Brandon, located just east of Tampa, is a bustling city in its own right. Offering a variety of entertainment, dining, and business options, residents have been flocking to this area for years. A great place to live for singles and families alike, there are always fun new places to check out. As a mom, I’m more inclined to keep my nose to the ground in search of family-friendly spots. Here are some of my top choices for moms, dads, and the kids to enjoy together.
Westfield Brandon, 459 Brandon Town Center, is the preferred mall of many Bay area residents. With its recent expansion and continued growth, the eclectic store lineup combines the usual suspects (JCPenney, Sears) with a more upscale shopping experience (Coach, Marc Ecko Cut & Sew). More than your run-of-the-mill food court, Westfield Brandon also sports a beautiful courtyard with restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, and GrillSmith. As an added bonus for families (particularly breastfeeding moms), it also has a large Family Lounge complete with walls of changing stations, curtained feeding rooms, and a kids play area with television and toys. There’s also a PlaySpace and, near the food court, you’ll find an indoor carousel – but you’d better hop on before lunch unless you want to spray onlookers with that churro. Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Learn more by calling (813) 661-6255 or visiting their website at www.westfield.com/brandon.
AMC The Regency 20, 2496 W. Brandon Blvd., is the premiere movie theater for residents in and around Brandon. With its IMAX option and newly renovated theaters, The Regency 20 is doing more than just keepin’ up with the Joneses. While this busy mom hasn’t checked out the new specs yet (maybe next date night?), enough complimentary accounts from friends have piqued my interest. AMC is also hosting Summer Nights – $3 movies back on the big screen select dates at 10 p.m. Enjoy these great flicks while saving money and benefiting Autism Society, Autism Speaks, and Will Rogers Institute. 7/22 – 7/24 Olympus Has Fallen; 7/29 – 7/31 Oz the Great and Powerful; 8/5 – 8/7 G.I. Joe: Retaliation; and 8/12 – 8/14 Oblivion. Check showtimes and tickets at www.amctheatres.com.
BOING! Jump Center, 622-624 Ware Blvd., is a great place to take the kids when: a) they deserve some fun; b) you want them to burn off some energy in a healthy way; or c) you want an excuse to have some fun yourself! Whether your goal is exercise or play, both will be accomplished while releasing tons of endorphins at this trampoline arena. With designated areas for free jump and dodgeball, your gravity-defying skills will be put to the test. Afraid your tot isn’t tall enough for this ride? They also have bittyBOING!, a designated area for jumpers under 4. BOING! also has a new state-of-the-art arcade and plenty of specials on pricing. Bounce by for an outing with the family or host your next party there. Specials: Monday – Thursday Madness from 5 p.m. – close, pay for 1 hour and jump for 2; Tuesday College Night, jump from 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. for $10 with a college ID; and the Sweet $16 Special includes 90 minutes of jump time with your choice of a slice of pizza or a fountain soda (offered everyday). Summer hours: Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Learn more by calling (813) 341-4897 or visiting their website at www.tampa.boingjumpcenter.com.
Grab Some Grub:
O’Toole’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, 1215 W. Brandon Blvd., is an entertainment triple-threat combining restaurant, bar, and social oasis in one charming atmosphere. In true Irish fashion, this pub serves as a meeting place for the community to come together for more than just a pint (although partaking of the perfect pint of Guinness is worth a trip in itself). During the day, it’s a family-friendly restaurant offering delicious dishes from the old country (Traditional Irish Breakfast, Bangers and Mash, Corned Beef N Cabbage) while making their mark with pub favorites like the Black and Tan Burger, Dublin Duo, and Granny O’Toole’s Hot Apple Crumble. The Wee One’s menu also has several options including the aptly named Big Bird Fingers. An evening spent at O’Toole’s can best be enjoyed as a date night, especially when the live Irish music (Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) can be heard without interrupting cow jokes. Bonus: O’Toole’s is one of the few spots in the Bay area where draft hard cider is served (trust me, there’s a difference). In addition to the great food and spirits, O’Toole’s is deeply rooted in community and frequently hosts pub events and fundraisers for local charities. Next event: 8/24 from 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. is a 5 course Beer Dinner featuring new Belgian beers (space is limited so RSVP now). Hours: Monday – Friday, 2:30 p.m. – 3 a.m.; and Saturday – Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – 3 a.m. Learn more by calling (813) 684-2600 or visiting their website at www.otoolesirishbar.com.
Revolution Ice Cream, 220 W. Brandon Blvd., is nothing short of its name: a revolution for the ice cream industry. Tired of finding the same old chocolate and vanilla at every ice cream shop across the nation? Stop by for deliciously different flavors like Porky’s Delight (vanilla ice cream with bacon brittle), Drunken Brownies (Chardonnay caramel ice cream with brownie bits), Chocolate Habanero (chocolate with, you guessed it, habanero peppers) and Curried Sky (curried toasted coconut in vanilla bean ice cream). This one-of-a-kind dessert shop dishes out more than just frozen goodies. It also serves as a gallery for local artists and tops it all off with a play space for the little ones. Not sure if you’re daring enough for the Chicken and Waffles? Ask for a sample! Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 p.m. – 9 p.m. Learn more by calling (813) 857-3250 or visiting their website at www.revicecream.com.
