Category Archives: Gulf Coast for Children

St Petersburg Florida

For the Love of Speed – Fast Cars and Fun on the Florida Gulf Coast

Festival of Speed

race carTwo automobile events hit the Tampa Bay area this spring. The first is the Festival of Speed. This event displays the high priced cars and boats we all would love to own. The car show runs from March 6th to the 8th and is held outdoors at Vinoy Park. Attend the Festival of Speed to see for yourself where auto meets art.

 

Grand Prix of St Petersburg

race carThe second exciting event for lovers of speed is the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg. This race is held on the streets of St Petersburg, with the beautiful waters of Tampa Bay within view. Watch professional racers zip through the streets of one of America’s favorite vacation destinations. This event hold all the thrills you are looking for in professional racing.

 

Illuminated Light Parade

Set on the beautiful St Petersburg waterfront, the 2015 Illuminated Night Parade is a night time treat. This grand display of lights travels through the streets of St Petersburg, each float casting bright light into the coastal towers of St Petersburg, Florida. Enjoy floats, marching bands, dancers, and race cars in town for the Grand Prix of St Petersburg. This is definitely a great weekend to visit this Gulf Coast city.

St Petersburg Florida

Downtown, St Petersburg, Florida

St Petersburg Florida

Downtown St Petersburg, Florida

 

Downtown St Petersburg, Florida

Downtown St Petersburg, Florida

 

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Gasparilla invasion

Tampa Falls to Gasparilla Pirate Attack Again

Tampa Falls to Pirate Invasion

Jose GasparillaThe City of Tampa fell to invasion once again this year as pirates sailed into Tampa Bay. The pirate ship named the Jose Gasparilla sailed up the bay to the convention center where the pirates accepted the key to the city from the mayor. The ship was filled to the brim with pirates, every crow’s nest and deck filled with attacking buccaneers. With cannons thundering, the ship made its way from Port Tampa Bay up Seddon Channel, which ends in front of Tampa’s convention center. An armada of private boats and cruise boats surrounded it, filling the channel from side to side and end to end. The arrival of the ship was greeted by the screams of the capacity crowd along the waterfront.

 

Pirate Party of the Year

Gasparilla festivalThe Gasparilla Pirate Invasion first occurred on horseback, all the way back in 1904. The ship, Jose Gasparilla was added later, apparently being the world’s only fully-rigged modern day pirate ship. The festival is now over a hundred years old and as popular as ever. The streets swarmed with attendees, a large portion wearing pirate gear. Vendors were out in force, booths and carts providing plenty of food and souvenirs. Downtown Tampa parking lots switched from hourly charges to a onetime fee for the day to accommodate the event that filled Tampa to to the brim. The festivities officially began at 11:30 but would-be pirates began to appear in the streets as early as 8:30 in the morning. By the end of the Invasion, the streets were filled from side to side with Gasparilla revelers.

 

Gasparilla Pirate Armada

pirate armadaOne of the best parts of the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion each year is the armada of private and charter boats that accompany the arrival of the tall ship Jose Gasparilla. Charters from our own Clearwater Beach were among the flotilla, our camera capturing Starlite Majesty, The Tropics, Two Georges, Super Queen, and Calypso Queen. The boats arrived to the waters surrounding the convention center non-stop, most of them decorated with beads and other pirate gear. One boater had his own cannon. While the gun was only a foot long, it had all the explosive sound of a large cannon. Private boats cruised the shoreline throwing beads to the waiting crowds along the railings of the convention center. The result was a dizzying array of moving boats, loud music, cannon fire, and shouting crowds.

