If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, West Central Florida has plenty to share. One showpiece sits on the Tampa Riverwalk, a pedestrian walkway that meanders through the city along the Hillsborough River. The Tampa Museum of Art is housed in an architectural work of art designed by Stanley Saitowitz. Inside, an incredible collection of contemporary and classical art, as well as enticing traveling exhibitions, are on display. From the museum, follow the Riverwalk south to the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, showcasing works by local, national and international photog-raphers, as well as historical collections.
Nobody does pirates like Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay History Center brings to life pirates, shipwrecks and treasure—complete with a 60-foot replica pirate ship to climb around, a real 1700s ship’s treasure chest and an authentic 1703 map of the Caribbean showing exactly where to attack ships full of treasure. The expansion also includes a cartographic research center and houses over 6,000 maps dating back as far as 1493.
Back in downtown Tampa, step into simpler times amid the splendor of the storied 1920s “movie palace,” the Tampa Theatre. Tour the mesmerizing theater before the main feature begins, then sit back and relax while a volunteer organist serenades you on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ before the curtain rises.
Within walking distance of each other in downtown St. Petersburg are the Museum of Fine Arts, with thousands of objects spanning 4,500 years, from antiquity to the present, and the Dalí Museum with the world’s largest collection of Salvador Dalí’s work outside of Spain, including 1,300 graphics, photos, sculptures and objets d’art; 96 oil paintings; and more than 100 watercolors and drawings. The structure housing the Dalí Museum is in itself a surreal piece of art. The Chihuly Collection, on the Morean Arts Center campus in St. Pete’s Central Arts District, features amazing works of glass art by the master himself.
To the north of Tampa, Dunedin is filled with galleries and regularly hosts arts and craft shows throughout the year. If you’re in the area January 4–5, 2020, head over to the 23rd Annual Downtown Dunedin Art Festival, which showcases more than 100 of the nation’s most talented artists and a broad spectrum of media including sculptures, glass, paintings, jewelry and ceramics. Admission is free. Every spring, world-class Scottish athletes descend upon Dunedin for the annual Highland Games & Festival that include a traditional Scottish gathering with music and dance, a parade and a full day of events and competitions.
For a peek into the history of the area, check out the annual Fort Cooper Days event in Inverness, where re-enactments of the Second Seminole War are held twice a day in mid-March along with living history demonstrations.