Summertime in Tampa Bay may not be the best time for a romantic outdoor date. However, once the summer cauldron cools off, there’s no need to worry about heat stroke crashing the party. With bearable humidities and breezes that actually feel cool, the time is ripe to enjoy the great outdoors with your significant other. If you’re tired of limiting your dates to places with air conditioning, we’ve come up with a list of some of the places where everyone from the sports fan to the fine dining lover can have a good time. We’ve also paid attention to the cost, because while splurging is a nice thing to do once in a while, most of us have to keep a close on our entertainment expenses these days.
University of South Florida Football
4201 N. Dale Mabry Highway
Tampa, FL 33607
For a lot of Florida sports fans, other sports are time fillers until football season rolls around. While the program has fallen on hard times recently, there’s renewed optimism thanks to energetic new coach Willie Taggert. The 2013 home schedule features traditional national powerhouse the University of Miami Hurricanes and up-and-comer Louisville. However, many fans prefer the special vibe provided by the marching bands, cheering squads and special bond with their alma mater to the more business-like approach of the NFL. Not to mention, the much cheaper tickets are great with individual tickets available for Bulls game as low as $10.
Ruskin Family Drive-In Theater
5011 U.S. Highway 41 N.
Ruskin, FL 33572
Back in the 50s, Americans combined their love of the movies and their love affair with cars at drive-in movie theaters. Once ubiquitous, drive-ins have fallen victim to changing times as people increasingly turn to plushly appointed multiplex theaters or living rooms equipped with home theater systems that can nearly recreate the traditional movie-going experience. However, a few are bucking economic and technological trends, among them the Ruskin Family Drive-In Theater. The Ruskin Family Drive-In offers first-run movies with adult tickets starting at $6. The snack bar has prices well below multiplex prices and proceeds help keep this nostalgic slice of Americana alive.
910 Skippper Road
Tampa, FL 33613
When it comes to a fun night out that won’t bust a budget, Skipper’s Smokehouse is hard to beat. The ramshackle building has been producing concerts nearly as tasty as its slightly eccentric menu. Even its big weekend shows frequently have door charges of less than $20, and during the week, you can take your pick of musical acts ranging from reggae to Grateful Dead tributes and hard-driving blues, often for less than $10. When the rain holds off, the “SkipperDome” is an outdoor venue that’s unpretentious, but serviceable with terrific acoustics and plenty of seating. When the summer heat finally breaks, cool autumn weather can turn a night of good food, good drink and great entertainment into something magical for a budget price.
148 Marina Plaza
Dunedin, FL 34698
In the heart of Pinellas County lies Dunedin. Perhaps most famous in some quarters as the spring training home of baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, Dunedin also boasts a lively nightlife with a tiny, but eclectic downtown district. It has an attractive marina and a chance for a wonderful outdoor dining experience thanks to Bon Appetit. Seafood and traditional American fare go side by side on a menu that features diversity and quality at prices that compete very well with comparable fine dining establishments. If there’s room in your diet for dessert, don’t overlook Bon Appetit’s dessert menu with everything from apple strudel to ice cream.
Starlite Majesty Dining Yacht
25 Causeway Blvd.
Clearwater, FL 33767
Great food and dancing on board a 115-foot luxury vessel is a recipe for a great evening out, especially during the mild Tampa Bay fall season. The Starlite Majesty docks at the Clearwater Beach Marina and offers everything you need for a lovely evening out. Unlike gambling cruises, which offer buffets of varying quality, Starlite Majesty offers a full menu dining experience with your own waiter. Cruise tickets start at $25 with dinner entrees running from $19 to $33. Lunch entrees run from $10 to $15. If you’re looking for a perfect gift for someone who deserves a great night out, gift certificates are available.
Mike Hennessy is a veteran news man who has won Florida AP awards for feature reporting and covered almost every kind of story imaginable from on-the-scene coverage of Hurricane Andrew, to some of the highest profile murder and corruption trials in Florida history. Mike is versatile and has the curiosity it takes to get to the bottom line of any story. His work can be found at Examiner.com.