As a long time downtown resident of Tampa I have always wanted to visit the Tampa Bay History Center even before it opened in its new multi-million dollar location on the waterfront near Channelside. So when I was asked to visit the center on a hot Sunday afternoon I happily agreed to learn more about Tampa’s intriguing past.
I was very impressed by the high quality displays and interactive features that the Tampa Bay History Museum featured. One of my favorite exhibits was a movie about Tampa’s port. The movie was shown on multiple screens inside a shipping container. The movie was clever and entertaining and can be enjoyed by both adults and children. Everyone in our group was surprised to learn the Port of Tampa employs over sixteen thousand people.
Children will also love the Florida cattle ranchers’ film that is shown with three saddles that can be rode while watching the film on a large screen. The Tampa Bay History Center even provides a cowboy hat for a complete Florida ranching experience.
On the first floor of the Tampa Bay History Center there are a variety of exhibits that explore the Native American’s influence on early Tampa. There is also an awesome exhibit that highlights the Cuban influence on Tampa through the cigar trade. One part of the History Center is actually set up to resemble a real Ybor City cigar shop.
Those looking to dine at the Tampa Bay History Center will be happy to find that operating inside the center is an off shoot of the Columbia Restaurant. The Columbia restaurant has had a long history with Tampa and serves delicious and authentic Tampa-Cuban cuisine. The best part of the Columbia Café is that the small stand is lavishly decorated to resemble the original Columbia Restaurant.
The Tampa Bay History Center was empty of visitors when we attended. However, judging by the large amounts of exhibits and interactive displays for children, school groups seem to be the primary visitors to the history center. Visitors wishing to enjoy a more peaceful and adult oriented visit to the Tampa Bay History Center should stick to the weekends to avoid the field trip crowds.
One of the major disadvantages to visiting the Tampa Bay History Center was its price. At $12 admission for an adult it was really quite expensive compared to other museums in the area. Understanding that the museum needs funding we paid our admission but felt slightly irritated by the price. Perhaps if the museum ran a special night or day with free or discounted admission more locals would be willing to give the Tampa Bay History Center a chance. Once the locals fall in love with the center they are more likely to refer tourists and visitors to it increasing its attendance.
The Tampa Bay History Center is located in downtown Tampa at 801 Old Water Street, Tampa, FL 33602.