Eight Great Hours in St. Pete and Ybor City

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The Tampa Bay Area is full of history and charm. There is lots to discover and with so much to do around here it’s easy to stick to one region and enjoy all it has to offer.

But something magical happens when you combine the best of two neighborhoods to make one incredible date day. That’s exactly what my husband and I recently accomplished when we started the day in St. Pete and wrapped up with an evening in Ybor City.

Here’s our itinerary for eight great hours in St. Pete and Ybor City, including a special show you may not know about.

Stop 1 – Tombolo Books in St. Pete

I’ve been daydreaming of perusing this precious independent bookstore in St. Pete for months now. I discovered Tombolo Books on social media and knew it just had to be as lovely as it was portrayed online.

Sure enough, as soon as we pulled into the small parking lot I knew we were in for a treat. Tombolo Books sits in a small courtyard with two perfectly paired neighbors. Black Crow Coffee is right next door and offers a storybook setting. It is sure to remind you of any Hallmark movie scene of a hip coffee shop and is the perfect place to settle in with whatever wonderful book you’ve picked up at Tombolo Books.

And nestled in the corner of the courtyard is Squeeze Juice Works. Anyone who appreciates a healthful approach to life from mind and body will love this little spot. It is breezy and modern, and totally hippy. When my husband and I visited we enjoyed the scent of incense wafting over the air as we ordered our blueberry smooth with oat milk and a vegan hand pie. We’re not vegans ourselves, but I have given myself a “plant-curious” label.

Squeeze Juice Company in St. Petersburg has a sitting area with a black couch, a green accent wall adorned with local Florida area, and plants around the entire sitting area.
Squeeze Juice Company in St. Petersburg

Now, back to Tombolo Books. This independent bookstore is the type of place any book lover dreams of. Each selection is carefully curated. A perfect balance between local authors and national bestsellers is struck. Readings and other events take place throughout the year. And, the staff are passionate about books, education, and culture.

We visited during the holiday season and I intentionally arrived with my Christmas list in hand. I carefully selected books for everyone on my list, pausing once in a while for assistance and suggestions from the staff. They even wrapped my selection.

Inside Tombolo Book St. Petersburg the wood tables and shelves are light blonde wood, and hard cover books line the table in the foreground and the tall bookshelves in the background
Inside Tombolo Book St. Petersburg

Stop 2 – St. Pete Pier and Pier Teaki

As we drove up 1st Avenue and Pinellas Trail, from Tombolo Books heading to St. Pete Pier, we made countless notes on places we absolutely had to come back to. Our evening plans put us on a tight schedule otherwise we would have gladly stopped at any of the wonderful places we saw along our ten-minute drive to the pier.

There is so much to see and do at St. Pete Pier. And even if all you do is stroll around and enjoy the gulf breeze, it is time well spent. Parking can be rough on weekends, so try to go early in the day. There are often vendors and street performers throughout the pier area.

We opted to walk all the way down to the end of the pier and climb the stairs. The height of our climb rewarded us with gorgeous views. The gulf water sparkled below us as sailboats and fishing boats dotted the water.

View of St. Pete Pier from Pier Teaki includes a green lawn and palm trees in the foreground, the long St. Pete pier in the middle, and the city scape of St. Petersburg Florida in the background.
View of St. Pete Pier from Pier Teaki

A very busy Pier Teaki awaited. With tables being first-come-first-served we opted for the only free table we could find — one without any chairs. We ordered Frose and Kill the Pain (a version of the traditional tiki drink, The Painkiller), and indulged in upgrading to a souvenir tiki mug for $22, drink included.

St. Petersburg rose along the shoreline before us. Seeing the beach and cityscape from this height added to the excitement. Countless groups gathered together to enjoy this premier location. The one drawback was the music. I certainly do not expect traditional tiki music, as this is far from a traditional tiki bar. But with the tropical decor and beach location, I had hoped for beach-type music. This one detail is certainly not enough to dissuade me from encouraging you to head here. Just get there early.

After our round of drinks, we strolled along the pier and observed the vendors and performers. If you’ve got the time in your schedule savor the live atmosphere.

Tropical Drinks at Pier Teaki St. Pete include a tall bright yellow tiki mug with a mermaid scene on it, and light pink colored frozen rose wine drink, sitting on a dark wood table in the foreground and the outdoor bar in the background
Tropical Drinks at Pier Teaki St. Pete

ALSO TRY:

Stop 3 – Tampa Bay Rum Company

We had dinner reservations at Columbia Restaurant and so we departed St. Pete and made the 30-minute drive to Ybor City. On our way, we passed The Getaway tropical bar and grill, and wished we had more time in our schedule to make a pit stop there. There are so many tropical and tiki bars in Tampa Bay you could make a whole weekend of it.

Once at Ybor City, we parked in one of the many lots available for Columbia Restaurant and had about an hour before our dinner reservation. Originally we planned to hit up a brewery or two, but when we realized the walk back was not well lit and we’d be heading back after dark we stopped at Tampa Bay Rum Company instead.

