Monkey at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Gulf Coast Local Secret #18

Florida Gulf Coast Primate Rescue

ChimpanzeeThe purpose of the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary is to provide a place to live for rescued and donated primates. They have a growing collection of animals, not all of them primates, which is open for public viewing. Inside you will see lots of monkeys and apes, including chimpanzees, orangutans, baboons, spider monkeys and more. Additionally you can see alligators, tortoises, and an assortment of birds. The sanctuary is privately funded, so it does not come off as a major theme park like Busch Gardens, but the animals are well cared for and casual observation shows a lot of happy, furry faces.

 

Florida Gulf Coast Secret Primate Sanctuary

BaboonsWhy is the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary on our local secrets list? While they certainly do advertise, you will not find neon lights flashing on the roadside. The unassuming sign for the sanctuary has pictures of the animals, and the parking lot is a simple strip off the side of the road. The setting does not necessarily leap out at passers-by. You might need a local to help you arrive!  However, for animal lovers and for those who want close by entertainment for the kids (or grownups) the sanctuary is a fun place to visit. The staff give helpful information and you might even get to pet a live alligator -a small one. Give the sanctuary a try!

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Clearwater Color Run

Clearwater Color Run 2014

Is the Clearwater Color Run a Race or a Party?

Clearwater Color RunAttendees to the Clearwater Color Run in January of 2014 were in for more than just a race. Long before the race began Coachman Park filled with racers in white shirts and their camera-toting companions. Tents dotted the field, selling T-shirts, drinks, and unique photo opportunities. An instructor on the Coachman Park stage led a large number of participants in a Zumba dance warm up. Once at the starting line, an MC standing on top of a tower next to the gates kept the crowd lively by throwing give-away items into the throng of runners. The atmosphere of the Clearwater Color run seemed more like a party than a race before the starting gun ever fired.

 

Clearwater Color Run Is Not Your Ordinary 5K

Clearwater Color RunThe Clearwater Color Run was a lot like other 5K races with one distinct difference; the racers get pelted with colored paint dust along the way. Standing at the first station we saw the racers doused with purple. The cloud plume was so thick we could barely see the people inside. Coming out the other side, the color-stained runners were smiling and laughing. When we moved to the 4.5 kilometer mark, the smiles were fewer, but the spirits of the runners were still high. Many of the participants gave us cheers as they ran by, headed down the last slope toward the finish line. By this time they had gone through all four color tossing stations and were completely covered with bright dust.

 

The Clearwater Color Run After Party

Clearwater Color Run after raceWhile there was no official after party for the Clearwater Color Run, the festivities at the finish line did just as well. The organizers held a contestant dance off on the stage while music blared and bubbles from large machines filled the air. At regular intervals the guys on stage called for a color toss, in which all those gathered nearby threw colored paint dust into the air. It was a great event for all ages, with lots of teens and kids of younger ages participating. The Clearwater Color Run was promoted as the happiest 5K on the planet, which it seemed to do a pretty good job of delivering.

 

 

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Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs hippoHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located seventy miles drive north of Clearwater Beach. The park displays rescued and other creatures native to Florida. The list includes black bears, alligators, bald eagles, otters, and many more. The number of different bird species at the central pond and the aviary are amazing. A unique park resident is the hippopotamus once used in Hollywood movies, granted official Florida citizenship to overcome its status as a non-native species. The number one attraction at the park, however, are the manatees. Both wild and park animals can be seen swimming in park waters. The manatees you will find in pens are there to receive care, followed by release back into the wild. The park has a unique underwater room where you can view the manatees being fed.

 

Lowry Park Zoo

Lowry Park Zoo orangutanLowry Park Zoo sits just north of the city of Tampa and is a 25 mile drive east from Clearwater Beach. It is a large zoo with plenty to see. Stoll on wooden boardwalks past large aviaries or ground level animal enclosures. You can get a close up view of a wide variety native and exotic species of animals. The Lowry Park Zoo is large enough to plan an all day trip from Clearwater Beach. Kids love the zoo because of the carnival rides located at the center of the park. The kids’ area includes fun things like slides, a water fountain area to play in, pony rides, and a petting zoo.