 

Tampa Waterfront

Gasparilla Pirate InvasionThe Tampa waterfront is a pleasant place to be any day of the year. The area has seen many improvements over the decades. Waterfront dining is the most popular attraction, second only to strolling the waterfront walkways. It is the site of a popular Fourth of July celebration, as well as many other events throughout the year. Amalie Arena and Curtis Hixon Hall are two sports and concert venues at the water’s edge for Tampa fun seekers. And, of course, the waterways of Tampa are a paradise for private boat owners to enjoy, a surprising number of restaurants catering to those arriving by boat. Gasparilla invasionAdding the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion to the Tampa Waterfront is a great idea for the city. The city bursts at the seams for the Gasparilla themed events that include the Gasparilla Kids Parade, the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, the regular Gasparilla Parade, and the nighttime pirate festival. If you are planning a trip to the Tampa Bay area, which includes Clearwater and Saint Petersburg, keep the end of January in mind for the dynamic Gasparilla Pirate Festival events.

 

Video of Gasparilla Pirate Invasion

 

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Kite Festival

Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition

Beach Kite Festival

kite festival Treasure IslandThe Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition flew over the Florida Gulf Coast again this January, lighting up the daytime sky with bright colors. The day started with mild breezes, not the kind you want for a kite competition, or for flying the giant sized kites. Fortune was on the side of the kite flyers, however, when the afternoon weather brought winds that were perfect for kite flying. The skies were partly cloudy, and it the type of day where some people wore shorts and others light jackets. Crowds lined the sidewalk, using the wall at the edge of the sand for seating. The turnout was fantastic, with the beach restaurants and bars filled to capacity. The large crowds lent an atmosphere of excitement to the event.

 

Sport Kite Competition

sport kitesThe completion portion of the festival was as fun to watch as ever. One of the events that drew the most comments was the children’s kite races, where youngsters, holding kites several times their size, raced across the sand. Other competitions included synchronized kite flying, sport kite flying, and flying sport kites to music.

 

Giant Kites

giant kitesWhile the sport kites were flying, all manner of non-competition kites were sailing over the beach at Treasure Island. The giant octopus kite was a favorite again. Many new kites made their first appearances as well. The kite receiving the most comments was the figure of a scuba diver with a shark swimming just behind him. A kite premiering at the beach was the image of a geisha with the flowing tail of the kite representing her dress.

 

Perfect Beach for Kite Flying

kite at Treasure Island BeachWith kites filling skies over the beach, it was easy to enjoy a walk across the sand. The combination of large, colorful, slow moving kites and racing sport kites created a mesmerizing effect.

The location at Treasure Island Beach was well chosen, the sand being wider than any other location on the coast. Plenty of fun shops and restaurants are nearby, as well as tourist activities like fishing charters and day cruises. The festival comes to the beach each year in January, providing a great excuse to get out to the shore at this great beach community.  If you are considering a trip to the Florida Gulf Coast for the winter, the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition is an event to keep in mind.

 

 

Treasure Island Kite Festival Videos

 

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Caladesi ferry port

No Roads Found to Caladesi Island

Reaching Caladesi Island

Caladesi from the airCaladesi Island State Park is a favorite destination for tourism, but how do visitors arrive to a location devoid of bridges and roads? Because of the remote location, arriving at the state park is an event even for locals. Caladesi Island was named when the barrier island stood alone, detached from other land masses. Thanks to a large storm, Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island are now connected. Despite the land bridge, the northern reaches of the island are still a long way off. Only serious hikers succeed at the 1.5 to 2 hour walk from Clearwater Beach, especially in the warmer summer months. The solution for an easier journey is to enjoy a relaxing ride aboard the Caladesi Island Ferry.

 

Honeymoon Island Ferry Dock

Caladesi Island FerryThe secret to reaching Caladesi Island State Park lies within a second park, Honeymoon Island State Park. Honeymoon Island is a fantastic destination in its own right, with hiking trails, beaches, a dog beach, and a nature center. What Honeymoon Island also has is a set of boat docks where the Caladesi Island Ferry departs. In order to get to the docks, visitors must enter the state park, paying a low entry fee per car. The ferry ride is $14 for adults, $7 for kids, and free for kids under five. Ferry service begins at 10AM. To ensure everyone gets back to the mainland, the ticket office stamps the tickets with a return time, which is about four and a half hours later. A shaded pavilion offers ferry ticket holders a place to rest while they wait for the next ride to Caladesi Island.

