Illustrations: Steve Brodner
The RNC starts with a party at the elephant-gray Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. At center field, reach into a 10,000-gallon tank to pet a live ray.
Politically Correct Meal
Boca Kitchen, Bar & Market caters to locavores by sending runners to nearby farms for pork, duck eggs, and veggies so fresh you can still smell the soil. Best news of all for fiscal conservatives? No estate tax on the heirloom tomatoes.
Cultural Braggin' Rights
At the new (Salvador) Dalí Museum, if you look at The Hallucinogenic Toreador just right, you may see a bull...or a new face, like in the Oval Office.
Iconic Winged Sculpture
Officially untitled, locals call George Sugarman's metal sculpture the Exploding Chicken. It was put into storage in 2010, and the city plans to relocate the 19-ton icon near the Tampa Bay Times Forum—but not before feathers fly at the RNC.
Primary Color Party Spot
The family-owned Columbia Restaurant, founded in 1905, blends Spanish and Cuban fare. Of its 15 dining rooms, opt for the Red Room and later watch cigars being rolled in the gift shop.
Florida's first LEED-certified resort, the Sandpearl Resort covers 700 feet of coastline. At check-in, spy the bottom right corner of Return to Picnic Island for the local muralist's tiny nod to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. (Talk about small government!)