Mary Selby Botanical Gardens

What to Expect on a Visit

Opened in 1978, the historic home and garden were left to the people of Sarasota by Marie Selby in 1970. Your visit should begin in the Cooley Theater where a 4-minute film gives the background history to this lovely Florida home. Marie Selby and her oil-tycoon husband, William, bought the land in the early 1920s. Although wealthy, they preferred a simple lifestyle which is reflected in the Spanish style home they built and the informal gardens they created.

This was intended as a winter home and a base for hunting and fishing. After the death of Marie Selby, the property has since been developed into a world-famous tropical oasis with an unrivalled collection of air plants called “epiphytes”. It has the largest scientific collection of orchids and bromeliads in the USA.

Your self-guided exploration of Selby Gardens begins in the steamy Tropical House where posts and frames support pots and rocks covered in ferns, orchids and bromeliads in a very natural setting. Waterfalls drip down mossy rocks and exotic orchids bloom at every turn, along with amaryllis, anthurium and a collection of gesneriads. Many of the specimen plants are labeled for easy identification.

Beyond this huge conservatory is the Bonsai collection followed by a shady display of airplants. They are attached to wicker circles creating tiered wind chimes which hang from the low branches of a huge native oak tree. The gentle chimes and oriental script make this a peaceful and harmonious place to take stock of these gardens for the first time.

After the tranquil Koi Pond which has two waterfalls, there are several bamboo stands and ferns including some sizeable tree ferns in the borders. A footpath leads off to the Children’s Rainforest Garden, a family-friendly area of recreated tropical rainforest with a 12-foot waterfall and an amazing banyan tree for scrambling over its roots. It’s a place for children to explore and play with three different huts housing various rainforest-related exhibits.

The huge fig trees planted by the Selbys 80 years ago have grown to create an impressive Banyan Canopy which is an impressive feature of the garden. The showy hibiscus flowers thrive in the Sarasota climate along with an area of succulents. In spring, the huge pink flower tassels of the Pseudobombax Ellipticum or Shaving Brush Tree lie scattered on the lawn and are an extraordinary sight.

The Gazebo on the edge of the lawn makes a stunning focal point to this part of the garden, surrounded by bright annuals in a palm-shaded setting. As you stand admiring the subtropical plantings, heavenly scents waft across from unidentified sources. Geckos and anoles rustle in the fallen leaves and birds enjoy the shelter of the Gumbo Limbo trees. See desert rose plants, exotic strelitzia (bird of paradise), flowering shrubs and giant staghorn and elkhorn ferns suspending high in the air on sturdy chains.

At the extreme south end of the garden is a paved area with seats for enjoying the stunning views of sailboats and pleasure craft moored in the bay beneath the John Ringling Causeway bridge. A scenic pavilion is used as a wedding venue and has beautiful stained glass panels of wildlife high in the roofline.

Close to the boat dock and landing stage is a boardwalk through the protected mangroves leading to a white sandy beach littered with driftwood and seashells. A gentle breeze from the water keeps the air fresh and breezy and the restful lapping of the waves adds to the peace of this pretty garden.

Heading back along the path to the original home, look out for the multicolored trunk of the well-named Rainbow Gum Tree, a type of eucalyptus.

When the house was built, it was coated in expensive cochina shell on the exterior, which was a new and expensive process in the 1920s. The building is now used to provide a Kids Discovery Corner, reading room and a café with indoor and outdoor seating. A small reflecting pool captures part of this lovely structure in its mirror-like surface.

At the rear of the house is the Christy Payne Mansion which houses the Museum of Botany and the Arts and has ever-changing exhibits on a floral or botanical theme. There is a planted butterfly garden in front of the house. The Old Carriage House nearby offers daily tea tastings and is a great place to relax with a well-deserved cuppa!

If you enjoyed reading about this fun experience near Clearwater, you will love the newly updated book/ebook Days Out Around Clearwater and St Pete Beach available on Amazon from just $4.99. Happy trails!

