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All business: The posh boardroom at The Westin Tampa Harbour Island.

By Susan Johnston

As much as we could all use a break from buzzing Blackberries and cranky clients, sometimes we have to mix a little business with pleasure. Fortunately, these Tampa hotels give visitors the best of both worlds: ample meeting and event space with easy access to the best of Tampa’s nightlife so you can kick back after a long day.

The Westin Tampa Harbour Island: With a full-service business center and a fun, resort-like atmosphere, the Westin is perfect for both business travelers and sightseers. It’s adjacent to the Tampa Convention Center and offers drink mixing lessons, cooking demonstrations, and card games on weekdays. After closing a deal or exploring the city, retire to the plush serenity of a Westin Heavenly Bed. Continue reading

Tagged: Florida, Hotels

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Credit: amanderson2.

Prepare to be showered by beads at the Gasparilla Pirate Parade.

By Valerie Moloney

As a metro transplant, I’m always a little amused when people learn I was once a Floridian. While well-meaning friends tend to box their Sunshine State perceptions into three categories — beach vacations, Disney and strip malls — I have to laugh a little. Limiting a Florida vacation to such obvious experiences is like going to Chicago and only eating deep-dish pizza. There’s so much more to digest. You just have to ask the locals.

During this time of year, which might be the toughest to endure because it d r a g s on so long, I actually miss my old haunts in Tampa. While the rest of the country is fighting the winter blues, Tampanians actually have something to look forward to: the annual Gasparilla Pirate Parade.

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Tagged: Florida