Category Archives: Travel

8 Questions with Amanda Barker of Little Black Dress The Musical

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received two complimentary tickets in exchange for this preview post and social media love to "Little Black Dress The Musical". This has not impacted my post. All opinions below are my own.
Amanda Barker – photo by Dahlia Katz

When Straz Center reached out to me with the opportunity to interview Amanda Barker, I jumped at the chance! Amanda is not only a cast member in the upcoming Little Black Dress The Musical, she also is co-writer of the show!

I asked some of my pals and gals on Facebook what they would ask her  if given the chance, and I picked the best 8. Check out Amanda’s awesome answers to my questions below!

8 Questions with Amanda Barker of Little Black Dress

1. When you’re on stage or even just preparing to go on stage – Do you do your work for the love of the audience or for the love of the craft? Which is more important to you?

Oh gosh – why choose?! It’s the love of the craft that brings you to the stage, but I think it’s the audience that keeps you there. I have been lucky enough to also do film and TV, but I am like so many actors in that I started on stage and I get back on it whenever my schedule allows.

Don’t get me wrong – being on set can be glorious as it is all about the craft and you learn to create a relationship with a camera and not to expect an audience’s instant gratification. That said, what’s wonderful about Little Black Dress is that we have written in the audience’s participation! Allowing a direct address to audience is my favourite kind of theatre, but it’s extraordinarily rare, especially in a musical. That’s why creating this show and performing in it has been so exciting.

2. We know you enjoy making people laugh, but what makes you laugh?

My husband Marco makes me laugh every single day. He can be mostly asleep and still hilarious. The other day in bed he was drifting off and he said, “I love you.” When I told him that I loved him too, he answered, “I was talking to myself.” That’s a funny guy. Or a mean one. It’ll be 8 years next month and I still haven’t decided.

3. Let’s say you’re having an off day – it happens! What do you do to get stage ready and in a humorous place mentally?

This is where the audience comes in. I peek and look at them and try to see what their vibe is; their energy. I put myself in their shoes. What was their day like? What do they need? Performing is a service, and you need to connect to those you are serving to see what they need in each moment – especially with a show like this. You learn as a performer to do your best to take yourself out of the equation. It’s not about you. It’s about them. That can be very freeing if you’ve had a rotten day.

4. Do you ever go off script based on the audience you’re performing for?

For this show? Every. Damn. Day. We wrote the show for those types of personalized/improvised bits to land. We want it tailored for the crowd it is in front of. This show is special. It combines the cast’s talents for both improv and scripted performance. I do love a scripted show, and in my career, I get to do that plenty.

The words are the envelope that you can play within but you must stick to what is inside that envelope. THIS show is special though, and that’s what makes it so unique and exciting for an audience.

5. What’s the perfect Little Black Dress accessory?

One word – BLING! Any color, any variety. I have never met an accessory I didn’t love and I love that an LBD means I can wear my turquoise polka dotted shoes or bright red necklace and it all pairs seamlessly.

6. What drink pairs best with a Little Black Dress?

Little Black Dress wine of course! (Yes, they are a sponsor 😉 ) What’s great about an LBD is that you can keep stains to a minimum so you can go with a bright fruity cocktail, dark beer or red wine and no matter how messy you get, you are likely safe. If I drink it, I WILL spill it, and I love how my Little Black Dress doesn’t get ruined.

7. Would men enjoy watching Little Black Dress with their girlfriends/spouses? Or is it better for a girl’s night out?

Absolutely! It can be a great date night or a girls’ night out. It’s a story about friendship and how to deal with life’s milestones – from an awkward first kiss to keeping your marriage spicy, or the harsh reality of birthing a baby – those things are definitely universal.

One of the most important things to us was that it relates to all – and having Christopher Bond (Evil Dead the Musical) on the creative team (in addition to myself, Danielle Trzcinski and Natalie Tennebaum) means that there are plenty of jokes for guys too.

Above all else, I’m very proud that it is female material that doesn’t handle anything with kid gloves – women can be messy, dirty, complicated and hilarious. That is what was important to me.

8. Finally, what are your plans post Little Black Dress? Any other parodies or musicals brewing behind the scenes?

I actually have co-authored another show about women and clothes called Clotheswap where the audience gets to bring their bags of old duds to the theatre and those pieces are used on stage in both narrative and improvisation (and they get to participate in the clothesswap after)! That script has received two awards and will be happening in Toronto later this year.

