Leave reality at the door, friends… and let this immersive artistic experience be your escape from the real-life wacky world we live in today. And here’s the cool part, WHAT and HOW you experience this exhibit during your visit is totally up to you.
71 local and international artists used a combination of soundscapes, scents, innovations, and cutting-edge aspects to create this one-of-a-kind artist-made world.
“It’s a choose-your-own-adventure with layers of quests, mysteries, and scavenger hunts people can opt into if they like,” co-founder Olivia Mansion explained. “Or they can simply enjoy all of the art, escape reality and immerse and photograph themselves in a beautiful place!”
What You Can Experience at Fairgrounds St. Pete
- Choose-your-own- adventure
- Themed rooms
- Interactive experiences
- Vintage Florida-themed art
- A plethora of perfect picture spots for the ‘gram
What’s NEW at Fairgrounds St. Pete: Shrimpfinity
The newest pop-up exhibit space is also one of our favorites…Shrimpfitinty created by MILAGROS Collective. You’ll find this whimsical room toward the back of the exhibit space near the CATCOM exhibit–a smoothie/UFO-type creation (you have to see it to really get it–and it’s awesome).
When you step inside, you’ll be surrounded head to toe in MILAGROS Collective’s signature painted swirls, a life-sized shrimp cocktail, and even a shrimp disco ball. The photo poses are endless!
How it Works
Fairgrounds St. Pete is an immersive choose-your-own-adventure experience, so don’t feel pressured to try and figure it all out. There is no wrong away to do it.
You’ll start your adventure after check-in by taking the turn on 275 to the Mermaid Star Motel. From there, you can go right into the motel lobby to explore the drawers and tourist-trap brochures.
Just across the hallway is a bright pink motel room where a suitcase is left wide open in the corner of the room. While there are plenty of oddities in here, the glowing orb on the bed definitely ups the ante. Some have speculated it might be the room of the missing motel guests, “Jax and Jesse Phoenix”. This is where the sleuthing begins if you choose.
While every room here tells a story, each nook of the entire 15,000-square-foot space is filled with the creations of 71+ artists. The works come in all forms, including paintings, sculptures, digital video, light, sound, and pretty much anything you can imagine.
Fairgrounds St. Pete will engage your senses and make you think as you explore and play. We don’t want to give it all away but take some time in each space to really look closely at everything.
You’ll start to notice some common elements like the complimentary glowing ‘Restorative Water’, glowing orbs, cats, aliens, and even Twistee Treat.
The Rooms at Fairgrounds St. Pete
We’d be hard-pressed to name a favorite spot inside Fairgrounds St. Pete, but we probably had the most fun talking to artist Iona Parris inside the Mermaid Dressing Room. The Air Force veteran creates beautiful pieces from shells, including seashell crowns on display in front of an ocean blue vanity (you can purchase your own in the gift shop).
The Mermaid Dressing Room’s most prominent display is the shell wall created by co-founder Liz Dimmitt and her mother. Nestled inside are discs created by another artist you can turn, engaging that sense of touch and sight.
“Getting to actually touch and see the art and everything like that—knowing that things will move and not break—you can still interact with the art. I think that’s amazing. I’ve never heard of anything like this—so this is pretty cool,” Parris told us.
The Lampscape Room was pretty cool too. This infinity room is filled with lamps and if you look closely, you’ll notice familiar repeating symbols and interactive elements. Hmmm…maybe these are clues to help you figure out what happened to the missing motel guests?
The Strawberry Room celebrates one of Florida’s top crops–the strawberry–but with an otherworldly twist. This is where sound, sight, and smell engage along with your tastebuds…kinda. You can definitely imagine what the sweet strawberry treats must taste like on display here. Mmmm….
Another favorite room is a place where you can REALLY escape reality– the Temple of Cosmic Balance by Chris Parks, aka “Palehorse”. It’s a place to meditate and was even designed with little ones in mind. Infinity mirrors at varying heights enable adults and kids alike to reach their own moment of zen.
Parks told us you don’t need to have experience in meditation to get the most from this space, “Listen and just look and feel. You can get a sense of that calmness and peace that is always available and always there for us, but we can lose it with all the chaos and our fears and selfish desires, worries and nervousness.”
Yeah…we can also use some calm and peace right about now, right?
As we mentioned, Fairgrounds St. Pete was designed to engage the senses. For example, you can step inside CENTCOM (aka CATCOM), a frozen drink inspired cat/alien spaceship structure, and wave your hands over the buttons for responses. Digital works of art pop up on the screens in the form of video.
Over in the motel pool area, there’s a dark wall that will suddenly come aglow with the eyes of endangered species in Florida as you walk by.
More Must-See Exhibits at Fairgrounds St. Pete
One of the coolest creations we saw at Fairgrounds St. Pete was one inspired by our beautiful Tampa Bay Area bridges. To find it, look for the slit in the dark wall across from the Mermaid Mural. Stand under the sound bubble and peek through the opening. Inside, you’ll see a 3-D view from under the bridge as projections of city lights twinkle in the background. Look down and you might spot a glowing orb float by. Hmmm….is this part of the mystery?
The Mermaid Mural is really beautiful too and a great spot to snap a selfie or two.
Another photo spot is near the Mermaid Dressing Room. It’s the cyborg gator from the future–step inside his mouth and you’ll be taken into a room featuring super cool dioramas.
At Fairgrounds St. Pete, kids and adults can add to their experience with one of their themed scavenger hunts. Their latest one, Pepe’s Plight, has you embark on a treasure hunt through the Mermaid Star Motel and beyond – solving riddles to uncover a deeper hidden narrative! Learn secrets that have never-been-told before, revealing more about the immersive world of Fairgrounds St. Pete! There are 14 coins scattered in the experience – try to find them all for a unique date night challenge.
There is also a Searchlight Scavenger Hunt that will equip you with a UV light to find hidden clues–it’s perfect for kids too!
What to Know Before you Go to Fairgrounds St. Pete
Timed tickets are required for entry and can be purchased at fairgrounds.art. Tickets are $27 for ages 13+, $22 for children ages 4-12, and free for children under 4. Discounts for Florida residents, college students, adults 65+, active military and active-duty police/fire/EMT are available for $25.
Fairgrounds St. Pete is located at 800 28th St South in St. Pete. Current hours are Monday from 5 pm-1:30 pm | Thursday: 12 pm-7:30 pm, Friday 12 pm-10:30 pm, Saturday 10 am-10:30 pm and Sunday, from 10 am-7:30 pm
More helpful info:
- The following are not allowed at Fairgrounds St. Pete: Strollers, outside food and drinks, selfie sticks, bags larger than 10” x 10”, and gum
- Parking is free around The Factory St Pete
- Arrive 10 minutes before your ticket time slot
All images courtesy of Fairgrounds St. Pete unless otherwise noted