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5 Ways That Crafting Promotes Health and Wellbeing

5 Ways That Crafting Promotes Health and Wellbeing

Not only can crafting help lower your stress and get your mind off things, but there are also other health benefits attributed to crafting.

1) Improve your Mood

Whether you are by yourself, crafting with your significant other, or having a craft party, activating those creative juices can be a great mood enhancer. When you craft with other people, it can turn into a genuinely fun social affair. Even after you finish, the sense of pride you’ll have when people ask you about your piece can turn a frown upside-down.

2) Boost your Brainpower

The focus required while crafting is an effective way to exercise the brain for people of all ages. There have been many studies done that connect the reduced chances of mental deterioration over time with crafting. Also, crafting activates areas of the brain that are not as active during the routine work you may be used to.

3) Increase Social Activity & Communal Support

Crafting provides a unique social atmosphere where not only are you focusing on your craft, but you are connecting with the people you are crafting with. Crafting promotes natural conversation through the pieces you are creating and the questions and answers that come along with it. It is a unique date idea as well as a great activity to plan a party around.

4) Helps with Hand-Eye Coordination

Whether you are doing a large woodworking project or doing a delicate dream catcher, careful hand-eye coordination is required. For many of us who have office jobs, we don’t get to use out hands and make something as often as we would like, crafting gives us a way to use those hands for something else besides typing. We learn our hand-eye coordination early in life with crafting in kindergarten, now we can maintain our skills and dexterity throughout our lives with crafting.

5) Can Help Fight Aging

Whether it be mentally through the focus and brainpower that crafting requires or physically by the improvement in visual-spatial coordination crafting helps with, crafting can help turn back the clock. Also, the social element when crafting with other people can aid keeping your conversation and social skills at their highest levels.

All-in-all, crafting can help our moods, hand-eye coordination, social skills, and even brainpower.

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Ybor City

What to Expect on an Ybor City Historic Walking Tour

On arrival in Ybor City, you may be surprised at how quiet this area actually is, particularly outside the winter season which runs from December to April. However, the area is at its liveliest at night, hence so many nightclubs along the street. By day there is the excellent Visitor Center along with cigar shops, tavernas, cafés and restaurants where you can enjoy coffee or lunch. The area certainly has a lot of character with the original cobbled streets, decorative New Orleans-style architecture, fountains, and a beautiful arched entrance to Centro Ybor.

Meet up at the entrance to Centro Ybor with your Cuban-hatted guide, Lonnie, who has been a local resident for over 30 years. He is a friendly walking encyclopedia of local history and experiences!

Lonnie begins to tell the story of Ybor City circa 1885, with the colorful background to Vincente Martinez-Ybor’s life. Born in Spain, he was sent to Cuba where he learned the cigar business before escaping to Key West where he built his cigar-making empire. Better transport connections, financial incentives, his good friend Gavino Gutierrez, and the chance to build his very own city eventually lured him to Tampa where he established “Mr. Ybor City.” Martinez-Ybor’s attempts to secure a reliable workforce led him to build workers’ homes and offer ownership on very favorable terms, especially as he was already in his late 60s!

As your guide recounts the story of cigar-making and the building of Ybor City, the walking tour meanders along the cobbled streets at an easy pace, stopping to view some of the earliest wooden homes, called “casitas”. They are now part of the National Historic Landmark District which covers 10 square blocks. On the wall of each house is the nail on which the delivery boy would push the daily delivery of crusty Cuban bread!

By 1927, the cigar-making business in Ybor City was at its peak, with 230 cigar factories, and 12,000 workers producing 6 million cigars per year. However, by 1929 the Great Depression took hold; fewer cigars were sold and cigarettes became the “new” cigar. An ugly rumor (totally untrue) that cigars were hand rolled and sealed with saliva, fueled by a fear of tuberculosis, added to the marked decline in the cigar business. Finally, automation arrived and Ybor City was doomed. As factories stood empty, many of the buildings were bulldozed and the area gained a reputation as being dangerous and undesirable.

