As the Tampa Bay area continues to grow and change, the Life & Culture reporters at the Tampa Bay Times always have their eyes trained on the next big thing. Here, we bring you the biggest topics on their beats in the new year.
Arts and theater
Local museum exhibitions: A few museums opened exhibitions in the fall that continue into 2023. At The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, “Gods and Lovers: Paintings and Sculptures From India” is on view through May 28 and “June Clark: Harlem Quilt” through March 26. At St. Petersburg’s The Dalí, “The Shape of Dreams” runs through April 30. “Time for Change: Art and Social Unrest in the Jorge M. Pérez Collection” is at the Tampa Museum of Art through March 12.
Broadway season continues at performing arts centers: Standouts at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall are the Aretha Franklin musical “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” (March 30) and “Cats” (April 23). While it’s not Broadway, fans of theater and comedy will certainly enjoy Steve Martin and Martin Short (April 28). rutheckerdhall.com. After the run of “Hamilton” at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa through Jan. 22, audiences can see more powerhouse shows including “Chicago” (Feb. 21-26), “Wicked” (March 8-26) and “To Kill a Mockingbird” starring Richard Thomas (John Boy of “The Waltons”) (April 11-16). strazcenter.org.
Local theater: Look for exciting original productions like Jobsite Theater’s “Alice.” Adapted by the ensemble, the show is a “cabaret spectacle celebrating the work of Lewis Carroll” (May 12-June 4, jobsitetheater.org). Freefall Theatre has a new original musical, “Oz,” that “explores the genius of L. Frank Baum and his complicated relationship with his most famous creation, the Land of Oz” (June 2-July 9, freefalltheatre.com). And while it’s not a local original, the musical “Ragtime” is on the roster for American Stage in the Park (April 12-May 14, americanstage.org).
— Maggie Duffy, arts and music reporter
Tampa Bay star power: “Spider & Jessie,” filmed primarily in Plant City for 22 days spanning August and September, might have the most star-studded cast and be the most prestigious movie made in the area since “Cocoon” was produced in St. Petersburg in 1984. The cast includes Mckenna Grace of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” Dacre Montgomery of “Stranger Things,” Jesse Williams of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Jojo Regina of “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Forrest Goodluck of “The Revenant.” And the movie has Oscars buzz. Will it bring home one of the coveted awards this year? The release date hasn’t been announced yet.
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— Paul Guzzo, culture reporter
Jackson House: The downtown property, Tampa’s last segregation-era Black boarding home, is in bad shape. Real bad. One nasty storm could topple the vacant structure. More than $2 million has been secured to restore the building and turn it into a museum, but the project has stalled because the owner of a neighboring parking lot does not want to part with 2,100 square feet of their property that is needed to create a required easement. Will the building be saved or fall over in 2023?
Erased cemeteries: In recent years and in response to Times research, archaeologists have confirmed that six sites throughout the Tampa Bay region are home to erased or forgotten graves tied to pioneering Black communities. Another five sites, including College Hill Cemetery, have been identified as likely locations but have not yet been surveyed by archaeologists. Will those remaining sites get surveyed in 2023?
— Paul Guzzo, culture reporter
Dust off your dancing shoes: Good Night John Boy, a Studio 54-style nightclub, is finally set to open in downtown St. Petersburg in early 2023. The disco’s first location in Cleveland is known for over-the-top retro decor, from a light-up dance floor to couches built to be danced on. The DJs mostly play ‘70s and ‘80s hits, and the owners also love to throw events inspired by the era. (Anyone up for “Gong Show”-style karaoke?) The St. Pete version will open in the former Ringside Cafe space, which has a mezzanine level that will allow folks to watch the boogie dancing below. We’ll be watching @goodnightjb on Instagram eagerly.
Tampa Bay History Center: Take a trip to the Florida Keys without leaving Tampa Bay. From April 15 through Oct. 15, the Tampa Bay History Center will host an exhibit exploring the identity of Florida’s southernmost region. “In more modern times, Key West was at one point the largest city in Florida, home to wreckers, cigar makers, fisherfolk, and other colorful characters,” reads a description on the museum’s website. “Historical and modern maps and charts chronicle that past — see them at the Tampa Bay History Center’s latest exhibit.”
— Gabrielle Calise, culture and nostalgia reporter
A full plate of concerts: Whether at intimate theaters or arenas, 2023 brings a wide variety of shows. No one will ever forget the Ticketmaster debacle for Taylor Swift tickets in November. Hopefully, Swifties were able to score tickets for one of Swift’s three performances at Raymond James Stadium (April 13, 14, 15). More big shows to look forward to at the Tampa venue include Ed Sheeran (May 20) and the Innings Festival with headliners Imagine Dragons and Dave Matthews Band (March 18-19). raymondjamesstadium.com.
The cost of tickets for Bruce Springsteen caused a similar Ticketmaster backlash before Swifties broke the service, but you can bet your bottom (or top) dollar that there will be a good turnout when The Boss plays Amalie Arena (Feb. 1). Country superstar Carrie Underwood (Feb. 4) and the reunification of Blink-182 with founder Tom DeLonge (July 10) are more standout shows at the venue. amaliearena.com.
