicycle cruisers, paddleboards all available to ensure the best Florida beach experience. You can even experience the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch.

VIP Treatment: Take advantage of Mainsail’s sister location, the Waterline Resort, which offers a range of activities from its gorgeous marina. From charter fishing tours or backcountry sport fishing, starting at $500 for a half-day, with up to four anglers to tours of historic Egmont Key starting at $60 or a visit to the nearby Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, there are many ways to upgrade your stay.

Isn’t That Special: For guests staying four nights or more, there’s a special offer of 15% off through Sept. 30.

Contact: 888.849.2642 | mainsailbeachinn.com or waterlineresort.com

Sarasota County

The Westin Sarasota, 100 Marina View Drive, Sarasota

The Westin Sarasota

About: In a region called Florida’s cultural coast, there’s no better vantage point to savor the full Sarasota than this. Soaring over Sarasota Bay, and downtown, you are minutes away from high-end shopping at the renowned St. Armand’s Circle or unique Sarasota culture at The Ringling Museum or Sarasota Opera, all within a short drive to Siesta Key or the Lido Key beaches. The Westin offers all the luxuries of an urban oasis, nestled in the energy of downtown shopping and theater life, but you can always hibernate at the rooftop pool, enjoying the sunset and ignoring the bustle below.

VIP Treatment: The Spa and Salon offer a NeoClassic Couples Candle Massage, 50 aroma-filled minutes for you and your partner to reconnect and unwind, starting at $250. Sip Champagne afterward in the relaxation area.

Isn’t That Special: Here for business and pleasure? The Westin offers special corporate promotions. Qualified government employees, and military personnel, are eligible for special rates and offers.

Contact: 941.217.4777 | marriott.com

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