 

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Florida tigerBusch Gardens is the top theme park within easy reach of Clearwater Beach. Busch Gardens in Tampa has an African theme, which goes well with the animals you will view there. You will find fantastic roller coasters and other fun rides, as well as kid-friendly attractions, like the massive playground called Treetop Trails. Click here to see their huge list of attractions. If you want to offer your family some extra excitement on your Clearwater Beach vacation, then give Busch Gardens in Tampa a try.

 

 

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Dinosaur World Florida

Dinosaur World

Florida Road Trip Adventures #1

Dinosaur World (1)Dinosaur World Is Fun for the Whole Family

Dinosaur world is great fun for kids but parents will enjoy it too. The dinosaur models are full size and placed amid Florida brush and tall palms, giving the park an authentic setting. Kids get very excited to see the life size dinosaurs. The park takes over an hour to walk around, with enough displays to satisfy even the most avid little dinosaur enthusiasts.

Dinosaur World Is an Interactive Kid Experience

Dinosaur World has great extra activities for kids. Young visitors love the fossil dig, where they get to take home real, fossils from the age of dinosaurs. Some of the dinosaur models can be touched, including the carnivore that where kids can peek out at the mom and dad photographer from inside the mouth. A shelter at mid park lets kids dust off a large replica of stegosaurus dinosaur bones. A few other treats can be found along the way.

Dinosaur WorldDinosaur World Gift shop

The gift shop is a kid paradise, with walls lined with dinosaur toys. Actual fossils are for sale for the grownups. The gift shop greets you on the way in but if you want to catch it on the way out, that’s OK too.

Dinosaur World Is a Great Outing for the Kids

If you want to spend half a day entertaining the family, Dinosaur World is a great diversion. Be sure to take your camera to get shots of your kids alongside these behemoths from the past. Florida’s Dinosaur World is in Plant City which is within an hour of the cities of Tampa and Clearwater.

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Tarpon Springs sunken s hip

Gulf Coast Sunken Ship

Gulf Coast Local Secret #17

Does the Gulf Coast Have Sunken Ships?

Of course the Gulf Coast has sunken ships! You will find that any harbor locations around the world have long histories of sunken ships. Before European ships arrived, Native Americans plied the waters in smaller craft. The coasts of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida have been in use by large ships since the Americas were first settled. Settlers, war ships and even pirates used the shores of Florida, especially Tampa Bay, where Fort De Soto State Park still displays cannons used to defend the mouth of the bay. The maritime history of the Florida Gulf Coast is fascinating, and worth looking into.

 

Sunken Ships on the Florida Gulf Coast

ShipwreckA number of websites help divers and others locate known shipwrecks along Florida’s coast. If you are a diver, these are great resources. However, if you are the average tourist, it is not likely you will be diving on shipwrecks. So how can you see your own sunken ship?

 

Tarpon Springs Sunken Ship

Tarpon Springs (7)This local secret turns out to be in Tarpon Springs. Tarpons Springs is a fun, Greek-style tourist destination with enough shops, boat tours, and dining to keep any visitor happy. Located on the Anclote River, Tarpon Springs is known for its Sponge Docks, where the catch of the day is sponges. Little known to most of those walking the docks is that Tarpon Springs has its own sunken ship that you can see. Protruding from the waters of the Anclote River, you can catch a glimpse of part of this ship, identified by the pitch of its mast and derricks. Look for it midway down the docks. If you are lucky enough to take a boat tour past this ship wreck, the guide will surely tell you all about it, and you will get a close up view of this modern sunken ship.

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Spartan Race coming to Tampa Bay

2014 Special Ops Spartan Race Is Coming to Tampa Bay

Fun and Suffering for Racers at Tampa Bay Spartan Race

Spartan RacesI was recently introduced to the Spartan Race concept when I went digging to find out more about the upcoming Special Ops Spartan Sprint coming to Tampa Bay in February. You can watch the fun videos at the Spartan Races FAQ page. The 2014 Spartan Sprint will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, on February 15th. The videos make it look like a lot of fun. They also make it look really hard! Plenty of couch-bound folks consider 4 miles a challenge. The Spartan Race contestants do a whole lot more than just jog that distance. A gauntlet of challenging barriers are put on the course of this race. With brutal climbing and crawling obstacles, and plenty of mud and dirt, I suppose you would wear clothing for this race that you were prepared to throw away afterward. You will find me in the bleachers. However, if you think you have what it takes, then sign up for the Special Ops Spartan Race, and put yourself to the test.