I am very interested in the stories of women and clothes, clearly! Beyond that, I am in the next season of The Handmaid’s Tale which comes out next month, and my online series A Gay Victorian Affair will be releasing its next three episodes in May. That one falls under parody as it is a dirty version of Downton Abbey.

I am also on-air most mornings with Sirius XM’s Canada Laughs channel (I am both Canadian and American) so that fun will continue and I have two projects for TV in pre-production. I love what I do and the only thing that limits me are the hours in a day!

Little Black Dress The Musical – What You Need to Know

Little Black Dress The Musical is playing at The Straz Center now through April 27 and April 28, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE! I’m going to the show on Saturday. Buy some tickets, and come join me. It’s going to be a great night out!!!

Here’s the trailer for the show:

 

 

Also… I’ve got some other deets you may want to know:

From the ladies behind Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody, this hilarious ladies-night-out musical follows BFFs Dee and Mandy as they don their LBDs to chronicle life’s major events – birth, death, dating, sex, love, friendship … and male strippers. With improv, audience participation, fun music and a triple warning – strong language, fog and haze, and one very sexy man – Little Black Dress is a perfect fit for any woman.

And finally, because I love fun photos, here’s the press pics that show you we HAVE to go see this musical ASAP! 

Little Black Dress The Musical Cast Ensemble Photo 1 – Photo by Dahlia Katz
Little Black Dress The Musical Cast Ensemble Photo 2 – Photo by Dahlia Katz
Little Black Dress The Musical Cast Ensemble Photo 3 – Photo by Dahlia Katz

 

 

Brews with Attitude – April 3, 2018 in Tampa

 

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Pepin Distributing, I received two complimentary tickets to Brews with Attitude in exchange for this preview post and social media love. All opinions are my own.

I jumped at the chance to attend Brews with Attitude for three simple reasons:

  1. My date loves her some beer, and her birthday is coming and this is a perfect event for celebrating both.
  2. It’s at one of my FAVE venues in Tampa Bay – TPepin’s Hospitality Centre
  3. Who doesn’t love a fun night out where you get to try multiple brands in one spot, for one cost?

What is Brews with Attitude?

The Reader’s Digest version? It’s a beer fest that will offer

  • Over 200 Beers and Ciders to sample from
  • Tampa’s favorite Food Trucks
  • Live Entertainment by Dave Valliere Group
  • One-off craft beer releases
  • Variety of hand rolled cigars
  • and more…

This year’s is the eight annual event, and they promise to be bigger and better than ever before.

Here’s a video from last year’s event to give you an idea of what to expect:

When is the Event?

Tuesday, April 3rd from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Where is the Event?

TPepin’s Hospitality Centre located at:

4121 N. 50th Street,
Tampa, Florida 33610

What About Tickets?

According to their website, tickets are $40, and you can snag them right here!

If they still have any available on the day of the event, tickets can also be purchased for cash or credit at the door.

Join me at this fun-filled, beer enthusiasts paradise!!!

Admission Includes: Sampling of over 200 beers with the official Brews With Attitude tasting cup.

There will also be food, non-alcoholic beverages and cigars available for purchase.

The venue asks that you please bring your printed out ticket as there will not be a list for admission!!

Who’s Gonna Be There?

The cool kids (duh!), and these breweries:

10 Bbl
3 Daughters
Ace Cider
Angry Chair
Barrel of Monks
Big Strom
Big Top
Blue Point
Bold City
Boulevard
Coppertail
Due South
Duvel
Elysian
Escape
Florida Ave
Founders
Funky Buddha
Golden Road
Goose Island
Green Bench
Hidden Springs
Highland
Innis & Gunn
Islamorada
Karbach
Kona
Mad Beach
Magic Hat
Motorworks
Narragansett
Ommegang
Ommission
Pair O Dice
Proof
Rapp
Redbridge
Rekorderlig
Sea Dog
Shipyard
Silver King
Six Ten
Sonoma Cider
Southern Tier
Spiked Seltzer
St. Somewhere
Stiegl
Swamp Head
Sweetwater
Tampa Bay Brewing
Uinta
Victory
Wine Stream
Woodchuck
Wynwood

Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival Concert Lineup 2018

Have you heard? Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival is coming back to Tampa Bay Saturdays and Sundays, March 3 through April 29 and is included with any Annual Pass, Fun Card or daily admission to the park.

