Tampa Bay Political Getaway: Visit the Republican National Convention

Looking for a vacation with some meaning? Well, the Republican National Committee just announced that it’s selected Tampa Bay for its 2012 presidential convention. So, don an elephant hat and start pushing for access now! More than 40,000 visitors are expected to hit the city the week of the convention (August 27, 2012), more than 15,000 of which will be members of the media.

According to Paul Catoe, president and CEO of Tampa Bay & Company, “This will be the largest non-sporting event that Tampa Bay has ever hosted and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome the 2012 RNC to our vibrant destination.” He also noted, “Tampa Bay is a dynamic destination that offers warm weather and even warmer hospitality, and I know we will produce the most memorable convention ever.”

If the 2008 convention in Minneapolis can be used to gauge the impact, some big cash should flow through Tampa Bay, especially for the hospitality industry. At the last Republican National Convention, 2,800 new jobs were created, bringing with them $100 million in wages.

Catoe observed, “The 2012 convention will be held during a time period that historically one of our lowest periods of the year for hotel occupancy.” He continued, “Having an additional 40,000 visitors in our community will provide an economic boost for businesses both in the hospitality industry, as well as those indirectly involved.”

Florida in the sumer may be tough, but at least you’ll sweat to be a part of history.

[Via Cigar Reader]

Three Things the Press Coverage of RNC Didn’t Show You about the Twin Cities

I’ll admit, I was a bit excited that the Republican National Convention was held in Saint Paul. Not for any political reasons, but because the Twin Cities (where I’ve lived on and off throughout my life) might get a bit of positive press while in the national spotlight.

But it was not to be. Downtown Saint Paul became a “Green Zone” with most residents and visitors forced to remain outside. Things were noticeably tense elsewhere around town as well. The news coverage of events outside the Excel Energy Center was focused on the widespread protests and the heavy handed response of the police. That’s not good press for the cities’ tourism industry.

Trust me, most autumn days in the Twin Cities are quite pleasant. There are no men in helmets spraying mace and tear gas indiscriminately. Usually, Saint Paul’s finest are busy enjoying the stereotypical pastry, accompanied by the appropriate hot beverage. As it should be. Here is what the coverage of the RNC didn’t show you about St. Paul and Minneapolis.

1. They didn’t show you a theater scene that goes well beyond Garrison Keillor’s snooze-inducing A Prairie Home Companion. In fact, Minneapolis has more theaters per capita than any other place in the US, except New York. On a given weekend, there is everything from a big budget Broadway-style show to several experimental works to performances of classic American plays.
2. Prince isn’t the only musician in town. The Purple One just started getting AARP Magazine, but the next generation of talent will continue to heat things up. Underground hip-hoppers Atmosphere have started a scene that has turned into something heavy on music and lyrics and light on thuggery (call it rap for people who don’t like rap).
3. Sure, there is the Mall of America. It’s what Minnesota is most famous for, besides the accents in the movie Fargo. But it’s the coffee shops, neighborhood restaurants and lakes of South Minneapolis that really feel like an urban vacation spot.

So there. The Twin Cities are a nice place to visit. Just give them a miss next time a political convention comes to town.

St. Paul to Party All Night for RNC

If you are looking for an all night party, head for the Twin Cities next weekend.

Seriously. It’s the RNC, but even if you are affiliated with another political party, be it of the mainstream or fringe variety, it might be worth the trip.

In a bid to bring more convention dollars into the area, St. Paul’s city council decided to allow bars to stay open until 4 a.m. That’s two hours past the usual last call. The catch: the bars would have to pay a hefty fee to the city.

But, because there haven’t been many owners willing to pay, Saint Paul is consider lowering or even waving the fee.

Yes, you’re right. That means there will be plenty of places where you can play drinking games with Wolf Blitzer and hit on Mrs. McCain until 4 in the morning.

But the scene in MSP isn’t really about politics. It’s about more important things like patios, nice weather and beer.

The Twin Cities are full of beer lovers and therefore, a good brew is never far away. Sure, the hard bitten political journalists might stay with the usual low-ball of scotch, but there are plenty of spots with local microbrews and Belgian beers with easily mispronounced names on tap.

And, because it’s early fall, the weather is neither hot and mosquito-infested nor freezing. Drinking on the patio is a favored local pastime at places like The Happy Gnome (pictured). Hopefully, convention-goers won’t be taking over places like this. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll simply be joining in the fun.

Twin Cities Prepare for RNC

The roads have been repaved, the bars stocked and the popcorn swept out of the Excel Energy Center’s aisles. It’s only a few days until the Republicans storm the beachhead and impose their flag waving and slogan chanting on the good people of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

It might seem odd that a state that usually votes Democrat when it comes to president is playing host to John McCain. Sure, Minnesota has a Republican governor, but he’s more of a centrist than McCain, and his opponent in the last election had so much baggage that he laid down and gave up halfway through the race.

No, the RNC is not really about politics for the Twin Cities. It’s about a couple of underrated, mid-sized cities trying to get some respect. It’s about showing off the nightlife and restaurants (hey Andrew Zimmern chose St. Paul over New York, so there must be something good about the eating scene). It’s about showing the nation that Chicago isn’t the only game in the Midwest.

To be clear, the convention will be in Saint Paul, but, Minneapolis (pictured above) is a mere 10 minute drive down Highway 94. Logistically, at least, they can be considered different parts of one big city. I’ll be in the Twin Cities next week, letting you in on some of the cities’ highlights and, perhaps, bringing you a report on the crazy nightlife habits of young Republicans. Stay tuned.