There only one our many Tampa Florida attractions that gives you an education about the Tampa Bay area, facts about Florida, andwill keep both you and the kids entertained. The Tampa History Center is located on Channelside Drive at the head of Tampa’s Riverwalk. The experience starts on the outside, so don’t cheat yourself out of entering along the Riverwalk. The Center doesn’t have its own parking lot, so you’ll use either the parking garage at the St. Pete Times Forum or the one across from Channelside Bay Plaza.
If it’s a nice day or evening, do what our family did and park at the Westin Harbor Island, where Jaskson’s Bistro is located, then stroll along Riverwalk.You’ll get the full effect of the museum itself as well as how far Tampa has come. If you do make the walk you will actually pass the location of Fort Brooke, which is basically where the Tampa Convention Center is located now.
There’s some amazing artwork that starts just outside the Tampa History Center, dedicated to those Floridians who served in the military.
The Center is organized into 3 different levels:
The first floor shows artifacts from the earliest Native Americans and a few examples of how their lives changed over the time of the initial European settlements up to the time of the Trail of Tears. There’s a riveting audio visual exhibit that chronicles the story of Coacoochee’s, last Chief of the Seminole before the march.
Ybor City and the cigar industry are also represented on this first level. They’ve got a great display of an cigar shop and lots of great information about those early years of Cuban and Italian settlement. One of the most interesting things we learned was that the factories had employees that would read books to the workers while they rolled the cigars. Apparently, Don Quixote was a favorite!
The second exhibit level is much more interactive and the ones the kids will enjoy the most. There you’ll learn the story of Florida’s early cattle industry and how “cracker” became synonymous with native Floridians. There’s a large movie screen with toy horses for adults and kids to ride along with the real Crackers on screen.
Play with the train set, read about Tampa Bay’s burgeoning businesses over the years and let the kids explore. Make sure you enter the shipping container and watch the movie there too, you’ll learn a lot!
The 3rd level is reserved for travelling exhibits. While there aren’t any facts about Florida here, you’ll still have fun. The current exhibit includes costumes and props from science fiction movies and TV shows like Star Trek, Star Wars and Enemy Mine.
In the lobby of the Museum you’ll find an outpost of a restaurant that’s tied deeply to the history of Ybor City, the Columbia Restaurant. There’s a bar and restaurant on the inside, but finish up your visit in the café on the outside overlooking the water and the Riverwalk.
The Tampa History Center was a surprisingly fun and educational way to learn about Tampa Bay!