The Victorian Christmas Stroll at the Henry B. Plant Museum has kick-started the holiday spirit for thousands of people since it began 31 years ago. This year it returns on Saturday and continues through Dec. 23. The event is a beautiful evocation of Christmas traditions in the grand style, with the historic museum swagged, bedecked and adorned in 19 century high-Victoriana. The museum is in the historic former Tampa Bay Hotel, which entrepreneur Henry B. Plant opened in 1891 as an opulent magnet for Northerners coming by rail (which he also built) to winter in Florida. It's now part of the University of Tampa campus at 401 W Kennedy Blvd.
A visit to the museum has become a tradition for many, and this year there is an additional incentive to visit: "Japan and the Victorians" is a stunning exhibition at the museum through Dec. 23. It features large vases, ceramics, decorative items and furniture Plant imported from Japan during the height of Orientalism's popularity in the 19th century.
Spiced cider and cookies will be served daily on the veranda for the Stroll's duration, and carolers will entertain every evening. The museum and its shop, loaded for gift-giving, will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors and $7 for kids and students ages 4 to 18. Discounted admission of $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for kids is offered Monday and Tuesday and Dec. 10 and 11.
Fun and games are part of the festivities; each room in the museum has an image of Henry Plant semihidden among the decorations. If you can locate all of them, you'll receive a prize. Visit plantmuseum.com or call (813) 254-1891.
Lennie Bennett, Times art critic