 

Cash Prizes for Tampa Bay Special Ops Spartan Sprinters

Spartan Races Tampa BayCash prizes are awarded to the winners of the Special Ops Spartan Sprint.  Cash prizes will be given to the top 3 male and female winners of the elite heat, $2000, $1000, and $750, respectively, courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union. However, simply the finishing the race is an accomplishment for many. Each participant who completes the race will receive a Special Ops Spartan Sprint Medal. While the weather in February cannot be predicted yet, the Spartan Races are not really weather dependent. Overcoming adversity is the whole idea. So rain or shine, cool or hot, you can expect a good show at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. If you enjoy unique sporting events, we will see you there. The Special Ops Spartan Sprint is free for spectators!

 

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Giant fish kite at Treasure island Kite Festival

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

January 2014 Treasure Island Kite Festival

Trick kite at the Treasure Island Kite FestivalThe Treasure Island Kite Festival returned to the Central Gulf Coast Shores the weekend of January 18th and 19th. The skies were a clear blue color, which created a fantastic backdrop for the multicolored kites flying above the sands of Treasure Island Beach. The temperatures were cool for Florida, with a brisk wind, but as far as kite flying weather, it was fantastic. The crowd that turned out was large, lining the sidewalks and filling the area restaurants.

 

Multitude of Designs at Treasure Island Kite Festival

Giant Octopus Kite at Treasure Island Kite FestivalThe variations of kites in the skies over Treasure Island Beach were amazing. The king of the show was a giant octopus kite, larger than the others many times over. Other interesting kite designs were a giant crab, an Asian-style fish, a giant cat, a blow fish, an alligator, and a fish that looked like Nemo from Finding Nemo. Other favorites where twirling tubes, spinning disks, and a host of trick kites. Something entertaining was flying against the blue skies in every direction.

 

Kite Flying Competitions at the Treasure Island Kite Festival

Group kite flying at Treasure Island Kite FestivalThroughout the Treasure Island Kite Festival weekend, a number of competitions were held. While we walked the beach on Saturday, we watched kite masters fly their kites to match the rhythm of music. At another location, a team was practicing synchronized kite flying, with seven people following the directions of a single director. Their precision maneuvers were visible from across the beach, standing out from the other, more stationary kites.

 

The Treasure Island Kite Festival Will Return

Treasure Island Kite FestivalIf you missed the Treasure Island Kite Festival this time around, you can be sure that it will be back. With happy spectators –and happy local merchants –the kite festival certainly looked like a success. The broad stretches of sand at Treasure Island are prefect for a large show like this one, as well as providing perfect wind conditions for kite flying. Look for the festival again next year. After enjoying the 2014 Treasure Island Kite Festival, we will be sure to make a return visit in 2015.

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Florida deer at sunset

Sunset Deer Sightings

Gulf Coast Local Secret #15

Large Deer Population in Florida

Florida deerFlorida rarely drops below 50 degrees in the winter, making it a great place for wildlife. While this attracts species that don’t tolerate cold easily, it also makes a perfect environment for just about everything else. Florida has a thriving deer population. While it might seem difficult to see deer in an area as populated as Tampa Bay, you might be surprised.

 

Where to See Deer Every Night

Florida deerDeer sightings on a nightly basis can be almost guaranteed for our local secret #15. Well-known by locals, Chesnut Park is a great place to visit any time of the day. The park has endless picnic spots, more hiking trails than most other parks, and has lakefront access and a boat ramp onto Lake Tarpon. In addition to the possibility of alligator sightings, you can also see the local deer population. The park is home to dozens (if not more) of deer which come out of their hiding places in the forest when the sun goes down. The park closes officially after sunset but you still have time to watch the deer come out. Keep your eyes sharp toward the edge of the forest. The baseball field is one of favorite sunset hangouts. Try this park out -it’s a great place to visit –and then wait for the sun to set. You should get to see quite a few deer.

