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kak113 Dec 7th, 2009 04:13 AM

tampa and spring training - easter 2010
Just putting the pieces together on my husband's christmas and valentine's day present. getting yankees tickets from a friend for easter weekend to catch the last of the spring training games - Friday and Saturday. Returning home Monday afternoon.
I assume we will need to rent a car if we want to go anywhere besides the baseball games (one of the hotels I read about had a shuttle service?) but I am debating where we should stay.

It seems like it might be better to stay in Westshore / airport area. Since the game Friday isn't until 7:05 (we arrive noon) is there a hotel that has a decent pool area? The game Saturday is 1:05, so perhaps Saturday night we could go to Ybor city, Sunday Busch Gardens or Sea World. Reviews on Big Cat Rescue would also be welcome - we are 2 thirty somethings but enjoy wildlife.

Best bets for car rentals other than priceline or hotwire? any hotels to stay away from because of high parking fees?

And since its Easter, anything else to do for the weekend?


NewbE Dec 8th, 2009 07:49 AM

I don't have really great answers for you, but since no one else replied I'll give it a go...

The Westshore area would be a good place to stay. It isn't scenic, and it's surrounded by (nice, even upscale) malls and (higher end) chain restaurants, but it is the only area of Tampa with a good selection of mid and upper range hotels, and it's near the highway entrance. I haven't stayed in a hotel here myself so can't help with the pool, sorry!

Ybor City is a good idea for Saturday night; The Columbia is Tampa's historic Cuban/American restaurant and worth a visit. Samurai Blue is a sushi place that has nice atmosphere. You can check Chowhound's Florida board for more ideas there. Or you could head downtown, which I prefer over Ybor: Fly Restaurant has great food and stays open late, Taps wine bar is fun (it has wine on tap, so you buy a card that you slide into the wine machines and help yourself to the size pour you'd like, from a taste to a full glass), Raw Bar Sushi is good. It will be less crowded than Ybor on a Sat night, but not deserted.

I have heard good things about Big Cat Rescue but haven't been myself.

Another wildlife-related idea is to try to see manatees. The TECO power plant in Apollo Beach has a free viewing center; trouble is, the 'tees are only there when the Bay waters are cooler, so you might be out of luck by Spring Training, you never know. You could also go to Fort DeSoto, voted America's Best Beach a few years ago, and kayak through the mangroves into the Bay; you're quite likely to see manatees there. Or you could go to Honeymoon Island and kayak over to Caladesi Island, which is accessible only by boat: beautiful, great shelling, an easy paddle, and the weather should be ideal.

Honeymoon also has an excellent Osprey Trail where these "sea eagles" are easy to spot, perhaps nesting depending on when you'll be here; bald eagles, armadillos, turtles and owls are around, too.

OK, hope this helps a bit! Enjoy your trip!

NewbE Dec 8th, 2009 07:50 AM

Oh, sorry, meant to add: you definitely need a car around here. Cab service isn't terribly reliable, and it's pricy. A hotel shuttle might get you to the game(s) and back, but then you'd be very limited as to dining options.

Ryan Dec 8th, 2009 06:56 PM

I took my son to Yankee Spring training last year. VERY, VERY disappointing. I'd been to multiple spring training games at other teams locations so I had some expectation, based on those experiences. With the Yankees you have virtually zero opportunity to interact with the players. Maybe and a big maybe - you might have a chance at an autograph from a non-roster minor leaguer. But, given that's the only fan interaction, very unlikely.

The Yankees warm up on a field that has access only for those in the corporate hospitality suite. In other spring training sights much more of a chance for fans to interact.

Fortunately, my then 7 year old didn't really have any expectation. I didn't realize it at the time but the vendor who sold us a program intentionally slipped my son one of the programs with a signed player photo. He really wanted a player autograph. Not exactly the way I envisioned it, but he's was none the wiser.