 

Caladesi Island Ferry Ride

Caladesi Island FerryThe whole purpose of visiting Caladesi Island is to relax. The ferry is a perfect way to begin. The ride is smooth, traveling across an enclosed waterway which is protected from the Gulf of Mexico waters by the barrier island of Caladesi itself. The ferry passes between the mangrove shores of Caladesi Island and the palm-tree-lined Dunedin Causeway, which leads to Honeymoon Island. The scenery is always fantastic, which includes a chance to see local dolphins and manatees. The waterway is well-used by motorboats, kayaks, and jet skis, creating a lively summer-like playground 365 days a year. The ferry ride travels its last leg down a mangrove-lined channel. After a short, twenty minute shuttle, the ferry arrives at the docks on Caladesi Island.

 

The Docks at Caladesi Island

Caladesi IslandThe docks at Caladesi Island are the first impression many people have of the famous Gulf Coast destination. Awaiting disembarking guests is the Caladesi Island concession stand. The food stand offers a variety of snacks, along with some much-needed refreshments on hot days. Beyond the building, visitors will find trails that lead to restrooms, outdoor beach showers, picnic tables, a playground, and hiking trails through the undeveloped lands of the island. Naturally, the beach is the number one attraction. Behind the restrooms and beach showers are long, raised walkways, transporting beach-goers through the coastal mangroves and dunes. The reward for this easy stroll is a beautiful, white sand beach of the Florida Gulf Coast. CCaladesi Island aladesi Island Beach is a fantastic stretch of bright sand traveling north and south. The length of the beach is so long that walkers and hikers are sure to be pleased. With beach chairs and umbrellas available for rent, and the turquoise waters of the Gulf to play in, the destination is one to remember. The Caladesi Island Ferry makes reaching the island paradise so easy it would be shame for area visitors to pass it up.

 

Caladesi Island Ferry Video

 

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lighted boat parade

Tarpon Springs Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

Holiday Season in Florida

lighted boat parade in Tarpon SpringsThe holiday season in Florida might not have snow, but it does have plenty of holiday cheer. What we don’t experience with snow, we make up for with miles of seasonal lights and endless festivals. On the Florida Gulf Coast, the water plays a large part in our lifestyles, adding a dimension to events that is easy to appreciate. Holiday boat parades are popular, drawing lots of boaters and loads of spectators.

 

Snow Place like Tarpon

Snow Place Like Tarpon eventThe tourist town of Tarpon Springs, Florida, added an in-town festival to its yearly holiday boat parade. Snow Place Like Tarpon is a street festival held on the main street through Tarpon Springs. Tarpon Avenue is an interesting place on any given day, with old style buildings, multiple antique shops, a museum, and some great restaurants. For the Snow Place Like Tarpon event, Snow Place Like Tarpon holiday festivalmanufactured snow was blown from marquees, to fall on the people below. Vendors lined the curbs, with dancing girls in holiday outfits dancing in the streets. A snow slide occupied an empty lot filled with spectators. The vendors sold holiday crafts and lots of food, including great deserts. A holiday wagon ride was also running for the kids, as well as an outdoor movie screen showing Disney’s Frozen. Most importantly, Santa took Christmas wishes on the dock at the bayou. According to residents of Tarpon Springs, the crowds roving Tarpon Avenue were the largest ever to attend the event. Snow Place Like Tarpon ran from the antique district all the way down to Spring Bayou, where the holiday boat parade was scheduled to run at the end of the evening.

