Though the creatures on display at Dinosaur World don’t need much space to roam, plenty of care has been taken to furnish them a comfortable habitat. They peer imposingly from the hillsides of Kentucky, crane their necks up through native trees, and stomp through prairie fields. Although a life-size mammoth or T. rex might be hard to miss, little visitors might still jump with delight at noticing a baby dino suddenly appear from behind a bush. Giant brachiosaurus necks arch high above treetops, while toothy meat-eaters and spiny stegosauruses roam the world below. The fiberglass, steel, and concrete models reach up to 80 feet in length, and are built according to the latest scientific discoveries about what dinosaurs looked like and what styles were trendy in the Mesozoic era.
The first Dinosaur World location was a former alligator farm in Florida and five years later another one was opened in Kentucky. As Swedish-born Christer Svensson began to fill it with statues, he consulted with experts around the world to not only create realistic reptiles but to surround them with fun, educational activities. Kids can sift through sand to find shark’s teeth, gastropod shells, and trilobites in a fossil dig, get to know some lizards a little better on the playground, or examine ancient eggs and raptor claws in the museum.
Photography is ubiquitous in contemporary life and culture. The founders of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts recognized this fact, so they sought to create a setting where visitors from all walks of life could appreciate and experience photography. As one of the few photography museums in the country, FMoPA presents exhibitions, which exclusively use this medium to explore themes that expose some intriguing or exciting aspect of history or modern, everyday life. This focus allows the museum to prominently feature pieces that other art institutions might not necessarily show, such as works of photojournalism or historic photographs.
In addition to scheduling upcoming exhibitions, FMoPA also includes a permanent collection. The collection aims to preserve particularly important images, such as those of various masters of the medium, including Harold Edgerton, Clyde Butcher, Hans Silvester, and Berenice Abbott.
After studying the museum's exhibitions?which can include images culled from national and international sources?guests can step behind the camera themselves during photography workshops for students of all skill levels. Then, budding photographers can display their latest shots at 15 Minutes of Fame, a showcase where up to six presenters exhibit and discuss their original work. They also host a photography group, the Photo League, for those photographers that want to share tips and helpful hints once a month.
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.
Since its construction in 1944, the 455-foot SS American Victory has weathered quite a few storms, including World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. From those storms, the steamship developed a rich history filled with stories that echo throughout its three-level cargo holds, hospital, flying bridge, mess halls, crew cabins, and lifeboats. Located in downtown Tampa, behind The Florida Aquarium, the cargo vessel now serves as a museum with exhibits showcasing rare artifacts including photographs, uniforms, medals, documents, and naval gear. Guests on the shipboard museum may take in the history at their own pace with self-guided tours, or book a guided tour led by knowledgeable docents able to walk backward as smoothly as Michael Jackson.
The Florida Aquarium gives families a glimpse into the mysteries and magic of the undersea world and some of the land that surrounds it. The new Journey to Madagascar exhibit provides a look into the island's unique wildlife and diverse geography as well as the nearby Indian Ocean coral reef. The marine life exhibits spotlight the creatures that live in the bay or deeper underwater, even allowing kids to touch rays and sharks at Stingray Beach or lock eyes with sea turtles. Kids also see the sights of a 60-foot dive at the coral-reef exhibit's walk-through tunnel, whose underwater coral cave and brightly colored fish earned the aquarium a place in Parents magazine's top 10 aquariums for kids. A trip down the Wetlands Trail allows visitors to get face to face with playful otters and more circumspect Burmese pythons, while the Penguin Point opens a window into the lives of the best dressed of the flightless water birds.
The nonprofit Lowry Park Zoo has more than 1,500 animals living on nearly 60 acres of land. One way the Zoo maintains its animal habitats and conservation programs is to hold the annual ZooBoo fundraiser each fall, welcoming families for a slew of Halloween-themed attractions. The event’s spooky theme is evident upon arrival, as the Zoo’s walkways are filled with costumed youngsters. Haunted houses await to elicit giggles, gasps, or shrieks, and parents can easily determine which haunts are appropriate for their brood by consulting the Zoo's skull rating, which designates the scary level of each event, ranging from "all ages" to "scary to the extreme". Admission also includes free unlimited spins on rides such as the Batty Bumper Boats or Scary-Go-Round Carousel. After visiting with some of the Zoo's creepiest residents at the Flying Fox Bat House and Creepy Crawlers Lane, kids and adults can take in the dazzling light displays at the Little Beasties Bungalow or take a break and fill up on seasonal snacks at one of several concessions areas.