Sarasota, Tampa Bay & St. Petersburg– The Welge Report



Hello Fellow Travelers:

Welcome to our world of business information, museums, adventure, birding, botanical gardens, good eating and fine wines.  This newsletter provides you with “The Welge Report for Sarasota, Tampa Bay & St. Petersburg .

Please share it with your friends, customers and associates.  You can also access more than 100 cities on our website plus lots of other helpful travel tips at:

Recognition:  We extend special thanks to the people who manage and/or own the institutions, museums and restaurants featured in our guides.  In some instances we have relied on their descriptions and photos.


Sarasota, Tampa Bay & St. Petersburg


Birding Opps:  Info for our birding friends.  In and near Sarasota you can see: Green Heron, Eastern Bluebirds, Green-winged Teal, Scaup, American Kestrels, Sandwich Terns and Wood Storks.

Sarasota Audubon ( points out the hot spots to visit.

Sarasota Parks & Recreation ( has good suggestion and locations for seeing 100 or more species a day.

Rick Greenspun (http://sarasotabirdingguide.coml) will tailor a tour to your specifications.

Transportation: To see all of the places included you will need a car.

Amtrak ( – Your connection to more than 500 stations in 46 states. For online information and train schedules visit or call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245)

Day One: Sarasota - Your first visit is to the John & Mabel Ringling Museum of Art – Daily: 10-5, 5401 Bay Shore Rd, 941-359-5700

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the state art museum of Florida. It was established in 1927.  Florida State assumed governance of the Museum in 2000.

The museum offers twenty-one galleries of European paintings as well as Cypriot, Asian, American antiquities and contemporary art.

The museum’s art collection currently consists of more than 10,000 objects that include a variety of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative arts from ancient through contemporary periods from around the world.

The most celebrated items in the museum are 16th-20th-century European paintings including a world-renowned collection of Peter Paul Rubens’ paintings.

Other famous artists represented include Benjamin West, Marcel Duchamp, Diego Velaquez, Paolo Veronese, Rosa Bonheur, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Frans Hals, Nicolas Pousin, Thomas Gainsborough and Eugene Boudin.

Next let’s visit the Circus Museum – Daily: 10-5,

Walk the wire. Squeeze into a clown car. Snap photos with a ferocious (faux) tiger. Thrill to it all: the parade wagons, the posters, the glittering costumes, and the cannon that shot daring performers through the air.

Wonder at the must-be-seen-to-be-believed 44,000-piece Howard Bros.Circus Model and The Greatest Show on Earth Mural celebrating the entertainment that has delighted packed houses in great cities and small towns across America for generations. Step right this way…

There is more that we want to see here so let’s have lunch at Treviso – L: Daily, D: Th-Sa, 5401 Bay Shore Road, 941-360-7390

We like the seared tuna steak on a caponata salad with tomato, pea shoots and a lemon coriander dressing or the pasta Bolognese with a short rib, pecorino cheese and sweet basil.

Your wine selection is the ’11 Alexakis Vidiano.  Let’s keep dessert unpretentious and go with the limoncello crème brulee.

Another important attraction here is Ca’D’Zan – Daily: 10-5, The Ringling Residence

The home of the circus king and his wife, Ca’ d’Zan stands as a testament to the American Dream of the Roaring Twenties.

Inspired by and designed in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzos that ring the Venice canals, this dazzling palatial mansion perfectly captures the splendor and romance of the Italy the Ringlings so loved.

To honor its owner, they named it Ca’ d’Zan, “House of John”, in the dialect of their beloved Venice.

The 36,000 square-foot house sits on a waterfront site 1,000 feet long and 3,000 feet deep.

It is five stories tall and has a full basement. Constructed from terra cotta “T” blocks, concrete and brick, it is covered with stucco and terra cotta and embellished with glazed tile.

Decorative tile medallions, balustrades and ornamental cresting in soft red, yellow, green, blue and ivory highlight the pink patina of the stucco and terra cotta exterior.

Inside, the main floor includes living, entertaining and dining areas. The Ringlings private bedrooms as well as five guest bedrooms are found on the second floor along with the servants’ quarters.

On the third floor there is a game room and bath. On the fourth floor there is a great beamed guest room and bath with windows on all four sides.

At the property’s pinnacle is an 82-foot-high tower with an open-air landing and a high-domed ceiling.

Legend has it that John enjoyed taking guests up to the tower to show them his land holdings in Sarasota, which then extended nearly as far as the eye could see.

The final experience we are to have here are Mabel Ringling’s Bayfront Gardens

Mable envisioned an estate with exotic trees and plants, and collected them with the same passion that her husband collected art.

To wander the estate today is to wander through a 66-acre garden of trees, among them 14 Banyan, two Shaving Brush, one Tiger Claw, one Monkey Puzzle, two Ear,  two Rainbow Eucalyptus and six varieties of bamboo.