Square 1 Burgers & Bar, 2042 Badlands Dr., is always at the top of my list for dinner out. Both a family-friendly restaurant and a grown-up eatery, you won’t be disappointed no matter which way you dine. With gourmet burger options you won’t find elsewhere like the award-winning Toga Party (Angus beef with feta cheese, grilled tomato, sun-dried tomato mayo, and basil leaves on a whole wheat bun), your hardest decision will be choosing between one of their delicious concoctions or creating your own. If you’re not feeling brave enough to try the Buffalo, Kobe is always a crowd-pleaser. Don’t let the name fool you, though; Square 1 offers more than just burgers. Try a sandwich with chicken, turkey, duck or lamb or nix the meat altogether and opt for the X-Rated Grilled Cheese (gruyere and sharp cheddar cheeses, dill pickle slices, beefsteak tomato and mayo on sourdough). Vegetarian choices, soups, and salads (plus a kids menu) offers a little something for everyone. Sad because you’re not a Brandon resident? They also have locations in Tampa and St. Pete. Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; and Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 12 a.m. Learn more by calling (813) 689-1611 or visiting their website at www.square1burgers.com.
Mellow Mushroom, 10959 Causeway Blvd., is the ultimate family-friendly/date night/hangout/casual bar/game-watching pizza spot. With specialty pies like Magical Mystery Tour, Kosmic Karma, and Gourmet White, this isn’t your old-fashioned cheese or pepperoni joint (although you can get those, too). Not in the mood for an oh-so tasty pizza? Hoagies, salads, calzones, and more also wander the menu pages. Trying to decide which craft brew will best complement your meal? Why settle for just one? The beer panel offers your choice of 4 on a nifty wooden paddle. Seating is available in the dining room, at the bar, or outside. Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Learn more by calling (813) 685-1122 or visiting their website at www.mellowmushroom.com.
Buy Buy Baby, 11345 Causeway Blvd., is your one-stop shop for all things baby. Clothes, furniture, strollers, toys, food, diapers – if your tot needs it, it’s probably here. Aside from the wonderfully knowledgeable staff (which was invaluable to this once hopelessly clueless pregnant woman), the items are affordable and they price match. In addition to their own great coupons, as part of the same umbrella company, they also accept coupons from Bed, Bath & Beyond. With an adorable changing/feeding room adorned with their own comfy furniture, you can duck in for a feeding while grabbing some supplies. This store was a Godsend during my early breastfeeding days when I had a baby demanding to nurse every two hours. It was a great way to get out of the house and grab a few things without having to worry about nursing in the car. Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Learn more by calling (813) 661-7169 or visiting their website at www.buybuybaby.com.
Family Christian Store, 2454 W. Brandon Blvd,, is a wonderful little gem nestled near Marshall’s in the Regency Square shops. From books, music, and home decor to several aisles of Bibles (including an assortment of devotionals), this store has everything you could want for your faith life. They also have an impressive children’s section including all things VeggieTales, beginners’ Bibles, and more. The toy table and TV set also provide an interactive spot for kids to relax and play while mom and dad do some shopping. A variety of Duck Dynasty merchandise lets you drink your morning joe while feeling “Happy, happy, happy.” In addition to great items at already reasonable prices, mailing list subscribers receive tons of coupons regularly. As if that weren’t enough, Family Christian Stores recently switched from a for-profit retailer to a non-profit ministry. That means it now donates 100% of its profits to Christian charities, so you can feel good about expanding your faith while giving to worthy causes. The staff is also friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to assist in any way they can. Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; and Sunday, noon – 5 p.m. Learn more by calling (813) 651-5700 or visiting their website at www.familychristian.com.
Meet the Baby Ultrasound, 1602 Oakfield Dr., Suite 203, is a great way for expecting parents to celebrate their thumb-sucker in utero. From gender determination and 3D/4D ultrasounds to photography, the friendly and competent staff work with you to capture your incredible journey through pregnancy. While some doctors wait until 20 weeks to tell you the gender, Meet the Baby Ultrasound will give you a pink or blue determination at just 16 weeks (and if little miss or mister doesn’t want to cooperate, they’ll either ask you to take a walk and come back or reschedule for another day at no charge). Hours: Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (with evening and weekend appointments available by request). Learn more by calling (813) 249-BABY (2229) or visiting their website at www.meetthebabyultrasound.com.
Do you know where in Brandon this picture was taken? Let us know in the comments! Did I miss some of your favorite spots? I’d love to hear your favorite places!