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The Joys of the Treasure Island Kite Festival

Posted on: January 20th, 2017 by MB No Comments

It was my pleasure to visit the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition again this year. Of all the many, many festivals we have in the Tampa Bay area, this kite festival is one of the most interesting, and certainly the most colorful. Perhaps the reason is it so captivating is how much is going on at once, or perhaps that everywhere you look, you see dazzling colors. Loads of people turn out for the event, adding an additional dynamic to the weekend-long affair.

Treasure Island Kite Festival

The Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition gains its name from fairly obvious reasons. The festival atmosphere is provided by the hundreds of kites in the air, many of them gigantic in size. With our luck, and we usually have it, the sky is a bright blue background to the event. This January 2017 was no exception. While the skies weren’t completely clear, plenty of blue sky made it past the thin layer of clouds. Professional kite fliers, yes that’s a thing, arrive with their specialty kites and present them for the citizens and visitors in the Tampa Bay area. Even those who didn’t plan to attend can often arrive at the event, with a sky full of over-sized kites acting as the perfect advertisement.

Giant octopus kite

The Sport Kite Competition comes in a series of events held across the two-day weekend. Sport kites are designed to be highly maneuverable. Because of their ability to make quick turns and changes of direction, creating a sport based on the skill of flying them seems only natural. The sport kite competition includes showing off your skills, following a strict flight plan, or flying in teams where the kites must synchronize their movements. In addition to the swift movements, the sport kites tend to rattle intensely in the wind, creating a buzzing sound while they fly. It’s a lot of fun to observe. My favorite is the team flying competition.

Colorful kites

The festival is boosted by a kite sales tent from which you can get your own kite-flying hobby started. While they sell the sport kites sometimes for hundreds of dollars, they also have plenty of cheaper varieties. A walk across the beach proves that point clearly enough, with plenty of young children smiling while they fly their own pint-sized kites. After the professionals show off their talents at sport kite flying, they often offer classes to show you how they do it.

Treasure Island Kite Festival

Treasure Island Beach is a beach town built on a barrier island. The community is accustomed to tourism and to frequent festivals. In keeping, the streets are lined with loads of dining options. Most are fun beach style pubs and diners. With the popular kite festival in swing, the streets were filled with people and the local watering holes were buzzing. When all the elements of the kite festival were taken in altogether, it made for a great festival outing.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival Strikes Again

Tampa Falls to Gasparilla Pirate Attack Again

The Segway Adventure at Clearwater Beach

 


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Two Days of Winter in Florida

Posted on: January 17th, 2017 by MB No Comments

We have a running joke on the west coast of Florida regarding our winter lasting two days. It isn’t true, of course, but it is based on a pattern. When cold fronts come down into our area, it can actually get cold. What is cold for someone who lives in Florida? Cold is 35 degrees Fahrenheit. It hits those degrees in the evening and then will raise to the forties or fifties during the day. We break out the long pants and sweaters we’ve worn less than a dozen times and go about our day talking about the weather.

Florida January

Once the front rolls through, however, Florida pushes back. The temperatures rise and, usually in two days, the weather is back to something more normal. Winter is less humid and the temperatures usually drift between the fifties and seventies, with a few days in the eighties too.

Clearwater Beach January

While the joke about two-day winters in Florida persists, the reality is that we usually get two, perhaps three two-day winters during the course of the season. If you’re disappointed to hear that we actually have cold days here, don’t get too distressed. The truth is, no matter what the weather does, we never get snow and we are nearly always warmer than the rest of the country. So, if you’re thinking about coming down for the winter, we’ll be glad to share the warmth with you while you’re here even if, by chance, there’s a day or two of something else.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Clearwater Beach Summers

Pirate Day Fun and Warfare

Wild Winter Wonders on the Florida Gulf Coast

 


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Orange Belt Railroad to Paradise

Posted on: December 28th, 2016 by MB No Comments

While I sit on my porch each morning to drink my coffee I hear the historic sound of a train whistle. The train tracks are far enough away where I don’t feel the ground shaking under the house, but if I lean forward in my chair and look down the street, I can see the train appear when it crosses the street, the sound of its wheels rumbling at last reaching me. The train is modern, its engine driven by liquid fuel, and its large metal wheels rolling on standard sized tracks. While the sight is not unique by American standards, it does have history that profoundly changed the area I live in.

