Boat Tours

Sarasota Bay Explorers. Many visitors to the Mote Aquarium take the 105-minute boat trip onto Sarasota Bay. Conducted by Sarasota Bay Explorers, all boat trips are done in conjunction with the aquarium and leave from the aquarium's dock. The crew brings marine life on board, explains what it is, and throws it back to swim away. You are almost guaranteed to see bottlenose dolphins. Reservations are recommended. You can also charter the Miss Explorer, a 24-foot Sea Ray Sundeck, or take a guided kayak or nature tour. Mote Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota, FL, 34236. 941/388–4200. Boat tour $27, kayak tour $55, nature tour $45, charters $295–$445. Tours daily at 11, 1:30, and 4 (reservations required).


Flying Fish Fleet. Several boats can be chartered for deep-sea fishing, and there are daily group trips on a "party" fishing boat. 2 Marina Plaza, U.S. 41, on the bay front at Marina Jack, Sarasota, FL, 34236. 941/366–3373.


Bobby Jones Golf Course. This public 45-hole course is over a century old and caters to a range of golfers. The setting is lush and green, with plenty of live oak trees and water. The grounds here are so pleasant that many choose to walk their chosen course, of which there are three. The American Course is best for less experienced golfers or those who want to practice their short shot, and features a range of lakes and varied terrain. The British Course is slightly more challenging, offering longer fairways dotted with water hazards and sand bunkers. The Gillespie Executive Course is recommended for beginners or those lacking the time needed for a full 18 holes. A large ravine divides much of the course from several of its greens approaches. 1000 Circus Blvd., Sarasota, FL, 34232. 941/365–2200. $25 for 9 holes, $35 for 18 holes. American Course: 18 holes, 6032 yards, par 71; British Course: 18 holes, 6710 yards, par 72; Gillespie Executive Course: 9 holes, 1716 yards, par 30.


Sarasota Bay Explorers, which operates from the Mote Aquarium, also offers guided kayaking trips.

Siesta Sports Rentals. Up for rent here are kayaks, bikes, beach chairs, scooters, and beach wheelchairs and strollers. Guided kayaking trips are also available. 6551 Midnight Pass Rd., Siesta Key, FL, 34242. 941/346–1797.


Tampa Bay Rays. Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays completed an improbable worst-to-first turnaround when they topped the American League Eastern Division in 2008, and again in 2010. Then there was that dramatic end-of-season comeback in 2011. Tickets are available at the box office for most games, but you may have to rely on the classifieds sections of the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times for popular games. Get here early; parking is often at a premium (pre-gaming at Ferg's is always a safe bet). Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Dr., off I–175, St. Petersburg, FL, 33701. 727/825–3137.


Mangrove Bay Golf Course. This course owned by the city of St. Petersburg comprises 180 acres in St. Petersburg's lush northeast section, just a few minutes north of downtown. Here you'll play on Bermuda turfgrass. PGA instruction is available for less experienced golfers. While you won't find a luxuriously outfitted clubhouse here, there is a small snack bar with offerings that should tide you over. There are places to practice putting and chipping before heading onto the course. 875 62nd Ave. NE, St. Petersburg, FL, 33702. 727/893–7800. $20 for 9 holes, $35 for 18 holes. 18 holes, 6779 yds, par 72.


George M. Steinbrenner Field. Locals and tourists flock each March to see the New York Yankees play about 17 spring training games at this 11,000-seat facility. (Call for tickets.) From April through September, the stadium belongs to a Yankee farm team, the Tampa Yankees, who play 70 games against the likes of the Daytona Cubs and the Sarasota Red Sox. 1 Steinbrenner Dr., near the corner of Dale Mabry Hwy., off I–275 Exit 41B, Central Tampa, Tampa, FL, 33614. 813/879–2244.


Canoe Escape. This outfit in northeast Tampa arranges guided or self-guided trips from one hour to all-day duration on the upper Hillsborough River, abounding with alligators, ibises, hawks, and other wildlife. It also rents canoes and kayaks. John B. Sargeant Park, 12702 U.S. 301, Thonotosassa, Tampa, FL, 33602. 813/986–2067.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Seeing the National Football League play isn't easy without connections, though catching a Bucs home game is a little easier than most. Tickets can be found for some games at the box office, though it's a safer bet when you buy them online in advance. Raymond James Stadium, 4201 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., Central Tampa, Tampa, FL, 33607. 813/879–2827.

Tampa Bay Storm. The Arena Football League team plays about 10 games in its March–July season, and calls home the Tampa Bay Times Forum, which is nestled in the vibrant, visitor-friendly Channelside district near Downtown. The Storm has a hot rivalry with the Orlando Predators. Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Dr., Tampa, FL, 33602. 813/301–6500.


