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Ca' d'Zan Mansion at The Ringling

The 2020 Opals: The Best of Arts & Culture in Opal Destinations

(Above) © The League Collective

Awards season may be over, but we’ve still got our own crop of statues to hand out to a few of the outstanding arts and culture institutions in and around Opal destinations. From museums that encourage child-like curiosity to art institutions that have become pillars of their community, we’ve nominated the best of the best. Read on for our winners – no red carpet required.

Most Nostalgic Spot to Take in a Blockbuster: The 1932 Criterion Theatre [Bar Harbor, ME]

One of only two Art Deco theatres in Maine, The 1932 Criterion Theatre greets visitors with a multi-colored marquee that harkens back to the days of silent picture shows. Built in 1932, this historic house of art has been delighting crowds in downtown Bar Harbor for decades – first with vaudeville acts and orchestras and, today, with blockbusters and rock bands. Every vantage point in the 760-seat theatre gives gawkers a clear view of Maine history, and it’s all thanks to the nonprofit organization that maintains it.

Where to Stay  Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina | West Street Hotel

Best All-In-One Arts Stop: Arts Garage [Delray, FL]

A collision point of visual arts, performance art, and arts education, the Arts Garage is Delray’s answer to keeping burgeoning talent local. Their stage space invites everyone from Grammy Award-winners to local poets up to the microphone, while their Grassroots Gallery keeps it strictly local, displaying only up-and-coming visual artists from the Delray area. Visitors to this dynamic space can see live music and take in a gallery show all in one evening!

Where to Stay Opal Grand Oceanfront Resort & Spa Delray Sands Resort

Live Show at Arts Garage

Best Sports History Haven: Olympic Ski Jumping Complex [Lake Placid, NY]

If you want to make a sports pilgrimage, there are few places better than the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid. The ski mecca is made up of a 90- and 120-meter ski jump, originally built for the 1980 Olympic Games. Although visitors can’t use the jumps themselves (it’s better to leave the prospect of propelling 60 miles per hour down a ramp to the pros), they can see it from two unique perspectives: The Skyride, an eight-passenger gondola that transports people to the base of the ski jumps, or the scenic elevator, an all-glass elevator that lets you take in the Adirondack mountains from a hawk’s perspective.

Where to Stay Lake Placid Lodge

Best Re-purposing of a Military Site: Key West Martello Gardens and Fort [Key West, FL]

A perfect marriage of history and art, this 1864 Civil War fort, now a perennial paradise, offers visitors a look back in time and an immersion into horticultural design. The Key West Garden Club maintains the greenery and the kaleidoscope of colorful orchids, lilies, and more that now brighten the once armored bricks of the fortified tower. You can visit this Eden 362 days a year, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is completely free.

Where to Stay The Laureate Key West | Sunset Key Cottages

Most Creative Way to Get Your Kids to Care about Art: The Golisano Children’s Museum [Naples, FL]

Introduce your little ones to the magic of art in a museum they’ll actually enjoy visiting. This two-floor, 30,000-square-foot mecca caters to the curiosity of children with art displays, interactive exhibits, and places to explore. The Art Studio lets kids connect with their inner Monet, while learning centers like the Inventioneers Lab and The Farm allow kids to explore their innovative side and learn about the importance of agriculture.

Where to Stay Edgewater Beach Hotel

Best Way to Travel to Greece without a Passport: Greektown [Tarpon Springs, FL]

Just 15 miles north of Clearwater Beach, a secret slice of the Mediterranean flourishes in the form of a waterfront village known as Tarpon Springs’s “Greektown.” Here, Dodecanese Boulevard’s seven-block main drag boasts quaint Greek cafes, bakeries, restaurants, and shops, while the Historic Sponge Docks bustle with boats, fishermen, sponge divers, and boat engineers. It all comes peppered with the flag’s signature white and blue color scheme and an ever-present scent of garlic, lamb, and Greek confections wafting from nearby notable businesses and eateries.

Where to Stay Belleview Inn | Opal Sands Resort | Sandpearl Resort

Best Place to Pretend You are a Queen or King: Ca’ D’Zan [Sarasota, FL]

Built in 1924, the 36,000-square-foot Ca’ D’Zan is located on the grounds of Sarasota’s famous Ringling Museum and is a behemoth Venetian-inspired palazzo that was the winter home to American circus king, John Ringling, and his wife, Mable. While the palatial mansion is famous for its interior historic furnishings – like the crystal chandelier from the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Italian paintings, and even an Aeolian organ – nothing beats the opulent exterior. Think a beautiful multi-colored marble terrace; a gorgeous reflecting pool surrounded by detailed tiled work; and the 82-foot ornate “Belvedere Tower,” modeled after the Cathedral of Seville bell tower.

Where to Stay Lido Beach Resort | The Resort at Longboat Key Club | Zota Beach Resort

Ca' d'Zan Mansion at The Ringling

(Above) © The League Collective

Most Unique Art Experience: Center for Maine Contemporary Art [Rockland, ME]

Even the building that houses the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) is an enigmatic piece of art in itself. Designed by architect Toshiko Mori, this unique building could garner a second glance from any passerby, but it’s what that sawtooth roofline covers that will be more interesting to the art buffs among us. Located in downtown Rockland, a stone’s throw away from the Farnsworth Art Museum, the CMCA hosts a rotating cast of some of the most interesting twenty-first-century art displays, including a current exhibition called “Simulacrush” that showcases 18 artists meditating on states of reality across media.

Where to Stay Samoset Resort

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