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.
Linden Galleries' abundant selection of original artwork (starting at $20), print reproductions (starting at $20), and customized-framing solutions offer unlimited options with which to finally cover the shame of your scandalously exposed walls. Custom framing (starting at $50) is completed on-site in their Carrollwood Village gallery and comes with a choice of regular or acid-free matting and four types of glass (regular, reflection control, Plexiglas, and UV-shielding conservation glass) encased by the frame of your choice, from among Linden's 5,000-strong collection. Linden's talented framesmiths are also trained extensively in the frame-healing arts (starting at $20) and regularly employ their magical powers to mend fractured frames, fuse fissures in broken glass, and resurrect the lifelike vibrancy of sun-faded and mead-damaged photographs.
Lauded by Creative Loafing for its "multi-sensory approach to historical storytelling," the Tampa Bay History Center uses its 60,000-square-foot space to display immersive exhibits on 12,000 years of Tampa history. Historically-curious visitors can browse the center's interactive exhibits, including the story theater, which tells the dramatic story of Chief Coacoochee during the Second Seminole War. Browse through artifacts from Florida’s cigar trade, including a replica of a 1920s cigar store, an ideal exhibit to take any uncles that believe they've switched bodies with Groucho Marx. A new temporary exhibit, Blue and Gray in Tampa Bay: The Civil War on Florida's Gulf Coast opens January 10, 2011, joining exhibits on cattle ranching, European exploration, and the civil rights movement.
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.
Tampa resident and history lover Lonnie Herman?s longtime fascination with history 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. The guides' upbeat narration carry 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.