I am so glad we stopped in. This small distillery is so well-themed it could give the theme parks a run for their money. The staff greeted us as we walked in, and I am sure my wide eyes must’ve amused them.

Tasting Room at Tampa Bay Rum Company in Ybor City is themed with pirate flags, weathered oak wood, lamps, and barrels.
Tasting Room at Tampa Bay Rum Company in Ybor City

Pirate decor and details are everywhere as instrumental pirate music softly played in the background. We opted for the tour and rum tasting, just $6 per person.

We followed the friendly staff to the middle room which would make any buccaneer proud. This dimly lit bar serves as the rum tasting spot, as well as a spot for ordering mixed drinks.

In total, we tried seven different rums, plus one of the smoothest vodkas I’ve ever tasted. Tampa Bay Rum Company’s vodka came about because of the excess ingredients they ordered when they were producing hand sanitizer like so many local distilleries did in 2020. So they developed a sugar cane vodka, and it is so smooth!

Behind the bar, we could see the distillery production floor. After enjoying sip after sip of our samples, another friendly staff member showed off the sparkling production facility. While the information and history fascinated my husband, I couldn’t draw my attention away from the decor and details.

Rum Tasting at Tampa Bay Rum Company in Ybor City include multiple types of rum and one vodka. These bottles are set on a wood bar with a wood background
Rum Tasting at Tampa Bay Rum Company in Ybor City

We purchased a bottle of the Gasparilla Rum Pumpkin Spiced Rum because I couldn’t resist this festive flavored spirit, and I wanted to support this local Tampa Bay business.

Stop 4 – Dinner and Flamenco Show at Columbia Restaurant

Important note – I was invited to experience dinner and the show at Columbia complimentary. All other experiences noted earlier in this post were not sponsored. 

If you’ve been a Floridian for any length of time you’ve probably heard of Columbia Restaurant. The location in Ybor City is the oldest restaurant in Florida. But, did you know you can enjoy an incredible flamenco dance show?

I’ve been a fan of Columbia Restaurant and their multiple locations around the state for as long I can remember. And yet, I can’t believe I’ve never seen the flamenco show at the Ybor City location. The social media team invited myself and my husband, and our son, out to enjoy dinner and the show. We loved it!

Two costumed dancers are on stage at Flamenco Dance Show at Columbia Restaurant Ybor City wearing long dark dresses and have their arms raised as they perform with red velvet capes
Flamenco Dance Show at Columbia Restaurant Ybor City

Spanning five generations, the Columbia embodies Tampa Bay’s Cuban and Spanish heritage from the menu to the decor. It is a gorgeous venue whether you choose to dine in the regular dining room, the flamenco show room, or the romantic bar room.

I’ve dined at Columbia, mostly the location in Celebration, many times and I highly recommend any seafood dish on the menu. My personal favorite is the Snapper “Adelita” with hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, sun-dried
tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and onions. During this trip, we ordered the Cannelloni de Langosta which was incredibly indulgent with lobster meat, shrimp, scallops and sautéed shallots with a lobster sherry cream, lobster sherry Mornay cheese sauce. We also ordered the Steak Salteado which did not impress either of us all that much but made for a great pairing with the Cannelloni de Langosta as we made our own surf and turf.

Cannelloni de Langosta Columbia Ybor City is in the foreground served in a circular clay dish. The dining room in the background is dimly list with red and yellow stained glass windows at the very back wall
Cannelloni de Langosta Columbia Ybor City

As we neared the final bites of our entree the flamenco show began. The performers are from a local ground of flamenco dancers, the Tampa Bay Flamenco Dance Company.  The dedication and passion to this artful dance shone on each dancer’s face. Throughout the 30 minute show the dancer demonstrated a remarkable blend of power and grace.

We visited during the holiday season, and admittedly I was skeptical as to how the holiday songs would impact the cultural representation. I found the show to be a delightful blend of traditional flamenco performances and fun holiday songs mixed in. The performance of “Sleigh Ride” with the castanets used to mimic the sound of horses click-clacking in the snow brought a huge smile to my face. Castanets are usually held in the hand and struck together to the rhythm of the song.

After experiencing the show, it is difficult for me to imagine a more romantic way to experience the Cuban and Spanish heritage of this historical area.

Pro tip: Be sure to order the White Chocolate Cuban Bread Pudding before the show begins so you can indulge in one of the best desserts in Tampa Bay while the dancers dazzle you with their performance.

Flamenco Show at Columbia Restaurant Information

There are two shows a night Tuesday through Saturday.
* Seatings at 5:30, 6 or 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. show.
* Seatings at 8:30 or 9 p.m. for the show at 9:30 p.m.
During the holiday season delightful holiday songs are mixed into the show.
There is an $8 cover charge per person for the show for guests over the age of 12.
Please call 813.248.4961 for flamenco show reservations.

 


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