Ocala Horse Country
Photo Credit: localism.com

Here's our list of the top ten favorites Planet Escapes around the Tampa Bay area. These escapes cover the north and central parts of Florida and are suggestions for a day-trip or a trip with an overnight stay.

1. Wakeboarding in Orlando
Orlando Watersports

The watersports complex in Orlando is one of the coolest places to go to experience water skiing, wakeboarding and ski jumping if that's your thing. Pretty cool experience overall and worth a day trip from Tampa Bay if it is warm outside.
website here

2. Canoe-the-Hillsborough-River
Hillsborough River - Planet Visitor's Guide

3. Frank-Lloyd-Wright-in-Lakeland
Frank Lloyd Wright at Florida Southern College

4. Cumberland-Island-Georgia
Cumberland Island - Horses on Beach

5. History-Tour-of-St-Augustine
St Augustine Fort

6. Skydiving in Zephyrhills
Skydiving in Zephryhills

Just north of Tampa is the home of Skydive City where all manners of jumping out of airplanes occurs. Skydive City has been doing this for a long time and is ideal for first time jumpers as well as experienced teams.
Website for Skydive City

7. Westgate River Ranch Rodeo
Westgate River Ranch

The Westgate River Ranch is definitely a campy experience but a blast for couples or for families. Located just east of Lake Wales on Route 60 (halfway to Yeehaw Junction on the shortcut to Palm Beach), this is a sprawling development that caters to RVs, seasonal residents, and tourists. There are inexpensive (but plain) hotel rooms for overnight visits. Good old fashioned 'merican Rodeo on Saturday night and you buy set of tickets that allow you to go on airboat tour of alligators, horseback riding, and lot more fun.
Website for Westgate River Ranch

8. Rafting the Ichetucknee River
Ichetucknee River

The Ichetucknee River offers two incredible experiences - rafting in an innertube in teh summer months and cave diving in the clear waters of the springs at the Devil's Spring. The Ichetucknee River flows into the Sante Fe River and most of the tubing will be done in dark waters with beautiful tree canopy and you pass by the crystal clear waters of springs off to the side that feed the rivers. The contrast between the dark tannin filled waters (from the Mangrove trees) and the pure spring water is one of the truly special site in Florida. The Ginnie Springs campground is a good place to set up home base for these other activities.

Wikipedia Page for Ichetucknee
Tubing Info
Ginnie Springs Info

9. Touring Ocala Horsecountry
Ocala Horse Country

The horse country around Ocala is amongst the most beautiful drives in the State. Large horse farms are to be found along state road 40 and 27 on the East side of Ocala. If you want to have a definitive stop along the way, plan on heading a bit north of Gainesville on a Saturday to Mill Creek Farm which is a retirement home for horses and a very special place to feed and care for horses who are at the end of their careers as police horses, tourist cart horses and other professions.
website for Mill Creek Farm
Ocala Chamber of Commerce page

10. Crystal-River-Manatee-Swim
Swimming with the Manatees

For Florida coverage: Planet-News-Florida

For National coverage: Planet-News-National

For Global coverage: Planet-News-Global


Feature: Top 10 Wines

Taylor Eason Icon Photo

Villa Maria 2009 Sauvignon Blanc $20
Beringer 2008 Rsrv Chardonnay $35
Hogue 2008 Genesis Riesling $16
Kim Crawford 2009 Sauv. Blanc $13
Indaba 2009 Chenin Blanc $10
Vionta 2008 Albariño Rias Baixas (Spain) $18
Laurenz V Grüner Veltliner
Tabali 2009 Viognier Reserva Mendoza $15
Hugel Pinot Gris Classic Alsace
Cupcake 2009 Riesling Columbia Valley

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Page Last Modified: Monday Nov 15, 2010 21:35:09 EST


Top Ten Restaurants

Food Icon 136

1. Mise En Place
2. Cafe Dufrain
3. Bern's Steakhouse
4. Cafe Ponte
5. Red Mesa
6. Bamboozle
7. Yummy House
8. Osteria Natalina
9. Guppy's on the Beach
10.La Teresita

Restaurants are traditionally one of the riskiest businesses in this country. Even if the place opens with great fanfare and reviews, inherent fickleness in the American psyche can kill it in the following six months. I once worked for an incredibly talented chef/owner — here in Tampa — who advised me never to open my own place. "It's 24/7, Taylor. Don't forget that." The advice shaped my future, but he still owns and operates a restaurant, so he must thrive on the pressure.

And so must the owners of this list of ten Tampa Bay restaurants who have passed the brutal test of customer tastes, even during a recession. My favorites, in no particular order 'cept they are all exceptionally good. Think I missed the mark? <strong>Tell me in the comments what your Top Ten are. </strong>

1. Mise en Place
In business for over 20 years, MaryAnn Ferenc and Marty Blitz own this hip, urban food center in downtown Tampa . Humble and ohso creative, Chef Marty has been heralded across the country and especially in his hometown. We're happy he's at the Manhattan-worthy Mise (local slang, pronounced "MEEZ"), practicing his brand of nouveau cuisine that always over delivers. Menu changes every Tuesday but Chef Marty keeps some favorites on the menu, like Wild Mushroom Salad and Flatbread pizzas. To get the full meal deal, order the Get Blitzed Prix Fixe and enjoy the beauty of his bountiful talent. Wines by the glass also changes regularly, so be sure to check those out.
442 West Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa FL
Mise En Place website

