Fourth of July weekend in the Queen City

Fourth of July weekend in the Queen City

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020Independence Day traditionally marks the peak of summer travel, events and large gatherings. This year, however, Fourth of July festivities have been significantly reduced or moved to the digital landscape for families to enjoy from the comfort and safety of their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the cancellations is The Charlotte Knights’ annual fireworks show over Independence Day weekend. However, not all celebrations have been dampened by the virus. From interactive conversations to races and, of course, fireworks, the Queen City will feature a few in-person events mixed with a large offering of virtual spectacles that will surely foster the patriotic spirit in these uncertain times. Here is our pick of the different in-person and virtual events happening over the Indepence Day weekend. 

Fourth of July Celebration at U.S. National Whitewater Center 

Described as a “summer classic,” the U.S National Whitewater Center will feature a two-day Fourth of July Celebration with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the festivities and keep socially distant. The festival will feature live music, various yoga practices, Battle Royale SUP Sprint, and two days of fireworks overlooking the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, the center wrote on its website. The celebration is free to attend, open to the public, and does not require tickets.

To learn more, visit: https://usnwc.org/relax/festivals/fourth-of-july-celebration/

Gastonia Grizzlies Baseball Game and Fireworks Show

Those wishing to enjoy nine innings of baseball, hot dogs and fireworks can head over to the City of Gastonia on Friday, July 3, for a night of Independence Day celebrations. Dubbed as the “the best fireworks in town at the greatest show in town,” the event is a great place to stretch your legs over the Fourth of July weekend. 

To learn more, visit: https://gastoniagrizzlies.com/schedule/

Park National Bank American 4 Miler

Those wishing to maintain their fitness routine before tackling the celebratory burgers, hotdogs and chips customary of Fourth of July celebrations can enjoy an in-person or virtual 4-mile race. The Park National Bank American 4 Miler is an on-site or virtual run on Friday, July 3 that sets the tone for the rest of the Independence Day weekend. The on-site race will conclude with live music, but there will be no in-person awards ceremony, according to organizers. The cost ranges from $24-$27 and there will be no race-day registration.

To learn more,  visit: https://runsignup.com/Race/NC/Charlotte/American4MilerpresentedbyFamousToastery

Independence Day at the Charlotte Museum of History 

For history buffs and parents looking for daily learning activities, The Charlotte Museum of History will host virtual Independence Day festivities starting June 29 through July 4. The museum’s website offers new resources ready to teach and entertain its audience each day throughout the Independence weekend. Activities are free of charge but registration is needed. 

To learn more,  visit: https://charlottemuseum.org/digital/

Virtual Family Dinner

Use this holiday break to bring the family together virtually. Much like work video calls, schedule a family video call at dinner time to unite family members scattered by social distance and travel restrictions. Though it may be hard to pass the potato salad across a video conference call, it is easy to enjoy a virtual family dinner filled with laughs and smiles. Food always brings people together, use this Independence Day to recreate the Fourth of July weekend you had in mind at the start of 2020.

How South Jersey is celebrating the 4th of July during the pandemic

How South Jersey is celebrating the 4th of July during the pandemic

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read – Celebrating Independence Day is a big deal for most Americans. The Fourth of July officially became a national holiday in 1870. Then in 1941, a provision was expanded, making it a paid day off for all federal employees. People across the nation celebrate by setting off fireworks, watching parades, and having casual BBQs with their friends and family. This year however, festivities are going to look a lot different due to the constantly evolving COVID-19 virus. 

South Jersey skies will sparkle slightly less than they have in previous years, as most towns have canceled their usual spectacles. However, that doesn’t mean the holiday is completely up in smoke. There are still quite a few CDC-regulated activities you can enjoy that will keep you safe while satisfying your patriotic urges. Invest: South Jersey explores five of the top things to do this Fourth of July weekend during a pandemic. 

Middle Township Fireworks 

Mayor Tim Donohue let freedom ring when he decided to reverse his decision to cancel this year’s fireworks display. The town’s annual celebration will be held at dusk on Saturday, July 4 and gates will open one hour before start time. People are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing. The fireworks will also be streamed on the Middle Township Facebook page for anyone who wants to enjoy the festivities from the comfort of their home. 

