The calendar says June 21 is the first day of summer, but let's face it — it's already here.
Spider-Man and Godzilla already have swung and stomped to the top of the box office, Bruce Springsteen and the Big Guava Festival have kicked off the area's music season, and it's Memorial Day weekend — a time of remembrance, boating and barbecues and pulling our white shoes out from the back of the closet.
And though we're not so thrilled with rising temperatures, there are a few things happening this summer — from food, theme parks and music tours — that make the season very cool:
PLAY BALL AND ROCK OUT
The popular Rays Summer Concert Series kicks off June 7 with the L.A. rock band Weezer (“Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain't So”). Channel the '80s when Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (“I Love Rock 'N' Roll”) take the field on July 12. Kids can boogie with Disney Junior's Imagination Movers on July 27. All concerts are free with a purchase of a game ticket. You won't want to miss the fun — and funky — promotional items either. Among our favorites: Don Zimmer Snowglobe (June 25); Joe Maddon Wine Glasses (Aug. 1); Joe Maddon Mr. Potato Head (Aug. 2). Check out the Rays website for a full schedule.
NEW FOOD AND BREWS
After more than two years of planning and construction, owners of the Columbia Restaurant will open their Ulele restaurant in mid-summer at the former Tampa Water Works plant in Tampa Heights. The renovated historic landmark will feature a two-level dining room, bar and patio, as well as an oyster grill, in-house microbrewery, beer garden and a spring-fed pond adjacent to the Hillsborough River. The menu will feature “native-inspired food” using ingredients indigenous to Tampa Bay and Florida.
Also expected to open are Roux, (June) the Cajun-themed restaurant on South MacDill Avenue by the owners of Datz and Dough, and Ava, (August) the Joe Maddon-backed Italian restaurant being built by restaurateur Michael Stewart across from his 717 South on South Howard Avenue in Tampa.
Beer lovers can look forward to the opening of Coppertail Brewing in Ybor City and Angry Chair Brewing in late summer/early fall in Seminole Heights. Cigar City Cider and Mead, the latest venture by Cigar City Brewing, plans to start serving June 23 in the former Ybor City home of Roosevelt 2.0.
DANCE, DANCE, RAYJAY
Electronic dance music, or EDM, which had a moment during the '90s rave culture before going out of style and then exploding again in recent years, has cracked the mainstream, infusing itself into pretty much every other genre of popular music. More than 40 DJs — really more like producer/composers — will draw a massive crowd of revelers in costumes and neon looking to get weird and dance for hours as day turns to night outside Raymond James Stadium during the Sunset Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday. Last year's festival drew more than 20,000 people. This year they've added an extra day and a bigger lineup that includes Zedd, Hardwell, Benny Benassi and Krewella.
PARK AND RIDE
Take advantage of living where we do and visit one of the new theme park openings or events.
♦ Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom: The long-awaited family friendly coaster Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens in the new Fantasyland on Wednesday.
♦ Busch Gardens: We're hoping to see Falcon's Fury drop sometime this summer. The previous May 1 opening was canceled because of “ongoing construction requirements.”
♦ Adventure Island: Cool off in the evenings from 5 to 9 p.m. at Tampa's water park during “Island Nights” on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from June 12 to Aug. 9. The event includes food trucks, sand sculptures and a kids zone.
♦ Universal's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Keep your wands at the ready. Speculation is the new Diagon Alley opens June 20 because of a scheduled media preview that week. The addition features a 3-D ride through Gringotts, the goblin-run bank, and a replica of the shops for wizards and witches down the cobbled street of Diagon Alley.
This year's summer movies run the gamut of sci-fi blockbusters, love stories and grand adventures. “Godzilla” set the bar pretty high last week with a more than $90 million opening, but “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” opening this week, should make a run at the beast. Three other movies we're looking forward to seeing:
♦ “A Million Ways To Die In The West” (May 30): Seth MacFarlane is writer, director and star of this movie appears to be “Blazing Saddles” with a little “Three Amigos” on the side.
♦ “The Fault In Our Stars” (June 6): Young love + tragedy = teenage girls buying a lot of popcorn and Red Vines. Based on a popular book, Shailene Woodley stars as a young woman who falls for a boy in her cancer support group.
♦ “Guardians of the Galaxy” (Aug. 1): We're hooked on the trailer of this space adventure about a pilot and a motley crew that includes a raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper.
MARVEL AT THE SPECTACLE
Does watching superhero blockbusters on a giant movie screen with 3-D glasses leave you yearning for something even more intense and realistic? You'll probably want to check out “Marvel Universe Live,”starring Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine and dozens of other characters from the Marvel universe in an ambitious, new arena show featuring aerial stunts, pyrotechnics, movie-style special effects and a massive, multi-level set that will cover the entire floor of the Forum from July 10 to 13. Marvel chief Joe Quesada announced the tour at last year's New York Comic Con, saying it would, “blow people's minds.”
SPEAKING OF COMIC CONS
Get out the spandex and dust off the utility belt as the wildly popular Tampa Bay Comic Con returns Aug. 1 to 3 to the Tampa Convention Center. This year's lineup of celebrity guests includes Evan Peters (“American Horror Story,” “Kick-Ass”), Caity Lotz (“Arrow,” “Mad Men”) and Brighton Sharbino (“The Walking Dead”), with more guests to be announced, organizers said. That's in addition to dozens of artists, costume contests, speed dating, panels and hundreds of vendors offering thousands of comic books, toys, games, clothes, artwork and all sorts of other geeky ephemera.
READY, SET, RUN
Yes, the oppressive humidity makes it a chore to run, but we're not accepting that as an excuse. Most 5K races start in the morning before the heat is unbearable. Some options: The 35th annual Beach to Bayou 5K Run/Walk at the historic sponge docks in Tarpon Springs (June 7); 5 Mile and 5K Double Sweat Challenge Rap River Run in downtown New Port Richey (June 14); and the aptly named Run thru Hell 5K at Al Lopez Park in Tampa (July 6).
You can beat the summer heat by staying in and watching everything but reruns on TV. “Orange is the New Black” will stream 13 new episodes on Netflix on June 6; HBO will air the final season of vamping in “True Blood” (June 22); Disney's “Girl Meets World,” a sequel to the 1993-2000 ABC's “Boy Meets World,” starring Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel, will focus on their daughter (June 27); 12 seemingly gullible single women will compete for a man they think is a royal on Fox's “I Wanna Marry 'Harry' ” (May 27) and on July 30 a freak weather system will unleash sharks on New York City when “Sharnado 2: The Second One” airs on SyFy.
GETAWAY TO THESE HOTELS
Boutique hotels also will be springing to life this summer. Le Meridien Tampa in the heart of downtown plans to be open June 19 in the former federal courthouse building. The riverfront Aloft hotel is scheduled to open in early July at Kennedy Boulevard in the former Mercantile Building. In Pinellas County, the Spanish-themed Hotel Zamora is expected to open in mid-summer on Gulf Boulevard in St. Pete Beach just north of the Loews Don CeSar Resort. Each hotel is planning to offer high-end dining and bars.
Clarisa Gerlach, Jeff Houck, Christopher Spata and Kim MacCormack contributed to this report.