Brooke Pottery features fine ceramic crafts and a host of handmade doodads from more than 400 American artists. A glazed, tri-colored McQueeny Belt Bowl ($48) offers a fetching soup-holding alternative to cupped palms, while the Heart Coaster Set ($40) lovingly shields countertops from clammy cocktails and over-fizzed sodas. Decorate feng shui–deficient gardens with ash-wood Chi Energy Amber wind chimes ($35), or embellish tree limbs with colorful Aloha Chimes ($42). For kids, the Blues Band Harmonica ($7) provides hours of fun in the key of harmonica.
Now pack-free, the cigarette machines inside the Polk Museum of Art have been converted to Art-o-Mats, which distribute original artworks to help jump-start amateur collections. The pieces make fitting keepsakes from the nonprofit museum, whose own collection encompasses everything from pre-Columbian textiles to contemporary work by local artists. Other museum highlights include rare 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints, as well as ceramic plates made by Pablo Picasso that still bear his masterful tomato-sauce stains.
Alongside its core pieces, Polk rotates around 20 exhibitions throughout its nine galleries each year. To further foster Florida's artistic community, the museum hosts plenty of educational opportunities and events, including art classes and fairs that spotlight emerging Central Florida artists.
Kids learn with all five of their senses—that's literally what puts the V in the name of Explorations V Children's Museum. Spread across three floors, the museum brims with hands-on activities in a range of permanent exhibits. And the organization's interactive approach to learning has helped it earn accolades, such as a grant from Disney's Helping Kids Shine award program.
On the lower floor, an exhibit charting the journey of the Florida orange begins with local history and ends with a look at global ecosystems. On the first floor, the exhibit Marvelous Me! teaches about the human body with an interactive skeleton and memory tests; Water Matters teaches water conservation with interactive stations. At the top of the museum, check out the temporary exhibits and the Dragon of Toys, a colorful sculpture of plastic trinkets. It's also here that instructors conduct daily programs ranging from open art studio sessions to nutritional cooking classes.
Dade City's Wild Things puts visitors within 3 feet of most of its menagerie, which includes more than 200 animals on exhibit. Botanical gardens blanket the zoo's 22-acre expanse, providing a scenic backdrop for creatures such as a tiger, lion, lemur, bear, and baboon. Separated from most animals by a few feet, a chain-link fence, and the ability to knit socks out of their own fur, opposable-thumbed guests can explore the animal offerings by walking tour or tram ride. Dade City's Wild Things further upholds its aim to connect people with animals by offering opportunities for close cross-species interaction, such as feeding buffalo in grazing fields on the Jungle Safari Ride, swimming with a tiger, or reserving an animal encounter, which provides a chance for visitors to interact one-on-one with a choice of critters including a zebra foal, gator hatchling, and African pygmy-goat kid.
The husband and wife owners of Giraffe Ranch wake up each morning to the squawks, chirps, and growls of rhinoceroses, hippos, ostriches, and a menagerie of other exotic animals. After feeding their giraffes, they tend to the cattle and collect eggs from their free-range chickens that cluck across their 47-acre combination of a working organic farm and a wildlife preserve accredited by the Zoological Association of America. Encompassing four ecosystems, the preserve sprawls under 400-year-old oak trees and across native orchards into wetlands filled with nesting sandhill cranes. With the aid of their son, the owners lead tours through habitats for endangered or otherwise extinct African and South American animals, walking past pens of African crested porcupines, guinea pigs, fossa; as well as lemurs that guests can feed by hand or T-shirt cannon. Their tours never follow the same path, instead changing to skirt around grazing goats or to meet a brood of newly hatched baby ostriches.
Not content to simply lead guests on relaxing strolls, guides also load passengers into four-wheel-drive safari trucks—custom built by the owner after vehicles used in Africa—or onto the backs of camels for extended preserve tours that showcase larger game such as Indian rhinoceroses, pygmy hippopotamuses, llamas, and antelopes. Guides also steer tours toward feeding times, encouraging passengers to pass leaves to the preserve's namesake giraffes from the truck. An onsite shop boasts shelves of glass art, plush lemurs and giraffes, and T-shirts—many designed by the owner's wife—alongside handcrafted African decor. Shop staffers also proffer organic fertilizer, organic free-range eggs, and grass-fed beef harvested on the farm.
SUP Englewood operates on a circuit of local beaches, sending seafarers off to explore the waves from several starting points. Under the supervision of an instructor who is a qualified paddleboarder, lifeguard, and tour guide, students learn to control their board before embarking on guided tours or independent rides. The shop stocks a fleet of epoxy SUP ATX paddleboards, which slip easily through the waves and include specialty yoga board varietals . As an experienced yogi, SUP Englewood’s instructor also leads classes on weekly trips to tranquil mangrove pathways and lagoons for yoga lessons atop paddleboards.