For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10217619152931637&set=a.1465495198362&type=3

Burlington County Virtual Contests 

Bordentown Township, Medford and Riverton have all canceled their fireworks celebrations. However, county officials are still encouraging their residents to hold family picnics on their lawns or driveways at 4 p.m. on the Fourth of July. They hope these festivities will help unite their community while still practicing safe social distancing. Officials also announced that they will be holding virtual house decorating, patriotic costumes and pet pageant contests. Contestants are asked to submit photographs of their entries. The winners will be announced on riverton4thofjuly.com, Facebook, and Instagram. 

For more information visit: https://www.riverton4thofjuly.com/covid

Ocean Gate 4th of July Parade

On June 20, Ocean Gate borough took to Facebook to announce that it will still be hosting its annual July Parade. Registration for the parade opens at 8 a.m. on July 4, at Adrian Hall. Try to come early because only a limited number of people will be allowed into the building at one time. The July Parade begins at 10 a.m. on Ocean Gate Avenue. To encourage social distancing, the parade route will be extended this year.

For more information visit: https://www.jerseyfamilyfun.com/event/independence-day-parade-oceangate/

North Wildwoods Family Parade, Kite-Flying Competition and more 

A few towns in Cape May County have canceled their celebrations but not Wildwoods. Independence Day Family Parade will begin at 9 a.m. at 9th and Atlantic Avenue in North Wildwoods. A barbeque will then be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. for a minimum donation of $8. Fourth of July fireworks will be held on the beach at Rio Grande Avenue. Since the fireworks can be viewed from almost anywhere on the Wildwoods Boardwalk, visitors have been encouraged to enjoy the show from a distance. Anyone who is participating in the celebrations is required to follow CDC regulations. 

For more information visit: https://wildwoodsnj.com/events-calendar/?month=7-2020

Virtual Fourth of July Festivities

Celebrating a holiday from the comfort of your home has its perks, especially during these unprecedented times. For starters, you won’t have to worry about parking or overpriced drinks if you are hosting a small gathering at your house. Also, a majority of cities across the country are streaming their festivities live so anyone can join the fun no matter where you are. For example, viewers will be able to watch Houston’s “Shell Freedom Over Texas” at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC12.com. The show will include performances by the Houston Symphony and country singer Pat Green. To make your at-home experience even more thrilling, try setting off a few fireworks from your backyard or get creative and decorate your front porch. We’re sure the neighborhood will enjoy your efforts as well.  

Miami’s Top 5 Fantastic Food Festivities

Miami’s Top 5 Fantastic Food Festivities

By: Max Crampton Thomas

4 min read February 2020 This weekend on Miami Beach there are guaranteed to be three things – food, wine and good times. While this is the recipe for most memorable times had in one of Miami’s top tourist destinations, this weekend in particular is heightened by the annual The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival. In most markets, a festival like this would be an outlier as the premier food and beverage event for that year, but Miami is not most markets. The fact is, Miami-Dade is home to an onslaught of premier food and beverage festivities that would make any culinary connoisseur’s mouth water. Invest: explores five of the top foodie festivities in the Miami-Dade region. 

South Beach Seafood Festival  

To be considered a Top 5 Speciality Festival by USAToday, listed by Forbes as a Top 5 thing to do in fall and recognized by Travel Channel as the best seafood festival in the United States is no small accomplishment. This four-day festival features three nights of culinary events that lead up to the ultimate seafood festival experience. These preliminary events include an exclusive VIP experience, An Evening at Joe’s, brought to life by food from the historic Joe’s Stone Crab, a cocktail hour-type event called Crabs, Slabs and Cabs featuring Surf N Turf favorites paired with various cabernets, and finally the VIP Chef Showdown, which showcases 14 of the best local chefs cooking up their greatest culinary creations. All of these lead into the big event on the fourth day that spans over four blocks of Miami Beach, features 30 bars, music, culinary demonstrations and enough delicious seafood to please the over 15,000 attendees. This event takes place from Oct. 21-24, 2020. 

