It's easy to both start and end a night at Blue Martini. During the early hours of the evening, guests can catch the last rays of sun on the patio as they dine on light fare such as fruit-and-cheese plates and flatbread pizzas. This lightness is necessary, because once the sun goes down, guests have to be light on their feet as the lounge turns into a full-on dance party. From then until closing time, guests can keep their energy up with glasses of wine or one of the house's 42 signature cocktails. The bartenders shake, stir, and blend together ingredients to make these drinks, which range from skinny-raspberry mojitos that contain less than 250 calories to the lightly flavored key-lime-pie martini or cucumber lemonade.
Having seen an upswing in interest in one of the world’s oldest dance styles, Johanna and Karen started a belly-dancing collective in 2004 as a way to create a community for both professionals and students and an audience for monthly showcases. They gave these enthusiasts a brick-and-mortar hangout in 2008 when they opened their first center for classes and events, which has since blossomed and moved into a new space nearly four times the size of the old studio.
Today, Hip Expressions offers drop-in and ongoing classes led by seasoned instructors. Classes focus on introducing newcomers to the art form’s fundamental isolation techniques that keep hips and waists from arguing over the remote. In addition to belly dancing, classes include a variety of other dances and fitness crazes such as Zumba, yoga for dancers, or active isolated stretching.
Crum's Bar and Grill regales visitors with hearty feasts of inventive pub cuisine paired with plenty of craft beer and live entertainment. Guests belly up to the bar to sample 52 lagers, ciders, stouts, and IPAs on draft, or commune with the spirits of our sandwich-hunting ancestors while watching juicy burgers cook over an open fire. Regularly scheduled entertainment—from Thursday karaoke operas to live bands on weekends—adds a musical touch to meals, and dart boards and Xboxes release reserves of competitive energy.
A cultural fixture in the islands of the South Pacific, kava is derived from the roots of the Piper methysticum, and is typically consumed at a nakamal, or central village meeting area. Bula Kafe transports these traditions to the shores of the Florida Gulf, filling coconut shells with the cool beverage and serving them at its outdoor commons. Known for its medicinal properties, the kava root is first ground into powder and then steeped in water, resulting in an elixir that helps calm the body and relieve anxiety brought on by a phobia of dry powder. Along with traditional kava beverages, the bamboo-framed hut purveys such hot and cold delights as spiced chai, fruit smoothies, and frozen horchata.
Set amid an all-outdoor bar, Bula Kafe turns up the fans during hot months and warms its barstools with space heaters and tiki torches during the winter. Throughout the entire year, guests enjoy bouts of table tennis and darts, or compete in high-stakes sessions of board games such as Apples to Apples and Battleship as others strum on acoustic guitars, sip silently as they read a book, or surf the internet on free WiFi. Though the listed closing times are midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, the staff is known for accommodating late revelers with advance notice.
Before Bogdan and Gosia Wienc founded Magic Dance Club, they had already cast spells across Europe with their elegant footwork. Having conquered the floors of their native Poland as finalists in the Polish National Championships, the couple perfected their craft in England under the tutelage of some of Europe's most esteemed ballroom dance coaches. By the time they made it to Florida, the dancing duo was unstoppable. They were named one of the twelve best couples at the U.S. National Championships in the standard ballroom division and earned membership in the National Dance Council of America.
Now, they're "in the business of making people happy" at their own studio, Magic Dance Club, where students master an array of joyous dances, including the tango, foxtrot, mambo, swing, and the cha cha. All lessons take a three part approach, as students start in private sessions, graduate to group lessons, and then field test their skills during dance parties.
It might seem that the owner of Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill, Mark Ferguson, has it made in the shade—the shade of Tropicana Field, that is. The home of the Tampa Bay Rays towers across the street, forever funneling swarms of fans through the bar’s doors and hiding it from hungry giants. But his winding up in a sports bar’s ideal location was no accident, and it certainly didn't come easy. Lane DeGregory chronicled the bar's history in a 2008 feature in the Tampa Bay Times, noting that it took the former middle-school gym coach "17 years, countless kegs, three pro sports teams and a decade of sorry baseball to build his empire." While the stadium sat empty, Ferguson sponsored local softball, flag-football, and basketball leagues in the rundown downtown area once known as the “Gas Plant District." Luckily for Ferguson, it wasn't long until Tropicana Field filled with cheers for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Storm, and, eventually, Rays.
What started in 1992 as a concrete-block space with 75 seats has since grown into a two-story establishment whose sprawling indoor and outdoor seating areas encompass almost two city blocks. Like the growth of the business, the bar and grill's building materials reflect input from the surrounding community: the wood flooring was compiled from area gymnasiums, and the walls are paneled with hardwood from the old All Children's Hospital.
Ferguson continues to fuel his success with more than 70 TVs, classic bar eats, and a calendar filled with live-music and trivia nights. In addition to fans, the restaurant has been known to serve renowned politicians and—according to the Tampa Bay Times—Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Perhaps the duo chose the eatery for its paparazzi-curbing underground tunnel, which leads beneath 1st Avenue South to the stadium.