If you're in town for the first time for the Republican National Convention, don't let all those political events get in the way of you seeing the real Tampa. Sneak away from all the speeches and visit some of our favorite places and special events. We'll tell you about a few each day.
Salvador Dali Museum, 1 Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg; (727) 823-3767. Go see world's most comprehensive collection of works by the late Spanish surrealist, even the building is a work of art. Visit their website () for a printable $2 off coupon or plan your visit to coincide with "Thursdays After 5" and pay only $10 for admission.
Ybor City Museum, 181 E. Ninth Ave., Tampa; (813) 248-3712. Learn about the immigrants who created the basis of what Tampa is today. Housed in a 1920's bakery, the museum grounds include an example of a typical cigar worker's house called a "casita" along with artifacts of significance in the lives of the Spanish and Italian settlers.
The Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa; (813) 273-4000. They were reserved for private RNC events earlier this week, but now they're back open to the rest of us. From river otters to sharks, there are more than 20,000 aquatic animals and plants in residence at the Aquarium. You can even get your hands wet and touch some of them; including bamboo sharks and sea stars.
Bella's Italian Café, 1413 S. Howard Ave., Tampa; (813) 254-3355. Not just pizza and spaghetti, this venerable Hyde Park restaurant features a classy but comfortable ambience and an affordable menu of Italian dishes made from scratch. Eating here is fun, and always starts with complimentary bruschetta. Desserts are essential, and the kitchen welcomes late-night diners seven days a week while locals pour into the bar and lounge. Weekday lunches are a good deal, too. Consider the outdoor tables.
"Common Sense," West Tampa Center for the Arts, 1906 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa; (813) 453-4381. Catch this juried art show highlighting socio-political issues and documenting current public sentiment as seen through the eyes of the artists. Free to visit, but call for closing hours.