For more, visit: https://sobeseafoodfest.com/

 

 

Seed Food & Wine Week 

Plant-based diets may not be for everyone, but this four-day event features culinary dishes and experiences that could make even the most devout carnivores consider incorporating more meat-alternatives into their meal plan. Spanning the course of four days, this event touts itself as more of an experience than just a festival as it features a plant-based burger battle, a plant-based pitch off, taco tailgate party, rise and shine yoga experience and meditation, and finally the big event: Seed Festival Day Tasting Village. This vegan-inspired week is also unique in that its events are not centralized and take place in various spots around Miami-Dade, including Wynwood and Downtown Miami. The event runs from Nov. 7-10. 

To learn more, visit: https://www.seedfoodandwine.com/

Doral Food & Wine Festival 

This food and wine festival is going on its fourth year, and while the event has grown significantly since its inception in 2016, this year promises to be bigger, better and even tastier. Over the course of two days, families are encouraged to come out to Doral Central Park and experience live entertainment and live cooking demonstrations. While wine may be in the title, the event is geared toward the entire family, with free entry for kids and an entire area, referred to as the Kids Zone, dedicated to fun activities and games for the little ones. Taking place over March 21 and 22, this year’s event looks to attract over 10,000 people. 

For more, visit: https://doralfoodandwinefestival.com/

South Florida’s Taste of the Nation

This culinary adventure is a one-night experience that is not only delicious and fun, it also supports a great cause. Described as an elegant evening with some of South Florida’s greatest chefs and mixologists, Taste of the Nation offers guests a chance to try food and drinks from over 50 different South-Florida based restaurants and bars. While normally the best parts of these events are the food and drink, it is actually the impact of dollars collected from the night that is most significant as 100% of local proceeds support the No Kid Hungry campaign’s work to bring an end to childhood hunger in Florida. The event takes place the night of May 16, 2020. 

For more information, visit: https://events.nokidhungry.org/events/south-floridas-taste-nation/

The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) 

SOBEWFF is a five-day gathering of “who’s who” in the culinary world, over 100 different festival events and over 65,000 people in total attendance. This world-renowned festival has an event for everyone, from the casual food and wine fan to the highest class of food critic. While many of these events could be considered the “big event,” perhaps most well-known is the Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village showcasing offerings from more than 50 restaurants and a variety of wines and spirits as well as a closing cooking demonstration by well-known celebrity chef Guy Fieri. The festival is in full swing Feb.19-23. 

To learn more, visit: https://sobewff.org/

The Real Winner in Super Bowl LIV

The Real Winner in Super Bowl LIV

By: Max Crampton Thomas

2 min read February 2020 Over the course of last week the excitement for Super Bowl LIV was palpable throughout Miami-Dade County, which was not surprising with over 200,000 people visiting South Florida to watch the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers. Ultimately the Chiefs came from behind to snatch their first Super Bowl title in 50 years. While the final numbers aren’t yet in, the early indications suggest another winner from the NFL championship: Miami-Dade County.

 The expected economic impact for the Miami-Dade area when the final numbers are reported from the past week’s events? $500 million. This would be a significant boost from Miami’s last Super Bowl (XLIV) in 2010, which generated $234 million for the region, and the 2007 Super Bowl (XLI), which accumulated $463 million in economic impact.  

The stellar financial results are thanks to well-thought-out events and years of deliberate planning by local leaders and organizations, like the Super Bowl Host Committee. Events like Miami Beach’s Super Bowl Experience and Bayfront Park’s Super Bowl Live were glowing examples of why this Super Bowl was a major win for Miami-Dade. 

Equally impressive was the windfall from “free publicity” that was afforded to Miami, thanks to media coverage of the game and the surrounding large-scale events. In fact, according to the South Florida Business Journal, during a panel discussion on Feb. 3 between local leaders for Super Bowl LIV at the University of Miami’s Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility, Miami Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Rodney Baretto said the figure related to free publicity would be “in excess of $200 million” for Miami-Dade. 

This Super Bowl also provided an opportunity to some of the smaller, local businesses in the region through the Business Connect program. This program afforded close to 300 South Florida-based minority-owned businesses with vendor contracts in order to help in supplying their services and products for the events happening in the region and on the day of the game. 

