NOTE: We don’t limit our Go BIG adventures to just the world’s “largest.” We also have room in our hearts for the world’s longest and tallest! Cause they’re big too, in their own special, linear way.
Where we went, and who was coerced into going:
My parents and brother’s family lives in the Tampa Bay area, so we visit regularly. Generally, there is an understood Florida embargo in place for us between the months of April and October, when the average temperature there hovers around 170 degrees. At least, that’s what it feels like to us. We are heat wimps. We wilt and grow increasingly cranky with the humidity levels.
However, our February ’10 trip was cancelled due to a huge snowstorm in NY, so we rescheduled for late April to coincide with a school holiday. So the four of us, along with my parents, decided to take a stroll along Bayshore Boulevard, the world’s longest continuous sidewalk, on a hot, sunny day.
WHY did you go there, exactly?
This wasn’t my first time on Bayshore, but it was for the kids. I lived in Tampa during my high school years, and have been back many times. I’ve driven along the boulevard many more times than I’ve actually walked it, however, so it was time to experience it on foot.
We almost didn’t get there, actually. The Girl, who I had slathered liberally with sunscreen prior to leaving the house, had accidentally rubbed some into her eye. A 30-minute drive filled with wailing and crying set our nerves on end, even before we stepped out into the unforgiving heat. But it was also exactly the excuse we needed to cut short our “Walk on the Surface on the Sun.”
Okay, what was so cool about it?
First, there was a breeze, which was met by our complete gratitude. Our amble was laborious, due mainly to the sweating, and because Matt had to carry the aforementioned 37 lbs. of sniffling drama most of the way.
We strolled along, keeping to the right, as is the unspoken rule. I learned this after nearly being run over by a bicyclist. She rang her happy little bell, which obviously wasn’t intimidating enough for this New Yorker, so I remained unaware on the left until near collision. At regular intervals, semicircular benches protrude over the water from the cement wall, where my withering son sat to sip his drink.
We enjoyed the views of the water, the outdoor art installations, and the architecture. Some of Tampa’s most prestigious homes, many on the National Historic Register, line the street. There is plenty to see, especially when you’re not whining about how hot it is (ahem…cough). Military planes fly low on their descent to the MacDill Air Force base, which sits at one end of the boulevard. Pelicans and other sea birds swoop down for their lunch. Although we didn’t see any, my sister-in-law regularly sites hammerhead sharks, and the occasional dolphin or manatee, swimming in the bay.
It helped that we had some insider scoop from my brother and his wife, who lived in South Tampa for many years. They steered us to the free, shady public parking at the Bayshore Patriots Corner lot on the corner of Bayshore Boulevard and Bay to Bay Boulevard. Parking is also available at Ballast Point Park and Fred Ball Park.
A little background info about the place:
Built in the early 1900’s, Bayshore Boulevard is deemed the world’s longest continuous sidewalk because its 4.5 mile stretch of concrete is not interrupted by cross streets. This 10 foot- wide sidewalk starts at the Columbus Statue Park at Platt Street on the north end, and ends at Gandy Boulevard. It’s an official greenway trail, with amenities like benches, a water fountain, bicycle parking, a city marina and fitness stations. There is also a three mile on-road bike lane along the north-bound lane, between Rome Avenue and Gandy Boulevard. Fifteen cast bronze trail markers are embedded in the sidewalk, denoting each half mile and kilometer southward along the trail.
Bayshore Boulevard is also the site of Tampa’s annual Gasparilla parade, a “colorful” (read: drunken revelry) celebration of a legendary pirate invasion.
This is a 4 in my book. Don’t make a trip to Tampa just to walk along Bayshore Boulevard (I’m thinking you probably won’t, but just in case). It is free, picturesque, and great if you’re a runner in need of a good trail. However, unless you’re part amphibian, skip the venture on any day the humidity levels are 95 percent or higher. Which pretty much just leaves January 10th. Maybe the 11th as well.
Hey you! Go BIG!:
Bayshore Boulevard, Between Platt Street and Gandy Boulevard
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Tampa Bay & Company (tourism information)