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Canoe in Upper Tampa Bay
Posted January 6, 2017 | 10:44 AM

Football Fans: Scout Out Hillsborough County Attractions

There's plenty to savor before and after kickoff

Looking for a taste of Hillsborough County while you're in town for the College Football Playoff National Championship game? Strawberries will sweeten your stay. Plant City, in eastern Hillsborough County, is the self-proclaimed Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. The bountiful fruit, now in season, is available at farm stands and in grocery stores.

Strawberries are among many things that make Hillsborough County special. Here are some others:

  • Manatees, which frequent Florida waters, are prevalent this time of the year at the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. The gentle animals, sometimes called sea cows, forage on aquatic plants and grow to an average length of 10 feet and weight of 800 to 1,200 pounds. They and other marine life gather in winter months in the warm waters of a TECO power station discharge canal, which abuts the Center.
  • Hillsborough County's 10 regional parks supplement neighborhood parks and recreation centers, and offer opportunities to relax, exercise, and observe nature. The regional parks include:
  • Why go by land when you can travel by sea? A new ferry service crosses Tampa Bay, connecting the downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg. The Cross Bay Ferry, partly funded by Hillsborough County, can carry up to 149 passengers and crosses the bay in about 50 minutes. One-way tickets are $10 for adults; $8 for children. Note: the ferry will not operate on Saturday, Jan. 7 due to limited dock space.
  • The Hillsborough County Veterans Memorial Park and Museum honors U.S. military Veterans of all eras. The Park and Museum features six memorials - more are planned - and is a good place for reflection, reading, picnicking, and walking or jogging.
  • Flatwoods Wilderness Park, east of New Tampa off Morris Bridge Road, has a paved, seven-mile loop road that's ideal for many activities. Bicyclist Amanda Coker recently set the women's annual mileage record pedaling on the road. Visit the Flatwoods page for more information about the park.
  • Avoid the crowds and spread your blanket on the sands of one of the area's best-kept waterfront secrets, the beach at Apollo Beach. Hillsborough County recently placed 11,000 cubic yards of sand, installed breakwaters, and sculpted dunes on two acres at the north end of Surfside Boulevard. The beach is on the eastern coast of Tampa Bay, beside a nature preserve and boat channel.

Going to the football festivities? Get information on parking, public transportation and traffic tips.

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Photo Information: Canoeing in Upper Tampa Bay.