2. Cafe Dufrain
Cafe Dufrain went through several lives before succeeding in its current format. And succeed they do. Walk from downtown, arrive by boat or drive over to Harbour Island, but get there somehow to one of the only waterfront restaurants in our town. The food is inspired, creative and on the cutting edge of cuisine. You'll think you're upscale in The City. Not Tampa, the big city up north. Cafe Dufrain's menu changes frequently but they excel at seafood. 75 percent of the menu contains items that are sustainable and/or certified organic.
707 Harbour Post Drive
Tampa, Florida
(813) 275-9701
Cafe Dufrain website

3. Bern's Steakhouse
One of Tampa's most famous landmark's, where foodies flock from all corners of the earth to bask in its bordello-esque glory. Impeccable service, aged steaks and if you're into wine, you could grow old studying the book-like wine list. Don't miss the tableside Caesar salad, fresh oysters, onion rings and the aged beef.
1208 S Howard Ave
Tampa, FL
(813) 251-2421
Bern's Steakhouse website

4. Cafe Ponte
After spending several years cooking in France, Chris Ponte was welcomed several years ago when he came to roost in Clearwater. His eponymous-named restaurant, Café Ponte, has been lighting up the culinary scene with his French-infused cuisine ever since. It's also a place to star gaze, since luminaries like Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller stop by when they're in town. Menu changes frequently but look for Wild Mushroom Bisque, Yukon Gold Flatbread Pizza, Maple Leaf Duck Breast and Chilean Sea Bass.
13505 Icot Blvd #214
Clearwater, FL
(727) 538-5768
Cafe Ponte website

5. Red Mesa
The name might sound like traditional, boring Mexican, but you're in for a surprise. Chef Chris Fernandez puts a latin
and southwestern spin on the traditional dishes of Mexico (where he grew up), lights them up with lotsa spice and invites you in. Go early, there's a wait almost every night. Best items: Sangria, Duck Enchiladas, Roast Pork Verde, and Espresso Rubbed Steak. The owners recently opened <a href="http://www.redmesacantina.com/" target="_blank">Red Mesa Cantina</a> in downtown St. Pete, a casual, more modern look at Mexican fare, in downtown St. Petersburg. They serve some of the best tacos around.
4912 4th Street North
St. Petersburg FL
(727) 527-8728
Red Mesa website

6. Bamboozle Cafe
People who've never been here might scratch their head about this entry... but they've never been there. Tucked into a little storefront in downtown Tampa lies this casual, über hip, family-owned Vietnamese café that serves up fresh, fresh, fresh food like my personal favorite, Sesame Noodles. Clear noodles bathed in a heavenly sesame, garlic and soy broth. Toss in some chicken and you’ve got light, quick, low calorie meal. Other must-trys are the Pho and the Sake Mojito.
516 North Tampa Street
Tampa, FL
813 223-7320
Bamboozle website

7. Yummy House


Authentic Chinese, the way momma intended (well, not my momma, but somebody's momma). The atmosphere is nothing to gush over and the service is just OK but if you crave something more inventive and Chinese than Moo Gai Pan or General Tso's Chicken, this is your destination. I dream of their salt and pepper calamari. Just the right amount of cracked black pepper, salt and jalapeño make this little traditional dish a seminal favorite for foodies. They also allow you to bring your own wine (I suggest Riesling) for no corkage fee.
2202 W. Waters Ave.
Tampa, FL
(813) 915-2828
Urban Spoon page here

8. Osteria Natalina
Bar none the best Italian food in the Tampa Bay area, although Villa Gallace in Indian Rocks Beach is a VERY close second. Osteria doesn't, however, feel like you're walking into a Denny's. It oozes authenticity simply because it is. Chef Spartaco Giolito hails from the east coast of Italy in Rimini and his Mom visits a few times a year to help him. A
real family affair with incredible gnocchi, lobster ravioli and... well everything is superb.
3215 South MacDill Ave.
Tampa FL
(813) 831-1210
Osteria Natalina website

9. Guppy's on the Beach
Good chance I'll get some grumbles about this but Guppy's on Indian Rocks Beach rocks the best seafood in the Bay (Sorry, but the last few times I've been to Salt Rock Grill, it wasn't keeping up). This quintessential beach dive just got a massive makeover (and a 'lil lift in prices) so some of its charm was lifted. But the food and the friendly service still rocks. The daily specials are often my favorite part but seek out the fish spread. They also make music with scallops everytime.
1701 Gulf Blvd.
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
(727) 593-2032
info here

10. La Teresita
A restaurant top ten list for Tampa bay isn't complete without a Cuban entry and, frankly, isn't right without mentioning La Teresita. I imagine fistfights have broken out over "who makes the best Cuban food in town?" But guaranteed the original West Tampa location of Teresita is part of that fight. Their sometimes low health inspection reports might hurt them initially but people keep going back for the under $10 Ropa Vieja, Spanish Bean Soup and Roast Pork with Yellow Rice. Oh, and don't forget the sweet, glorious Platanos. Oh what fun at 3am on a Saturday night, when customers break out their guitars and sing.
3248 W Columbus Dr
Tampa, FL
(813) 879-9704
La Teresita website


Feature: Youth Sailing

St. Pete Sailing Center

1. St Pete Sailing Center
2. Davis Island Yacht Club
3. Sarasota Sailing Squadron
4. Clearwater Sailing Center
5. Treasure Island Yacht Club

In order, as I see it, 1 to 5:

And honorable mention to USF St Pete, perennially ranked in the top 10 colleges for sailing in intercollegiate competition, with head coach Allison Jolly, the first US woman to win a women’s sailing gold medal.

Also, Tampa Bay is home to Ed Baird, most recent winning America’s Cup skipper on board Alinghi, with two kids in the youth circuit.

Quite a bit more sailing history in the bay and particularly among youth sailors, but we can save that for later.

- John Pinholster

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