And, if the free with admission news isn’t enough to get you excited about attending,  each evening of the festival features a concert from some of the hottest names in the music industry.

Busch Gardens 2018 Food & Wine Festival Concert Lineup

Concert Headliners Include The Fray, Flo Rida, Cole Swindell, Boyz II Men, Olga Tañón, TLC, Hank Williams Jr., Kaleo and More!

More info about the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival:

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay‘s most delicious event returns this March with tastes for every palate at the fourth annual Food & Wine Festival.

Guests can sample delectable cuisines paired with a selection of 65+ wines, 50+ craft brews and specialty cocktails, while enjoying some of the biggest names in entertainment.

The Food & Wine Festival runs Saturdays and Sundays, March 3 through April 29 and is included with any Annual Pass, Fun Card or daily admission to the park.

The Festival features all-new twists on cuisine at 13 culinary cabins, along with favorites like mango shrimp ceviche and beef brisket on a spiced corn waffle.

Experience bold new eats at the Savory Tavern with fried frog legs with bacon corn fritters, or indulge in flavorful treats at Artisan Eats with beloved dish duck fat truffle fries and then spice it up with tostones rellenos de pollo at Comfort Kitchen.

Opt for lobster tart with leeks and Swiss cheese or mushroom vol-au-vent at the Light Fare Canteen, or relish in the robust flavors at Chef’s Plantation with salmon cake with lemon aioli, Korean-style ribs and all-new short rib and brie grilled cheese.

Guests can elevate the Food and Wine Festival experience even more by sipping a carefully curated selection of fine bourbons and new tequila tastings.

Concert headliners include:

Saturday, March 3: Edwin McCain & Sister Hazel
Sunday, March 4: Grupo Niche
Saturday, March 10: The Fray
Sunday, March 11: Southern Uprising Tour: A Southern Rock Revival with Travis Tritt, The Charlie Daniels Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws
Saturday, March 17: Olga Tañón
Sunday, March 18: Goo Goo Dolls
Saturday, March 24: Better Than Ezra & Tonic
Sunday, March 25: Michael Bolton
Saturday, March 31: Boyz II Men
Sunday, April 1: Natalie Grant
Saturday, April 7: Hank Williams, Jr.
Sunday, April 8: TLC
Saturday, April 14: Bret Michaels
Sunday, April 15: Coming Soon!
Saturday, April 21: The All-American Rejects
Sunday, April 22: Cole Swindell
Saturday, April 28: Flo Rida
Sunday, April 29: Kaleo & Bleachers

Guests can choose from two exclusive VIP concert upgrades at the Festival which include priority seating and a 5-item sampler lanyard for even more access to great times and great tastes.

Additionally, guests can purchase of 5, 10 and 12-item sampler lanyards to tailor the experience to any taste bud. Food and beverage is not included with park admission and is available for an additional fee. Guests must be 21 years of age or older to consumer alcoholic beverages.

BEST VALUES FOR FLORIDA RESIDENTS:

  • For a limited time, buy a Busch Gardens Fun Card and get an Adventure Island Fun Card FREE! Experience both parks through 2018 for the price of one.

 

  • For those wishing for more VIP offerings, the Annual Pass includes unlimited admission for 12 months, free parking, no blockout dates, in-park discounts and other benefits, valued at more than $350. With EZpay, Annual Passes start at just $14 per month for one park, and $16 per month for both Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island.

Be the first to know about new events, special deals and future announcements by joining the conversation using #corksandcoasters on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Sister Hazel, Edwin McCain and Grupo Niche to Kickoff the Food & Wine Festival at Busch Gardens

This weekend the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival begins and I just learned some more exciting news about their kickoff weekend! Check out the notice they just sent me below the image!

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2018) – Chart-topping artists Sister Hazel and Edwin McCain, and Latin sensation Grupo Niche will take the stage this weekend at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay’s fourth annual Food & Wine Festival.

The festival takes place on Saturdays and Sundays March 3 through April 29. Concerts are included with any Pass, Fun Card or daily admission.

