Choose-Your-Own-Adventure at Fairgrounds St. Pete

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Choose-Your-Own-Adventure at Fairgrounds St Pete

Fairgrounds St. Pete is now open and ready to plunge you into a whimsical world of artistic wonder and mystery. The 15,000 square foot exhibit hall in St. Pete is a celebration of all things that make Florida weird, wacky, and wonderful.

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.

“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!”

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 Motel. From there, you can go right into the motel lobby to explore the drawers and tourist-trap brochures.

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 a the missing motel guests. This is where the sleuthing begins, if you choose.

Image credit: Laura Byrne

While every room here tells a story, each nook of the entire 15,000 square foot space is filled with the creations of 64+ 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.


VIDEO: Inside Look at Fairgrounds St. Pete


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 shell crowns on display in the room (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.

Fairgrounds St. Pete Artist Iona Parris in the Mermaid Dressing Room
Artist Iona Parris in the Mermaid Dressing Room | Image credit: Laura Byrne

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?

Lampscape room at Fairgrounds St. Pete
Lampscape | Image credit: Fairgrounds St. Pete

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.

Temple of Cosmic Balance by Chris Parks, aka “Palehorse” | Image credit: Laura Byrne

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?

Temple of Cosmic Balance by Chris Parks, aka “Palehorse” at Fairgrounds St. Pete
Temple of Cosmic Balance by Chris Parks, aka “Palehorse” | Image credit: Laura Byrne

Interactive Experiences

As we mentioned, Fairgrounds St. Pete was designed to engage the senses. The pandemic changed some of the original hands-on ideas, so the creators and artists have utilized motion sensing technology to allow you to interact with the pieces.

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.

CENTCOM (aka CATCOM) | Image credit: Laura Byrne

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.

Immersive installations at Fairgrounds St. Pete
Image credit: Fairgrounds St. Pete

Fairgrounds St. Pete is a pretty special place for many reasons, but there’s one reason that perhaps is the most impactful…it helped pull many local artists through the pandemic.

Mansion and her co-founders, including her husband Mikhail Mansion and Liz Dimmitt, say you’ll continue to see Fairgrounds St. Pete evolve as new commissions are added.

So, while a one time visit is definitely a MUST-ADD to your Tampa Bay Bucket List, a visit to Fairgrounds St Pete is likely something you’ll want to do again and again. Give the annual membership a serious consideration!


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 college students, adults 65+, 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 Thursday-Sunday; Thurs: 12pm-6pm, Friday-Sat: 10am-9pm and Sunday: 10am-6pm.

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
  • Masks are encouraged for guests and required for staff
  • Arrive 10 minutes before your ticket time slot

 

All images courtesy of Fairgrounds St. Pete unless otherwise noted


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