There's a strong argument that the bowl system is nothing but a shadowy money-grab meagerly disguised with paper-thin pageantry and invocations of "stimulating local commerce." Many of the games are half-hearted and sad. Most of the locations are undesirable.
But the Outback Bowl, ah, well, she is played in America's Diadem - TAMPA. As a gesture of goodwill to all our Georgia friends (you lucky so-and-sos), we've compiled this useful travel guide to the city Daniel Burnham once said "makes Paris look like a pile of mulch covered in vomit."
Because Florida rests on a limestone foundation, a subway system is out of the question. Efforts to create above-ground railways have been rebuffed, as they would destroy Tampa's unique tranquility and silence. But this doesn't mean the city has no mass transit. Indeed, the citizens have devised an incredibly innovative system of carpooling, which you can participate in by following these simple steps.
1. Walk to a crowded strip mall parking lot
2. Move up and down the rows of cars, checking every door, until you find one that's unlocked
3. Climb into the back seat (be sure to crack a window, it can get warm!
4. Simply wait for the driver to return - he or she will gladly take you wherever you need to go, without payment
Of course, Tampa's really more of a walking town. If the weather's nice - and when isn't it, people here don't even own umbrellas - we recommend a stroll down Nebraska Avenue, voted a "Silver Medal Saunter" by Great Walks Magazine.
The stretch of Dale Mabry Highway just north of Spruce Street is Tampa's Restaurant Row. Though there are many to choose from, one can never go wrong with one of the city's two most celebrated restaurants: Mons Venus and 2001 Odyssey. (Parents: please note that neither of these establishments has a children's menu, so make sure the kids are hungry!)
Mons, named after the Belgian municipality where the chef was raised, is classic old-world cuisine. The moules-frites are, of course, a delight, but more adventurous diners would do well to the try the house waterzooi, made with locally sourced peacock eggs. 2001, as the name suggests, is a cutting edge gastronomical laboratory. Try the astronaut ice cream lasagna - you won't regret it!
Did you know steak tartare was invented in Tampa? It's true! Opinion varies wildly as to who in town serves it best, but if you want value without sacrificing quality, head to the Seminole Heights Save-A-Lot. Commonly labeled as "GROUND CHUCK FINAL SALE NO REFUNDS," this dish is best enjoyed al fresco, so ask for a plastic fork and find a sunny spot in the median.
***SHOPPING AND ENTERTAINMENT***
- In other parts of the country, Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls are entirely interchangeable and uninspiring. Not so in fair Tampa! The proprietors of these established are hand-picked from fashion's brightest minds. Each rack of Tim Biakabutuka Carolina Panthers jerseys is meticulously selected. Shelves of banks shaped like giant Tootsie Rolls but full of fun size Snickers are subjected to rigorous inspection and re-inspection. Don't like the irregularly sized dress shirts at one location? Try another, for each one is as different and precious as a snowflake.
- Many travelers will pass by a roadside carpet-seller. The smart ones will stop. Handmade quality like this simply can't be duplicated and, yes, that white tiger area rug WILL make a wonderful wedding present.
- Do you like batting cages? How about warm gin in an Aquafina bottle?
- Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino: Treat yourself to a few rounds of Video Poker while you gaze at an ACTUAL CAPO used by Eagle Eye Cherry. Now located over two miles away from the county jail!
- Rooms To Go: I've never stayed there myself, but that open floor plan looks like it's a great way to make new friends.
- Four Points By Sheraton Abandoned Gas Station: Bring your own towels!