Tampa's new children's museum blends imagination, education

TAMPA -- Sandwiched between the shoe-boxy Tampa Museum of Art and busy Ashley Drive, the new Glazer Children's Museum is like a three-story, 53,000-square-foot toy chest and playhouse.

In the museum's spacious new home -- it moved from Lowry Park to the northern edge of Curtis Hixon Park -- kids can pretend to be artists, cooks, pilots, reporters, firefighters, ship captains, builders and droplets of water.

Fifty families will get to explore the museum for the first time Sunday as part of a Willie Wonka-style golden-ticket promotion. Everyone else will have to wait till the grand opening on Sept. 25.

The museum is full of pizzazz. Here are some of the things kids will be able to do:

--Pretend to captain a cruise ship. Unfortunately, there's no limbo contest.

--Look through an underwater periscope. Go ahead and wave to the fishies.

--Dig for an anchor and coins buried in the simulated sand of Gasparilla Island.

--Build a bridge, float a sailboat, unload a cargo ship and make it rain on a 2,000-gallon replica of Port of Tampa. The li'l Steinbrenners will love this one.

--Earn play money at a bank that lets you turn the lights on at city hall, launch a rocket or operate a train. No,mommy and daddy can't use it as collateral.

--Slide down a fire pole. You can try to slide up, but you won't get very far.

--Drive a fire truck that steers through the streets of Tampa using a video windshield. Make sure to hit the siren as often as possible. It's loud and fun.

--Play barista at a pretend Outback Restaurant cafe. Serve parents kid-size pretend food. Earn extra kid points if you talk in an Australian accent.

--Piece together a body puzzle at the St. Joseph's Hospital clinic by matching bones to muscles to tissues.

--Use a stethoscope to listen to a hospital patient's vital signs. Point it at the bottom and you'll hear a deep, loud … um … toot. Feel free to giggle.

--Rearrange a puzzle to match teeth to the correct spot inside a giant mouth. Braces are not required.

--Fly a replica biplane through the skies of Tampa, just like pioneering aviator Tony Jannus.

--Watch a cooking demonstration, learn how to make guacamole and listen to storytellers in an African hut in the My House, Your House section.

--Shop at a miniature Publix grocery store, complete with grocery carts, cans with labels and barcode scanners that also tell nutritional values.

--Operate a news truck's video cameras. Be sure to spy on people walking outside the museum. They'll never know.

--Color digital paintings by Picasso, Renoir or Walt Disney.

--Look into a giant kaleidoscope. Do not adjust your eyes. Objects are jazzier more jazzy than they normally appear.

--Draw in the dark with a light-powered pen. Be sure to sign your name. It won't last long, but it sure is fun.

--Climb through the 35-foot-tall maze called Water's Journey, which simulates a water droplet's cycle from aquifer to atmosphere and back to earth.

--Make and bend noodles into any shape you want. We suggest fettuccine.


ADDRESS: 110 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa

COST: Children, $9.50; adults, $15; military/seniors: $12.50. Children 1 and younger, free. Annual memberships range from $90 to $175.


HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The museum is open every day except Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

PARKING: Available at the adjacent Poe Garage on the corner of Ashley Drive and Cass Street. Regular parking is $1.20 per hour.

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