Railroad tracks

Before the railroad passed through the tiny Florida towns of Tarpon Springs, Clearwater, Largo, and St Petersburg, they were not much to speak of. Today, they are part of one of the most populated areas of the state and the Orange Belt railroad is directly responsible.

Once the railroads reached down into central Florida, an Russian born immigrant by the name of Peter Demens decided to use his profits from the lumber industry to build a new railroad through Florida. With somewhat capriciously gathered loans, he set forth through the wilds, building westward. The railroad reached Tarpon Springs and turned south.

The story is long, has many players, and involves a number of heartbreaking miscalculations. One such mistake was made when the founder of a small city within the county decided not to invest additional funds. The railroad passed near to the city but ended in St Petersburg, Florida instead. While St Petersburg blossomed into a major city, the other was left behind, and remains small to this day, no longer retaining the name of its founder. The other story of hard luck landed in the lap of Peter Demens himself. To build the railroad, he had piled one loan atop of the next, finally putting forward the railroad itself as collateral. and despite actually finishing the railroad, he lost it when the payments were impossible to meet. Demens left Florida to make a different fortune in California while the new owners of the railroad both struggled and prospered.

Demens had built a narrow-gauge railway and the inheritors of his dream changed them to maintain standards with the tracks with which they intersected. It is those tracks that now run to St Petersburg. On walks or bike rides through my neighborhood, I sometimes cross the tracks, and while most often I have thoughts of the day running through my head, sometimes I stop to look up and down the line and imagine the days of old when steam engines breathed life into a part of Florida that would someday be my home.

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Florida has Parrots?

Posted on: December 20th, 2016 by MB No Comments

Parrots in Florida

Each morning as I sit on my porch, a screeching fills the sky. A moment later, a flock of parrots flies over. The green birds let everyone know they are coming while they apparently communicate to one another about – well, who knows what.

Parrots in Florida

Parrots arrived, or at least were noticed, back in the seventies. They took to Florida without a problem. Now several species live in the state and have no plans of leaving. In fact, their numbers are growing swiftly. In some places, they are causing problems, mostly to the utility companies who have troubles with the birds nesting on their towers and telephone poles. Some residents don’t like their noisy calls or the fact that they are an invasive species. Other people, however, are perfectly happy to have the colorful birds around.

They do possess foreign intrigue perhaps, giving Florida residents and visitors a taste of what was once only available far to the south. I for one, enjoy them. Of course, I have no power lines or environmental programs to maintain to keep my job. Each time I hear them, I look to the skies and wait for them to pass over. Their raucous calls sound like the tropics to me. Their green feathers are a nice change of pace.

Quaker Parrot

Regardless of which side of this avian phenomenon you find yourself on, the reality is that the birds have reproduced in numbers that negate any plan to get rid of them. So, as long as you are here, and you aren’t repairing power lines, enjoy these visitors who have taken the term “snowbirds” a little more literally than most.


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Dash for Winter Vacation Rental Season

Posted on: December 13th, 2016 by MB No Comments

Vacation Season

Vacation rentals are considered to have seasons. While we all know the standard four seasons, holiday rentals have quite a few more. In fact, Spring Break is considered a “season” all its own to some professionals in the industry. For us, here in Florida, winter is a big season, with unique milestones like Christmas at its beginning and Spring Break near its end.

Florida Palm Trees

We just wanted to let you know that some of our rentals are still open for winter. While the December rentals are growing thin, there are still some left for January through March. That’s good news!

Most years, and this year too, the Jan-Mar rentals book early, very early. They are sometimes booked more than a year in advance. Smart renters will call us or talk to us during checkout regarding booking the same unit again for the following year. That’s wise. The best rentals go first. If you find one you like, it’s a good idea to secure it.