Another opportunity resulting from Super Bowl LIV was the Super Bowl Legacy Grant Program. This program consisted of the NFL Foundation donating $1 million to the host city, which was then supplemented by funding from the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, bringing the grand total to $2.4 million. The money has since been distributed to five capital improvement initiatives throughout the South Florida area. These include new lighting for Bayfront Park in Miami, new synthetic turf for Gwen Cherry Park and a new Outdoor Fitness Zone for Plantation Heritage Regional Park in Broward County. 

One of the biggest winners from the Super Bowl events was the hospitality sector in Miami-Dade and Broward County. With room rates in the Downtown Miami and Brickell areas ranging anywhere from $500 to $5,000, the Super Bowl provided local hotels with an opportunity that couldn’t be missed. The South Florida region was prepared for this onslaught of new guests into the area, with more than 10,000 new rooms being added since the last Super Bowl in 2010. 

While the Chiefs may be walking away the official winners of Super Bowl LIV, Miami-Dade and the South Florida region are the true beneficiaries of a job well done. 

To learn more visit: 

https://www.miasbliv.com/

 

 

The Bay’s Top 5 Holiday Celebrations

The Bay’s Top 5 Holiday Celebrations

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read December 2019 ‘Tis the season for family fun and Tampa Bay has a myriad of holiday happenings to choose from. It comes as no surprise that the region holds such an eclectic and widespread range of options as the local economy boasts healthy and robust tourism and entertainment markets. The only challenge is deciding how to choose between all of the merry events happening throughout the Bay. Invest: explores five of the top options to spend your time during this holiday season. 

 

Enchant Christmas 

Not everyone is privileged to have the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze and Market in their own backyard, but those in the Tampa Bay region can find this very attraction at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Embark on an adventure to find Santa’s reindeer inside an amazing, custom-designed light maze. Once you have solved the mystery, guests can enjoy the seasonal food and drinks as well as a Christmas Market featuring over 40 local and international artisans. Enchant runs until Dec. 29 and is a wonderful event for families of all ages.  

For more, visit: https://enchantchristmas.com/stpete

Busch Gardens Christmas Town

On its own merit, Busch Gardens is already a must-see attraction in the Bay, so the fact that it features a holiday event that USA Today ranked as one of it’s 10 Best Theme Park Holiday Events, only furthers this narrative. Christmas Town not only is a beautifully decorated affair with millions of holiday lights, it is also a truly fun event. Visitors are afforded the opportunity to visit with Santa and Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, holiday-themed culinary experiences, live shows and the ability to have nighttime experiences on their famous thrill rides. Christmas Town is open to the public until Jan. 6 so there is still plenty of time to enjoy. 

To read more, visit: https://buschgardens.com/tampa/events/christmas-town/

Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park

Winter Village is not the typical holiday-themed event. Winter Village features a holiday-themed cafe, appropriately deemed the Icicle Craft Kitchen, a variety of unique shopping experiences and a unique train ride called the Winter Village Express. But perhaps most significant is the last thing most people would expect to find in Florida: an outdoor ice rink. This is Downtown Tampa’s only outdoor ice rink,and quite possibly one of the only ones in Florida, which is made even more unique with the amazing views of the Tampa Riverwalk and Hillsborough River. This can’t miss opportunity is open until Jan. 5 and the perfect way to bring some holiday happiness. 

For more, visit: http://www.wintervillagetampa.com/

Downtown Tampa Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

In most of the country, a boat is the last place anyone would expect to be during the wintertime, but in Florida the winter is possibly the best time to take out a boat and enjoy the cooler temperatures. That being said, it’s only fitting that Downtown Tampa is home to the annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade. The parade runs all the way down Tampa Riverwalk and features some of the region’s most unique watercrafts sporting their finest holiday lights. The event takes place from 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. on Dec. 21 in Downtown Tampa. 

For more information, visit: https://thetampariverwalk.com/events/lighted-boat-parade/

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

This time of year all of the major holidays have one consistent thing in common: there is always a big football game on. In Tampa Bay, this stands true as the region will once again welcome the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl to town on Dec. 23 at Raymond James Stadium. Residents of the Bay can enjoy from their homes or partake in the festivities at the game as the University of Central Florida Knights take on last year’s Bowl champions the Marshall Thundering Herd. The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without some good old-fashioned football. 