The walking tour highlights some of the key buildings still remaining on 9th Avenue, such as the mock castle exterior of the former Spanish Men’s Fellowship Hall. Built in 1905, it now serves a new purpose as a nightclub.

Martinez-Ybor’s first factory, a huge redbrick building, is now the headquarters of the Scientology Church, occupying the block on the Avenue Republica de Cuba between 8th and 9th Avenue. Look out for the rooftop cupola, once used to look out for the ships arriving with tobacco leaves from Cuba. Once spotted, a horse and cart was dispatched post-haste to collect the tobacco from the nearby docks before it could be sold to their competitors.

The tour visits the old courtyard where wives would bring a blanket and lunch for their menfolk, who would dash down the steps, eat a hasty meal and then return to their shift, for they were paid by the piece. You’ll learn about the fascinating job of the lectors, who were paid by the cigar workers to read to them as they did their boring task, rolling cigars day after day.

The colonnaded building opposite the factory, built in fine Italian Renaissance style, was the Cherokee Club, the Factory Owners’ Club. This became the city’s first hotel, El Paso, which accommodated Presidents, State Governors and even Winston Churchill in the 1940s. Another historic balconied building featured on the tour is the elegant Don Vincente de Ybor Historic Inn, formerly a doctor’s clinic and maternity home, now said to be haunted. If this tale makes you curious to know more, you may be interested in the two-hour Ybor City Ghost Tour which runs after dark, tracking the spine-chilling tales of past residents.

The historic tour of Ybor city visits the metal steps where Don Vincente de Ybor Historic Inn made the speech which signaled the start of the revolution against the Spanish in Cuba. It also includes the pretty Parque Amigos de Jose Marti, where the Pedrosa House stood and where Marti frequently stayed under the family’s protection. The park is normally kept locked, but the tour guide has a key, giving access to the only patch of Cuban-owned soil in the USA!

The tour concludes in the Visitor Information Center in the former building of the Spanish Social Club. On the old stage, a short movie tells a quick history of Ybor City – but nothing that you won’t have already heard and seen in detail from this excellent walking tour!

Additional Info

As well as the informative Historic Ybor City Walking Tour, the Ghost Tour of Ybor City may interest visitors. It takes place after dark and the local guide leads the way to the Orpheum Theater where illicit lovers are said to haunt the basement; to the King Corona premises, still the “home” of the long-deceased shopkeeper; and to the Cuban Club where the ghost of a boy drowned in the swimming pool still restlessly haunts the premises.

If you enjoyed reading about this fun experience near Clearwater, you will love the newly updated book/ebook Days Out Around Clearwater and St Pete Beach available on Amazon from just $4.99. Happy trails!
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Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

What to Expect at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

I would recommend parking at the main entrance on US 19 as the boat trip is so much fun as you are transported along the river to the main attractions. This entrance is also the place you will find complimentary kennels as dogs are not allowed into the state park.

After parking and purchasing your admission tickets, hop aboard the next tram or take the complimentary boat trip. The tram runs along the ¾ mile Pepper Creek Trail through some of Florida’s most unspoiled natural habitat. It makes a very pleasant 15 minute walk for those who prefer to go at their own pace, and it is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. However, the boat trip is a real treat. The pontoon boats sail gently along Pepper Creek taking about 20 minutes with an interesting commentary on the way out, and a quicker trip with no commentary on the return voyage.

Once in the wildlife park, plan your visit so you can participate in the three educational programs on offer which include a Manatee Program, Wildlife Encounters in the open-air auditorium and the Alligator and Hippopotamus Program. They are very interesting and well worth making a point of joining in – you are sure to learn something new from the expert Wildlife Care Volunteer Wardens and Park Rangers who present the programs and answer all your questions.

