May 17, 2024 - Newcomers Guide

A guide to whimsical, tasty Safety Harbor

A home painted with swirly, colorful designs with a painted pink elephant in the front yard.

Ellie in her natural habitat: in front of the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios

Many of you recognized the pink elephant in yesterday's newsletter as Ellie, a beloved icon in downtown Safety Harbor.

Why it matters: She's one of countless quirky characters in a little town well worth the half-hour-or-more drive from areas such as St. Pete and Tampa.

State of play: The city's Third Friday celebration (tonight!) is a great way to get a taste of Safety Harbor partying, with live music and local vendors.

Zoom in: Ellie lives at the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center (SHAMC), a building covered in mirrored mosaics that hosts concerts, offers craft classes and sells work from local artists.

  • It's owned by Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda, who met and fell in love in seventh-grade art class.
  • For nearly 40 years they've been turning their home nearby into "Whimzeyland," an outdoor recycled art collection with everything from bowling balls to computer part-covered VW Beetles. Both SHAMC and Whimzeyland are free to stroll through.
  • The decorations spread to "Coco Loco," their rentable guesthouse across the street.

The big picture: Downtown Safety Harbor is a delightful walk packed with fun shops and cafes.

  • Nature lovers can also explore the waterfront park, boardwalk and Philippe Park — perfect for running, biking and kayaking.
colorful clothes racks and a stage inside SHAMC
Local art and clothes for sale inside SHAMC. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios
a metal statue of a dalmatian wearing a firefighter's helmet and sunglasses, holding an axe in front of a fire hydrant
Yard art near Whimzeyland. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios

More to eat, drink and do:

🧇 Treat yourself to a sweet breakfast at Café Vino Tinto. Try the toasted marshmallow latte and guava waffles.

📚 Grab a new read and chat with Crystal, the owner of Portkey Books.

💆 Splurge on a self-care day at Safety Harbor Resort & Spa.

🦞 Grab a lobster grilled cheese at Bar Fly.

🍭 Become a kid in a candy store at Rocking Delicious.

🍰 Dig into a slice of cheesecake at Bassano.

🎞️ Catch a movie with a gourmet speakeasy twist at Gigglewaters.

A woman gets candy from rows of jars
A candy addict (Selene's girlfriend, Maria) in her element at Rocking Delicious. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios
Guava waffles
Café Vino Tinto's incredible guava waffles. Photo: Maria Medina-Nigaglioni/Axios

Want more to explore? Check out our guides to Brandon, Dunedin, Lakeland, Largo and Plant City.


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