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7. Clearwater Beach Causeway

Clearwater Beach CausewayThe causeway to the beach is a long stretch between open waterways of Clearwater Harbor. The wide walking and biking path makes the trek a pleasure. A relatively tall bridge marks the border between downtown Clearwater and the Clearwater Beach causeway. Watching the boats go by from the bridge is a favorite past time. The causeway will also take you past Clearwater Marine Aquarium the home of Winter the dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movies.

6. Clearwater Marina

Clearwater Beach MarinaAnother short but enjoyable walk is at the Clearwater Marina. The docks host all types of charter boats, harbor tours, dinner cruises, party cruises, fishing excursions, and boat rentals. The atmosphere is lively on weekends and even those not looking for a boat ride will find the goings-on entertaining.

 

5. Mandalay Avenue

Mandalay Avenue Clearwater BeachThe northern end of Clearwater Beach begins with a treasure trove of gift shops, cafes, restaurants, bistros, and novelty shops located along Mandalay Avenue. Walking this relatively short stretch is always a pleasure, especially for those seeking the vacation-town experience.

4. Pier 60

Pier 60 Clearwater BeachWhile Pier 60 doesn’t make for a long walk, it is still a good one. Centrally located on Clearwater Beach, it provides excellent views of the beach from an elevated position. A gift shop sits mid pier where visitors can buy T-shirts, seashells, or other vacation souvenirs. The real treat comes at sunset, when Pier 60 hosts a four hour festival in which vendors offer every type of knick knack imaginable. On weekends, street performers join the sunset festival.

3. Beach Walk

Beach Walk at Clearwater BeachBeach Walk is a boardwalk-style sidewalk that runs along the beach and beachfront shops of Clearwater Beach. It is located on the southern half of Clearwater Beach, referred to locally as South Beach. It takes visitors past some of the best stretches of sand Clearwater Beach has to offer, as well as some of the best gift shops and restaurants.

2. Caladesi Island walk

Walking to Caladesi IslandThe walk northward on Clearwater beach is the stuff vacation memories are made of. The long stretch of beach is a peaceful white sand paradise. The further you go, the fewer people you will see, until finally you reach the remarkable powdery white sands at the tip of Caladesi Island. This is a long walk with water bottle recommended, especially in the summer months.

1. Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach FloridaWalking along the shoreline of Clearwater Beach is the perfect activity for locals and visitors alike. Collecting shells, dipping your toes into the gentle surf, and experiencing the sensation of the soft white sands on your feet are the highlights of this fantastic walk.

 

 

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Nautical dining room

What Is a Beach Villa?

What is a Villa?

2. Front ElevationThe word villa can conjure up images of wealthy British estates with rolling green lawns. For others it might bring forth pictures of quaint urban residences with blooming gardens. The term can also illicit memories of childhood holidays spent in a vacation home in the country, or by the sea. So which of these is a villa? Well, all of them, actually.

 

Vacation Villa

balconyWe at Florida Beach Rentals use the term villa when referring to vacation rentals. To us, a villa is a place by the sea, close to or even on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Villas are fun places to get away from it all, and what better place than the white sand beaches of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida?

 

Florida Beach Rentals Villas

1. Back Yard fire pitOur main villa namesake is the Villas of Clearwater Beach building. These vacation condos look directly over the sands of the beach, receiving some of the best beach views and dramatic sunsets available on Clearwater Beach. To join the vibrant beach life, one only needs to walk out onto the sands. Our other villa namesake is the Seaside Villa House. As the name suggests, this is a vacation house, making it a perfect family vacation villa. Walking to the beach is a mere casual stroll to the end of the street, and not a long walk at that.

 

Villas by the Sea

living room 2Why not take your next vacation in a villa by the sea? Enjoy the beautiful white sands of Clearwater Beach by day, view sunsets over the Gulf at days end, and then dive into the activities of the dynamic beach community by night?