 

Holiday Boat Parade

holiday lights on boatThe holiday lighted boat parade entered Spring Bayou at the end of the evening events. The parade, illuminated the waterways of Tarpon Springs, thrilling happy spectators who had moved from the street festival down to the bayou. Onlookers lined the waterfront with beach chairs and cameras, cheering to the boats as they passed. The boats entered Spring Bayou with holiday music at high volume and their boat horns blasting. The reflection on the water added to the dazzle of the lights. The boat owners enjoyed the event too, turning back for a second spin around the shoreline. boat parade capture The lighted boat parade started and ended on the Anclote River, home of the famous Sponge Docks, the host marina being the docks at Captain Jack’s restaurant and bar. The boats returned by the same route, docking at the marina to enjoy nightcaps and banter about the parade. Snow Place Like Tarpon and the Tarpon Springs Holiday Lighted Boat parade made for a fantastic holiday themed night out in the famous tourist town.

 

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs FloridaTarpon Springs is a small tourist town on the northern end of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. It lies along the Anclote River, home of the famous Sponge Docks, the leading producer of natural sponges in the world. It is known for its Greek community, pioneers of the area’s sponge diving industry. Greek food is a must when visiting this city. Tourist souvenirs are of nautical theme, with sponges sold in every shop. Handmade soaps and kitchen seasonings are also a hit in Tarpon Springs. Boat rides cruise the river, with some taking tourists to the coastal barrier islands at the mouth of the river. Tarpon Avenue is known for its many eclectic antique shops. The city is also a favorite stopover for those on bike rides along the 38 mile Pinellas Trail. Tarpon Springs is forty minutes or less to the north of other famous Florida Gulf Coast destinations such as Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island State Park, and Clearwater Beach. If you plan to visit the Central Gulf Coast, put Tarpon Springs on your list of places to see.

 

Tarpon Springs Lighted Boat Parade video:

Tarpon Springs Lighted Boat Parade video (short version):

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Discover the Island of Egmont Key

Discovering Egmont Key

Discover the Island at Egmont Key

Lighthouse on Egmont KeyThe Discover the Island event hit Egmont Key last month, giving area residents and visitors a great reason to learn more about the unique island. The island is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, north of the main shipping channel. Egmont Key Alliance put on the event, adding plenty of fun additions to an already fascinating destination. The event was held November 8th and 9th (2014) with plenty of promotion to let us all know to show up. Attending the event was a rewarding experience, even for those who had visited previously. Visitors were allowed to explore the island at will, with lots of goodies thrown in, such as historical re-enactors, a kids area with games and crafts, a silent auction to help support island preservation efforts, and, of course, a food tent. With the fascinating terrain, wildlife, ruins, and rich history, the Discover the Island event at Egmont Key was a crowd pleaser.

 

Exploring Egmont Key

Ruins on Egmont Key

Island railroad ruinsVisitors were free to discover the ruins of Egmont Key’s military bunkers, which date back well over a hundred years. Only the concrete and some metal remains, leaving the buildings without doors, and open to tour. The decaying buildings are the ruins of Fort Dade, part of a defense structure for Tampa Bay that includes nearby Fort DeSoto. The building began in the 1800’s for the Spanish-American War. The island saw military use up through the Second World War, when it served as an observation and targeting station against enemy ships who might try to enter Tampa Bay. Today on the island, tourists can view the ruins up close. Fort ruins on Egmont KeyMany of Egmont Keys buildings have sunk into the Gulf of Mexico, due to erosion of the island’s west coast. Other ruins are open to enter, including bunkers, housing, and a guard house. Targeting towers stand amid the brush of the island while a network of brick roads lead through a military compound partly reclaimed by forest. Although the event provided an excellent excuse to tour the ruins, Egmont Key is open year round.

Egmont Key Lighthouse

Egmont Key lighthouseA lighthouse still stands on Egmont Key, providing a light, into the present day, to direct ships and other vessels that navigate near the island. The lighthouse, erected in 1858, is the second to exist on the island, the first lasting only a short period before being too damaged by weather for safety. The existing lighthouse has unusually thick walls, the inside being no more than a spiraling metal stairway. For the sake of preservation, visitors are not allowed to climb the tower. For the lighthouse reenactorDiscover the Island event, a historical re-enactor waited at the tower bottom to share his knowledge of the lighthouse, as well as the island itself. No question could stump him, his information on the site satisfying every query. The lighthouse is the best known building on the island, serving as a symbol for Egmont Key.