After The Who’s concert in Tampa in 2022, it seems frontman Roger Daltrey couldn’t stay away. He plays Ruth Eckerd Hall on Feb. 11, followed by a three-day run by small-town guy John Mellencamp (Feb. 13-15) at the Clearwater venue. rutheckerdhall.com.
The Florida Orchestra’s 55th Celebration featuring legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman was rescheduled to March 11 at St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theater, where country group Lady A. plays on June 29. themahaffey.com.
— Maggie Duffy, arts and music reporter
Writers in Paradise: The popular conference at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg returns to an in-person format Jan. 14-21, including free evening readings by conference faculty like Ann Hood, Michael Koryta and Laura Lippman, plus keynote talks by stellar novelists Elizabeth Strout and Luis Alberto Urrea. writersinparadise.com/readings/.
Books by Florida authors: The new year promises a whole shelf’s worth, from Tim Dorsey’s “The Maltese Iguana” and Dave Barry’s “Swamp Story” to Lauren Groff’s “The Vaster Wilds” and Cristina Garcia’s “Vanishing Maps.” And in February, Gov. Ron DeSantis will start running for president, er, publish his autobiography, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.”
Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading: Save the date! The 31st annual festival is set for Nov. 11 at the Palladium in St. Petersburg.
— Colette Bancroft, book editor
Attractions and theme parks
Serengeti Flyer at Busch Gardens: A wild new ride with twin dueling arms that progressively sway back and forth, reaching speeds of 68 miles per hour and a 135-foot height at its peak, is coming to Busch Gardens in early 2023. The “screaming swing” attraction will fling riders high into the air starting in the spring. The Tampa theme park already has 10 thrill rides, the most of any theme park in Florida.
TRON: The long-awaited ride at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is based on the 1982 film that first introduced us to the digital gaming world known as the Grid. There is already a TRON Lightcycle Power Run that has been in Shanghai Disneyland since 2016. The semi-enclosed launched steel motorbike roller coaster was originally announced for Magic Kingdom in 2017. But COVID-19 and park closures pushed back the opening and closed the Walt Disney World Railroad since 2018 to make way for construction. TRON is now set to open in spring 2023, and the railroad is also expected to return next year.
MOSI: Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry hasn’t revealed details yet, but the museum’s CEO, John Graydon Smith, said in an end-of the-year report that while it won’t be bringing back its IMAX theater, it is rejuvenating the large domed theater into a huge planetarium. They will be adding more outdoor experiences to the backwoods trails and Science Park and expanding food service options and daily show programming. He also unveiled plans for a new butterfly garden and “SciLinx,” a nine-hole science-themed mini-golf experience opening in early 2023.
— Sharon Kennedy Wynne, entertainment and events reporter
Fall of 2022 was supposed to be a blockbuster season for restaurant openings, but inflation, supply chain lags and permitting setbacks pushed many of 2022′s most anticipated debuts into the new year. That’s all fine, because 2023 is shaping up to be one of the busiest and buzziest years for the local restaurant scene, with more than 30 hotly awaited eateries already on the books. Here are a few of the spots I’m most excited about:
Ash: The latest from Ferrell Alvarez’s Proper House Group, the Italian-inspired restaurant will open in summer 2023 on the bottom floor of the Ash building at Water Street Tampa.
Boulon Brasserie: Another Water Street addition, the French-leaning bistro from restaurateur Jeff Gigante’s Next Level Brands will open in early 2023 at 534 Channelside Drive, on the ground floor of the Thousand & One building. The opening comes with a big name attached: Longtime Bern’s Steak House executive chef Habteab “Hab” Hamde will be helming the kitchen.
Everything from Cru Hospitality Group: Cru Cellars’ Torrey and Jen Bingham sure have a busy year ahead. Within the next few weeks, their team is launching both Wine on Water, a wine shop and tasting room, and Small Giant, a neighborhood bistro with Ohio-style pizza, both at Water Street Tampa. In the coming months, they’ll also launch Bouzy, a champagne- and sparkling wine-focused bar at Hyde Park Village.
Kosen: The modern, high-end omakase restaurant from the team behind the Bento empire will open in early 2023 in Tampa Heights. The tasting menu restaurant, which will open on the ground floor of the Pearl Apartments building, has acclaimed chef Wei Chen at the helm (formerly of New York City’s Masa) and will offer both an 18-course omakase menu at $250 per person and a 10-course tasting menu for $150.
Torchy’s Tacos: The Austin, Texas-based taco joint with a cult following will open a location at 2314 Tyrone Blvd. in St. Petersburg in early 2023. Though additional restaurants are in the works, the St. Petersburg location will be the first Florida outpost of the popular restaurant chain, beloved for its creative tacos and burritos (including some truly excellent breakfast tacos).
— Helen Freund, food and dining critic