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Here’s where to get in free this weekend at select Tampa Bay museums

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Free museum this year is Saturday in downtown St. Pete and various other spots around Tampa Bay. (the best are in St. Pete because it’s more awesome.)

Residents have the opportunity to peruse 20 museums for free or reduced admission as part of the Smithsonian Museum Day Live and St. Pete’s Arts Alive.

Free and discounted entry to the museums runs from 10 a.m until 3 p.m. Each year the event packs participating museums. The city recommends parking in a parking garage and utilizing the city’s downtown looper to get around. The Central Avenue Trolley is also a good transit option to avoid parking congestion.

There will Florida Civil War-era re-enactors at the Tampa Bay History Center. The Dali Museum will boast an Escher tessellation mural outside its building. Visitors can use markers to add to the mural.

The Henry Plant Museum in Tampa will feature two ballet dancers performing a portion of Giselle at 11 a.m. The dancers are from the Tampa Ballet Theater.

The celebration comes as St. Pete’s month-long SPF-15 is in full swing. While visiting museums residents can also check out the dozens of murals that have materialized as part of the SHINE Mural Festival.

There’s a downtown walking mural tour, including 14 outdoor murals created for SHINE. ChalkWalk includes a giant display of chalk art in South Straub Park. The Central Avenue Solstice serves as a nine-mile sunup-to-sundown tribute to the sun along Central Avenue. There’s also a Grand Tastings event boasting succulent gourmet delicacies at the St. Pete Wine and Food Festival.

Smithsonian Museum Day offers free admission all the time with only donations suggested. For 10 years now the magazine has pushed museums nationwide to participate in a 24-hour free admission program.

It’s recommended that people interested in participating in the free museum day get free tickets from the Smithsonian website. They can be downloaded and printed, but many museums will honor an image of the tickets on a smart phone in order to save a few trees.

Here are the participating free museums in Tampa Bay:

  • Florida Holocaust Museum, 55 Fifth Street. South, St. Pete
  • Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Pete
  • Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum, 2240 Ninth Avenue. South, St. Pete
  • St. Petersburg Museum of History, 335 Second Ave. N.E. St. Pete
  • Morean Arts Center and Glass Studio, 719 Central Ave., St. Pete
  • Creative Clay Cultural Arts Center, 1114 Central Avenue, St. Pete
  • Armed Forces History Museum, 2050 34th Way N, Largo
  • Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs
  • Cracker Country, 4800 U.S. 301, Tampa
  • Henry B. Plant Museum, 401 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa
  • Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Old Water Street., Tampa
  • Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, 200 N Tampa St., Tampa
  • Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa
  • Ybor City Museum State Park, 1818 E Ninth Ave., Tampa,
  • Polk Museum of Art, 800 East Palmetto Street, Lakeland (this museum is already free, but those with tickets will get a free gift)
  • Manatee Village Historical Park, 1404 Manatee Avenue E, Bradenton
  • South Florida Museum, 201 10th St. W, Bradenton
  • Manatee Village Historical Park, 1404 Manatee Avenue E, Bradenton
  • South Florida Museum, 201 10th St. W, Bradenton
  • Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota
  • Florida Railroad Museum, 12210 83rd St. E, Parrish
  • Hernando Historical Museum, 70 Russell St., Brooksville

Pinellas County residents only will receive free admission to the Dali Museum in downtown St. Pete. All other visitors will pay full admission prices, but get a coupon to return for free in the month of October. Because the museum tends to be so packed on free museum day, this is a great way for out-of-towners to pop in for the coupon and come back on a day when it’s not so busy.

The Chihuly Collection in downtown St. Pete on Beach Drive is discounting admission to just $1.

Florida Craft Art on Central Avenue offering 10 percent off in its gift shop.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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