There are lots of reasons to love Florida. Which is why my Hunt for Justice books are set in Tampa, Florida, where the fictional star of this series, Judge Willa Carson, lives.
One of my favorite things about the Tampa Bay Area (besides the natural beauty, of course…) is discovering the little nuggets of its unique history. That’s what a writer loves to do — we soak up everything. And in the process we’re able to see how the big picture developed and show it to you through our stories.
Very often, the things I learn about Tampa inform the fiction in my books. Today I’ll be exploring the quirky sides of the city, from haunted houses to unconventional art exhibits. Here’s a list of activities for those seeking an out-of-the-ordinary adventure.
Image courtesy of Solomon’s Castle
Have you heard about Solomon’s Castle? This attraction is tucked away in Florida’s woodlands and is one of Tampa’s many hidden gems. Built and designed by a local artist and sculptor, Solomon’s Castle is a unique experience. There is a large stained glass collection for visitors to admire, among other unique art installations, and visitors can also wind down at the on-location restaurant dubbed Boat-in-the-Moat.
The beautiful Pinellas County heritage site is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Spread out over 21 acres, this living history museum is a fun way to explore the past. Visitors can watch live reenactments and explore the Shirley McPherson Native Plant Trail that meanders through a pine Flatwoods habitat. Visitors can also learn how to use a washboard to wash clothes.
Kapok Tree Park ~ Image courtesy of Onlyinyourstate.com
Another unique attraction is the site of a former restaurant. From the 1960s to 1980s the Kapok Tree Inn, formerly The Clearwater restaurant, was known as one of the top restaurants in the country. The name was derived from a Kapok sapling that was brought back from India in the 1870s. The Clearwater was known for its extravagance, featuring Renaissance-inspired architecture and a beautiful garden. Although no longer a functioning restaurant, the grounds have been preserved for the public to enjoy. Visitors can view the plethora of Roman statues and other ornate stone features that are spread throughout the property.
For those seeking a thrill, Scream-A-Geddon is a must-stop destination. As the name suggests, this attraction is best suited for adrenaline junkies and adventurers. Known as Tampa’s premium horror park, this attraction offers six different haunted houses, along with Zombie paintballing and interactive game rooms where participants must devise ways to survive a pandemic or find their way out of spooky woods.
Hong Kong Willie’s – Roadsideamerica.com
Another quirky local attraction that has drawn visitors from across the globe is Hong Kong Willie’s. Using a wide range of odds and ends, from fishnets to old street signs, Hong Kong Willie’s was created by artists who strive to create art from what many would consider trash. This unique exhibition is open to the public and even features a helicopter.