Guided Tours of Egmont Key

Guided tours at Egmont KeyFor the Discover the Island Event, guided tours were available to walk guests by the most important sites. The guides, versed in the islands military and natural history, walked large groups around the island, describing the role of each building visited. They shared such details as storage containers for mine field parts, underground houses, the methods for targeting enemy ships, Fort Dade operations, an island railway, and more. They also stopped the tour groups at a presentation regarding the wildlife inhabitants of the island. Guides told of the gopher tortoise, an endangered species which lives on the island, digging boroughs into the soft sand. History display at Egmont KeySea turtles nest on the island, and the entire southern end is occupied by the Egmont Key Wildlife Refuge, which is a nesting site for numerous species of birds. Another station provided an up close look at military memorabilia. The tours provided great information, the history portions delivered in the environment where the history occurred.

Discover the Island Goodies

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve raptorA number of other great goodies were in store for visitors who attended the Discover the Island event. Civil war re-enactors set up camp on the island, performing military drills for the crowds that gathered. The drills were well done, with historical commentary from the commanding officer. The order to fire was silent, however, out of respect for a wildlife attraction at Egmont Key for the day. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve  brought a collection of live raptors. Owls, hawks, and falcons were out in the open for visitors to view while they walked down the preserved walkways of the island. Reenactment camp at Egmont KeyAt another site, closer to the beach, pirates (in paper hats) had taken over the lawn, with a pirate chest and kids games. Near the foot of the lighthouse, memorabilia for the island was on sale, as well as a crowd pleasing grilling tent serving hot dogs, chips, and drinks. When put together, the extras thrown into the preservation-themed event made the Discover the Island event a perfect reason to visit Egmont Key.

 

Egmont Key

Egmont Key beachIf Egmont Key sounds like a destination you would like to visit, you are right! The island enjoys the white sand beaches cherished on the Florida Gulf Coast, including the sparkling Gulf of Mexico waters. A ferry departs from Fort Desoto Park on a regular basis. Be sure to check the schedule ahead of time. Egmont Key Park is open year round for visitors. For the price of a ferry ride, you can tour its spectacular light house, fascinating ruins, and remarkable beaches. The brick roads of Fort Dade are yours to explore. For those who keep their eyes peeled, the local wildlife might make an appearance as well.

If you are planning a visit to the Central Gulf Coast of Florida, be sure to put Egmont Key on your list of unique sites to see.

Egmont Key video

Egmont Key video

Egmont Key video

Guns on Egmont Key video

 

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Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

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Holiday Lights in the Gardens

Holiday Lights in the Garden

 Holiday Lights at Florida Botanical Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensEvery year the Florida Botanical Gardens presents the Holiday Lights in the Gardens event. It is well worth the visit. Holiday lights are strung to trees and bushes throughout the gardens, illuminating the wide variety of unique plants, and remarkable garden settings. The event is held at the three formal gardens, starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through New Year’s Eve. This year the dates are November 28 to December 31, and is open between 5:30 PM and 9:30 PM. The volunteers at the entrance ask that you give a $4 donation upon entering, which is well worth it. The pathways, which are spectacular in the daylight, have decorations designed for viewing at night. Every color imaginable lines the walkways, many in shapes of animals or toys. The walkways are designed to wind through the gardens in a peaceful way, a feat still achievable, even with the crowds drawn by the light show.