Bloomingdale Golfers Club. If you're looking for a tough-but-not-too-tough course that's not too far of a drive from your hotel, this is probably the spot for you. Notable for its par-fives, this is a course where you'll be reward for your strategy rather than your ability to shoot straight and far. As you play, keep an eye out for wildlife peeking out from the long patches of wilderness that line much of this course. If you want to brush up on your skills before tee time, there's a 1,000-square-foot putting green as well as a driving range. 4113 Great Golfers Pl., Valrico, FL, 33596. 813/685–4105. $60. 18 holes, 7155 yds, par 72.

The Claw at USF. Named for its many dog-legged fairways, this University of South Florida course is one of the most challenging public courses in the area. Live oaks as well as cypress and pine trees line the tight twists and turns of the fairways. This is one of the few places in Tampa Bay where you'll find deer grazing along the fairway (especially early in the morning) and gators sunning themselves next to the course's ponds. You'll also find a driving range and a golf shop. After you play, grab a beer at Rocky's Sports Grill, where you'll be able to catch the game on one of several flat- or plasma-screen TVs. 13801 N. 46th St., North Tampa, Tampa, FL, 33613. 813/632–6893. $20–$45. 18 holes, 6863 yards, par 71.

The Club at Eaglebrooke. With six sets of tees on each hole, this links-style, Ron Garl–designed course about 30 miles east of Tampa via Interstate 4 was specially designed with senior golfers, and players of every level, in mind. And while you can choose your level of difficulty here, the elevation varies by some 100 feet throughout the course. The scenic centerpiece here is the 13th hole, which has an "island fairway" connected to the green and other parts of the course by bridge. There's also a golf shop on-site, but the clubhouse is for members only. 1300 Eaglebrooke Blvd., Lakeland, FL, 33813. 863/701–0101. $40–$80. 18 holes, 7030 yards, par 72.

Saddlebrook Golf Club. This expansive complex half an hour northeast of Tampa offers not one but two courses designed by Arnold Palmer. The Palmer Golf Course's hilly terrain contrasts with Tampa Bay's generally flat landscape, and it make you think you're playing on a course somewhere in New England. With its Spanish moss–draped cypress hammocks, the Saddlebrook Golf Course has more of an Old Florida feel to it. As you make your way past this course's green ponds, keep an eye out for turtles—and gators. There's also a golf shop, driving range, on-site pros, and, if you're aching from a grueling day on the course, a luxury spa on the resort property. Saddlebrook Resort, 5700 Saddlebrook Way, Wesley Chapel, FL, 33543. 813/973–1111. $50–$145 (varies seasonally). Palmer Course: 18 holes, 6243 yards, par 71; Saddlebrook Course: 18 holes, 6480 yards, par 70.

Tournament Players Club of Tampa Bay. A stop along the PGA Champion's Tour, this public course sits about 15 miles north of Tampa. It was designed by Bobby Weed with consultation from Chi Chi Rodriguez and is laid out along natural wetlands, which means you can spot plenty of local wildlife as you play. The course was designed to be challenging while still giving novices a fair shake. Practice ahead of time at the driving, chipping, or putting range. There's a golf shop on-site as well as the TPC Grille Room, where you can grab a cold one after your game. 5300 W. Lutz Lake Fern Rd., Lutz, FL, 33558. 813/949–0090. $85–$165. 18 holes, 6898 yards, par 71.

Westchase Golf Club. Touted for its low price and its beauty, this course gets high marks from locals and visitors alike. It's situated amid an expansive upscale residential development about 10 minutes north of Tampa, but it is still reasonably close to Clearwater. Among this wooded course's more challenging quirks is the 3rd hole, which is a par-3 played over water. Golfers rotate from the back 9 holes to the front 9 here, and you can enjoy food and drink at the massive clubhouse overlooking the 9th and 18th greens. 11602 Westchase Golf Dr., Westchase, Tampa, FL, 33626. 813/854–2331. $41–$94. 18 holes, 6699 yards, par 72.

Horse Racing

Tampa Bay Downs. Thoroughbred racing season here runs on most days from December to early May. There are also simulcasts of other thoroughbred races at tracks around the nation. 11225 Race Track Rd., off Rte. 580, Oldsmar, FL, 33626. 813/855–4401.

Ice Hockey

Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning play at the 21,500-seat Amalie Arena (formerly the Tampa Bay Times Forum) near the Florida Aquarium and Channelside. It's close enough to Ybor City and Hyde Park to venture to either spot for dinner after a game. Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Dr., Downtown, Tampa, FL, 33602. 813/301–6600.


Bayshore Boulevard Trail. Considered the world's longest continuous sidewalk, this 4.5-mile trail is a good spot for just standing still and taking it all in, with its spectacular views of downtown Tampa and the Hillsborough Bay area. Of course, you can also walk, talk, jog, bike, and in-line skate with locals. The trail is open from dawn to dusk daily. Bayshore Blvd., Tampa, FL, 33629. 813/274–8615.