There is a 1.1 mile-long boardwalk that runs along both sides of the Homosassa River. It is lined with enclosures of native Florida creatures, many of which have been injured and need a permanent sanctuary home. The exception to the Florida wildlife is the 52-year old Nile Hippo nicknamed Lu, who can be seen basking on his own terrace or swimming in the pool.

Prior to the creation of the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in 1989, the area was a private attraction with various exotic animal exhibits. When it became a state park dedicated to preserving “The Real Florida”, the non-native animals were moved to other permanent homes. This led to an outcry from local residents who had become attached to their very own hippo. This led to Lu the hippo being giving a reprieve and he was made an honorary Florida citizen to avoid deportation!

Before arriving at Homosassa Springs, Lu had been used in the filming of many TV shows and films including the popular “Daktari” series set in Africa. He quickly became a pampered attraction and was fed marshmallows tossed to him by visitors. Unfortunately this led to him having a set of unhealthy yellow teeth which he is keen to show visitors when he opens his mouth wide for healthier treats of melon and bananas.

Weighing around 3,000 pounds or three tons, this giant lumbering creature moves in a seemingly ungainly manner on land but he swim gracefully in his pool with just his boggle eyes remaining above water. According to the very informative and humorous program presented by the volunteer warden, Lu also puts away 15 pounds of hay and grain as well as plenty of fruit chunks every day. One quick word of warning – do not stand behind him as he sprays! You can follow his thoughts on his very own Facebook page, Lu.

Opposite the hippo pool is the alligator lagoon with currently 11 resident alligators. Following the shady boardwalk along the river, the Wildlife Walk is a wonderful way to view many native animals including red wolves which are almost extinct in the wild, owls and birds of prey, a flock of pretty pink flamingoes, nesting pelicans and other birds. Being on the raised boardwalk, visitors are within close proximity of the wildlife, making it ideal for taking some stunning photographs.

The path leads through gates into the walk-in Shore Bird Aviary with a realistic seashore where the white sand is scattered with driftwood and an old boat. Visitors can purchase food to feed the unusual ducks, seabirds and herons in this excellent facility.

Walking further on around the clear spring-fed river, you will see sensitively designed naturalized enclosures with bears, river otters, panthers, bobcats, and a huge turkey displaying his black and white feathers to dramatic effect like a plump and disapproving Victorian lady. Take a short diversion to the Reptile House to see snakes and young alligators.

The Manatee Area is an enclosed section of the river which houses four West Indian manatees who can no longer survive without care. The best place to see these ungainly mammals is from the underwater floating observatory. The wide windows allow visitors to see the manatees floating in the warm spring waters like giant grey barrage balloons with fan-shaped tails. They are fed after the 1.30 p.m. program, so this is an excellent time to head for the “Fish Bowl” to see them feed. The observatory also looks out on huge shoals of fish including snook, sheephead, brim, ladyfish, mullet, and catfish.

The source of the Homosassa River is the bubbling natural spring which delivers 2 million gallons of fresh spring water into the river every hour from a 35-foot deep hole. The crystal clear spring water is 72°F all year round, just what native manatees need to survive in the cold winter months.

Your visit is sure to be enhanced by the presence of 30 employees and rangers in green shirts, and some of the 300 volunteers who can be identified by their grey shirts. The Friends of Homosassa Springs also provide invaluable support to this lovely park which I would urge you to visit. Your first visit will certainly not be your last!

If you enjoyed reading about this fun experience near Clearwater, you will love the newly updated book/ebook Days Out Around Clearwater and St Pete Beach available on Amazon from just $4.99. Happy trails!
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Ringling Museum

What to Expect on a Visit to the Ringling Museum

After parking in the shady car park, head for the main Visitor Center where maps, information, and tickets are available. There is also a tasteful Museum Store and the lovely Treviso Restaurant overlooking the lake and fountains.

