For folks wanting to take a weekend jaunt for the spring should put Florida high on your list and make it Tampa where the food, activities and just good time is as easy. On a recent trip to Tampa my time consisted of some quality pampering as I enjoyed two very different types of spas and amazing meals each experience with its own unique impressions.
First however, consider your set of wheels while in Tampa and consider the 2016 Kia Optima. For Kia loyalists you are already going to know that the 2016 Kia Optima is a sporty option in the midsize segment, but offers plenty of hip styling as a sedan. The Optima has also been completely redesigned this year too.
This year the Optima is a bit longer and wider, but the real differences will come in the overall functionality of the 2016 offering. Holding up to five passengers, the 2016 Kia Optima offers LX, EX, SX and SXL trim levels and the SX turbocharged I drove got me 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 miles per gallon on the highway at a price tag of $33,219.
There is an excess of features, functions and add ons for the Optima depending on the trim level so it is easy to say that there is something for everyone.
Inside the 2016 Kia Optima even if not the top of the line leather upholstery, there is still plenty of room and it feels good inside. There is a nice center stack and the armrests are quite comfortable as are the front seats overall. It feels good sitting inside either behind the wheel or as the co-captain.
In the back seat the passengers will not be as comfortable since the roofline takes some of the headroom out. There is enough legroom overall and the seats are wide. For hauling you get 15.8 cubic feet and that is about the same as the competition.
Behind the wheel of the 2016 Kia Optima there is plenty of get up and go and on the seven-speed you can really get behind the power to take the roads and curves with ease. For the turbo engine you are going to like the sportier suspension too, but overall, it is a performance induced ride that will have you enjoying your Tampa vacation as you discover the city.
Tampa's Epicurean Hotel is good for not only a relaxing spa experience, but dining and the perfect location as well. Epicurean is located in South Tampa's SoHo district, which these days, is the place to see and be seen in the city. Enjoy a few stops at the boutiques that line the streets and be hard pressed to determine what to decide for dinner. Very walkable and near Hyde Park where you can ride a bike or stroll down cobblestone streets remember the water is nearby too on Bayshore Boulevard.
For old world Florida charm check out the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club and the Indaba Spa. Innisbrook, even without the spa, is an amazing story and it is recognized as a world class golf resort and the host of the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship. The owner, Sheila Johnson acquired the property in 2007 taking it to the next level with a stylish transformation that creates a relaxing and enjoyable environment for any type of guest to enjoy. The spa uses botanical products and offerings are diverse from facials, to body work to wraps and scrubs. One standout for me was the labyrinth, which guests can use before or after their spa treatment. The distinct water and gardens bring peace once you enter the spas domain and note the hints of tribal Africa, which I found stunning.
Shoppers can also do some serious damage in Tampa with high-end fashion, quaint boutiques or the 350 stores to choose from at both the International Plaza and Westshore Plaza. And remember too, Tampa is home to the "Original Cuban Sandwich," with Columbia Restaurant (the oldest restaurant in Florida) and Gaspar's Grotto located in Ybor City (where the sandwich was created) topping the list to find one of the best. While you are in Ybor City check out the men making hand-rolled cigars on Seventh Avenue (also named one of the 10 greatest streets in America in 2008). Even if you don't smoke cigars you are still watching a work of art and Ybor City was once known as the cigar capital of the world with 700 million hand-rolled cigars made a year during the good old days of the chic cigar.
Food comes highly recommended in Tampa and there are plenty of places to dine, but check these two options out and you won't be disappointed.
Ulele www.ulele.com has a legend to go with the name involving an Indian princess and the menu is full of items like Oysters from the Gulf Coast, Okra Fries, Crab Mac & Cheese and Florida Jumpers (that's frog legs). Rumor is the place is crowded every night and it's located on the new Tampa River walk just north of downtown offering what owners call "a fusion of ingredients from Florida waters and land once home to many Native Americans."
Ava www.avatampa.com serves up Italian that is traditional, handmade, and rustic with a brick oven pizza. Told by a credible source that this place was "the place" these days to hang out in Tampa.