There are few places that can compete with used bookstores for the amount of history they contain (perhaps antiques stores). What a book meant to the author, what it meant to the first owner, and what it meant to every owner since, and how it is that it came to be given to the store all add to the story of the bookstore and how the store itself came to be where it is. The associations, when known, can even inspire claims of haunting. Listed as one of the possibly most haunted places in Tampa, Old Tampa Book Company has a few tales of its own, such as the chairs that move, the set of books that were once jealously guarded by the previous owner (now deceased), and the time a burglar attempted to break in only to be mysteriously thwarted by a pair of scissors. Could it be that the tailor who rented the space before the bookstore moved in still guards the place? …Probably not.
I’ve never seen any signs of ghosts any time I’ve been there. What I have seen is a wide selection of used books, covering fantasy, mystery, gardening, firearm sport, biology, history, the classics, art, and much more. Old Tampa also maintains a collection of rare, out-of-print books and ships to people all over the world. They are very involved in the Tampa community, hosting open microphones nights, author chats, and other events. They love to help local authors and artists trying to get noticed and will make little displays for them. Perhaps the best thing about the Old Tampa Book Company is that it is surrounded by restaurants. After all, reading can really build up your appetite.
507 North Tampa Street, Tampa, Florida
I went to Sunken Gardens in Saint Petersburg and had a blast. I walked down winding, interconnected stone paths between huge palms and trickling artificial brooks. I saw ferns, cycads, oaks, trumpet flowers, bamboo, bottle palms, orchids, bromeliads, and giant balls of elkhorn fern everywhere. There were many kinds of flowers, berries, and all kinds of strange, unidentifiable things. There was even a rainbow eucalyptus tree. They do a good job of packing a lot of plants into a small area. Some of the trees and palms are quite big and it is a constant struggle between looking at the flowers at ground level and seeing some of the normally hidden sights high above.
The garden began when George Turner bought the land in 1903 and promptly drained the small lake there to make room for it. To this day, some parts of the garden are fifteen feet below street level. He filled it with flowers and exotic fruits. People loved it. In the 1920s he began charging people to stroll through. In 1999 the city of Saint Petersburg bought the place.
They even keep a few animals there. I saw different turtles (including one giant snapper covered in algae), koi, flamingos, parrots, macaws, and kookaburras. The parrots are kept in cages. I tried to teach them some Star Wars quotes, but had no luck.
I could probably ramble on about each flower, leaf, bench, and trellis I saw for several more paragraphs, but it would be simpler if you just went yourself.
1825 4th Street North, Saint Petersburg, Florida
On the first Friday of the month, I will sometimes join my writers’ group for a meal and drinks at Five Bucks Drinkery. They have indoor and outdoor seating. Most items are under six dollars. I once got a pretty decent burger covered with cheese, fresh jalapeños, onion straws, and some sort of creamy buffalo sauce. Unfortunately, it got eaten before I could think to get my camera out. On a different occasion I tried the fried, battered bacon (see photo), which came with powdered sugar and a dipping cup of maple syrup. It seems they keep a creative menu.
247 Central Avenue, Saint Petersburg, Florida
Recently taking the place of a Mexican restaurant about a year ago, Papi’s Cuban Kitchen is already getting noticed by those in the Brandon-Riverview area. The owners aim to bring to Boyette Road real Cuban cuisine of the kind they grew up with. I visited just before lunch and picked up some fried mashed-potato balls and café con leche. They were good – especially after I dipped them in the hot sauce. They offer both dine-in and take-out. They even have a customer loyalty program. Once one becomes a regular, one can sign up to receive discounts and specials by text.
13206 Boyette Road, Riverview, Florida
In addition to selling beadcrafting supplies, The Bead Boutique offers beadwork classes, providing a place for people to meet others in the community and make friends while making unique jewelry using beads of glass, stone, crystal, wood, or freshwater pearl. “I play,” one woman told me when I visited. The walls are full of creative bead necklaces. These are not just simple, linear designs. There are wire wraps and embellishments of all kinds. I saw one necklace of complex butterflies and another of leaves. Finished work can be sold by the store and that way the students can make back the money they spent on the beads. Anywhere that one can sit and talk while producing something of value is a treasure. In this case, it is a treasure where one can produce new treasures.
704 West Lumsden Road, Brandon, Florida
Where else can you find snails, urchins, brittle stars, anemones, bubble coral, mushroom coral, tongue coral, various shrimp, and a gazillion different types of brightly-colored and intricately-designed fish (freshwater and saltwater)? I’ve been to pet stores, but they don’t have nearly as much variety in such a small space. I got distracted for several minutes just watching them swim back and forth when I was supposed to be looking for a story. I even got distracted again just now by my memories as I was writing. As it turns out, the store has been in business for ten years, but only two years ago was taken over by the current owner who now continues the fishy traditions by handpicking the livestock from local breeders.
At the Aquarium And Fish Store, you can buy an aquarium, all the supplies needed to maintain or decorate it, and all the fish needed to fill it. They will even install your aquarium for you.
How can you not love that face?
710 West Lumsden Road, Brandon, Florida
Danny’s All-American Diner is a hidden treasure in Tampa occupying a small lot away from the well-travelled roads. It has outdoor seating only. Parking is across the street where massive trees will protect your car from the sun. This is always a plus. They serve ice cream and chili dogs but are best known for their burgers, each named after baseball players. It was even featured on the show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. The burgers are made using a special family recipe going all the way back to mid-nineteenth century Philadelphia. Fortunately, the family realized how awesome Florida is and came here.
4406 N Falkenburg Road, Tampa, Florida
Smaller than a stand-alone restaurant, but roomier than some hole-in-the-wall places, La Cubanita Café is the perfect compromise between cozy and crowded. They have empanadas, fries, rice, crab, and more. They make their Cuban sandwiches with added lettuce, tomatoes, and will stuff a ham croquette inside to make them a combo. The one I got was very filling. They even have a sandwich called the Alex, which is basically a Cuban with extra ham.
723A Lumsden Road, Brandon, Florida
Written By Daniel Noe, InkDoodler.com
The pharmacists at Live And Learn Pharmacy are masters (wizards?) of customization. They are able to provide medication, vitamins, or other supplements in precisely the dosage desired so one does not have to choose between too high and too low among the mass-produced versions. It’s a local treasure Goldilocks would approve of. They are also capable of making the tiny doses needed for pets and children or of making liquid or flavored products for ease of swallowing. They can customize for people the inactive ingredients, leaving out the dyes or fillers if the people have an allergy or sensitivity to one of them. They are even capable of producing bio-identical hormone molecules, as opposed to the often slightly-different artificially-created hormone molecules that are mass produced elsewhere. Apparently, they can do anything except make love potions (as far as I know).
Live And Learn Pharmacy will even host events and classes to learn more about common problems, living healthy, and the benefits of various vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, and more. More information can be found at the website.
13224 Boyette Road, Riverview, Florida
LOCAL TAMPA BAY