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.
Tampa Bay Crawls escorts trekkers through downtown St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay’s culinary and alcoholic offerings with tasting and imbibing events at area restaurants and bars. Progressive dinner and restaurant crawls supply guests with new gastronomic sensations, and wine-tasting crawls dispense samples of finely crafted reds and whites. Bypassing straightforward tours through local bars, Tampa Bay Crawls spices up its pub crawls with various themed and costumed sessions, such as ’80s night, snuggie night, and census taker appreciation night, all open to groups and solo crawlers alike.
The founders of St. Petersburg probably didn't imagine future visitors rolling down its streets on upright, self-balancing machines. Mounted on Segway HTs, visitors on All About Fun Tours can do just that, cruising along the waterfront on devices that intuitively respond to their movements or fear of jellyfish. Tour options abound, and guides deliver a tutorial on Segway basics before leading groups around the historic city.
LED lights glimmer in the dark, illuminating St. Petersburg's scenic streets. As the lights loom closer, they reveal a steel behemoth whose deck is serving as a stage for neon-clad '80s pop stars cycling in tandem and one lone acrobat steadying himself for a mid-motion keg stand. Though this doesn't happen every night, Rhett Reynolds and Daniel O'Brien have hosted several strange occurrences ever since they moved their pedal-bus pub crawls from the Twin Cities to sunnier climes. City Cycle Tours' four-wheeled, pedal-powered bus was designed and contracted by an independent engineering company and transports 14 passengers past the city's scenic sights and to an array of drinking establishments.
The blue-and-silver craft coasts along with minimal passenger effort at no more than 6 miles per hour as participants sit beneath a pounding six-speaker sound system and wide canopy, safe from the eyes of bird paparazzi. Dual 66-liter coolers carry riders' nonalcoholic libations, but the craft also boasts enough room to accommodate a half keg. Groups roll along guided by LED blinkers and headlights, kept buoyant with full suspension. The company's designated drivers hold taxi licenses and reflect a cabbie's knowledge of road etiquette and avoiding jousting matches as they ferry their charges through city parks and along piers.
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.
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 thrum of the speedboat's engine carries through the water like an ice-cream truck's jingle. A 4-foot-high wake trails behind, fanning out into a fork as the speed increases and the passengers ready their cameras. Soon, a glistening fin breaks the surface. The first bottlenose dolphin seems to levitate on top of the wave while it bodysurfs for the sheer fun of it, then disappears back into the sea. Its pod follows suit, leaping, splashing, and riding the swells, soaking up the attention of the human spectators.
Sights like this are typical on the Dolphin Racer Speed Boat. The sunny yellow craft skirts across the Gulf of Mexico on 60- to 75-minute trips while up to 125 people lounge on the open deck and the captain narrates the sights of the passing beaches. Ample viewing space ensures that cameras can capture split-second jumps and spins when the dolphins heed the call to play. Whether it's because of the thrill of breaching, the pride in their celebrity status, or an underwater bet to see who can communicate with humans first, the dolphins' presence is virtually guaranteed—the boat offers a complimentary future cruise in the case of no-shows.