Built in 1891 by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant, this history museum is located in what was originally the Tampa Bay Hotel, an extravagant resort that drew such guests as Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. Now home to the University of Tampa, Plant's accomplishment is made all the more amazing when you realize that when it was built, the hotel was surrounded only by swampland. Now exquisitely restored, the hotel's striking minarets architecture, lavish furnishings and vibrant gardens provide a rare glimpse into the early years of Florida tourism. Sure, it makes returning to a modern-day hotel room a bit sad, but this Moorish beauty is a definite must-see.
Tampa Bay Water Bikes is located on the public docks adjacent to the Convention Center and Sail Pavilion in downtown Tampa. The perfect sightseeing option to get a water view of the city's iconic landmarks, water biking is easy and fun. Also available are BiYaks, or kayaks with pedals. Explore the Hillsborough River, Garrison Channel, and Davis and Harbour Islands. Anyone over the age of 8 is able to operate a water bike making this a great activity for the whole family. Safety gear and instruction is provided. Reservations are recommended and can be made online or in-person.
The Tampa Theatre is one of the country's best preserved examples of the elaborate "movie palaces" popular in the early 1900s. Outside, the Theatre is fairly non-descript save for the huge vintage red neon sign. But inside, visitors are transported to a beautiful Mediterranean courtyard surrounded by garden flowers and statuary while overhead stars twinkle in the night sky. Built in 1926 and saved from almost certain destruction in 1976, the Tampa Theatre is a treasured landmark as well as home to over 600 events a year. Some of the most popular events include film festivals, concerts by national acts, first run movie screenings, and a very popular WineFest. Visit their website for event details.
A highlight of the Tampa art scene, this beloved gallery is one of only a few museums in the US dedicated solely to photography. The museum is located downtown in the architecturally significant Cube, a soaring six-story atrium building. Promoting photographic art as central to our culture, the museum hosts exhibits of both historic and contemporary photography. Visitors to FMoPA are moved, mystified and inspired by the works of nationally and internationally known photographers, brilliantly displayed to emphasize the photographs' relevance to today's culture. The museum also offers gallery talks, "Photography at 5" happy hours, inventive family activities and a myriad of photography classes for all ages.
The Tampa Museum of Art is a boldly designed riverfront museum housing six temporary exhibits and an extensive permanent collection of Greek and Roman antiquities and 20th-century sculpture. After browsing the galleries, visitors can wander through the serene riverfront sculpture garden before indulging in cool, creamy gelato at Sono Cafe. Check out their beautiful museum shop where you can find unique gifts and souvenirs of your visit. The museum is very much a part of the community and offers an extensive program of events from art classes to Buddhist meditation. Every Friday from 4 pm - 10 pm, the Tampa Museum of Art hosts Art on the House featuring pay-as-you-will admission.
The Tampa Bay History Center, a 60,000-square-foot waterfront museum, presents 12,000 years of Tampa Bay history through innovative, interactive exhibits that engage visitors of all ages. Visitors can explore a vast array of Seminole artifacts, learn about the Spanish conquistadors, browse a 1920s-era cigar store, and view over 1,000 Tampa cigar industry-related objects. There is a wonderful museum gift store where you can find unique Tampa souvenirs and if you're hungry, try the onsite Columbia Cafe. Sister to the famous Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, this version serves many of the same Spanish delicacies.
eBoats is an electric boat rental company that operates out of a kiosk on the docks in front of the Tampa Convention Center and Sail Pavilion. These 21-foot, electric boats are quiet, eco-friendly, come with a sun cover, and only go about 6 mph. They are safe and easy to operate for almost anyone, but if you have concerns, you can spend a little additional money and get a Captain to do the steering for you. Renting one of these charming boats is a great way to explore Tampa's harbor, feast your eyes on some of the largest and most beautiful houses in town, and to head up-river to explore the bridges, parks, and landmarks that line the riverbank.
Conveniently located close to downtown and adjacent to the Florida Aquarium, the American Victory Ship is one of Tampa's hidden gems. One of only four WWII ships that are fully-functioning, the Ship is a memorial to the dedicated men and women of the American Merchant Fleet. Almost all areas of the Ship are open to investigation, including the bridge, weaponry, galley and mess halls, crew cabins and Captain's quarters, radio and gyro rooms, and much more. Visitors are given the unique opportunity to experience the living and working conditions of the sailors. Interpretive exhibits fill in the blanks through the display of artifacts, photos, uniforms and medals.
One of the best aquariums in the southeast, this 250,000 square foot attraction explores aquatic environments around the world featuring more than 20,000 plants and animals in both fresh and saltwater environments. Exhibits document the movement of water from wetlands to ocean and include a million-gallon coral reef display that houses over 200 species of fish. Other areas of the aquarium showcase river otters, alligators, deep sea fish. Kids will love the "touch" experiences where they can get up close with stingrays, horseshoe crabs, urchins, and starfish. Also popular are the twice daily Penguin Meet & Greets featuring African black-footed penguins. A gift shop and restaurant are on the premises.
The Tampa Riverwalk is a scenic exploration of the downtown riverfront. A good place to start is the Straz Center for Performing Arts, however, you can join the walk from anywhere along the route (see their website for a map). The Riverwalk takes you past most of the popular downtown attractions including the Tampa Museum of Art, Curtis Hixon Park, the Convention Center, the Tampa Bay History Center, and the Channelside Bay Plaza, before ending at the Florida Aquarium. Along the way you will pass interpretive exhibits highlighting Tampa's history and numerous public art exhibits. The path is almost 2.5 miles long, but there are plenty of spots to stop for a rest and grab a drink or a quick bite along the way.