 

Heart of the Holiday Lights in the Gardens

TLive music at Holiday Lights in the Gardenshe heart of the Holiday Lights in the Gardens is the Wedding Garden. At its center is a large Christmas tree surrounded by toy trains. The lighted trains circle the tree, amid more displays of illuminated gardens. The Wedding Garden gazebo, the site of many weddings, is brightly lit, and is the foreground for live entertainment. On opening night, a pair of gentlemen played guitars to the crowd.

The other central feature at the event was the jolly man himself. Santa and his wife made an appearance at the garden, a line of children waiting throughout the evening to have their moment with the famous man and his missus. Parents waited with cameras to record the event. Santa and his wife were perfect images of their legend.

 

Florida Botanical Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensFlorida Botanical Gardens opened in 2000, giving Pinellas County Florida another spectacular tourist attraction. The 160 acres is maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department but also by Pinellas County Master Gardeners, who volunteer thousands of hours each year. The expansive gardens include areas for both beauty and education. Walkways wind throughout the gardens, leading you through various types of foliage and displays. The gardens are organized by type. You will find the Herb Gardens, Tropical Fruit Garden, Succulent Garden, Butterfly Garden, and many more from a long list of interesting choices. The three formal gardens are guest favorites, which include the Wedding Garden, the Tropical Walk, and the Tropical Courtyard. Beyond these are trails that lead you through wilderness areas maintained by Florida Botanical Gardens.

 

Holiday Lights in the Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensThe Florida Botancial Gardens are in Largo, Florida. Largo is in Pinellas County, which is the peninsula that creates Tampa Bay. The county is home to Clearwater Beach, St Pete Beach, Fort DeSoto Park, Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island State Park, and many other famous attractions. The Florida Botanical Gardens is a perfect diversion from the beach, especially during the holiday evenings. The event proves even palm trees can put you in the holiday spirit. If you are on the Florida Gulf Coast for the holiday season, be sure to put the Holiday Lights in the Gardens on  you list of sights to see.

 

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Kite festival Treasure Island Florida

Veterans Day Fall Kite Festival at Treasure Island

Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI

Veterans Day giant kiteWe visited the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI on Sunday, hoping the clouds would part for some great kite photos. With overcast skies most of the day, we were happy to see clouds part in the late afternoon, right as we arrived. Big kites were in the sky, visible from miles away. Parking for the event was easy, making our arrival worry free. The beach at Treasure Island is enormous, providing kite flyers a huge expanse of sand. A giant heart shaped kite colored with stars and stripes was the biggest kite in the sky. Around it flew a good number of others, giving us plenty to see.

 

Unique Veterans Day Kite Festival

manta kiteWe were expecting the event to be the same as the festival in January but the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI was different. While not as many kites were in the air, the Veterans Day kite festival had some unexpected surprises. Because of the smaller number of kites, we were able to make our way across the sand with ease, viewing the kites close up – or at least as close as we could get from the ground. The Windworks kite tent was fun to visit, with lots of sport kites for sale. They looked fun but how would we know if we liked them if we could not try them? Fortunately the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI solved that problem for us. Because of the lighter crowd, we had the opportunity to get some free kite flying lessons. The sport kites employ four strings held by two handles. The number of things that a pro can get the kites to do is amazing. As it turned out, we were best at landing them, mostly by accident. The kites were well made, however, and held up to the abuse. We did manage to pull off a few successful tricks by the time we were done with our five minute lesson.

Kite shopThe personal attention and accessibility of the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI helped it to earn high marks from us. We enjoyed the opportunities to talk to the kite flyers, the guys at the kite shop, and to the kite flying instructor. With some extra kiting experience under our belts, we made plans to possibly buy our own kites. We also set our schedules for Treasure Island Beach in January for the big kiting competition.

 

Anticipating Treasure Island Kite Competition

Giant kiteIf you love the beach and kite flying, the kite festivals at Treasure Island are must-see events. Veterans Day Fall Fly at Treasure Island was presented by Windworks Kite Store and the Eastern League Sport Kite Association. Be sure to make plans to visit Treasure Island January 16th through 18th for the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition.

 

 

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