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Explore art galleries and museums in downtown St. Petersburg

We can claim bragging rights for our arts scene in St. Petersburg. The proof's in the numbers: two exceptional art museums, two historical museums, one featuring a collection of Florida-based art and a children's museum. Plus lots of galleries, including two not-for-profits we think worth special mention. All but one are in the downtown core. A few are in walking distance of each other, though most require a drive. Check out the Looper, the downtown trolley that connects some of them.

Salvador Dali Museum

You'll find the world's most comprehensive collection by the Spanish surrealist here. The art is mostly arranged chronologically beginning with very early works (their realism will surprise you), those from the high days of surrealism in the 1920s and 1930s, and continuing through later works when Dali melded surrealist symbols with Christian themes. The back gallery contains a group of monumental paintings. This is a destination place (and probably not suited to very young kids) but it's a close drive to the heart of downtown.

1000 Third St. S, salvadordalimuseum.org, (727) 823-3767

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; extended hours to 8 p.m. Thursday and 6:30 p.m. Friday; noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Adults, $17; seniors, military and police, $14.50; kids 10 to 18, $12; kids 4 to 9, $4; after 5 p.m. Thursday: $5

Other: No on-site cafe; huge gift shop; docent tours (For daily times, call museum and press 5); free parking

Museum of Fine Arts

Variety and tradition are the hallmarks of this museum housed in a Palladian-inspired building. Its comprehensive collection spans antiquities to contemporary. The 19th century European and American galleries featuring a group of impressionists are the most popular. A new wing houses special exhibitions. The museum has an interactive family gallery and is adjacent to a waterfront city park.

255 Beach Drive NE; fine-arts.org; (727) 896-2667

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Adults, $12; seniors, $10; students, $6.

Other: Full service cafe; nice gift shop; docent tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; metered street parking and nearby city garages

Florida Holocaust Museum

Equal parts memorial, education center and art gallery, the museum takes a moving, somber and dignified approach to the this tragic period in human history. The first floor is dominated by one of the boxcars used to transport Jews to concentration camps, set onto a piece of railroad. It's surrounded by displays that explain and document the Holocaust. The second floor has changing exhibitions, usually art. The museum is generally geared to the Holocaust but also relates other examples of persecution to its core materials. It's an easy walk to the numerous restaurants along Central Avenue.

55 Fifth St. S; flhm2.org; (727) 820-0100

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Last admission at 3:30 p.m.

Admission: Adults, $14; seniors, $12; college students, $10; kids 7 to 17, $8.

Other: No on-site cafe; small gift shop; free audio tours; free parking lot and metered street parking

Florida International Museum

The museum reopened recently with a new focus after being closed for about a year. Owned by St. Petersburg College and part of its downtown complex, it acquired the collection of the Gulf Coast Museum in Largo after that museum closed due to financial problems. The art is primarily by contemporary southeastern artists with an emphasis on those working and living in Florida. But you'll see much more than pretty landscapes: crafts, mixed media and sculpture, photography and, of course, lots of paintings. The museum is part of the college's new cultural center that includes Palladium Theater and the new American Stage facility all in a one-block radius.

244 Second Ave. N; (727) 341-7918

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Adults, $8; seniors and military, $6; students, $5, kids under 7 free.

Other: No on-site cafe; no docent tours; no gift shop; metered street and garage parking

St. Petersburg Museum of History

The city's past is enshrined in this little museum that sits on the waterfront approach to the Pier. You'll find lots of memorabilia organized around eras and events. A replica of Tony Jannus' airplane, which flew the first commercial airline flight in 1914, is displayed in a large, glass-encased "hangar" just yards from where the actual flight took off, landing in Tampa about 20 minutes later. The museum is also near the Museum of Fine Arts and the parks, shops and restaurants lining Beach Drive.

335 Second Ave. NE; www.spmoh.org; (727) 894-1052

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Adults, $12, seniors, $9; students with ID, $9; kids 7-17, $7; kids under 6, free; family of 4, $24 with additional kids, $2 each.

Other: No on-site cafe; small gift shop; no docent tours; metered street and city-lot parking

Beth Ann Morean Arts Center

This is not a museum though it often has museum-quality special exhibitions. It features changing shows usually by contemporary artists, almost all of it for sale. With four galleries, it doesn't require a large time commitment. It has no cafe but many restaurants are nearby on Central Avenue.

719 Central Ave.; theartscenter.org; (727) 822-7872

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Free admission

Other: No on-site cafe; no docent tours; nice gift shop; metered street parking

Florida Craftsmen Gallery

This is a showcase for fine crafts. Most of the space is taken up by a retail shop; two galleries also feature changing exhibitions. Everything is for sale, from the very affordable to the expensive in every craft medium. You'll also see how our definition of "craft" is changing. The store is stocked with practical, functional objects such as hand-turned mugs but it also has exquisite glass vessels, for example, that have no purpose except to be lovely. Just two blocks from the Arts Center, Florida Craftsmen, too, is near many interesting little restaurants.

501 Central Ave.; floridacraftsmen.net; (727) 821-7391

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Free admission

Other: No on-site cafe; very nice gift shop; no docent tours; metered street parking

Great Explorations, The Children's Museum

This hands-on museum is a few miles north of downtown and provides a nice recreational break for families with a caveat: Its appeal will probably be more for younger kids and, compared to some big-city hands-on museums, it's small. But next door is Sunken Gardens, a lovely, city-owned attraction that can provide further distractions. (Admission is charged there, too.) In the same block are an Italian restaurant and ice cream shop so you can easily fill a few hours here, though the price can add up.

1925 Fourth St. N; greatexplorations.org; (727) 821-8992

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday; noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $9; kids younger than 1, free

Other: No on-site cafe but restaurants are adjacent; gift shop; free parking

Explore art galleries and museums in downtown St. Petersburg 05/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 7, 2009 5:21pm]
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