After this entertaining botanical walkabout let’s visit the Marie Selby Botanical Garden – Daily: 10-5, 811 S Palm Ave, 941-366-5731 where among other plants we can learn about epiphytes, like this one.

Marie Selby Gardens’ role is to further the understanding and appreciation of plant life, with an emphasis on epiphytes, and to provide enjoyment to all who visit the Gardens.

The Gardens maintain a plant collection numbering more than 20,000 accessioned plants. Eight greenhouses include the stunning Conservatory where unusual flora can be seen year round.

The Botany Department provides headquarters for the Bromeliad, Gesneriad, and Orchid Research Centers, and the Selby Gardens’ Herbarium and Molecular Laboratory.

Epiphytes are plants that live on other plants but are traditionally classified as non-parasitic. The most common epiphyte seen in Florida is Spanish Moss—not a true moss, but a member of the bromeliad family.

Often called “air plants,” epiphytes attach to their host plants for support and as a means to reach more sunlight.

Dinner is at Michael’s on East – L: M-F, D: M-Sa, 1212 East Ave. S., Sarasota, 941-366-0007

Let’s start with the lobster and escargots with fennel confit, thyme roasted cherry tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, curry and goat cheese crostini or the beef carpaccio with parmesan and baby arugula.

For our main it’s the sautéed pompano with shrimp or the veal chop with basil and parmesan mashed potatoes.

Dessert is the house favorite – Michael’s Popcorn Sundae.  Your wine is the ’05 La Spinatta “Pin” Nebbiolo.

Day Two – Breakfast is at Station 400 – B & L: Daily, 400 N Lemon St, Sarasota, 941-906-1400

The most popular breakfast here and one of our favorites is the smoked salmon scramble on toast with melted brie, avocado, dill cream, hash browns and fruit salad.

They also feature omelets, waffles, pancakes and French toast.

We’re still in Sarasota because we want to visit the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary – W-Su: 12:30-4, 7101 Palmer Blvd, Sarasota, 941-371-6377

Since 1987, Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary has provided a safe haven and permanent sanctuary for exotic animals that have been abused, abandoned, neglected, confiscated or previously owned by people unwilling or unable to provide for them.

Kay Rosaire, founder of Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary, is an eighth generation animal trainer from one of England’s most respected animal training families.

The Rosaire family is known worldwide for their gifted animal training ability, for their work within the entertainment and film industry, and as animal educators.

Showcasing the animals who call the habitat home, Kay and her son Clayton educate the public about these fascinating animals, their needs and talents with “Educational Demonstrations” and animal encounters.

Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary provides a sanctuary “for life” for the exotic animals currently calling the sanctuary home.

Their goal is to create habitats that mimic native environments and are complete with a staff that can provide daily behavioral, sensory, and manipulative enrichment which is the basis for a happy healthy animal in captivity.

As they grow and open their habitat to more rescues they will provide the same excellent care while educating the public.

Now it’s time for something a bit more seaworthy.  That would be a visit to the Mote Marine Laboratory – Daily: 9-5, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, 941-388-4441

Mote has an interesting aquarium for your entertainment but its mission is dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources.

From the original focus on sharks, Mote research has expanded to include studies of human cancer using marine models, the effects of man-made and natural toxins on humans and on the environment, the health of wild fisheries, developing sustainable and successful fish restocking techniques and food production technologies and the development of ocean technology to help us better understand the health of the environment.

Mote research programs also focus on understanding the population dynamics of manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and coral reefs and on conservation and restoration efforts related to these species and ecosystems.

An interesting lunch choice is Café L’Europe – L & D: Daily, 431 St. Arnands Circle, Sarasota, 941-388-4415

It’s worth every guilder.  Start with the lobster bisque with crème fraiche and sherry.

An intriguing entrée is the German apple pancake with a lingonberry sauce or the sautéed calf’s liver with onions and bacon.

The ’07 S.a. Prum Spatlese-mosel Riesling is a good match.  For dessert we suggest the profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Tampa Bay

Well fortified by lunch we are ready to visit the Tampa Museum of Art – M-F: 11-7, F: till 8, Sa,Su: 11-5, 120 W Gaspanilla Plaza, 813-274-8130

The Tampa Museum of Art has a collection of modern and contemporary art, with a specific focus on photography since the 1980s.

Important contemporary photographic works by Cindy Sherman, Chuck Close, Sandy Skoglund, Jerry Uelsmann and John Baldessari are complemented by earlier works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, and Berenice Abbott.

The Museum also holds important paintings by such modern and contemporary masters as Rockwell Kent, Alma Thomas, Ralph Goings, Sylvia Mangold, Willie Cole and Purvis Young.

