Most of us lead very busy lives. We may take for granted the pace of our lives, but sooner or later, it catches up with us and it’s time to unwind. That may call to mind a long trip a long ways away. However, our time and budgets aren’t always going to allow that. The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives within a short distance of Tampa Bay that can fit almost any budget. Whether your idea of “getting away from it all” is the glitz and glamor of a world class casino or camping trip with only the most bare necessities, we’ve put together a list of places that can fit your preference.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
5223 N. Orient Road
Tampa, FL 33610
Within minutes of downtown Tampa, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino offers an oasis of Las Vegas-style glitz and glamor. Boasting first-rate entertainment from talented up-and-comers and occasional big names, the Cafe gives an air of excitement for those looking for a pedal-to-the-medal party experience. Poolside parties on Fridays combine a casual atmosphere with plenty of food and drink. You can rest up in the rooms rated “Four stars” by Triple A. The Hard Rock features the world’s sixth-largest casino with a wide variety of table games, poker and, of course, thousands of slot machines.
Plantation On Crystal River
9301 County Road 44
Crystal River, FL 34429
For those for whom a “getaway” implies something more low key, the Plantation Inn on Crystal River offers a chance to enjoy an unspoiled part of Florida’s environment. About an hour and a half from Tampa on one of Florida’s great “back roads,” U.S. 98, the Plantation offers first-rate accomodations and unique attractions. Activities such as swimming with manatees, golf and tubing may lack big city glitz and glamor but may provide a chance to decompress from today’s high-intenisty lifestyle. For anglers, the King’s Bay estuary offers the opportunity to go after grouper, redfish, tarpon and the legendary snook. Be sure to check the Plantation’s website for seasonal specials.
Periwinkle Park & Campground
1119 Periwinkle Way
Sanibel Island, FL 33957
About a 2.5-hour drive from Tampa, mostly on I-75, Sanibel Island offers a sample of Florida’s beach environment that’s not ruined by overdevelopment, while offering vacationers their choice of modern conveniences, a chance to “rough-it” or something in between, such as an RV park. Periwinkle Park and Campground has everything from ice to wi-fi and propane. The park is a convenient location to enjoy the beauty of Sanibel Island, which includes one of the state’s great beaches for seashell collectors, a national wildlife refuge that’s a paradise for bird watchers and the Point Ybel lighthouse which will appeal to history lovers.
Don Vicente De Ybor Historic Inn
1915 Republica de Cuba
Tampa, FL 33605
Located in the heart of Tampa’s historic Ybor City Latin district, the Don Vicente De Ybor Historic Inn offers a central location to enjoy Tampa’s liveliest nightlife. In addition to the nightclubs, restaurants and bars, the Don Vicente is just a trolley ride away from Tampa’s Channelside District where you can visit the Florida Aquarium or catch a concert at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Built in 1895 by Don Vicente de Ybor himself as the central planning office for the district that would bear his name, the building evolved into a medical clinic and eventually sat abandoned for 18 years before owner Jack Shiver began a two-year conversion into a boutique hotel in 1998. Since then, the Don Vicente has become a popular venue for weddings and special events.
Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72
Sarasota, FL 34241
For an outdoor getaway, Myakka River State Park offers a chance to see Florida’s wide variety of freshwater habitats. An extensive boardwalk allows patrons to take a leisurely tour at close to ground level, while a canopy walkway gives walkers an overhead view from 25 feet up. Seasonal airboat tours are available and there’s plenty of opportunity for hiking over some of Florida’s uncommon dry prairie environment. Built out in the 1930s with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, the Myakka River State Park offers both “primitive” and “full-facility” camping. Located just over an hour south of downtown and just over nine miles off I-75, Maykka River State Park shows you don’t have to go far to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern Florida.
Related: Winter Camping Guide for Tampa Bay
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.