Tampa resident and history lover Lonnie Herman’s longtime fascination with the haunted has evolved into a broad expertise about the area's vibrant streets where newspapers are printed in three languages. The personable former executive also has the gift of being an evocative storyteller. This convergence of interest and talents resulted in Lonnie's company, Ybor City Historic Walking Tours. Lonnie's upbeat narration carries small groups down vibrant 7th Avenue with detailed anecdotes that reveal the complex past behind Ybor City's cigar factories, Columbia Restaurant, and the story of the eponymous Vicente Martinez-Ybor, who founded the city as a place to store his statues of himself.
Ybor City was founded in 1886, when cigar manufacturer Vicente Martínez Ybor moved his factory from Key West to the area currently known as Tampa’s Latin Quarter. Martínez Ybor's legacy lives on today in the fragrant smoke that unfurls from the area’s cigar shops and George Burns impersonators. Meanwhile, a mix of Cuban, Spanish, and Italian clubs add a lively beat to the city’s cultural landscape.
Fueled by the desire to open others up to the sights, sounds, and history of this rich city, Electric Glide Tours stocked up on a fleet i2 Segway models, leading one- and two-hour urban jaunts filled with historical factoids and eye-grabbing scenery. Tourists can even make pit stops at the birthplace of the pressed Cuban sandwich on Electric Guide Tours’ guided tours of the city. While the company specializes in Ybor City adventures, their guides can also craft custom tours—dubbed “Red Carpet Tours”—of locations such as South Tampa and Old Hyde Park.
Segway Inc.'s tour guides lead guests past the clear-flowing streams, cedar trees, and rolling hills of the world’s largest JW Marriott resort on self-balancing personal transporters. Departing three times daily, the gliding tours of Hill Country’s heart begin as each rider is introduced to his robotic steed, learning how to navigate the machine and gaining its trust by feeding it computer chips. Meticulously manicured greens and shimmering blue pools frame the tour’s trail, with the meandering circuit weaving its way past two golf courses, a serene garden, and Lantana Spa.
Aboard the triple-decker, 150-passenger StarShip II, a seasonal menu of gourmet dishes fuels passengers through an intimate evening of dancing, DJ tunes, and breathtaking Tampa Bay views. The clacking shutter of a photographer's camera welcomes guests up the ramp, with the shots developed in an onboard darkroom and available for purchase or improvisational collage work during the evening. The captain and crew extend official salutations before the dining-room manager escorts each group to its private table for a starter, such as a traditional caesar salad or the soup du jour. Tines sink into the char-grilled prime pork chop adobo or the goat-cheese-filled caprino pasta purses, ideal for carrying lasagna-noodle wallets. The fresh catch of the day serves up the finest flavors of the sea before a daily selection of desserts clears palates with a wave of sweetness.
The state of Florida was once entirely underwater—and Florida Eco-Adventures’ tours explore the parts that still are. Founders Mac and Suzanne McCormick lead adventurers through waters such as Kings Bay that, thanks to its 72-degree waters, is a wintertime refuge for West Indian Manatees. The Silver River, meanwhile, hosts a more eclectic array of wildlife, ranging from gators—although they’re too shy and skittish for regular sightings—to sunfish and rhesus monkeys.
Renters must be at least 21 years old, and a credit card and ID are required as a deposit during rental periods. You must be 23 or older to operate the jet ski alone, and people ages 18–21 can ride alone with a boater-safety card. Previous boating experience is required to drive the pontoon, and guides are available to drive-inexperienced boaters.