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In Tempo In Tampa

Buff Strickland The bunker-lined par-four fifth on the Pine Barrens course at World Woods.

Photo: Buff Strickland

RENAISSANCE VINOY RESORT & GOLF CLUB
501 Fifth Avenue NE, St. Petersburg; 727-894-1000, vinoyrenaissanceresort.com. Rooms: $219–$269. Suites: $369–$1,500.

Located near downtown St. Petersburg and offering great views of the bay, this restored 1920s Mediterranean Revival landmark has 360 rooms, including fourteen grand suites, as well as a spa and other first-class amenities.

THE RITZ-CARLTON, SARASOTA
1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota; 800-241-3333, ritzcarlton.com. Rooms: $269–$459. Suites: $329–$519. A typically opulent Ritz-Carlton, this recently opened hotel has 266 rooms and suites, including Club Level accommodations, all with private balconies that offer bay, marina or skyline views.

THE WESTIN INNISBROOK GOLF RESORT
36750 U.S. Highway 19 North, Palm Harbor; 877-752-1480, westin-innisbrook.com. Rooms: $149–$195. Suites: $179–$425.

Arguably the best-known Tampa golf resort, this 900-acre property has a bit of everything, including what it calls the "Loch Ness Monster Pool." A continuously running shuttle system moves guests around to the resort's various attractions.

WHERE TO EAT

BEACH BISTRO
(Gulf Coast/Mediterranean) 6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island; 941-778-6444. $$$$

You can live with entrée names like Food Heaven—Iowa lamb crowned with Maine lobster and Hudson Valley foie gras on brioche bread pudding—when the cuisine is this good.

BERN'S STEAK HOUSE
(Steak) 1208 South Howard Avenue, Tampa; 813-251-2421. $$$$A Tampa landmark, this Westshore restaurant is larger than life: two dozen caviars, private dessert rooms and a prodigious wine collection. Even with 350 seats, there is often a waiting list.

COLUMBIA RESTAURANT
(Spanish) 2117 East Seventh Avenue, Tampa; 813-248-4961. $$$This is Florida's oldest restaurant, an Ybor City institution celebrating its centennial in 2005. The place is quite a scene, seating 1,700 people in fifteen rooms, with flamenco and classical dance performances six days a week.

CRAB & FIN
(Raw Bar/Seafood) 420 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota; 941-388-3964. $$$There are a dozen restaurants, many of them with outdoor seating, and numerous retail outlets surrounding the round park that is St. Armands Circle.

Crab & Fin is notable for its extensive wine list, including pairings for its numerous raw-bar selections. marchand's bar and grill (Continental) 501 Fifth Avenue NE, St. Petersburg; 727-894-1000. $$$$The flagship restaurant of the Renaissance Vinoy, this high-ceilinged, sconce-lit room has the feel of a grand ballroom. The steak and fish selections, including a vanilla-dusted Chilean sea bass, are superb.

PELAGIA TRATTORIA
(Mediterranean) 4200 Jim Walter Boulevard, Tampa; 813-313-3235. $$$ At the Renaissance Tampa Hotel, near the trendy, pedestrian-only Bay Street at International Plaza, this is "a place to see and be seen," as the menu, which includes pizza and lighter fare, points out.

THIRSTY MARLIN
(Seafood) 1023 Florida Avenue, Palm Harbor; 727-784-3469. $$

Restaurants on the Gulf Coast, particularly north of Tampa Bay, generally have a more casual atmosphere than those downtown. This one is among the best. Try the blackened grouper or mahi mahi.

VERNONA
(Contemporary American) 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota; 941-309-2000. $$$$

As the premier restaurant of the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Vernona not only offers fine dining, it elevates the state of the art, in this case through the use of local produce and organic ingredients.

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