To learn more, visit: https://www.gasparillabowl.com/

Top 5 Thanksgiving ‘To Do’s’ in the Bay

Top 5 Thanksgiving ‘To Do’s’ in the Bay

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read November 2019 Thanksgiving season has once again descended upon the Tampa Bay region. While the holiday is traditionally known for the three F’s, food, family and football, there are other options available to those in the Tampa Bay region who are looking to break traditions and start new ones. These options range from activities that will help work up an appetite for the big meal to options that completely change course from the normal fixings of a Thanksgiving meal. Invest: explores five of the best alternatives for those looking to shake up their Thanksgiving experience.

 Turkey Trots

A traditional Thanksgiving meal is known for two things: oversupply and overconsumption. There may be no better way to prepare the body for this endeavour than participating in one of the variety of “turkey trots” and “fun runs” available to the public on Thanksgiving Day. These exercise-driven events include the Goody Goody Turkey Gobble, which starts at 7 a.m. in front of the Amalie Arena and features options like a 5K, 8K or 1-mile course to be walked or ran. There is also the Clearwater-based Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot, which has become the largest running event in the Tampa Bay area with an annual average of participation from over 17,000 runners. 

 

Thanksgiving Cruises

Breaking tradition can be difficult, but a Thanksgiving dinner on a yacht may make that change a bit easier to digest. The company Yacht StarShip offers an opportunity to feast on traditional Thanksgiving foods in a completely nontraditional fashion. With options to sail in either Clearwater or Tampa, the promise of no meal preparation or cleanup, and the chance to truly relax for the holiday, a yacht cruise for the night could be a welcomed change from the norm. 

To read more, visit: https://www.yachtstarship.com/event/thanksgiving-cruises/

Wonderland Of Lights And Santa’s Village

Besides being a day to enjoy a nice meal with family, for some, Thanksgiving also signifies the official countdown to Christmas Day. In the Tampa Bay region, residents can begin this countdown with a visit to the Wonderland Of Lights And Santa’s Village. This holiday theme park becomes available to the public Thanksgiving Day and runs until Jan. 5. Theme park visitors can partake in the amusement rides, camel rides, over a mile of light displays and everything else this park has to offer. This is a great option for those looking to not completely break tradition, as the park offers the opportunity to enjoy all its amenities at night, giving time for the traditional Thanksgiving meal at home beforehand. 

For more, visit: www.thewonderlandoflights.com/

13th Annual ThanksVegan Feast

It may be a holiday best known for a feast centered around poultry, but that does not mean that there aren’t options in the region for those who prefer veggies over meat. For the last 13 years, Florida Voices for Animals has been holding their annual ThanksVegan Feast that features zero animal products or byproducts. Held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa, this potluck dinner encourages those attending to bring a vegan dish to contribute to the holiday feast. The event runs from 1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. and includes a raffle with prizes. 

For more information, visit: https://www.floridavoicesforanimals.org/thanksvegan

Black Friday Shopping

While technically starting the day following Thanksgiving, some Black Friday deals become available to the public the night of the 28th. For some, it has become a tradition to go straight from their Thanksgiving meal to waiting overnight in lines that sometimes stretch multiple blocks, all with the intention of cashing in on mega savings. Thankfully for the residents of Tampa Bay, the region not only offers access to all of the big box retailers, it is also home to a variety of world-class shopping malls like International Plaza and Bay Street, Hyde Park Village and many others. 

Top 5 Haunted Happenings in Tampa Bay

Top 5 Haunted Happenings in Tampa Bay

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read October 2019 The month of October is known for seasonal change, pumpkin-spiced everything and the nationally celebrated horror day, Halloween. While the actual day is regarded as a time for candy, treats and Halloween scares, the weeks leading up to it have been appropriately dubbed “spooky season.” This is an exciting time for thrill seekers and Halloween enthusiasts in the Tampa Bay area as there are a variety of haunted happenings and spooky activities to experience. The following are five of the best and scariest events and places to make this Halloween a memorable one. 

 

 

Tampa Theatre

Regarded as Tampa’s most historic and most haunted movie palace, the Tampa Theatre has embraced its haunted lore for this year’s spooky season. The theater is known for haunted happenings involving former employees whose spirits seem to have never left the theater, like the theater’s old projectionist Foster “Fink” Finley whose footsteps are thought to still be heard from time to time. Not only has the theater showcased 14 nights of frightening films from Oct. 18th until Oct. 31, it is also featuring ghost tours and a special Halloween-themed happy hour event called PAUSE-O-WEEN on Oct. 31. 

