Get Weird at 4 of Tampa’s Oddball AttractionsBy Terry Ward
Florida has earned its reputation as a state full of odd attractions and weird wonders. And the city of Tampa Bay dives headlong into the action with its share of bizarre things to see and do.
Spend a day wandering among towering dinosaur sculptures, browsing a morbid gallery of collectibles, or searching for treasures within a veritable temple to trash. If it’s unexpected and more than a little weird, you’re sure to find it at these Tampa attractions.
This gallery of weird and often grotesque items “where death and dysfunction dance in an artful ballet” makes for a singular shopping experience in Tampa’s Ybor City district.
Vintage crime and anatomy books, mounted python skulls, taxidermic raccoons, and baby dolls tucked into caskets are just a few of the morbidly fascinating items you might find for sale on any given day. Come just to ogle the out-there wares or to shop for a unique souvenir for that very special someone.
If you’ve driven along Interstate 4 from Orlando to Tampa, chances are you’ve spotted the life-size statue of a Tyrannosaurus rex peering down at you from the roadside. And while dinosaurs never actually roamed Florida (the peninsula was under water during their era), you can get an idea of what things may have looked like if they had at this unusual outdoor attraction.
Nearly 200 dinosaur statues made from fiberglass and concrete rise from the native vegetation and lurk in the water features at Dinosaur World, a popular school field trip destination that’s just as fun for adult visitors as it is for kids.
Stroll the shaded boardwalks to see brontosaurus, stegosaurus and other behemoths. And don’t miss the exhibits in the park’s indoor space, too, where you can see locally excavated fossils and an animatronic dinosaur display that kids absolutely love. There’s even an excavation pit stocked with treasures like sharks’ teeth and gastropods that kids can dig up and take home.
Sulphur Springs Water Tower
Is it a landlocked lighthouse? A misplaced castle turret? These are just a few of the thoughts that might come to mind when you spot the white concrete Sulphur Springs Water Tower while driving on Interstate 275 north of downtown Tampa.
The 214-foot-tall tower was actually built in 1927 to draw attention to a once-popular resort area around a bubbling natural sulphur spring near the Hillsborough River. River Tower Park in the neighborhood of Seminole Heights is a good spot to get a view of the tower, which is said to be haunted. But unfortunately, there’s no way to get inside to verify that for yourself.
Hong Kong Willie
An artist named Joe Brown who divides his time between Tampa and Key West is behind this everything-old-is-art attraction that you can clearly see from exit 266 off I-75.
What first appears to be a dumping site is actually an alfresco art installation dedicated to the idea that nearly everything can be reused and reimagined in an artistic way. A tree strung with fishing buoys and a helicopter on the lawn first catch your eye at Hong Kong Willie, where items like old shoes, antiquated electronics and even shells are the makings of Brown’s artistic palette.
There’s an indoor gallery to explore, as well, with most of the items you’ll see available for purchase. That just leaves you to decide if another man’s trash turned treasure could indeed be yours, too.