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.
The guides at Black Water, Blue Water Tours tailor their kayaking trips to the crew accompanying them. Wildlife tours, sunset tours, island-picnic tours, or even journeys under the full moon introduce kayakers to South Florida's Myakka River, mangrove tunnels, and canals laden with wildlife such as manatees. If visitors have specific sightseeing locales in mind, the guides can create an entirely new tour to fit their parameters.
Mark Toomey once helmed his own recruitment firm in Nottingham, England, on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest, but a disdain for damp winters led him to the sun-drenched beaches of Siesta Key. Since opening Robin Hood Rentals in 2009, Mark has persevered through what he calls "Florida's harshest winter in 30 years," during which temperatures teetered near the freezing mark. He equips visitors with rental land-based and aquatic craft that let them explore the area without having to saddle a horse or propose to a dolphin.
From its perch near the Jim Neville Marine Preserve, the company fits cyclists with a range of beach, mountain, and tandem bicycles; matches riders to a fleet of two-seat 49cc automatic scooters; and trains visitors to venture off on newer-model i2 LeanSteer Segways. They also let kayakers explore the local waterways from sunrise into the nighttime.
Wine shop and wine bar WineStyles stocks more than 225 wines, most of which are from small- and mid-size producers from around the globe. It takes the guesswork out of pairings, labeling all the bottles with their unique flavor profile—or Wine Style—so customers know which wine goes with which food dish. For those who want expert help, the knowledgeable staff works one on one with each customer to find a wine to suit their tastes. Customers can also sample a selection of 20 wines at the tasting bar, purchase wine by the glass, or purchase more than 20 specialty and craft beers from around the world.
Vino aficionados who love to regularly try new wines can take advantage of WineStyles’s two wine clubs: the Taste Club and the Learn Club. The Taste Club offers customers two wines per month selected by the chief taster. The Learn Club offers them three per month. Club members pick up their bottles each month at the shop, where they can relax in wine clubs’ club house.
Siesta Key Watersports specializes in a variety of aquatic pastimes, each of which utilizes a Coast Guard–certified captain. The two-hour parasailing expedition allows flight enthusiasts and H2O lovers alike a chance to take in sweeping views of Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota Beach, Lido Key, and Longboat Key from a sky perch. The airborne adventure begins after being gently lifted upward in a high-quality parachute from the back deck of the boat until reaching heights of up to 1,200 feet above the sea level. Up to three people (depending on weight; each Groupon covers one person) can parasail at once, giving friends some airtime to gossip about the very noticeable bald spot on every dolphin's head before descending gently back to solid boatland.