Let’s have some fun tonight at Mise en Place – L & D: Tu-Sa. 442 W Kennedy Blvd #110, Tampa, 813-254-5373

May we suggest the chicken liver pear port mousse pate with fennel red onion radish salad and pinot verjus chutney or the Aleppo pepper grilled shrimp with polenta fries, cannelini bean pancetta ragout and meyer lemon pistachio gremolata butter.

Enjoy a glass of the ’09 Michel LaFarge Aligote with either.

For you entrée your choice is either the aji Amarillo crusted tuna with a butternut squash chorizo crab posole and smokey pepita romesco or the mustard pecan crusted rack of lamb, Amish cheddar chili grits, vegetables, cayenne buttermilk onion rings and mushroom lamb jus.

The ’12 Celani ‘Siglo’ merlot is a good pick.  Dessert is the Yuzu Mascarpone cheesecake.

St. Petersburg

Day Three Breakfast is at Mazzaro Coffee & Italian Market – B & L: Tu-Sa, 2909 22nd Ave N, St. Petersburg, 727-321-2400

We picked Mazzaro’s for their coffee, people watching and the market, so enjoy their lattes or espresso and some delicious bread and cheese, or indulge your sweet tooth.

Today let’s find out if art is real or surreal at the Dali Museum – M-Sa: 10-5:30, Th: till 8, Su: 11-5, One Dali Blvd St, St. Petersburg, 727-823-3767

Salvador Dali was born in Figueres, Spain in 1904. Dali is known for his technical skill as a painter and the shocking quality of his imagination.

His pioneering spirit was also accompanied by a reverence of tradition and a will for continuity.

Dali consistently depicted the landscape of his homeland, one that became synonymous with the landscape of the imagination and of dreams.

The Dali Museum Collection is rich in works from artist Salvador Dali’s entire career (1904-1989), with key works from every moment and in every medium of his artistic activity.

The Collection includes 96 oil paintings, many original drawings, bookworks, prints, sculpture, photos, manuscripts and an extensive archive of documents.

Nearby is the Chihuly Collection – M-Sa: 10-5, Su: 12-5, 400 Beach St, 727-822-7872

This is the first installation of Dale Chilhuly art in a building that was designed specifically for that purpose.  The entrance features a 20 foot sculpture created for this site.

The Collection includes Chihuly’s spectacular large-scale installations such as Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier created specifically for the Collection along with several popular series works including Macchia, Ikebana, Niijima Floats, Persians and Tumbleweeds which have thrilled audiences around the globe.

Each space has been designed individually to complement each installation producing unique visual experiences.

The beach beckons and so does Guppy’s on the Beach – L & D: Daily, 1701 Gulf Blvd, Indian Rocks Beach, 727-593-2032

Let’s start with the lobster bisque, and then move on to the potato crested salmon with a creamy leek and garlic sauce or the grouper with lemon caper butter sauce, blackened with avocado Serrano salsa.

Your wine is the Jordan chardonnay.  The special house dessert is the fried banana caramel cheesecake.

Morean Art Center – M-Sa: 10-5, Su: 12-5, 719 Central Ave, St Petersburg, 727-822-7872, Admission includes the Chihuly Collection, Glass Studio & Hot Shop, Morean Arts Center Galleries and the Morean Arts Center for Clay.

The Morean Arts Center, with roots dating back to 1917 as the Art Club of St. Petersburg, focuses on an innovative, community-oriented approach to art and art education.

Their exhibitions bring contemporary art created by local, regional and national artists to the community in virtually all visual mediums.

These artists include Jasper Johns, Duncan McClellan, Allison Massari, Peter Max, Babs Reingold and Jun Kaneko—to name a few.

The major art collection in the area is our next stop, The Museum of Fine Arts – M-Sa: 10-5, Th: till 8, Su: 12-5, 255 Beach Dr NE, 727-896-2667

The museum displays thousands of objects from early antiquity to the present day.

Highlights include masterpieces from Claude Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, a sculpture garden, a Steuben glass gallery and one of Florida’s most respected photography collections.

Dinner is at the Fourth Street Shrimp StoreL & D: Daily, 1006 4th St N, St Petersburg, 727-822-0325

Our cousin suggests a margarita for starters as your peruse the menu.  This place is laid back and there are a lot of good choices, like another margarita.

We enjoyed the grouper which they can fry, broil or blacken.  Other choices include grilled fish tacos and lots of shrimp.

For dessert try their white chocolate bread pudding with their homemade whiskey sauce.


Until next time, best wishes and happy travels,

Dick & Dee Welge

© 2015 R.E. Welge All Rights Reserved. Use of this website constitutes acceptance of the Web Site Rules and Regulations of  Any business use without permission forfeits your right to “Local grouper”.








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