Tampa resident and history lover Lonnie Herman’s longtime fascination with the haunted has evolved into a broad expertise about the area's vibrant streets where newspapers are printed in three languages. The personable former executive also has the gift of being an evocative storyteller. This convergence of interest and talents resulted in Lonnie's company, Ybor City Historic Walking Tours. Lonnie's upbeat narration carries small groups down vibrant 7th Avenue with detailed anecdotes that reveal the complex past behind Ybor City's cigar factories, Columbia Restaurant, and the story of the eponymous Vicente Martinez-Ybor, who founded the city as a place to store his statues of himself.
From the moment seasoned nature tour guide Kurt Zuelsdorf first dipped his paddle into Clam Bayou, he knew the mangrove estuary would be the right place to set his kayak tours. But there was a catch—a garbage dump’s worth of rusting shopping carts and waterlogged plastic bags was strewn about the waterway. Undeterred, Kurt hit upon a clever cleanup strategy: people could launch his fleet of kayaks for free, so long as they toted a bag of garbage out of the bayou with them.
Numerous grants, media attention, and awards later, Kurt’s waterway cleanup program has reached its final stages. Now, kayakers and paddlers can freely navigate the mangrove channels, nabbing sights of manatees, herons, and tugboat captains hopelessly lost in the mangroves. An avid nature enthusiast who has kayaked waterways from Wisconsin to Florida, Kurt prizes Clam Bayou, citing the diversity of wildlife along the one-mile stretch. “It’s not like the zoo,” he says. “Every time you hit the water, it’s a completely different experience.”
The fleet of two-seater scooters is comprised of 2009 models with 49cc engines. Although these sportsters can zip around town at optimal cruising speeds, no motorcycle license is required—just a driver's license, eye protection, and a strong understanding of astrophysical thermodynamics as it pertains to scootering. The surrounding area is prime for pavement thrashing. For two hours, wheeled explorers can park and play on the pristine white-sand beaches, zip over to one of the area restaurants, or Evil Knievel over one of the bays, explaining the required $250 security deposit for each rider.
Though most vintners have made their wines from grapes, the Shook family turned their focus to other fruits. Starting in 1991, they began fermenting batches of juice from mangoes, red raspberries, limes, and oranges. In 1997, they opened their farm winery—a small barn-shaped building shaded by trees—where licensed winemakers and distributors ferment and bottle dozens of varieties of exotic wines stamped with the Sunshine Tree, the Florida Department of Citrus's mark of quality. Their eclectic selection encompasses citrus, tropical-fruit, berry, stone-fruit, and vegetable wines, each made entirely from the juice indicated on the label. The winery also makes and distributes wine-smoothie mixes and wine pouches, sherries, ports, and champagnes.
The veteran captains at Dolphin Landings Charter Boat Center promise tour-takers a 99% chance of spotting bottlenose dolphins during excursions in Boca Ciega Bay. That’s because the bay is home to more than 700 resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, along with manatees, and tropical sea birds.
During voyages, guests cruise in comfort on a US Coast Guard–inspected vessel. The boats serve complimentary soft drinks and water, and beer and wine are available for purchase.
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.