If you've never been to a spring training game, you really might want to think about going to one of the nearby locations like the Phillies in Clearwater or the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Far more likely to be a bit more spring training and a lot less "corporate."

BTW, I'm a Yankees fan. But, I'll never take my son to their Spring training location again.

OO Dec 9th, 2009 05:52 AM

There are two very nice hotels in the Westshore area, Renaissance Tampa International Plaza (don't know if they have a pool) and Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, located on the water on Tampa Bay, and with two pool areas. They have both the hotel tower plus casitas, separated from the tower by a boardwalk through the magroves along the shore. Both sections of the hotel have pools. I must say, my DH was GM of the Grand, so I have special affection for it, but it really is a lovely 4* hotel, as is the Renaissance. The Renaissance would be closer to the field, and is convenient for the mall as well if you are interested in shopping, but it's so nice to be on the water, as long as you are in FL!

My experience at a spring training game was the opposite of Ryan's, but it had to do with our seats, almost literally on top of the Yankee's dugout. Security was posted to keep us from resting our feet, or food on the roof! I do not like baseball in the least little bit and there was a bit of arm twisting to get me to go, but I had The Best Time! Amazed myself. :)

With the exception of Columbia Restaurant (esp their flamenco show for fun) I am not an Ybor fan, and avoided it when we lived there.

I would not make the drive over to Sea World...traffic can be awful especially coming back on a Sunday. Either Busch or Lowry Park Zoo would be very nice, or some of the beautiful beaches near St Pete (Fort Desoto, ranked #1 beach in the US a couple of years ago, by "Dr. Beach", who does the annual rankings) is about 35 minutes from where you will be staying.

Ryan Dec 9th, 2009 06:11 AM

Part of my issue has to do with how the Yankees have decided to sell their seats - both in Tampa and NY. I went on-line last year within 30 seconds of Spring training tickets being put on sale.

A being on-line for 1/2 an hour, the only seats available were in the upper tier. For fun at looked at Stub Hub. All of the best seats were on there within minutes of being put on sale.

I had the same experience when trying to purchase regular season tickets.

If you went last year, then perhaps you some how figured out how to get good seats. There was no way I was paying extortion prices to Stub-Hub. (BTW, this isn't fans doing this. This is the Yankee organization using Stub Hub to generate increased fees.)

NewbE Dec 9th, 2009 06:36 AM

Most of the people I know in Tampa who have been to a spring training game got their tickets in some roundabout way, through a relationship with a corporate sponsor, for example. The Yankees do things their way...

kak113 Dec 9th, 2009 08:16 AM

thanks everyone. I myself am not a big fan of the yankee empire but alas, the husband is. The info about car and hotels is helpful. Would love to see the Phillies but since its the last weekend of spring training they will already be wrapped up.

Ryan Dec 9th, 2009 08:43 AM

Sorry, realize I completely blew off that part of the question.

When I took my son down we stayed just across the bay at a Hampton Inn on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater. A fairly easy drive across the causeway.

I'd been to Tampa many times on business and didn't see the need to spend a lot on a hotel when the hotels in that part of Clearwater make it very easy to get to Tampa.

If you're not looking to break the bank and don't mind not being in the center of the action, you'll find numerous places to stay in that area.

OO Dec 9th, 2009 09:00 AM

Our tickets came the way NewbE suggested...we did not buy them, they were tickets the CVB had--phenomenal, and no doubt, that is what contributed to my experience, although I do hear good things about Legends Field in general.

I thought to add, after submitting that last post regarding not being a baseball fan but LOVING that game--I'm not a Yankees fan either, having grown up in MA! :D Even so, it was a terrific experience.

Also wanted to add regarding the Hyatt, parking was free for the hotel if you self-parked, although it's possible that has changed since we've been gone--I don't know, you'd have to check. Parking for the casita area would still be free though--different parking area and is also parking for their free standing restaurant, Oystercatchers.

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