I have a feeling we’re gonna see the Tampa Bay Lightning again in the post-season. Just call it a hunch. I probably have ESPN or something.
So, with that in mind, it’s time to start thinking about a visit to sunny Florida to support our favorite weirdos. Last year they tried to ban opposing teams’ jerseys in the stands (which I CLEARLY refused to adhere to), and they even limited the ticket sales to Florida residents. I’m just gonna put this out there: I live in this ass-backwards state, and I’m willing to be your Capitals Playoff Ticket Mule.
The one upside is that Amelie Arena is one of the coolest places to watch hockey. (Sorry Capital One Arena; Chinatown is nice, but it can also be pretty sketchball. Sure, there’s great restaurants and bars conveniently located right there, but there’s also homeless people sleeping in doorways and for some reason I almost always manage to narrowly dodge stepping in dog poo. Get your sh*t together, residents of F street.)
ANYWAY. Moving on. Amalie Arena, located right off the water in downtown Tampa, is surrounded by an area known as Sparkman’s Wharf: a brand-new outdoor venue that’s amazing. It’s clean. It’s super family-friendly. We brought all three of our boys there and not only did we avoid the inevitable “you brought your kids to an outdoor drinking venue?” glares, but the multiple people walking around to keep the place clean all stopped to admire and entertain them for cuteness’s sake. It features unique foodtruck-esque mini-restaurants that are varied and wonderful. I had rum drinks from a mixology place that were so good I told my husband not to let me have thirds or he’d have to put me in the baby’s stroller to get me home. I had a French-Vietnamese fusion curry chicken salad that I’ve been trying to replicate –to no avail– ever since. My infamously picky kids ate what we dubbed “Inside-Out Pizza” (why would you put the sauce on top of the cheese, you Millenial weirdos?) and the husband had a bacon grilled cheese that was mind-blowing. Sure, it’s pricey, but it’s also awesome. There’s even live music performed on an open-air stage in front of an astroturf park area where kids can run around and be their crazy inhibition-less selves while their parents sit and sip on inhibition-removing rum drinks. Fun is had by all, and that’s just Sparkman’s Wharf.
Right outside the arena is a huge cobblestoned courtyard with a giant flat screen that airs the game real-time, and Budweiser stands assist fans with all their tailgating needs. Sure, you’re surrounded by people in blue, but unlike some venues (cough cough PPG Arena) the people are super friendly.
And if you actually bother to go inside the stadium, its really nice. It’s clean, bright, well-organized, and the signs make it easily navigable. When the Bolts score they even make zaps of lightning from Tesla Coils suspended from the ceilings.
But, I know that’s not why you’ve read this far down the page. You’re here for the scoop. My patented “This bathroom won’t have lines” kind of insider knowledge. (Please see https://friendsincoldplaces.com/2017/12/06/unlocking-the-secrets-of-capital-one-arena-part-i/) So here’s the secret. Get real close, cuz I’m gonna whisper:
There is a bar just outside Section 324 THAT NEVER HAS A LINE. All over the arena will be beer stands and snack joints with lines out the wazoo that rival the women’s bathroom queues (sadly, no tips for that problem yet) but not this one. When I discovered this handy little secret, I quickly wrote a note in my phone. However, I’m not sure if it’s actually called Colors Light bar, or maybe it autocorrected from Coors Light. I may have purchased a few drinks while there, and I can’t entirely remember.
Don’t judge me. Just hit me up if you’re ever in Tampa for a game.