Sister Hazel – Saturday, March 3 at 5:30 p.m., Gwazi Park

Originally from the sunshine state, Sister Hazel has been considered “one of the Top 100 Most Influential Independent Performers of the last 15 years.” The five gifted and seasonal musicians exude natural talent and charisma with their chart-topping hits “All for You” and “Lighter in the Dark” earning them multiple spots on Billboard charts. Along with being outstanding musicians, the band hosts annual philanthropic events like “Hazelnut Hang” and gives back with Lyrics for Life benefiting cancer research and patient-care. Don’t miss out on celebrating with Sister Hazel here at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Edwin McCain– Saturday, March 3 at 7:00 p.m., Gwazi Park

Proclaimed the “great American romantic” by the New York Times, Edwin McCain has swept the nation with over 20 years of pop music and endless touring. His love ballads and genuine personality makes concerts feel more like nonstop parties. With classic hits like “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask for More”, McCain has proved time and time again that he is truly a one-of-a-kind performer.

Grupo Niche – Sunday, March 4 at 6:00 p.m., Gwazi Park

Join us as we welcome the salsa sensation, Group Niche, to this year’s Food and Wine Festival! Residing in eccentric country of Colombia, this group has taken Latin America by storm with its Latin flares and outstanding performances.

SPECIAL PACKAGES:

  • Food, Wine & Brew Sampler – Guests with exclusive interests in culinary offerings can purchase a Food & Wine sampler that includes any samples of choice throughout the Festival. Samplers are available in quantities of five, eight or twelve and start at $29.99. New this year, a Pass Member exclusive 15-item Sampler is available for the same price as a 12-item Sampler.https://buschgardens.com/tampa/events/food-and-wine-festival/upgrades/sampler-lanyard/

  • Wine, Bourbon and Tequila by the Bottle – Guests can take home a part of the Food & Wine Festival with wine, bourbon and tequila available for purchase by the bottle at the Xcursions gift shop.

BEST VALUES FOR FLORIDA RESIDENTS:

  •  For a limited time, buy a Busch Gardens Fun Card and get an Adventure Island Fun Card FREE! Experience both parks through 2018 for the price of one.

  • For those wishing for more VIP offerings, the Annual Pass includes unlimited admission for 12 months, free parking, no blockout dates, in-park discounts and other benefits, valued at more than $350. With EZpay, Annual Passes start at just $14 per month for one park, and $16 per month for both Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island

The Festival features all-new twists on cuisine at 13 culinary cabins, along with favorites like mango shrimp ceviche and beef brisket on a spiced corn waffle. Experience bold new eats at the Savory Tavern with fried frog legs with bacon corn fritters, or indulge in flavorful treats at Artisan Eats with beloved dish duck fat truffle fries and then spice it up with tostones rellenos de pollo at Comfort Kitchen.  Opt for lobster tart with leeks and Swiss cheese or mushroom vol-au-vent at the Light Fare Canteen, or relish in the robust flavors at Chef’s Plantation with salmon cake with lemon aioli, Korean-style ribs and all-new short rib and brie grilled cheese.  Guests can elevate the Food and Wine Festival experience even more by sipping a carefully curated selection of fine bourbons and new tequila tastings.

The Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival takes place on Saturdays and Sundays from March 3 through April 29 and is included with any Pass, Fun Card or daily admission. Food and beverage is not included with park admission and is available for an extra fee. Guests must be 21 years of age or older to consume alcoholic beverages.

Be the first to know about new events, special deals and future announcements by following the park’s blog at BuschGardens.com/tampa/blog, or “Like” the Busch Gardens Facebook page, and follow @buschgardens on TwitterInstagram and Snapchat.

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About SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 31,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests. Visit AdventureIsland.com or Busch Gardens.com.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a wholly owned subsidiary of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., a publicly traded company. Visit www.seaworldentertainment.com for more.

So Many Things to See and Do at the Florida State Fair!

Thanks to Cox Media Group Tampa I was given a family four pack to the Florida State Fair in exchange for this post and social media love. Although my tickets, some meals and rides were free, this has not affected my review. All opinions are my own.

Every year I look forward to The Florida State Fair. The food, the rides, the people watching. It’s something my husband and I thoroughly enjoy going to. There are so many things to do at the fair, and this year we decided to enjoy some of our favorite activities AND check out a few of the things we’ve never done before.

