You’ve partied in Miami and you’ve tanned on Daytona, but you’re not ready to leave Florida yet – well, if you make a trip to Tampa, you won’t have to. What many visitors (and some Floridians themselves) don’t realize is that Tampa is teeming with inventive museums that cover a diverse range of topics, from photography to WWII. You already know there’s a lot to do in Tampa, now let’s explore what we can learn too.
An oft-visited relic of World War II, the SS American Victory is a symbol of national pride and a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. The museum is situated inside the warship itself, docked permanently at Tampa Bay as a floating time machine that catapults you into her perfectly preserved past. You can book private tours through the official Tampa Bay visitors’ website or opt to guide yourself through all nine decks of incredible exhibits including cargo holds, mess halls, and the captain’s quarters. Visiting the Mariner’s Memorial is a rare opportunity to admire up close the artifacts of a gone-but-not-forgotten time. Address and phone number:705 Channelside Dr., Tampa, FL 33602-8766
Not an ornate house of botany as the name suggests, the Henry B. Plant Museum is actually a museum dedicated to the building’s past life as the grand Tampa Bay Hotel in the late 1900s. The museums exhibits explore the period of Gilded Age tourism through the elite lifestyle of the old hotel’s guests. The opulent ambiance is immediately set in motion by the museum’s facade, a Victorian-era architectural masterpiece with pewter filigreed arches and soaring silver minarets.Today, it finds itself as part of the University of Tampa campus (whilst the South Wing houses the museum, many other rooms in the building are used as university offices and classrooms), and as such stands as a visually stunning reminder of today’s support of universal knowledge over minority elitism.
Ybor City (pronounced “ee-bore”) is a historic Tampa Bay neighborhood rich in culture and cuisine. A remnant from Tampa’s antiquated cigar industry, Ybor is a city stuck in time that to this day continues to showcase its Cuban, Italian and Spanish roots, partly via this museum. The actual museum is housed inside the historic Ferlita Bakery (the ovens of which are part of the museum displays) and the visitors’ center is a square patio strung with glowing paper lanterns and accompanied by vibrant music. If you’re fascinated by the Latin community and want to know more about its past, then this is the museum for you.
If you check the Tampa Bay History Center’s calendar of events, you’ll notice that pretty much all of them have been sold out – that should give you a clue as to how popular this historic gem is. It’s a textbook on Tampa Bay come to life, with interactive exhibits on every floor. Costumed guides tell you humorous stories of Tampa Bay’s intriguing history, and curated collections of arts, artifacts and films animate the Bay’s unforgettable past. Whether you’re new to Tampa or you’ve lived there all your life, there’s certainly something to learn at the History Center.
A staple in the art world, the Tampa Museum of Art offers an emulsion of different visual mediums packed into a spacious, generously lit museum. The exhibits are consistently updated and kept in rotation, which makes the collections diverse and highly appealing. For example, the current exhibit on display, “In Living Color,” pays homage to the legendary Andy Warhol and celebrates his contemporary printmaking. The museum also boasts an impressive permanent collection of sculptures and paintings created by artists both renowned and unknown. An obvious choice if you love art, but exhibitions are so creatively and interestingly put together than even those who don’t know their Warhol from their Pollack will still enjoy themselves. Address and phone number:6600 North Ashley Drive, Tampa, FL 33602 +1 813-274-8130 Prachi Vyas