Seaside Beach Cottage

This blog post is to tell you that the time to rent winter is almost past. The good news is that there’s still room for you. You can book on our site (your on it right now) or contact us directly for personal help at 727-288-2020 or reservations@florida-beachrentals.com

Beach umbrellas

Other posts you might enjoy:

Long Way Home via the Best Beaches in America

Tampa Falls to Gasparilla Pirate Attack Again

Remarkable Origins of Clearwater Beach Sand

 

 

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Lighting up the Holidays at Tarpon Springs Boat Parade

Posted on: December 6th, 2016 by MB No Comments

Warm Florida Holiday

Snow Place Like Tarpon

The Central West Coast of Florida is famous for its white sand beaches, sunshine, and a bounty of vacation activities. Unbeknownst to many however, is a whole other activity that we do quite well, and that’s the holiday season. While it might seem unlikely that Florida does the festive season the way it’s meant to be, that’s okay. We don’t do it the way you’d expect, and that’s what makes it so fun.
The coast from Clearwater Beach down to St Pete Beach is actually a great place to spend the holidays. Aside from not freezing in the winter, the local populace has come up with a host of ways to celebrate the season. While snow will never be part of the scene, that doesn’t stop the holiday lights from coming up, and, perhaps to compensate, they’re done with flair.

Holiday Lights in the Garden

Christmas palm tree

The Thanksgiving to New Year’s span is kicked off at in Largo with the Holiday Lights in the Garden at the Florida Botanical Gardens light show. The gardens are an amazing display on any day of the year but during the holidays nighttime gains an added dose of awe. The exotic trees, plants, and walkways are lighted with what seems to be a million lights. The gardens are extensive and no part has been left out of the light show. Santa and his misses make an appearance for photo opportunities with the kids while the adjacent walled garden has an electric train circling the central Christmas tree. The light display truly deserves he title of must-see.

Lighted Boat Parades

lighted boat parade

The other holiday season crowd-pleaser is the lighted boat parade lineup. Florida has become famous for them and our coast definitely participates in the phenomenon. This year I attended the Tarpon Springs Lighted Boat Parade. It’s one of the regional favorites because of the accessibility to the waterfront and because of the major street event that goes with it called Snow Place Like Tarpon Springs. The street event pulls in tens of thousands who, if they choose, can stream down the street to Spring Bayou where the boat parade is held.
Spring Bayou has a waterfront sidewalk that winds along the calm waters for a very long way. Spring Bayou derives its name from the spring near its main pier. Most people are not aware it is there, flowing huge volumes of water into the bayou every day. The waterway winds around, giving spectators a choice of where to watch the parade. Banked sides add to the perfect venue, with the attendees using the grassy slopes much like a stadium.

Tarpon Springs Holiday Boat Parade

Holiday lights on boat

The first sign that the boats are approaching is the music that many of the vessels are playing. With thousands of dazzling lights, they round the bend and ply into the bayou. The event is lively, with people in the boats shouting holiday greetings and the spectators returning the hails. The highlights this year were the rowing team and a brightly lit Sea-Doo that spun in rapid circles. Cheers rose highest while the rowing team circled the bayou, going faster than the most of the boats, although the whirling Sea-Doo gained plenty shouts each time it went into a spin.

Video:

I invited some friends, one of which had never attended a boat parade! We had a good time watching the parade and over-stuffing ourselves on food from the Snow Place Like Tarpon street carnival. It made for a memorable night shared by many thousands of local residents and hopefully a good number of visitors to Florida too.

Boat Parade Tarpon

Other posts you might enjoy:

Wonders of Winter on Clearwater Beach

Sky Surfing Clearwater Beach

Treasure Island Kite Festival

 


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Crossing Tampa Bay on a Bike

Posted on: November 28th, 2016 by MB No Comments

Courtney Campbell Causeway

Causeways have one purpose; or at least they’re supposed to.

Bike on Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail

When a body of water requires a long bridge, one way to avoid a costly bridge of pure concrete is to pour dirt instead, creating a long strip of land on which to put a road. To maintain the flow of water and to allow boats to pass, true bridges are built along the way. The result is several long island-like structures with a few bridges hooking them together. And, just like that, you have a road across a large body of water that previously created a barrier for motorists.

