If you thought 2010 was amazing — a new Jannus Live, a new Harry Potter-themed park in Orlando, three sparkling new waterfront museums — you ain't seen nothin' yet. 2011 is poised to be another monumental year in Tampa Bay, with a slew of fun new events and attractions. Here are 11 reasons to get excited about '11.
Jay Cridlin, Times staff writer
Salvador Dalí Museum
On the heels of three gorgeous new multimillion-dollar museums in 2010 — the Tampa Museum of Art, the Glazer Children's Museum and the Chihuly Collection — St. Petersburg will open this sparkling new home for the Spanish master's work at 11:11 a.m. on 1/11/11. (Jan. 11)
Lights on Tampa
This beautiful light-art installation, which stretches across downtown Tampa, debuted in 2006 and returned in 2009 to much acclaim. This year, we can't wait to see what the artists have in store for the glistening new Curtis Hixon Park. Until then, bookmark lightsontampa.org for updates. (Feb. 19)
Florida got its first taste of Lebowski Fest last year in Orlando. But in 2011, Tampa is the only city (so far) scheduled to host an officially sanctioned tribute to the Coen brothers' cult classic The Big Lebowski. With movie parties, bowling matchups, costume contests and more, it'll be a blast. Mark it down, dude. (Feb. 25-26)
After skipping Tampa Bay in 2010, the biggest name in country music is returning with a blockbuster concert at Raymond James Stadium. The lineup also includes Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington and Uncle Kracker. More than 70,000 fans turned out to see U2 in 2009, the last time RayJay hosted a concert. Can Kenny top Bono? We shall see. (March 19)
American Stage in the Park: 'Rent'
For its 26th annual outdoor production in St. Petersburg, American Stage made a great choice in Rent. Jonathan Larson's tale of a group of boho artistes in gritty New York was one of the most sought-after musicals for American Stage in the Park. Kudos to producers to being an "us" for once instead of a "them." La vie boheme! (April 13 to May 8)
Lady Gaga has come a long way in these parts, from dancing burlesque at G.Bar, an Ybor City gay club, to headlining the St. Pete Times Forum. Her last show in the area, at the Ritz Ybor, was a sold-out smash — and probably the last time you'll be able to see her in a small club for a while. But you can bet this Times Forum gig will be packed with glitz, glamor, special effects and costume changes galore. (April 16)
Busch Gardens' first launch coaster — it'll go from zero to 60 mph in mere seconds — will double as a habitat housing the park's first collection of cheetahs. You'll be able to observe the big cats up close and watch them sprint after prey over 200 yards. (May)
International Dragon Boat Federation World Championships
Tampa is dragon-boat crazy, as anyone who has watched the colorful Chinese boats zooming through Garrison Channel can attest. Tampa even hosted the IDBF's national championships in 2006. But this is the world championships, meaning dragon boaters from around the globe will compete for domination of the waterways outside the St. Pete Times Forum. (Aug. 1-7)
The Winter Haven park formerly known as Cypress Gardens will become America's second Legoland in the fall. We're talking about a 150-acre, $200 million park with 50 rides and attractions in 10 different "lands." If you build it, we will come. To get details and buy passes, visit florida.legoland.com. (October)
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium closed to the public for three months in 2010 so Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd could film Dolphin Tale, a film about Winter, the rescued dolphin with the prosthetic tail. It'll be Tampa Bay's most high-profile cinematic close-up since The Punisher. Filming wrapped in December, with the family-friendly flick tentatively scheduled for October release. (October)
An expanded Dinosaur World
The most cheese-tastic — yet strangely alluring — attraction in Plant City will more than double in size by the end of 2011, adding 12 acres, a 22,000-square-foot museum, a playground and much more. That's a lot of new fiberglass pterodactyls. (Fall)
Honorable mention: The Festival of Chocolate hits MOSI (Jan. 15-17); Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at American Stage (Jan. 18-Feb. 13); Billy Elliot at the Straz (Feb. 2-20); Ozzy Osbourne (Feb. 18) and Iron Maiden (April 17) play the Times Forum; Degas arrives at the Tampa Museum of Art (March 12); Tropical Heatwave turns 30 (May 14); Jeannie Pierola opens a new restaurant (sometime soon, we hope).