Tampa - Lifestyle & Culture
Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Dr. N.E., St. Petersburg.
This well respected museum is situated on the St. Petersburg waterfront. Its collection encompasses art from antiquity to modern times, and features star turns by Cezanne, Monet, Gauguin, Renoir and Rodin. It has an excellent permanent collection of European, American, Pre-Colombian and Asian Art, plus intriguing temporary exhibits. The museum's gardens are a joy, too – often staging concerts throughout the summer.
Salvador Dali Museum, 1000 Third Street S, St Petersburg
Surprisingly, this museum is home to the world's most comprehensive collection of works by the late Spanish surrealist. The collection includes 94 original oils, over 100 watercolors and drawings, plus 1,300 graphics, sculptures, holograms, personal ephemera and photographs.
Florida International Museum, 244 Second Avenue N. St. Petersburg
A strong collection of local, state and national exhibits covering folk art, jewellery, ceramics, decorative art and furniture. The museum's not afraid of courting controversy, with a past programme of events covering everything from Barbie dolls to the life of Princess Diana.
Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History, St. Petersburg
A historically significant, and naturally beautiful site with lots to recommend it, Weedon is a cultural and natural center designed by anthropologists, historians and Native Americans to reflect the art and history of Florida's first people. Today, in a series of well-managed exhibits and events, all aspects of Native American culture – from dance to art, cooking to crafts – are displayed.
Heritage Village, Largo
An authentically reconstructed traditional village revealing over 150 years of Pinellas County history, with over 24 historic structures offering workshops, craft lessons and period actors instantly recreating life in a Florida town in the 1850's.
Ybor is Tampa's after-dark playground, with a glittering procession of bars and clubs centred on historic and ornate 7th and 8th Avenues (once the epicentre of the world's cigar manufacturing). Expect Cuban, Colombian and all manner of Latin spirits, music and, should you partake, fine cigars too. It's an infectious place, attracting vacationing students, travellers and locals alike - and, with over 100 bars, restaurants and after-hours joints, you're sure to find a spot that's perfect for you. Current hotspots include Blue Martini, and Green Iguana - as we said, this is a colourful spot!
Mandalay, the name they give to Clearwater's offshore entertainment island, is a land of late-night bars, discos and floorshows. From the real-ale and pies of Big Ben's British Pub, 731 Bayway Boulevard at the south of the island, to the sophisticated sound and light show at the Wave nightclub, part of the huge Shephard's Resort Complex, again at the far south of the island. If the Wave's pumping R'n'B is too much, try the resort's Sunset Lounge, where local bands play a mix of party classics from the 70's to present day.
BayWalk, St. Petersburg, is a complex of boutiques and bars, at the centre of which, BayWalk offers live bands every Friday.
Caddy's Waterfront 9000 W. Gulf Blvd, is a laid-back hangout offering plasma-screen sports, good value beers and a chilled-out, beachy vibe, while for more laughs, Coconuts Comedy Club & Clearwater Cinema Cafe offers a fast-food meal and an uncomplicated night out where the dress code is definitely casual. Comedians are usually good, too.
The Coliseum, St. Pete Beach, offers one of the nation's largest dance floors, featuring a variety of live entertainment. At the neighbouring city of Treasure Island, once home to baseball legend Babe Ruth, over at the St John's Pass village, Gators Café and Saloon is a restaurant and sports bar that also has live rock music and dancing when the sun goes down, seven days a week. It claims to have the world's longest waterfront bar, and it's certainly a huge deck overlooking the waters of John's Pass. The complex also has tower with a top-level observation deck for panoramic views of the Gulf.
On Pass-a-Grille Beach, Hurricane Restaurant offers panoramic Gulf views, live music and dancing in a smart atmosphere. Make sure you book your space on the rooftop deck in time for the glorious sunsets. Elsewhere along the beach, live music venues pump out the tunes usually til about 2am – you'll have no trouble finding a spot that you like.
The venerable Crystal Playhouse Dinner Theater, Clearwater, offers burlesque, big band shows, and plays, and the Elite Jazz Bar at Famous Cigars, Clearwater, is the premier jazz club in the Tampa Bay/Clearwater area.
But some say the best nightlife along the Gulf Coast is the free nightly show - the blazing sunsets. Catch them at Woody's Beach Bar, St. Pete Beach, a family restaurant featuring fine food and fun nights with the accent on good, old fashioned Floridian hospitality.