You can’t pass through Safety Harbor without stopping at Whimzeyland – a roadside attraction for curious souls looking for a pop of color in their life.
“People drive by with these grins on their faces,” co-owner Kiaralinda told ABC Action News. “We call it ‘smile-age.’ And then when the realize they can come on the property.”
Traveling artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda bought the tiny bungalow on the corner of 3rd Street in 1985.
What started as a plain brown canvas is now an explosion of colors thanks to murals and mosaics with a yard surrounded by hundreds of painted bowling balls, twisting tile walkways and recycled art.
The couple’s humble abode was originally called the “Bowling Ball House” because of their flagship landscaping project that set the tone for the home.
“It all started one day when Todd and Kiaralinda found a bunch of bowling balls at a flea market,” Janet Lee, a member of the Safety Harbor artist collective, explained to WUSF News. “There was a sign that said, ‘10 free bowling bowls per person,’ so they called all of their friends and they said, ‘C’mon down – we have to get all of these bowling balls!’”
Ten turned to 20 turned to 60 turned to over 800 hand-painted bowling balls sprawled across the property. More than 80 artists have created bowling ball art for the pair, who turned a piece of the house into “The Bowling Ball Museum” where select spherical pieces are on display.
The bowling ball motif landed Whimzeyland on HGTV’s “Extreme Homes,” MTV’s “Extreme Cribs” and Facebook Watch’s “Most Incredible Homes.”
But it’s not bowling balls or bust – otherwise it would’ve never evolved to be called Whimzeyland.
The Whimzey Twins, as Ramquist and Kiaralinda are known, placed a gazebo obtained from the Kapok Tree Inn on the property. The structure, retrofitted with whimsical tchotchkes and dangling beads, is used for performances.
And while it’s easy to be awestruck at the massive art installations, such as the “Y2K” Volkswagen Beetle adorned with microchips and wiring, the duo packed the property with lush trees, ferns and flowers.
The couple’s vision also extends to the neighboring homes they own and rent out to aspiring artists. For example, Casa Loco, which is across the street, is a Mexican-themed house with panoramic windows and plenty of yard art.
“You could come one time and then the next time you’ll come and you’ll be like, ‘Oh I didn’t see that before.’ You know, ‘Where did that come from?’ There’s just so much to see and I think its super inspiring,” Heather Richardson, a local artist, told News Channel 8.
While visitors are encouraged to take a trip around the property to enjoy the art and learn more about the eclectic owners, an interior tour is off limits 364 days out of the year – opening only once for a charity fundraiser.
However, the Field Review Team at Roadside America got a peek behind the curtain.
“The original Whimzey house is densely packed with art, items made and collected: Howard Finster angels, a large sock monkey in a hula skirt, strands of beads, a series of Mexican figures holding bowls. The bathroom is a particular wonder. The ceiling above the shower curtain is covered with hundreds of glued-in-place plastic toys and figures.”
Whimzeyland is located at 1206 3rd Street N. and is open to the public during the daytime. You can call (727) 725-4018 for more information.
Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.