Best Of 2021

Welcome to the Best of The Bay 2021: It's Creative Loafing's 31st annual issue celebrating the best Tampa Bay has to offer.

Welcome to the Best of The Bay 2021

Welcome to Best of the Bay 2021. It’s that time of the year again, and in a lot of ways it feels just like this time of the year last year. What I mean is that if you’re among the luckiest in Tampa Bay, you’re reading this on a screen at work. Other lucky ones are reading from home, with a roof nearby or above them, I’m sure. And if you’re reading this from your home, which is also now where you work, well, I guess things aren’t that bad either (nevermind the pile of laundry and/or screaming offspring waiting to Zoom-bomb your next presentation).

It’s 2021, and COVID-19 is still a familiar bedfellow, but it brought along friends with new names like delta, lambda and mu (I personally like the ligmafuggenass variant). A lot of 2021 feels like 2020, and this Best of the Bay issue is no different—mentions of the pandemic are all up in the 25,000-plus words that follow.

But what’s also in here—in larger quantities than they were in 2020—are hope and affirmation that we are starting to venture out and do the thing our Q-obsessed cousins have been telling us to do since the onset of the pandemic: live. Vaccines played a big role in that new development, and so many more of us need to get one (or two, or three), but the energy in this set of reader and critic picks feels like we’re getting out of the hive and re-discovering the communities we’ve been hunkered down in for the last 17 months. 

I hope you’ve been able to do that, but if not, I hope that the suggestions Creative Loafing Tampa Bay readers and contributors have put forth might spark an interest inside of you. The outside world needs more thoughtful, careful and caring people to walk around it. The community needs more kindness and less cynics on its streets (sorry, not sorry about some of the negative People, Places & Politics blurbs). I’m willing to bet that you, the human holding this issue in your hand, is that gentle and compassionate being the world is waiting for right now. And I admire you for being that person in the face of *gestures outside* all this.

So softly bump my elbow when I see you, and tell me to my face that you can’t wait to see it again. Because I think I can speak for this staff and dedicated crew of contributors when I say that we all sorely missed bumping into all of you over the last year-and-a-half. I personally promise to never, ever take all of you and this community for granted again.—Ray Roa

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