Circus Museums

Roll up, roll up for all the fun of the circus! For most visitors, the first stop will be at the Tibbals Learning Center which houses the first part of the Ringling Circus Museum. After stopping to admire the beautiful circus mural and watch the short introductory film, wander around the 3,800 square foot model of a typical travelling circus in the early 20th century. The scale and logistics of having such a show on the road become apparent as you enjoy this beautifully recreated circus “village” of animals, wagons, tents, sideshows, and rail cars that transported 1300 workers and performers, plus 800 animals over 15,000 miles each year!

In the Golden Age of the Tented Circus (1919-1938), circuses such as Barnum and Bailey, Howard Bros, and the Ringling Brothers would cover 150 towns erecting a Big Top to seat 15,000 visitors. The model is beautifully made and can be viewed from all angles to see the crowd, animals, tents, and performances along with railroad carriages and animal cages in the menagerie. The atmosphere is perfectly staged with lively circus music, lion roars, and laughter playing in the background.

Once you can tear yourself away, the second floor has a colorful collection of memorabilia, showcased miniatures, costumes, videos, and exhibits which all build up the picture of the workings of a 1920s circus. See the glorious bandwagon that was pulled through the streets of New York City by 40 black horses ahead of the traditional street parade and enjoy the interactive exhibits which are part of this display.

The neighboring museum is just as amazing with galleries of hand-carved animal wagons and the restored “Wisconsin” Railroad Car used by John and Mable Ringling and their friends. Built in 1905 by Pullman, the private railroad car was 79 feet long, 10 feet wide and 14 feet high and it lacked nothing. Stained glass, decorated domed ceilings, a kitchen, observation lounge, dining room, and staff quarters have all been restored to their former luxurious standard. The three staterooms had upper and lower berths which converted into sofa seating, washstands, toilets, and even a full-size bathtub!

During the winter, the circus originally rested at its winter quarters. From 1928 onwards, Sarasota was the chosen winter destination for the Ringling Circus, known as the Greatest Show on Earth. The mild weather allowed shows to continue throughout the winter for the first time.

Grounds and Gardens

Visitors are sure to enjoy the pleasant gardens of the Ringling Estate which include Mable’s Rose Garden, the Secret Garden where John and Mable are buried, the Dwarf Garden and the Millennium Tree Trail.

The extensive grounds are laid to grass and planted with mature specimen trees including sabal palmettos, Florida’s state tree, and 13 historic banyan trees with their distinctive aerial roots. There is a small lake and the property overlooks the calm Sarasota Bay towards Longboat Key. There is ample seating in wicker-style chairs for visitors to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Ca’ d’Zan Mansion

Built in Venetian Gothic style, the five-story mansion was completed in 1926 and was lavishly furnished for John and Mable Ringling. The name “Ca’ d’Zan” is Venetian and means “The House of John.” The pink sandstone exterior is unusually decorative and very colorful with tiled decoration, an ornate balcony, wrought iron work, and Moorish-style windows. When the mansion was built, money was clearly no object and the huge terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay is of various colorful patterned marbles enclosed by a fabulously ornate balustrade. Take a seat and enjoy the sea breeze, watching the sailing yachts, fishing boats and cruisers on the water, as John and Mable no doubt did long ago.

When you arrive at the entrance to the museum, check the tour times of the house for availability and take a self-guided tour through the lovely first floor of the house. Other optional tours and docent-led tours of the upper house and tower are also available for an additional fee and photography is allowed, without flash.

The ground floor tour begins in the solarium at specific times and then progresses through the gilt carved doors into the ballroom, foyer with its grand piano, furnished central “court” or living room, breakfast room, pantry, and kitchen. There is also a formal dining room and a quaint Tap Room, complete with bar. Many of the formal rooms have beautifully decorative coffered ceilings and there are displays of silverware, dinner services and flatware in the cupboards, just as the family would have left it.

