After becoming a success in the railroad and steamship industries, 1800s businessman Henry B. Plant set his sights on a new venture: building a luxury hotel near Florida's cerulean shores. His vision landed him in an area that was but swampland and sand in 1889 Tampa. But three years and $3,000,000 later—including $500,000 in furniture and art—he successfully opened The Tampa Bay Hotel, a 511-room luxury destination sprawled over six acres.
Today, Henry's architectural and engineering feat serves as the home of the Henry B. Plant Museum, an institution that educates visitors on Plant's life, the Victorian period, and life in early Tampa. Among the building's groundbreaking aspects, the hotel was among the first in Florida to feature electrified rooms and pampered guests with in-house billiards, a babershop, and a telegraph office. His guests even enjoyed in-room telephones and private baths with hot and cold running water, a lofty accomplishment considering man wouldn't invent soap for another 13 years. The museum has now been restored to its former glory, showering current visitors in Victorian opulence, art, and its historic achievements.
Inside a building in St. Petersburg, works of art from around the world gather like good friends. Georgia O'Keeffe's Poppy hangs not far from Paul Cézanne's A Corner of the Woods, Pointoise. Claude Monet's Houses of Parliament gives a glimpse of faraway lands, while Thomas Moran's Florida Landscape stays closer to home.
With a range of permanent and rotating exhibitions, the Museum of Fine Arts seeks to engage visitors with art while preserving the pieces in its care. Much of the collection resides in an original 1960s building, but an adjacent modern gallery draws in visitors with special exhibitions, an art library, and interactive educational facilities—ensuring they have plenty of ways to experience art or at least overcome a fear of informational plaques.
Who They Are
Even before the Museum of Fine Arts opened to the public in 1965, founder Margaret Acheson Stuart saw its galleries as a space where diverse audiences could explore art "from antiquity to the present." Architect John Volk had designed the original museum wing to instill visitors with a feeling of solidness and permanence. Decades later, the museum sought to expand, and conducted a nationwide search for a worthy architect. They were rewarded with designer Yann Weymouth, who completed a second building in 2008—a two-story, modern glass conservatory.
A pirate ship hangs suspended in midair. Tennis balls rocket toward the ceiling. Plastic robots jolt to life. Recipient of a 2008 MetLife Foundation award for promising practices, Great Explorations Children's Museum incites creativity and inventiveness from visitors of all ages with a constantly rotating lineup of interactive exhibits that fill 18,000 square feet with touch, light, and sound. Pulley towers allow children to hoist themselves into the air, and a mock fire station thrills wee visitors with a fire engine, child-sized firefighters' gear, and microscopic dalmatians. Museum guides lead lesson programs in a multidisciplinary style, though visitors can also find the friendly professionals and their orange polo shirts bouncing between exhibits while performing science experiments, dancing, and playing music.
Themed events let visitors discover the museum's potential through focuses such as "Superhero Saturday," "Slightly Spooky Boo!seum," and "Winter Wonderland," and seasonal camps explore annual topics such as the life cycle of a bunsen burner.
Since 1922, St. Petersburg Museum of History has preserved the heritage of St. Petersburg and the Pinellas Peninsula with expansive collections and four galleries that host annually rotating exhibits. Its permanent exhibits, meanwhile, trace the area’s history from Native Americans to the present day through artifacts such as a cannonball fired by Union sailors and replica of a parlor car from the Orange Belt Railway. Elsewhere, the World's First Commercial Airline Gallery charts commercial aviation history with a full-size working replica of the Benoist Airboat and the first-ever pterodactyl to earn a commercial-flying license. Visitors looking to delve deeper into the past can explore more than 32,000 artifacts in the museum archives or partake in one of its educational programs such as tours, community classes, and camps.
Set amid the largest collection of Dalí's work outside Spain, the Groupon-exclusive “Shades of Night: After Hours” bash combines world lounge music with docent-guided tours of the Dalí Museum. Visitors can feast their eyes on essential works and lesser-known pieces in journeys that parallel Dalí's career. Each night, a different DJ spins international jams for dancing and movement-based interpretations of melting clocks. Though not included with the Groupon, Café Gala throws open its doors to reveal a bounty of Spanish-themed tapas, desserts, and glasses of Shades of Night sangria ($3). Silent films presented in the museum theater tickle the eyes as tarot readings extract secrets from the future with fate-drenched cards and cryptic notes disguised as utility bills.
From tie-dye ($35 per child) to garden-themed parties ($25), Pikasso's children's classes fresh-squeeze creative juices for the grade-school set. During a feet-print-platter class ($45 per child), kids create an adorable plate marked with their footprints. Adults can hone painterly techniques at clay, fused glass, or wire-wrapping and beaded-jewelry classes. Wheel-thrown pottery classes, taught by an expert potter, are available at $50 per person for a two-hour session (two-student minimum). Offsite events and parties add color to corporate events, birthdays, and home fumigations, and Practically Pikasso can supply 20–200 painters with supplies, helpful staff, and instruction (call ahead to inquire about costs).