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Seniors in Motion: Three Days in Tampa

Day Two
You'll spend your second day exploring the historical and cultural sights of downtown Tampa. Start at the Tampa Bay History Center, now housed in the Hillsborough County government's first green building. Here you can read about Florida's first citizens, check out more than 1,000 artifacts from Tampa's cigar industry and even learn how the city of Tampa got its name. The center is open daily.

For lunch, bring your sense of adventure to one of Tampa's up-and-coming restaurants, Mise en Place, located near the University of Tampa. For a light and inexpensive meal, try a unique take on one of Tampa's signature dishes, the Cuban sandwich -- Mise en Place makes it with all veggies in a roast garlic sherry vinaigrette.

Note that Mise en Place is only open for lunch Tuesday through Friday; for a weekend lunch, try Avanzare, located in the Hyatt Regency. Bistro-style fare is served in the hotel's elegant tropical atrium -- complete with a waterfall.

After your meal, make your way to the nearby Henry B. Plant Museum, an ornate Victorian building that once served as Tampa's grandest hotel. Built in 1891 by railroad magnate Henry Plant, the building has over 500 rooms spanning six acres -- and was in fact so large that it was never fully occupied except in 1898, when it served as quarters for troops in the Spanish-American War. A tour of the former hotel (now part of the adjacent University of Tampa) takes you back to the Victorian era, with its opulent -- and occasionally outlandish -- decor. Afterwards, don't miss a leisurely stroll through the museum's lush river-front park.

For dinner, sample the modern Mediterranean flavors at Pelagia Trattoria, inside the Renaissance Tampa Hotel. (You'll need a car or cab to get here -- it's about 15 minutes outside the city near the Tampa International Airport.) Pelagia's contemporary dining room is gorgeous, gleaming blue and gold with colorful glass accents, and the food is just as memorable. If it's a nice night, dine outside on the patio as night falls.

Day Three
Today you'll visit St. Petersburg, Tampa's smaller and more sedate neighbor to the west. There are a number of interesting museums where you can spend your morning. The Salvador Dali Museum is one of the world's foremost collections of the Surrealist painter's work, with 96 oil paintings and over 1,000 watercolors, graphics and other compositions. Museum docents give free hour-long tours, which are very helpful in getting the most out of Dali's often challenging paintings.

St. Petersburg is also home to the Florida Holocaust Museum, one of the most important of its kind in the U.S. Its sizeable collection was amassed mostly by local businessman and Holocaust survivor Walter Loebenberg, who worked with other members of the St. Petersburg community to make the museum a reality. The largest item in the collection is a 76-year-old railroad box car used by the Nazis to transport prisoners to concentration camps. Photographs, letters and other memorabilia illuminate the history of Jews in Europe before, during and after the Holocaust.

When you're hungry, head downtown to the Mediterranean-influenced Cafe Alma, where you can munch on delicious tapas, salads, sandwiches and wraps.

You have a few choices for the afternoon; you can visit another museum, or stick around town to take a peek at what was once known as the world's largest shuffleboard club. The St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club was founded in 1924, and eventually grew to 110 playing courts at the height of its membership in the mid-20th century. Today it's still sizeable, with 65 courts, and is open to visitors for a nominal daily membership fee.

One last afternoon option is a trip to John's Pass Village and Boardwalk in Madeira Beach, about 25 minutes away by car. This old-time fishing village has a number of waterfront galleries and shops peddling everything from jewelry and Native American crafts to resort wear and ticky-tacky souvenirs. When you're hungry, enjoy a relaxed seafood dinner with a view over the Gulf at the Friendly Fisherman Seafood Restaurant.

If you stayed in St. Petersburg for the afternoon, try the innovative seafood offerings at the Bonefish Grill. The restaurant specializes in matching fresh-caught fish like Gulf grouper and Chilean sea bass with signature sauces like classic lemon butter or warm mango salsa.

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    --written by Sarah Schlichter

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