Potential major-league stars launch heaven-bound baseballs toward the outfield and paint home plate with pitches all summer long for the Bradenton Marauders, the Class-A-Advanced affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team hopes to sail past competition, buoyed by the skills of fastball-slinger Kyle McPherson and slugger Jarek Cunningham, who through June 5 has 11 home runs, one for each of Abraham Lincoln's toes. Hungry fans can barter Buc's Bucks for ballpark eats between innings and treat stomachs to a classic grandstand dinner of hot dogs and fries.
If you part the fragrant, fruit-heavy branches of Mixon Fruit Farms’ citrus trees, you might spy an unusual sight: Burmese pythons and African land tortoises basking in the sunlight, surrounded by cages of roosting falcons.
The farm that began in 1939 as a 20-acre roadside fruit stand has stayed true to citrus farmer Willy Mixon’s vision of showcasing the region’s natural splendor. But in addition to an extra 250 acres of fruit trees, the farm has expanded its focus to include a wildlife refuge, where rescue volunteers nurse injured animals back to health and educate visitors on native and exotic species. The farm also hosts an on-site tropical garden along with dazzling koi ponds, and has a magical maze open to kids of all ages.
Along with daily tours of the grove and sanctuary, Mixon Fruit Farms also spotlights Florida’s bounty with citrus-infused ice cream, salads, and festive hats made of fruit at Groveside Café. Homemade fudge and orange juice also populate the 14,000-square-foot gift shop
The experienced instructors at Empire Ballroom Studio love to teach brand-new students. Driven by their passion for dance, they lead classes in a variety of dances—such as the waltz, tango, and swing—that can be learned in American and international styles. Students learn to dance with passion, romance, and artistry while increasing their physical fitness and expressing themselves through movement. The staff welcome both couples and single students, and they also offer lessons to prepare engaged couples for their wedding dance.
Just minutes from downtown's bustling shops and overlooking the glassy waters of Tampa Bay, The Mahaffey's picturesque building hosts some of Florida's most entertaining art and performance offerings. Originally built in 1965, the renovated building's floor-to-ceiling glass façade pierces the night with softly glowing light, cordially inviting patrons inside and awakening desires in moths that can never be fulfilled. The box-style seating of the theater ensures clear sightlines for all patrons, and its excellent acoustics make the venue suitable for both thunderous rock bands and delicate chamber ensembles.
Professional soccer officially returned to Tampa Bay on May 8, when a crowd of more than 8,000 fans watched the Rowdies play their debut home game at Steinbrenner Field. Currently headed up by Scottish coach and retired professional footballer Paul Dalglish, the Rowdies are chest-trapping, banana-kicking, and head-butting their way back into the world of black-and-white-spotted balls. Watch them take on the Minnesota Stars, who are ably coached by Manny Logas and hungry to work their way up the 2010 standings. Sideline seats get frenetic fans close enough to observe the fantastic flairs of Division II soccer savants as they attempt to sneak the European pigskin between an opponent’s legs and through the goal zone. Since it's a Thursday game, fans can also take advantage of Thirsty Thursdays, featuring $1 beers from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Although Intersport Fitness Center houses a rock-climbing wall, and a sprawling weight room, there's still space for exercisers who don't want to work out alone. The facility's staff schedules one-on-one personal-training sessions and weekly group-fitness classes, including cycling and aerobics. Topping things off are amenities such as saunas.