For more on Tampa Theatre visit: https://tampatheatre.org/

 

Howl-O-Scream

Carrying the title as Tampa Bay’s No.1 haunted attraction, Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has been a staple of the community for 20 years. Not only does the event offer horror-heads the opportunity to walk through terrifying “scare zones,” it also features multiple haunted houses, access to many other twisted terrors and some of Busch Gardens most iconic rides. This weekend event runs from Sept. 20 to Nov, 2, and promises to “twist daydreams into nightmares.” 

To read more about Howl-O-Scream visit: https://buschgardens.com/tampa/events/howl-o-scream/

Undead in the Water

Undead in the Water is an annual haunted house with a twist. It is the only authentic nautical haunted attraction in the region and takes place on the historically famous 1945 WWII vessel the American Victory Ship. Thrill seekers will rejoice in the challenge of venturing through the multiple decks of this historic vessel as they avoid consumption by an infected zombie hoard onboard the ship. Undead in the Water is infamous for being one of the scariest annual attractions that the region has to offer. This event runs every weekend from the beginning of October until Nov. 2. 

For more on Undead in the Water visit: https://www.undeadinthewater.com/

Ybor City Ghost Tour

While it is known for being a National Historical Landmark District in Tampa Bay and one of the preeminent spots for tourists and residents to frequent, Ybor City is also known as one of the top destinations for hauntings. With a deep rooted history in the development and emergence of the Tampa Bay region, Ybor City has seen its fair share of diverse demographics settling in the region and calling it home. According to urban legend some of these souls just decided to never leave, which is why Ybor City is home to the critically acclaimed Ybor City Ghost Tour. Rated as the No. 1 haunted tour in the United States by US City Traveler and rated in USA Today’s 10 best lists, this tour promises an informative and scary walk through the ghostly history of Ybor City. 

For more information on the Ybor City Ghost Tour visit: http://www.yborghosttour.com

Cuban Club

Located in Ybor City, the historic Cuban Club has a history that spans over a century and includes shows by world-renowned entertainers, weddings, parties and the occasional haunting. The club itself is a wonderful multipurpose rental facility with amenities like a grand ballroom, theater and courtyard. With numerous reports of ghostly sightings and paranormal activity, it is not a surprise that this location was named by The Travel Channel as one of its Top 10 most haunted places. The Club leaves it up to guests to decide whether they believe it to be haunted or not as stated in the FAQ on its website: “We are reputed to be haunted, but we will let you make up your own mind on this subject…”

To see more on the Cuban Club visit: http://cubanclubybor.com/

Top 5 Family-Friendly Destinations in the Tampa Bay Region

Top 5 Family-Friendly Destinations in the Tampa Bay Region

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read October 2019 With almost 1,000 people moving into Florida every day, the appeal of the state is quite apparent. From our favorable tax climate to ideal weather and everything in between, Florida is the hotspot in the southeast. The Tampa Bay region has been a beneficiary of this population boom, as represented in the more than 51,000 people that moved into the region last year. One of the major appeals for Florida, and more specifically the Tampa Bay MSA, is the welcoming, family-friendly environment that has been cultivated throughout the state. Supporting this are the multitude of family-friendly activities and destinations available throughout the region. With so much choice, Invest: thought it would be fun to narrow it down. Here are five of the best family-friendly destinations in the Tampa Bay region.

Florida State Fairgrounds

Known for their title event, the Florida State Fair, the Fairgrounds are also a destination for festivals, trade shows, conventions and outdoor shows. The 12-day Florida State Fair is the premier family-oriented event in the Tampa Bay region. The emphasis on family fun is cultivated in the Fair’s various offerings like rides, animal interactions, fair food, and activities and shows for children. Cheryl Flood, executive director for the Florida State Fair, spoke to Invest: about just how significant this family-friendly event is to the region. “We are known for our 12 days of family fun during the annual state fair festivities, when families from across the state gather to celebrate agriculture, education and community. Annually, we boast 500,000 visitors who generate over $152 million dollars in sales throughout the state of Florida. The Florida State Fair is the first state fair of the year throughout the entire country. As a result, we set the trends of what the fair industry and fairgoers can expect nationally. We think of ourselves as a catalyst for innovation within this niche industry.”