Ringling Museum of Art

Finally, head to the pink colonnaded buildings which were completed in 1929 to house John Ringling’s considerable art collection. The Renaissance-style buildings surround a sunken Italian courtyard garden complete with gushing fountains, water features, potted bougainvillea, and many statues, including a replica of Michelangelo’s David. The original was initially installed at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

Complimentary docent-led tours of the art museum are available at certain times to help you get more from your visit to this impressive legacy of artworks, or you can stroll through the galleries reading the exhibit labels. There is also a 30-minute film of the lives of John and Mable Ringling.

The museum has some circus-themed artworks and sculptures as well as wonderful masterpieces by Rubens, van Dyck, Titian, El Greco, Gainsborough, and Velazquez. Many of these were purchased by Ringling from collections made when grand European country houses closed and sold off their assets, accumulated during the traditional Grand Tours of Europe in the 18th century.

Two of the galleries in the art museum were historic salon interiors bought from the Astor mansion in New York City prior to the demolition of the house in 1926. As you pass from room to room appreciating this remarkable legacy, you are sure to find some favorites in the paintings, silverware, statues, busts, and 20th century photographs which make up this eclectic museum.

Along with the house and gardens, this remarkable art collection was bequeathed to the state of Florida when John Ringling passed away in 1936. It is now the State Art Museum of Florida, a national treasure, giving pleasure to many thousands of visitors each year.

If you enjoyed reading about this fun experience near Clearwater, you will love the newly updated book/ebook Days Out Around Clearwater and St Pete Beach available on Amazon from just $4.99. Happy trails!
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The Florida Aquarium

What to Expect on a Visit to the Florida Aquarium

Your first impression as you walk into the Florida Aquarium is how huge this attraction is as signs and elevators lead off in various directions promising plenty of things to see and do. Pick up a guide of “What’s swimming your way today” so you don’t miss the excellent presentations that take place throughout the day at various aquarium locations.

You may want to linger at the Horseshoe Crab Observation Pool before heading up the elevator to begin your underwater adventure at the Coral Reef exhibit. This includes a huge aquarium with beautiful colored fish and mesmerizing rays that flap gently past or slide up the glass showing their amazing mouth and gills. Shoals of silver fish swim by along with more vibrant colored species such as bright blue tangs, surgeon fish, neon-colored parrot fish, angel fish, hog fish, spotted porcupine fish and the menacing open-mouthed green moray eels, among many others.

This area includes a walk-through tunnel to see the fish, sharks and eels above and beside you. With various viewing windows, it’s a great place for photos. The corals and anemones in the smaller side aquariums are almost as brightly colored and diverse as the fish themselves. You’ll emerge near the floor-to-ceiling panoramic viewing window where you can take a seat for a presentation or just sit and watch children getting up close to sharks, giant barracuda, tarpon, grouper and turtles all so much bigger than they are!

This mega-huge aquarium is large enough to have presentations with scientific dive masters actually inside the tank talking to the audience. The educators identify the various species and share some fun facts and ecological advice with the audience. The displays start with a short film promoting awareness of the fragility of our reefs and the dangers of pollution and waste disposal on the oceans.

Close by are more aquariums with the strange sea horses, pipefish and sea dragons which look like floating seaweed until you take a second look. The Ocean Commotion offers another great viewing widow to see jellyfish, octopus, crabs and countless tiny colored fish swimming in tight choreographed shoals.

The River Tales exhibit offers a change of pace with a stream with wood ducks and ruffleheads bobbing above the fish in a fun display. You’ll see many of the fish that live in Florida rivers such as longnose gar, catfish and bluegill. Further on there’s a huge gator display – the best way to get up-close and see these scaly Florida natives in detail! Diving river otters attract plenty of attention as they flip and dive. Another local feature is the cypress swamp where herons, pink spoonbills, ducks and glossy ibis live on the water. There’s a great viewing platform if you climb the steps to see the birds at eyelevel, perched in the trees.