Our old faithfuls at The Florida State Fair

  • The food – We always end up with a corn dog upon arrival, and the past couple of years we end with a cheeseburger. Hubby always goes for the traditional barbecue bacon burger, and I either get the doughnut burger or the mac and cheese burger from Carousel Foods. Such yumminess! And seriously – you have to try the doughnut burger once in your life. I think you will be as surprised as I was at how delicious this darn thing actually is!
  • The arts – We LOVE seeing the entries in the arts and crafts contest held every year at the fair. The paintings and the sculptures, and the photos – this year they were just over the top. And, I was exceptionally giddy because I actually recognized some of the names of the winners in the art contests. I’ve decided next year I want to add a contribution of my own. I’ll share what I’m entering when it comes time.
  • The people watching – Dude! This is far and away my FAVORITE thing to do at the fair. You never know what outfits you will see, who you will bump into or what fun you will witness.  One of the crazy things we witnessed this year while people watching was a cell phone FLYING off of a ride. That was nuts. It almost hit someone!! Funny and scary all at the same time. And the craziest part? Their cell phone protector actually protected it. NO DAMAGE! Not even a single crack. That’s crazy right?!?
  • The Sky Ride – I love this because it takes you from one end of the fair to the other and gives you incredible views along the way. Resting our feet while getting a bird’s eye view? Winning!
  • The Ferris Wheel – it’s tradition. We always ride the Ferris Wheel. What was extra exciting about this year’s ride though was the wheel was bigger and we rode at sunset. We got some of the most epic views from the top. Seriously. Check this out:

The new things we saw/did in 2018 at the fair:

  • We went and visited with the drivers of the mini monster trucks. I had no idea this was a thing for kids! Youngins driving mini trucks?!? WOWZA! Pretty wild seeing these littles with those big trucks.
  • We also checked out the Farm to School Fun arcade hosted by The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). There were free games, educational opportunities, and we got to try some roasted peanuts from the Florida farmers that grow them. I also learned a lot about vegetables, bees, spiders, butterflies, and fish in this room.
  • For a few moments as we took a rest from the sun we stopped in and watched some baton twirling competitors. That was so cool and made me realize JUST how uncoordinated I really am. haha! We also darted over in the same hall and checked out the arts and crafts vendors selling their goods. It is truly amazing how talented some people are. While they we also got our fill of fudge, more peanuts, dip samples and more. So much deliciousness!!!
  • One thing we did that we’ve never done was juice our own oranges in the agriculture area. This covered areas also had some chickens in it which prompted a humorous conversation between me and the hubs about why we need to own chickens when we get a house.

Things we skipped or missed that I wish we’d seen:

  • We missed the Extreme Illusions & Escapes show, the BMX/FMX Freestyle Madness displays, Circus Hollywood, and the Laser Light shows. Mind you we didn’t skip them because we wanted to. We should have made the fair visit a multi-day event because we just didn’t have time for everything. The timing was off for us to see things at their scheduled hours, and/or we weren’t in the area when it was happening.
  • We skipped Cracker Country this year. Forgive me y’all, but I just wasn’t excited about this – perhaps because we’ve seen it sooooooooo many times over the years. I do regret not going over at least long enough to get some kettle corn though. It’s never better anywhere than it is there IMHO.
  • We missed events that were only happening on specific days. For example, we’ll miss the demolition derby because another trip to the fair before they close this year probably won’t be feasible with our work schedules.  Same for the Trashy Flashy Fashion Show. We were there the day after this occurred. I have to say I was super bummed about missing this because I LOVE trashy fashion shows. The way the artists can turn garbage into wearable art never ceases to amaze me.

Our 2018 fair visit was a success in my book

All in all, I loved my day at the fair, and sincerely hope that in 2019 I can afford more time to be there. I’d like to go multiple days and check out more events and things I haven’t seen yet, or that I’ve not seen in awhile. I will say that for the cost of the fair ticket, there is certainly a LOT of entertainment and enjoyment to be had. It’s not JUST about the rides and the food. I can’t wait to visit again. In the meantime, I’m hoping to check out many other events our fair city has to offer. <- see what I did there? LOL! I crack me up!

Check out all the images I snapped at The Florida State Fair this year –

Busch Gardens Christmas Town 2017 – Fun for the Whole Family this Holiday Season

FTC Disclosure: I will be receiving two passes to visit Christmas Town in the month of December in exchange for social media love. While the tickets are being given to me for free, this has not affected my opinions of Busch Gardens or their Christmas Town event. 

Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay’s annual holiday tradition, Christmas Town™  is back in town for the holidays now through December 31st. And, this season they are keeping it open for an extended  Three Kings Day Celebration from Jan. 1 through Jan. 6.  I’ve had the amazing pleasure of attending Christmas Town three different times, and it always beams bright with twinkling lights, spectacular shows, holiday shopping and even a visit to Santa’s House! Check out all the amazing things that Christmas Town has to offer, and I hope you will consider attending Busch Gardens for this fun event this year. It’s truly a fabulous way to get into the holiday spirit!!!

Attractions and Features of Christmas Town 2017:

 NEW! Holiday Culinary Samplers: Enjoy 5 or 10 delectable creations from our holiday menus during Christmas Town. Culinary locations like Christmas Town Village will feature savory treats and Yuletide sweets for the whole family.

 NEW! Story Time Breakfast with Rudolph: Sometimes the best part about Christmas morning is the breakfast. This year, the all-new Story Time Breakfast with Rudolph delivers atDragon Fire Grill complete with holiday songs, story time and special surprises. Indulge in waffles, French toast, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese grits, pastries, biscuits and gravy, and much more.

NEW! Three Kings Celebration: Busch Gardens unfolds the famed journey to the humble town of Bethlehem during a Three Kings Celebration from Jan. 1-6. This cultural celebration boasts authentic Latin traditions, live entertainment honoring the three wise men and Busch Gardens’ dazzling display of twinkling lights.

Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland: Making his Christmas Town debut, Sam the Snowman joins Rudolph, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and Bumble at Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland located in Celestial Crossing.  Meet and take photos with these beloved characters, play holiday games and indulge in Yuletide treats while scenes of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer® television special come to life.

Santa’s House presented by Coca-Cola®: The Claus family invites you into their North Pole home at Santa’s House presented by Coca-Cola®. While the elves are busy preparing for Christmas, Santa is taking a break from his busy holiday schedule to meet and take photos with families in his private study.

Thrill Rides at Night: Nestled between beautifully lit trees and roaring with excitement, some of the best views of Christmas Town can be found atop Florida’s top thrill rides, including family spin coaster, Cobra’s Curse®.

Guests can also expect the return of fan-favorite shows that ring in the season, including Christmas on IceCarol of the Bells light show and the Holiday Hills Brass Band. For a complete list of seasonal sights and unforgettable Yuletide experiences, visit ChristmasTown.com.

Christmas Town is included with any annual pass, Fun Card or daily admission to the park. The event is open until 10 p.m. on select dates and will close at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. For New Year’s Eve, Christmas Town will remain open until 1 a.m. to ring in 2018. Please visit our website for park hours.

For a limited time, guests can pay for a day and get two parks now through 2018 FREE! Enjoy unlimited admission to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay through Dec. 31, 2018 and to Adventure Island through the 2018 season. Offer ends March 25, 2018.

For more event information, visit ChristmasTown.com.  Plus, be the first to know about new events, special deals and future announcements by following the Busch GardensTampa Bay blog or joining in the conversation with @BuschGardens on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Snapchat.

Tickets Now on Sale for Sixth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked

FTC Disclosure: As part of my partnership with Hayworth PR I am receiving two VIP admissions to the Clearwater Beach uncorked event in exchange for a review and social media love. This has not affected my opinion of the event, its sponsors or Clearwater Beach and its partners. 

Sip. Savor. Repeat. at Sixth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked Food and Wine Festival

Tickets Now on Sale for Two-Day Food, Wine & Craft Beer Festival – Dec 2 & 3

Have you heard? Tickets are on sale for the Sixth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked! This is the sixth year for this highly anticipated two-day, food wine and craft beer festival. The event will be held December 2-3, in a new location directly on Clearwater Beach (Right next to the official host hotel, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach), just south of Pier 60.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked will celebrate the Bay area’s most renowned chefs, restaurants, and breweries in a culinary showcase served with 180-degree Gulf of Mexico views. The event is the west coast sister of the new Cocoa Beach Uncorked, which debuted in June and was dubbed one of the best food, wine and beer festivals on Florida’s East coast. Tickets and details are available online at ClearwaterBeachUncorked.com.