Courtney Campbell Causeway

The Courtney Campbell Causeway spans the waters at the northern end of Tampa Bay, Florida. In one of the most populated areas of Florida, causeways like this one changed a drive that used to take two or more hours into one that now takes only twenty to thirty minutes. The Courtney Campbell is one of three such long causeways that cross Tampa Bay, connecting Tampa with St Petersburg and Clearwater, as well as providing access to a dozen other smaller cities.

Waterfront Recreational Playground

While causeways were originally intended to do no more than support a road, the truth is that when you build and island, people will come. Causeways throughout the region have become recreational favorites for the people of the Tampa Bay metropolitan area. Since the “dirt” in Florida is actually sand, that’s what causeways are made of. Where sand meets water, you have a beach. It is easy to imagine why these areas become popular. Beyond the obvious attraction of sand and water is the relaxed atmosphere. Causeways are laid back areas where come-as-you-are applies. Parking often follows a similarly loose guidelines. While city codes do apply, such as no fires, for the most part you can do as you please.

Courtney Campbell trail sign

Regarding the tradition of public use and recreation on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the cities of Clearwater and Tampa agreed. Like the great railroad built across the USA, the two cities built bike paths from their shores toward the opposite city, meeting halfway across Tampa Bay. The effort resulted in a ten-mile bike path linking the two cities together. The Tampa side completed in 2013 and the Clearwater side in 2015. The news was greeted by locals with enthusiasm. The drive between the two cities had always been known as a scenic drive, treating visitors who land in the Tampa airport with sweeping water views on their way to the beaches that are across Tampa Bay. With the new bike and walking path, the vistas were now open to everyone.

Sunset on Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail

Making the most of the Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail

When I heard about the trail opening last year, I put it on my list of things to do. After moving much closer to the trail, I set out to see it for myself. The ride turned out to be more enjoyable than I expected. The levelness of the trail was, perhaps, the greatest bonus. With little effort, I crossed half the causeway in the blink of an eye. Because I went after work, the November sun was setting while I rode, offering a view even better than I imagined. The trail is a great place to take in the view, blow off the stress of the day, bird-watch, and, of course, get some exercise. If you are a cyclist or an avid walker who is visiting our area, you might want to put this trail on your list.

Courtney Campbell sunset

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Ditching a Car for the Ferry to Clearwater Beach

No Roads Found to Caladesi Island

Pinellas Trail Bicycle and Walking Path

 

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Fun in the Autumn Sun on the Florida West Coast

Posted on: November 22nd, 2016 by admin No Comments

Autumn Events 2016

Super Boat Races Sep 30-Oct 2

The Super Boat races were as much fun as they always are. Tons of people show up along the beach and crowd onto the pier to watch the most powerful racing boats in the world roar by. You can hear the sound all along the beach and when you get close enough, you can feel the vibrations in your chest. This is an event that is worth fight the crowd for. If you want to draw the event out, attend all three days, enjoy the boats on display in Coachman Park, and dine on the carnival style food available along the marina.

Super Boat at Clearwater Beach Super boat Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Jazz Holiday Oct 13-16

The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is a perfect excuse to lay out on  your beach blanket in the park and listen to some music. The greats of jazz appear to fill Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater with excellent jazz music. The event is a laidback yet exciting event, with daytime and nighttime music to enjoy. Clearwater Harbor provides the backdrop and a nice place to stroll either on the way or out.

Clearwater Jazz Holiday

Chalk Walk chalk art festival Oct 20-23

The Chalk Walk Festival is only a few years old but it’s already a favorite at Clearwater Beach. This event draws ample spectators to stroll down the Beach Walk sidewalks watching the chalk artists create intriguing images. It makes the beachfront stroll just that much more exciting to visit. While you’re there, the beach restaurants are right beside you and the white sands that made Clearwater Beach famous are just across the street.

Mermaids sidewalk chalk art Chalk Walk art Clearwater

Stone Crab Festivals Oct 21-23

The Stone Crab Festival is another Clearawater Beach and regional favorite. While stone crab season is much longer than the two-day festival, this event brings the season to light and a whole lot of people together. Live bands, dining tents, and trinkets make this festival a hit. Several Clearwater Beach restaurants offer their own venues for the event.

