If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Central West Florida has plenty to share. A showpiece on the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa, 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 photographers, as well as historical collections. Farther along the river, the Tampa Bay History Center tells the stories of the city on the bay. A short trolley ride from the Tampa Bay History Center, Ybor City is a living museum in itself. Once the “Cigar Capital of the World,” this small city within a city was rich with cigar factories where workers rolled millions of cigars annually. Today, the brick streets are lined with cafés and shops, a few of which sell hand-rolled cigars, while the Ybor City Museum provides an inside look at yesteryear.
Back in downtown Tampa, step back into simpler times and the splendor of the storied 19205 “movie palace,” the Tampa Theatre. Tour the mesmerizing theatre 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 Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center, featuring 10,000 square feet of amazing works of glass art by the master himself, and the Museum of Fine Arts, with thousands of objects spanning 4,500 years, from antiquity to the present. Not far from these two museums, the Dali Museum displays the world’s largest collection of Salvador Dal i’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 Dali Museum is in itself a surreal piece of art.
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 7-8, 2017, head over to the 20t 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 along with living history demonstration.