Here’s something different to do for the summer or on holidays or a day off. Why not visit one of the many local history museums in Tampa Bay? Many may not be aware of their presence since the most popular places to go to locally are the beaches and theme parks. You’ll learn a lot of interesting information and look at Tampa Bay in a whole new light. Another great thing about these six history museums are their low admission prices. You can’t beat that anywhere else and get a good education too. Now we’ll find out more about these buried treasures of Tampa Bay known as history museums.
1.) Henry B. Plant Museum – Tampa, Florida
Situated on the grounds of the University of Tampa along the Hillsborough River right across from downtown Tampa is this gem of an historic museum commemorating its glory days as a grand hotel. The Tampa Bay Hotel is a national historic landmark that featured Moorish architecture with the famed minarets as presently seen in its skyline. Also, it was presented with opulent furnishings, tropical gardens and many other amenities. At the museum you’ll get to know further what this hotel was like in its heyday. Henry B. Plant, the railroad tycoon, personally financed his dream hotel that attracted the most celebrated people in its day such as Teddy Roosevelt to Babe Ruth. It opened in 1891. However, after Plant’s death in 1904 it was purchased by the City of Tampa where the hotel was still in operation until 1932. It closed in part due to the Great Depression.
In 1933 it became a museum and the University of Tampa where it still continues today. I attended and graduated from the University of Tampa. It was like going back to a different time period once I stepped onto its main campus called Plant Hall. From January to November admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $7 for students and $5 for children 4 – 12 years. Throughout the month of December the museum showcases their famous Victorian Christmas Stroll where there is special pricing for that event. Hours of operation are: Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 12 Noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays from January – November. Also they are closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
2.) Ybor City Museum – Tampa, Florida
This unique history museum reflects on the rich cultural heritage that’s Ybor City when it was the “Cigar Capital of the World.” Immigrants from Spain, Cuba and Italy came to this neighborhood to live nearby the numerous cigar factories where these cigars were hand-rolled. The museum is housed in an early 1920’s bakery surrounded outside by a Mediterranean-style garden and casitas or cigar worker’s homes. Get an idea of what life was like during this era before mechanization took over the cigar industry. Included in the admission price, which is $4 per person and children under 5 are admitted free, includes a garden and casita tour. However, the casita tour begins at 10 a.m. every thirty minutes until 3 p.m. daily. Ybor City Museum is opened daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Every Saturday morning starting 10:30 a.m. for $8 per person take advantage of their walking tour offered only once on that day. It is limited to 20 people in the group, so be sure to get there early. Here you get a chance to learn even more about this national historic landmark district called Ybor City.
3.) Tampa Bay History Center – Tampa, Florida
A cornucopia filled with historical information beginning with human habitation 12,000 years ago in this region of Florida to 500 years of recorded history starting with the native inhabitants, Spanish conquistadors, pioneers, sports legends, railroad tycoons and others. There are high-tech interactive and immersive exhibits, theaters, and a map gallery within its confines. Interestingly, the building of this non-profit educational institution is not far from the Fort Brooke reservation, the birthplace of modern-day Tampa. It is situated in the Channelside District of downtown Tampa along the waterfront.
They are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Ticket prices are: Adults – $12, Seniors (65 and older), Students with ID & Youths (13-17) – $10, Children (3 and under) – Free and Military Discount (for active and retired military members & their families with military ID) – $2.00 off regular admission price. On Fourth of July there will be extended hours until 8:30 p.m. and admission is free. Enjoy the fireworks display at the Terrace, Lykes Atrium or Columbia Café starting at 9 p.m.
4.) St. Petersburg Museum of History – St. Petersburg, Florida
Here is the oldest museum in St. Petersburg located in downtown near the approach to the Pier. They have an extensive collection of historical photos and books archived. This is ideal for someone who needs research material for a book, scholarly paper or article. You’ll also find many exhibits to browse through. Come learn more about the history of St. Petersburg and the Pinellas Peninsula. General admission is $9, Senior Citizens (60+) $7, Students with ID $5, Children (7-17) $5, Children (under 6) Free, and All Day Saturdays is $5. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The museum of history is closed on Mondays and Tuesday as well as on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
5.) Dunedin Historical Society and Museum – Dunedin, Florida
Another archival museum filled with artifacts, photographs, and a library filed with books on local and Florida history. There’s even a CD computer program of the Dunedin Times Newspaper from 1924 to 1965. An amazing collection of antique clothing, household tools and utensils from the pioneering families of Dunedin during the 1870’s to the 1900’s are housed here. Original city documents and materials can be found from the Dunedin Post Office, banks and other major companies such as an orange concentrate plant. The railroad industry was a huge part of Dunedin and throughout the state too. There are railroad posters, pictures, equipment, and other materials. Some of these exhibits have hands-on activity for children. Their hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Suggested donation for adults is $2.00. Children under 12 get in free.
6.) The Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum – Tarpon Springs, Florida
Formerly a library it houses two wings, the History Wing and the Ecology Wing. The latter includes much about sponges and sponge diving that was a significant part of Tarpon Springs’ history. This city has an unusual historical mix of Greek, Victorian and Florida in its mix. The Greeks came here for the sponge diving. Many wealthy northerners built beautiful winter homes during the 19th century and the first settlers came to Tarpon Springs because of the calm, serene waters of the Spring Bayou. This heritage museum is located in the heart of Tarpon Springs at Craig Park overlooking the bayou. Every year Spring Bayou is the site of the Greek Orthodox Epiphany Celebration with its famous cross-diving ceremony. It is also the winter home for the manatees. For more information on the hours of operations and admission prices please call (727) 937-0686.
Henry B. Plant Museum, Plant Museum
Welcome to Ybor City Museum, Ybor Museum
Welcome to the Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa Bay History Center
Welcome to the St. Petersburg Museum of History, SPMOH
Dunedin Historical Society and Museum, Dunedin Museum
The Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum, City of Tarpon Springs