Stone Crab Fest

Volleyball America Nationals Oct 22

While a volleyball tournament at Clearwater Beach is nothing new, this one occurred during the Chalk Walk Festival and the Stone Crab Festival, rounding out the festival atmosphere at the beach. Set next to Pier 60, which runs a sunset festival of its own each night, the volleyball tournament drew in yet another dynamic for this top-weekend-of-the-year for Clearwater Beach.

Beach volley ball pier 60 Clearwater Beach volleyball October

John’s Pass Seafood Festival Oct 27-30

The Madeira Beach favorite tourist destination of John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk set up its own seafood festival again this year, including a Halloween costume contest in its midst. The food on display ogled passersby and satisfied anyone ready to chow down. A large dining tent included a live stage for a well-rounded experience. In addition to this fantastic foodie event were plenty of vending stalls plus the great shops and waterfront boardwalk that have made John’s Pass a coastal favorite for the region.

Johns Pass Seafood Festival Johns Pass Seafood Festival

Tarpon Springs Seafood Festival Nov 11-13

The Tarpon Springs Seafood Festival added the Greek flair for which Tarpon Springs is so famous. The fishing-town-gone-tourist-stop has plenty of gift shops to entertain you for hours, which made a fantastic venue for a seafood festival. This event allowed attendees to walk the street and choose from a wide array of seafood plus Greek food.

Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks

Taste of Indian Rocks Beach Nov 12

Taste of Indian Rocks Beach is a one day event that puts out a pretty big spread. Folks attending this event gathered in the park for this Saturday event in the beach town that still retains the feel of Old Florida while having no problem keeping up with today.

Indian Rocks Beach

Discover Egmont Key Nov 12-13

This unique event took you on a ferry ride to an island that has oddly escaped fame. The sand and palm trees cover this island that sits right at the mouth of Tampa Bay, which is why it has the history it does. Military bunkers from the past as well as crumbled barracks make this island a fascinating place to visit. Once off the ferry you could inspect the old lighthouse, walk along sandy palm shaded trails, stroll the old brick streets where the barracks used to stand, and then explore the old military compound inside and out. The Discover Egmont Key event was just a really good excuse to visit a place you should have checked out before anyway.

Egmont Key lighthouse Egmont Key ruins

St Pete/Pass a Grille Chowder Challenge Nov 13

The Chowder Challenge might be the best culinary event of the year, at least if you like chowder. Top restaurants of the region chip in to present their best chowders. Guests received samples of various types and then sat down to taste and fill out a survey sheet. At the end, you got to vote for your favorite chowders. If you love food, outdoor events, and especially chowder, this event was not to be missed.

Chowder Challenge St Pete Pass a Grille

Sanding Ovation Nov 16-20

Sanding Ovation earns a place in the strata of events not to be missed on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. The key draw are the sand sculptures made right on the beach at Treasure Island. On the last day of the event, the votes from visitors and sculptors determined the top sculptures for the year.

Sanding Ovation sculpture Sanding Ovation vendors

Dunedin Celtic Music and Craft Beer Festival Nov 19

This was one of the most entertaining events of the year for not only music but for beer tasting and souvenir shopping. Tents with Celtic themed items lined the field to explore between music sets. The Celtic bands were top notch and a whole lot of fun to watch. The later the night got, the wilder the music became. Add beer tasting to the mix, and, well, it was a lot of people having a lot of fun.

Celtic Music Fest

 

 

Look for these local events coming to the Central Gulf Coast of Florida this holiday season.

Clearwater Turkey Trot, Nov 24

Florida Botanical Gardens Holiday Lights in the Garden, Nov 25 – Dec 31

Snow Place Like Tarpon Festival and Tarpon Springs Boat Parade, Dec 2

Clearwater Color Run, Dec 3

Clearwater Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 10

Madeira Beach Holiday Boat Parade & ROC Park Concert, Dec 10

Treasure Island lighted boat parade, Dec 11

Indian Rocks Beach boat parade, Dec 11

Clearwater Beach Outback Bowl beach event, Dec 30

Clearwater Midnight New Years Fireworks, Dec 31

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Escape Room Joins the Fun in Clearwater Florida

Clearwater Color Run Strikes Again

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

 

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