Before there was the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins, there was spring training. Attracting fans and stars alike, spring training is what brought the pros to Florida before there were even any pro sports team in the state. It even hosted some of the greats including Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby and more. Now, with more than 130 years of MLB Spring Training under its baseball cap, Florida is still one of just two locations in the country to host the favored pastime of America during its pre season. Home to the Grapefruit League, three regions throughout Florida will host spring training Feb. 22 – Mar. 26, including Orlando, West Palm Beach/Boca Raton and Tampa.
For Yankees, Blue Jays and Phillies, spring training season is held in Tampa across three unique stadiums. The George M. Steinbrenner Stadium, home of the Yankees, is one of the hardest locales to snag tickets into, despite it having the highest seating capacity of any Grapefruit League stadium around. This is partly due to a recent $40 million renovation which added an entirely new fan experience among other features. Keep in mind parking here is $10, cash only. Dunedin Stadium is also getting a new look with completed renovations set to debut this season. The home of the Toronto Blue Jays, the stadium is conveniently situated near the shoreline and downtown. And for Phillies fans at Spectrum Field, home doesn’t feel that far away. Its concession stands serve up Philly Cheesesteaks.
If you’re after an upscale dinner or perhaps have something to celebrate, visit local fave Bern’s Steak House in SoHo. This outlet boasts a dessert room and massive wine collection. Plus, all guests are able to take a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar. Book your table well in advance as this one fills up quickly. In Seminole Heights, two farm-to-table restaurants serve up constantly evolving menus. The Refinery is housed in a warehouse-style venue and just up the street Rooster & the Till is a 70-seat venue that has become a star in Tampa’s food scene. For a more casual please-everyone choice, make a stop at The Hall on Franklin. This new food hall has an array of vendors from around town serving everything from poke to waffles. West Tampa Sandwich Shop is a laidback spot churning out famous Cubans. For rustic Italian pizza, try out Ava, Joe Maddon’s restaurant in the SoHo district. Heights Public Market is a unique space home to waterfront restaurants and bars. Florida’s oldest restaurant Columbia, is still serving up Cuban-Spanish dishes. While it has multiple locations, visit the original in Ybor.
Explore Tampa’s craft brewery scene by visiting Cigar City Brewing, Tampa Bay Brewing Company or Coppertail Brewing Company among others. For an electric nightlife scene, Ybor City has grown to become the destination of choice, home to The Castle, a five-room club housed in a building that formerly served as a cigar industry hangout and Club Prana, a five-story club with rooftop seating and bottle service. For a less rowdy atmosphere, Ybor City Jazz House is a three-level bar with live music, burlesque shows and an upscale vibe and Ybor City Wine Bar has more than 200 boutique wines available. You can also practice your swing in between drinks at Topgolf.
With Cuban influences, you’re bound to stumble upon some cigar lounges. In fact, historic Ybor City was the location for America’s two oldest cigar-making families and the hub of cigar manufacturing. Learn more about the town’s cigar industry by visiting the Ybor City Museum. The Florida Aquarium and Glazer Children’s Museum is a great place to head with the whole family. Just next door to Glazer is the Tampa Museum of Art where art buffs will find an array of classical, contemporary and modern art. In downtown Tampa, the newly opened Sparkman Wharf is a destination itself with a dining garden, an open-air beer garden, a bowling alley, yard games and more.
Get your heart racing at Busch Gardens who’s celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2019 with events, activities and the opening of Tigris, Florida’s tallest launch coaster. The park will also host its fifth annual Food & Wine Festival March 16 through April 28. The Gasparilla Music Festival returns to Tampa March 9-10 with artists including The Avett Brothers, Gary Clark Jr. and more. For high-end shopping in a historic district with tree-lined streets, visit Hyde Park Village.