A detour to the Rivers of Madagascar offers rainbow-colored shoals of Outer Reef Fish on beautiful corals and there’s a display of curious ring-tailed lemurs, also from Madagascar. After taking in the penguins, lobsters and Goliath grouper there’s the opportunity to stroke stingrays in a shallow touch tank.

After a break in the café you can enjoy water in a different way, cooling off with water jets, cannons, fountains and slides around a pirate ship in the 2.2-acre Explore-a-Shore waterpark.


If you enjoyed reading about this fun experience near Clearwater, you will love the newly updated book/ebook Days Out Around Clearwater and St Pete Beach available on Amazon from just $4.99. Happy trails!


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Glazer Children’s Museum

What to Expect on a Visit to the Glazer Children’s Museum

Pick up a map at the Visitor Services as you enter this fabulous world of discovery through play. First stop will probably be the KidsPort where a flowing river invites kids to make dams, make waves and experiment with tug boats, cargo cranes and pulleys. Water play includes turning wheels for water flow, operating paddles, watching boat races and operating an Archimedes Screw to carry water up to feed a waterwheel. If you’re worried about kids getting wet before the day has barely begun, there are cute sets of oilskins for them to wear.

Older children will be fascinated by the Rain or Shine weather creator. Choose three buttons such as rain, wind and thunder and hey-presto – the clouds above generate real wind, fine rain, lightning flashes and noisy thunder to order!

Under 4s will enjoy the Tugboat Tots, complete with ship’s wheel, levers to pull and buttons to press, and there’s a sand corner for barefoot play in the Cruise Ship area.

Suspended above the sand play is the Water’s Journey – a series of raindrop-shaped platforms in scramble nets which older children can scramble up and through in safety to quite a height. Every activity has an educational aspect showing what lives in the wetlands and what an aquifer is. Adults will be as engrossed as the kids they are accompanying!

On the second floor there’s plenty more to keep everyone happily occupied in the Art Smart Lab. Visit the interactive Sports Corner where you can race an animal or be the goalie and see yourself in action on the live screen. Some of the high-tech media activities are sponsored by Bay News 9, Bright House Networks and Telemundo Tampa. One of their amazing exhibits is the chance to do a local weather report “live” on TV reading form a teleprompter. Kids will certainly enjoying seeing themselves on TV!

A series of exhibits offer role play opportunities for children such as piloting a plane complete with uniforms, hats and virtual cockpit screens. Further along the gallery, the Design and Build has everything you need to be a plumber, builder or crane operator. The City of Play Pretend includes a mini-Publix with shelves stocked with groceries and checkout scanners, a veterinary clinic with plenty of cuddly animals to x-ray and treat, a hospital, Central Bank and a Firehouse with pole, fire engine and all the gear.

We’re not done yet! Little engineers can construct the perfect paper airplane with the help of museum educators then test fly it in the wind tunnel.

Special daily events take place in the My House, Your House Theater, such as hands-on cookery programs. While whipping up a dessert, kids can learn about cuisine and cultures in other countries. The Twinkle Theatre has lights, sound effects, costumes, curtains and props for groups to produce their own drama.

If you stay until 4.30 p.m. you can join in the end-of-day parade with songs and dancing led by the imaginative museum staff. You probably won’t be allowed to leave without visiting the Museum Gift Store which has some excellent educational games and projects.

New plans for the Children’s Museum in 2015 include an extensive walk-in Wizard of Oz exhibit on the third floor. This area has superb views across Curtis Hixon Park to the Hillsborough River and the Moorish-influenced minarets of Plant Hall at the University of Tampa, now a National Historic Landmark.

Additional Information

Winter visitors can combine the museum with the pop-up ice rink which is erected right next to the museum from late November through early January.

If you enjoyed reading about this fun experience near Clearwater, you will love the newly updated book/ebook Days Out Around Clearwater and St Pete Beach available on Amazon from just $4.99. Happy trails!
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