Clearwater Beach provides an ideal setting to showcase an impressive roster of the Bay area’s culinary offerings to thousands of foodies, wine lovers and beer aficionados,” said Tammy Gail, event producer. “This taste-fest brings together people with a shared interest for an unforgettable weekend for attendees, partners and exhibitors alike. This is our sixth year, and we’re pulling out all the stops to highlight the culinary attributes of Florida’s west coast.”

The two-day event will feature interactive experiences, tastings, cooking demonstrations and competitions between some of the area’s most notable and award-winning chefs and restaurants. To help create a full weekend culinary experience, the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, the official hotel sponsor of the event, is offering an Uncorked Getaway during the weekend of December 1-2, which includes accommodations and a pair of General admission tickets for just $289.

Event tickets are $65 per person, per day for general admission and $95 per person, per day for VIP access. All guests will receive a limited-edition wine glass, custom tote bag and enjoy the Grand Tasting Village with unlimited tastings from 1 to 4 p.m. Guests who purchase a VIP ticket will also enjoy one-hour early admission to the Grand Tasting Village and exclusive access to the Spirits Pool Lounge at the Wyndham Grand pool deck from 1 to 5 p.m. to sample exciting and intriguing crafted libations.

A portion of the proceeds from Clearwater Beach Uncorked will benefit University of South Florida’s Sarasota Manatee School of Hospitality and Tourism, Vet to Chef program. Funds will be used to help the training program give veterans who are struggling a fresh start and pull their lives together by entering a civilian career in the culinary arts.

For more information on Clearwater Beach Uncorked and to purchase tickets, visit ClearwaterBeachUncorked.com. Follow Clearwater Beach Uncorked on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram #Uncorkedweekend.

About Clearwater Beach Uncorked:

Clearwater Beach Uncorked has been dubbed the hippest, most exciting two-day food, wine, and craft beer festival on Florida’s West Coast. The event welcomes thousands of attendees to Florida’s award-winning Clearwater Beach.  In celebration of its sixth anniversary, Clearwater Beach Uncorked will play host to foodies, wine lovers and craft beer aficionados who long to wiggle their toes in the sugar white sand as they enjoy some of the area’s most delectable offerings. The 30,000 sq. ft. Grand Tasting Tent will feature a vast array of mouthwatering taste experiences for discerning palettes. A percentage of ticket sales will benefit the University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee School of Hospitality and Technology.  

Good Times to Be Had at the Florida State Fair!

Have you been to the Florida State Fair? I was fortunate enough over the weekend to spend an entire day there thanks to Cox Radio and Magic 94.9. Although I did score free tickets and some other sweet freebies, all opinions below are my own!

 

I love the Florida State Fair. In recent years, I haven’t been able to go as frequently as I like, but when I do get to go, it’s ALWAYS a good time.

One of my favorite things about the Fair is the wide variety of entertainment. We watched a little bit of the Florida Cheer competition, we wandered around the art exhibits, and of course…we rode the rides!

My favorite rides were the ferris wheel and the sky ride. Not only were they a fabulous way to rest my tootsies from a whole lotta walking, they gave great bird’s eye views of the grounds. I prefer going on these types of rides at night because there is nothing prettier to me than all those lights shining bright at the fair!

Check out my bloggy friend Marisa’s post on her Florida State Fair musings here!

The 2017 Florida State Fair runs February 9 through February 20. Admission for kids and adults aged 12 & up is $11 Monday through Thursday, and $13 Friday through Sunday. Children aged 6-11 are $6 Monday through Thursday, and $7 Friday through Sunday. Senior citizens age 55+ are $9 February 13 through February 17.

All you can ride armband vouchers are $25 on February 9, 13, 14, 15, and 16. The cost goes up to $35 all other days. The armband is good for one day’s use only. Pay one price and ride all day!

Learn more about the 2017 Florida State Fair by visiting their website!

My First Time – Getting a Chocolate Pedicure

This article first appeared in the Tampa Bay Times. It has been slightly updated and I’m posting it here for my blog readers to enjoy.

I have gotten pedicures before, but after hearing about a process known as a chocolate pedicure I had to skip my traditional one and try it. It had been a rough week so being pampered sounded good to me.

