BEST PLACE TO BUY A BELLY RING
There is nothing more aggravating than finding the cutest piece of body jewelry only to have a stone fall out a week after you buy it. OK, there are probably plenty of things more annoying, but a broken belly ring is definitely near the top of the list, ahead of a bad pedicure and behind someone wearing the same skirt as you at the club. I´ve been in the Tampa Bay area for only a couple years, and it took a while to find a good belly ring joint, but I think I´ve done it. Cool Image has the widest variety of belly rings around, from crosses to pot leaves, ranging from $7.99 to $25.99. A couple pieces of advice from the staff: Don´t drop the acrylic ones; they break, and stay away from the rings with skinny, fragile chains that dangle; they break when you bend over. If a jewel falls out, no worries, the people at Cool Image will exchange the damaged belly ring for a new one. It´s always nice to know that when you´re in a fashion jam, someone´s got your back.
Cool Image, Westshore Mall kiosk, 5263 Harborside Drive, Suite 22, Tampa, 813-287-2264.
BEST NEW GROCERY STORE
Publix on Third Street
Starving after leaving those late classes, dazed college students can be found in grocery stores around 9 p.m. in search of Ramen noodles and Tyson chicken. Students and faculty at USF-St. Petersburg, and the entire surrounding area, could not have asked for a better location for a grocery store than the new Publix two blocks north of campus. The parking lot is well lit, which makes for safer shopping. Once inside, you can wander down the isles that are designed two-deep, cutting down on the time it takes to get from one side of the store to the other and letting you get out of there in plenty of time before it closes at 10. Plus, it´s the only grocery store I´ve found that always has fresh-cut broccoli, sushi and cheap beer. It´s kind of like when the soap-in-the-handle dishwashers came out; the new Publix puts a spin on an otherwise tedious chore.
Publix Supermarket, 250 Third St. S., St. Petersburg, 727-822-1125, www.publix.com.
BEST SINKING LANDMARK
The Pier in St. Petersburg
The millions of dollars poured into making The Pier a tourist haven are slowly sinking into the Bay along with The Pier itself at a rate of about one half inch per year. A landmark in downtown St. Petersburg since 1899, The Pier was torn down in 1973 and replaced with today´s inverted pyramid. Unfortunately, saltwater has slowly been eating away at the underwater pillars ever since. In five years it will be torn down, and plans are to build it closer to land. It will be a sad day when fireworks will no longer be seen from a quarter-mile out into the Bay, and old men with open guitar cases singing ¨This Little Light of Mine¨ are gone from the approach.
The Pier, 800 Second Ave. N.E., St. Petersburg, 727-821-6443, www.stpete-pier.com.
BEST AFTERNOON EXCURSION
Lowry Park Zoo
You might wonder why someone would invest so much money in a place like Lowry Park Zoo with a place like Busch Gardens so close, but once you´re there, you´ll understand. It´s a cool don´t-have-the-money-to-spend-at-the-mall-but-don´t-feel-like-going-to-the-same-boring-park place to go on a Friday afternoon. Plus, if you don´t feel up to the physically excruciating demands of Busch Gardens, Lowry Park Zoo has plenty of shady walkways and is not nearly as colossal. Exhibits include chilling with the Florida Flamingoes, goofing off with the orangutans, touching stingrays and taking an African Safari ride on a camel. Admission is only $10.50 for seniors (50 and up), $11.50 for adults, $7.95 for children 3-11, and free for children under 2. Annual passes are available.
Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa, 813-935-8552, www.lowryparkzoo.com.
BEST ECLECTIC NIGHT SPOT
Lots of drinkers look for a bar they can call home, and The Garden in downtown St. Petersburg is where many locals hang their hat. The Garden has three rooms, each with a unique theme to accommodate different pleasures. The Lounge, set a few steps above the bar and outdoor courtyard, plays a mix of house, trance, break, jungle and techno music, and has a stylish vibe. Real music appreciators gather around Buster Cooper, a jazz quartet that performs every Friday and Saturday night in the courtyard. And the indoor bar is artistically inviting and gives a hint of its longevity; The Garden is the oldest restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg. It´s open daily for lunch and dinner and offers a Moroccan menu filled with seafood and pasta dishes. Close down a traditional favorite with the locals to get a taste of the real downtown St. Petersburg.
The Garden Bistro, 217 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-896-3800.
BEST THING TO DO ON NOV. 2
If you don´t vote, don´t complain.
To register, contact Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections at 727-464-3551 or go to www.votepinellas.com; Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, 813-272-5850 or www.votehillsborough.org. Also register to vote at any public library or department of motor vehicle location.