Fort de Soto Park
At the south end of Pinellas Bayway
St. Petersburg 727-826-2484
Oh, man, it's gotten crowded the last few years, hasn't it? Well, short of increasing admission, it'll be hard to refer the hordes packing the sand at Fort de Soto back to Clearwater and Treasure Island. Particularly so in the winter, the shoulder is jammed with Winnebagos and SUVs with bikes affixed, and on any given Sunday the boat ramp parking lot looks like a boat trailer show. Fort de Soto has all the beach trappings — babes, beachcombing, muscle goons, dunes, 12-inch seacoast rifled mortars — right down to its fine, white sand. That's why it consistently lands in Conde Nast's list of Top 10 U.S. beaches year after year. Hell it's even got a historic fort for the little kids and old farts.
BEST EROTIC WEBSITE
Opening Nerve is not like opening a porn site; there's no blond succubus in candy-colored panties straddling an age-verification disclaimer. Neither is the site a prudish gathering of sentimental stories comparing genitalia to flowers. Nerve opens with a lush layout of forthright, topical content — photography, essays, personals, chat, fiction and poetry — that explores sex beyond the gymnastics and delivers intelligent smut via pixels and prose. Among the site's most charming features: the Photo of the Day, high-resolution images of above-average-looking models artistically enjoying themselves, so to speak; the Position of the Day, outlines of couples engaged in unique coital contortions; and the Personal of the Day, captioned photos introducing choice candidates for friendship, dating, serious relationships or perhaps just the nummy-nummy bedroom stuff. Nerve also puts out a namesake magazine, a print version of the site that can be found on most newsstands, and there are several Nerve books, including Full Frontal Fiction and Aqua Erotica, the latter a waterproof bathtub companion full of water-theme sex stories. "Think about sex," reads one of the site's banners. Do indeed.
BEST FIRST DATE
Dinner and a Movie at Channelside
Pop City and Regal Cinemas
615 Channelside Drive
Regal Cinemas 813-221-0700
Pop City 813-229-2489
There's no sense in opposing the convention of the traditional first date: dinner and a movie. The only question is where to eat and what to see. The particulars of your meal and movie selection we leave to you, but in determining the location (location, location) of your date, there is a right way and a wrong way to go. Tampa's Channel District alongside Port of Tampa has blossomed of late into a veritable hub of entertainment spots (Ice Palace, Florida Aquarium), of which Pop City and Channelside Cinemas & IMAX are the most first-date friendly. The bonus with Channelside is the availability of valet and garage parking. Pop City is set up much like GameWorks in Ybor City — but if you're unfamiliar with either, Pop City and GameWorks provide one-stop night spots for playing games, having dinner and drinks and enjoying popular music. Pop City just takes it a step further in every category, offering three entertainment-specific venues: High Jinx, G. Elliott's and Elements. High Jinx offers insane games that are great for couples to play, such as hooping it up on their 2-on-2 basketball court, shooting pool on one of eight Brunswick billiards tables, playing air hockey, video games like Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man or taking on their rock-climbing wall. (Really there's no better way to analyze your date than to see what they look like in a rock-climbing harness.) G. Elliott's is an upscale restaurant with a casual atmosphere, a waterfront view, a great raw bar and excellent live bands after sunset. Lastly, Elements is a high-energy dance club, featuring state-of-the-art lighting and sound and a 1,200-square-foot dance floor. So as you can see, there's plenty to do with your date besides sit and talk about the weather. And once you're through with your dinner (and what have you) it's time to stroll over to Channelside Cinemas and catch your requisite movie. Channelside Cinemas shows the best in first-run indie films, and the 3-D IMAX theater shows awesome nature documentaries as well as Hollywood fare on its giant flat screen.
BEST LAST DATE
A Bottle of Champagne and a Hotel Room
Once you've broken up and returned each other's personal items, presuming the relationship lasted long enough to exchange or misplace such effects, it's appropriate to meet on neutral ground to say whatever last thing there is to be said and share whatever last desires there are to be shared. The hotel room is for neutrality, so no bad memories are revisited, due to familiar surroundings, so neither of you must clean up afterwards and so you may leave the room a mess, much like the affair. The bottle of champagne is to loosen you up and put you both in a celebratory mood, to celebrate the end of something, and so that you aren't too down about the relationship ending. Be sure to use protection so that there is no urgent need to ever see this person again. Ideal hotels are innocuous, anonymous and inexpensive but not cheap, of which there are many near the Tampa and St. Petersburg airports. There really is no better way to say goodbye to a relationship than to part with a hug and a kiss and disappear into the night in opposite directions of the interstate with planes passing overhead and infinite romantic possibilities awaiting.