It turns out there are several benefits to using chocolate for pampering. First, there are antioxidants in chocolate. Second, cocoa butter, a key ingredient in several types of chocolate, is a great skin moisturizer. Lastly, and in my opinion most importantly, just the smell of chocolate has been proven to release endorphins which are a mood booster.

I had mine done at a Spa in New Tampa that has since closed it’s doors. However, I did learn the Spa Evangeline offers a similar pedicure! Theirs is called the Dulce Delight

Here are the details on Spa Evangeline’s Dulce Delight:

Inspired by Chocolate Pi’s Salted Caramel signature dessert. A coffee salt exfoliant of Arabica bean extract energizes, exfoliates, and soothes dry skin. A full body dark chocolate mask is applied, and wrapped in a cocoon for better absorption & detoxification. Shower off, and a Sweet Cream body milk massage seals the deal. A sampling of salted caramel to conclude.
Also available as a hand and foot treatment.
120 minutes

I would strongly recommend doing a massage and a pedicure. By the end of the day you will smell like a dessert, and feel like a million bucks!

How my pedicure went down:

My pedicure began with a warm chocolate foot bath.  The aroma of the chocolate and the bubbles of the jets in the foot bath melted all of my leftover stress away within minutes. Just as I was beginning to feel the calm come over me I was presented with a chocolate martini. Delicious. Its smooth texture went down like chocolate milk, and in the bottom of the glass was a piece of chocolate for me to munch on while my pedicurist scrubbed my feet. (I highly recommend grabbing a chocolate martini at Edge if you get your treatment at Spa Evangeline. Their drinks are delicious!!!)

My pedicurist used a cocoa scrub to wash and exfoliate my tootsies, and then it was time for my mask. I never had a mask on my feet before, but it was extremely moisturizing and felt so nice. The mask was, of course, infused with chocolate.

Following the mask my feet were massaged with chocolate oil. After that my toes were dried and nail polish was applied.  My feet have never felt so good. My treatment delighted my senses to say the least.

When I got home my husband asked me if I had baked brownies. The scent was strong, and made us both hungry, but I was more interested in continuing my tranquil state than cooking. I felt so good from a day of chocolaty indulgence that I already wanted to book another one.
Chocolate Pedicure
Where to get it: Get a similar one at Spa Evangeline
Located at The Epicurean Hotel across from Bern’s Steakhouse

1203 South Howard Avenue
Tampa, FL 33606

Cost: $85 for the 60-minute experience as of February 2017.

Three things I learned
1. Chocolate contains 300 different compounds, some of which can have a significant impact on one’s health and beauty.
2. Chocolate re-mineralizes and energizes the skin.
3. For some people the scent of chocolate has a psychological effect of relaxing your mind and therefore relaxing your body.

Would I do it again? Yes! It was so relaxing and luxurious. I look forward to the day when I can afford one every week!

The My First Time was a column about me trying new things in Tampa Bay. I’m reviving it here on my blog! Got a suggestion for something I can try? E-mail me at famousashleygrant@gmail.com.

Cross Country Road Trip Series

Famous Ashley Grant on the Road

For those of you who don’t know, this summer I went on an EPIC bucket list adventure. I spent 3 and a half weeks traveling the United States. My husband, my two dogs and I took off from Tampa, Florida to California, then headed North toward Washington state before making our way back east via South Dakota, Minnesota and then south through Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and finally back to Tampa, Florida.

The entire experience was intense, exciting, horrifying, nerve wracking, emotional, amazing, wonderful, breathtaking – you know what I’ll save some time by simply saying I felt nearly every emotion in the book on the trip. I saw things I’ve only dreamed about seeing. I ate some pretty amazing foods. I got to hang out with some fabulous people – a couple of which even hosted my little family for the night (thanks again Jim and Lauren 😀 ). I froze my bottom off in a few states. I thought I would die of heat exhaustion in Texas, New Mexico and Nevada. I drank some delicious wine. I tried a few things I never thought I would and learned some pretty spectacular lessons on the way.

Now, all I want to do is write about the entire trip, but rather than try to stuff it all in one post, I’ve decided to break it up into a series. This way my friends and family can see the pictures that they’ve been asking me to see and I can tell everyone all the things about the trip they want to know! So, stay tuned. I’ll be adding everything to this little blog of mine – a virtual scrapbook if you will of the most amazing working vacation I’ve ever had in my life!

As I add write ups I’ll post links below of all of my additions to my virtual scrapbook!