For more information on the next Florida State Fair & the Fairgrounds visit: https://www.floridastatefair.com/

Museum of Science and Industry

Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is not the typical museum destination that some may be accustomed to. Instead of taking a more traditional approach to teaching principles of STEM and STEAM, this museum prides itself on being a scientific playground that offers more than 100 different hands-on activities for parents and children alike. The museum was not always known for its innovative approach, but after a restructuring and renovation in November 2017, they have been working to change that narrative. Julian Mackenzie, president and CEO of MOSI, elaborated on this deliberate effort, “In our second year of ‘new MOSI,’ after the completion of our restructuring and renovation in November of 2017, our reputation in the community was re-established. Prior to our reopening, the venue had a reputation for outdated exhibits that in some cases just simply didn’t work as they should. Our main focus for MOSI since then has been to re-engage the community with expanded participation in popular public events. In this fashion, it put our No. 1 asset in full view, that being our staff and the passion they have for making science real for all ages and demographics. Also, it has been about the exhibit path experience. Guests can now count on a dynamic experience at MOSI with hands-on activities and exhibits that not only function as they should, they also entertain, educate and inspire.”

To see all of MOSI’s offerings visit: https://www.mosi.org/

Glazer Children’s Museum 

The Glazer Children’s Museum is a prime example of a family-friendly destination that is using innovation and inclusivity to rise above the variety of options in the region. The museum, which saw its third-busiest year on record in 2018, understands the importance of being a viable option for all different types of families and children. Sarah Cole, the president and CEO of Glazer Children’s Museum, expounded upon this to Invest:. “At the Glazer Children’s Museum, we believe that all children deserve the opportunity to play with purpose. We strive to provide accessible and inclusive programs, events, and exhibits to serve the diverse needs of our guests. For families with special needs, we offer programs like our monthly Sensory-Friendly Sunshine Sundays and Autism-Friendly Camps. When families visit the museum, they have access tools, from an experience book to plan their visit to sound-blocking headphones, sensory kits, accessibility chairs, and more. We are proud to be designated an Autism-Friendly business for eight years running through the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and we were recently named Employer of the Year by the Mayor’s Alliance for People With Disabilities.”

For more on Glazer Children’s Museum visit: https://glazermuseum.org/

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

In the case of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, being a family-fun destination is only part of who they are. The Aquarium, which was the backdrop for the films Dolphin Tale 1 & 2, serves as both a family-friendly destination to observe marine life in an interactive and educational manner as well as a marine research and rehabilitation sanctuary. They are currently under major construction as they work to not only improve their facilities for guests but also for their marine rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Frank Dame, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Clearwater Marine Aquarium, spoke to Invest: about what could be expected from the new facilities, “When we open the doors to our new facility, sometime next year, we are going to have almost four times the guest space we have now. We are also building five new dolphin pools. Currently, between all our facilities we have about 985,000 gallons of water, and these five new dolphin pools will add another million and a half gallons. We are really ramping up our ability to rescue more animals and provide a better living environment for our dolphins, as well as drastically improve the guest experience.”

To read more about Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s aquatic initiatives visit: https://www.seewinter.com/

Clearwater Beach

To be named the No. 1 beach in the country is no small accomplishment, so the significance of Clearwater Beach being dubbed this title two years in a row by TripAdvisor cannot be understated. From in-water activities to fun festivals to simply sunbathing on the white sands, this family-friendly destination has something for everyone to enjoy. Sights are now set on retaining this title for the foreseeable future, and Frank Dame of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium weighed in on how to best accomplish this. “We need to focus on maintaining our recognition as the No. 1 beach in the nation, and we can’t accomplish this by just promoting ourselves as No. 1. The mission now is to make us the No. 1 beach because we are ocean-friendly. We can do this by eliminating trash and doing things like stopping the use of single-use plastics,” he told Invest:. 

For more on the #1 Beach in the nation visit: https://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/communities/clearwater-beach