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Book spotlight: ‘Things to do’ in Tampa Bay – with day trips on the side

Bill DeYoung

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Now 100 years old, Sunken Gardens - on 4th Street in St. Petersburg - is one of the "bucket list" visits in Kristen Hare's "100 Things to Do in Tampa Bay Before You Die." Photo by Beth Reynolds.

Kristen Hare. Photo: Reedy Press.

Her book is called 100 Things to Do in Tampa Bay Before You Die, and Kristen Hare – who’s very much alive, thank you – keeps finding things to add.

First published in 2014, two years after Hare relocated from her native Missouri, 100 Things to Do reflected a newcomer’s joy of discovery, from historic sites and tourist traps to breathtaking vistas, funky enclaves and extraordinary places to eat.

“I thought we were just going to be here for a year, with my husband’s job, and then we would go back to Missouri where my whole family lives,” Hare explains. “And it didn’t take long before we were ‘Well, we’re never leaving.’

“But we didn’t know if we could make that happen or not, so we wanted to live like tourists for the year. And we really did. I filled up a kitchen drawer with brochures. It took us a couple months to realize that there’s a lot more to Tampa Bay than beaches, and proximity to Disney.”

An instructor at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, Inc., Hare is also the obituary writer for the Tampa Bay Times. The latter role, strangely enough, helped prepare her to write the third edition of 100 Things to Do, published this month by Reedy Press.

She’d been thinking a lot about the pandemic.

“When they contacted me about writing the third edition, I felt more strongly than ever that we have to embrace the time we have, and do good things with it,” she reflects. “And it was a really joyful thing to get out and re-visit Tampa Bay. Discover things I’d missed in the last 10 years, and meet up with people who I loved and hadn’t gotten to see because we were all in isolation.”

She and her husband have young children, and so the family explored together. New in the third edition, along with 50 entirely new “things,” including day trips outside of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

“The day trips,” she says, “are my favorite part of the book. If you don’t take into account the current price of gas.”

Hare says she asked herself what “makes” Tampa Bay Tampa Bay. “Well, in past editions I’ve included Sarasota and Anna Maria … well, they’re not really Tampa Bay. They’re their own regions.

“I thought about suggesting places to visit with a full itinerary of things to do. You’re not going to go up to Williston, for instance, and just go to Devil’s Den. If you drive that far – and two and a half hours was my farthest, one way – you want to know where to eat, and what else to do, and are there cute shops? What else should you see while you’re there?”

Presidents’ Hall of Fame, Clermont. Photo provided.

The town of Clermont, in Sumter County, is the “perfect example,” Hare explains. “I knew I was going to go to Clermont and visit the Citrus Tower. And the other thing that was on my list was the Presidents’ Hall of Fame, which is a hoot. And is definitely a ‘roadside America’ attraction.

“But what I didn’t have on my list was Showcase of Citrus. We passed that and stopped, and it was fantastic. I think I bought a lifetime supply of local honey. Then, a winery that was out there as well. Those are things that we just discovered as we were driving around.”

Reedy Press lists more than 125 100 Things to Do Before You Die books on its website, covering virtually every populous corner of America.

Hare, as a transplant, fell in love with Tampa Bay even before she’d topped off that first edition, on assignment from the publisher.

“I was seeing things that locals were missing,” she says. “Sometimes we see things that we assume are just for tourists, or things that we just don’t even know about.

“I would love it if people come to visit and use this book as a way to get to know Tampa Bay, but I wrote this book, every edition, for locals.”

Will there be a fourth edition? Time will tell, of course, but should it come to pass, Kristen Hare will be ready.

“I just went to Plant City two weeks ago, and left with 10 things that I didn’t have on my list yet.”

Hare will speak and sign her book Friday at Tombolo Books; Sunday (ticketed) and April 28 (free) at Oxford Exchange; and April 30 at Leaven Brewing in Riverview.

St. Petersburg’s Chattaway Restaurant (with proper English tea hosted by owner Jillian Frers) is featured in Hare’s book. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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