Best Museums in Tampa

Explore Tampa's culture and heritage at 10 world-class museums

Visitors to Tampa Bay never fail to be impressed with the number and quality of the area's world-class museums. On both sides of the Bay, whether it's Tampa or St. Petersburg/Clearwater, there are fun and engaging opportunities to explore the diverse history and culture of the region.

To help you find near-by opportunities that match your interests, check out our list of top options to choose from in the City of Tampa. Many of the most popular choices are located in the downtown arts district. Conveniently connected via the pedestrian-friendly Riverwalk, it's easy to make a family-friendly day of museum hopping.

One of the museums found on the Riverwalk is the Tampa Bay History Center. This state-of-the-art museum offers 60,000 square feet of fascinating interactive displays that trace over 15,000 years of regional history. Make a day of it and dine at the co-located Columbia Cafe to get another taste of the city's Spanish/Cuban history.

Another option convenient to downtown is the Ybor City Museum State Park. Ybor City is Tampa's historic district founded by Don Vincente de Ybor to house his cigar workers in the mid-1800s. The area quickly became the cigar capital of the world and the late 1800s were a rollicking good time for the residents of Ybor City. This museum explores the neighborhood's rich history and is a perfect starting point before taking a closer look on foot.


A charming historic haven set in modern-day Tampa, this living history museum, located on the Florida State Fairgrounds, recreates life in a rural 1890s Floridian town. Named after the Florida "Crackers" who were 19th century, cow-herding pioneers, the museum features 13 authentic buildings dating from 1870 to 1912. The buildings were moved from their original locations and restored on-site. As visitors explore, interpreters demonstrate trades such as blacksmithing, spinning, storytelling and soap making. On select Saturdays, the "Discover the Past" program offers seasonal hands-on activities like butter churning, rope making and crop planting, so come prepared to party, 19th-century style.

Recommended for Museums because: Cracker-country is a living history museum featuring rural life in the 1890s located at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Skye's expert tip: Open days for this museum are sporadic so be sure to check their website for hours and events.

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Tampa Firefighters Museum
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers

The Tampa Firefighters Museum is located in downtown Tampa next to Tampa Fire Rescue Station One. Built in 1911, the beautifully restored building served as the Fire Department Headquarters until 1974. A tribute to all those who have served and continue to serve the city of Tampa, the 18,000 square foot facility is designed to preserve the history of the fire department and to promote fire safety and prevention throughout the community. Included among the historical exhibits and interactive educational displays is an early fire wagon looking as bright and shiny as the day it was made, and a piece of metal recovered from the World Trade Towers on 9/11.

Recommended for Museums because: The Tampa Firefighters Museum is located in a beautifully restored historic building and serves to preserve the history of our first responders.

Skye's expert tip: Admission is free!

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Museum of Science & Industry
Photo courtesy of Tampa Museum of Science and Industry

MOSI is Tampa's popular science and industry museum packed with fun activities and interactive learning experiences. The facility houses a collection of permanent exhibits that cover all disciplines of science including biology, anatomy, physics, and meteorology. There is also a large space to host major touring exhibits. Outside is a ropes course and zip line adventure along with a playground and nature trail that highlights Florida flora and fauna. The entrance fee covers the permanent exhibits, but you can add entrance into the touring exhibit, a stargazing show in the Saunders Planetarium, or access to the ropes course for additional charges.

Recommended for Museums because: MOSI is the perfect spot for active families featuring many interactive science displays and an outdoor ropes course and zip line.

Skye's expert tip: If you'll be in town for a while during the summer, MOSI is known for their great kids science camps.

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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, and inventive family activities.

Recommended for Museums because: Great for photography buffs, Tampa's FMoPA is one of the only museums in the US dedicated to photography.

Skye's expert tip: If you are budding photographer, check their calendar of events for a myriad of photography classes for all ages.

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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.

Recommended for Museums because: Tampa's Museum of Art features international traveling exhibits as well as items from their extensive permanent collection of Greek and Roman antiquities.

Skye's expert tip: Check it out at night when the facade lights up with Villareal's Sky, a 14,000-square-foot LED installation that has become an iconic image for Tampa.

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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.

Recommended for Museums because: At the American Victory Ship, one of only four fully-functioning WWII ships, visitors can experience sailors' living and working conditions.

Skye's expert tip: Guests can request a free guided tour by an experienced docent by calling or emailing ahead of your visit.

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Glazer Children's Museum

Kids have so much fun here that the adults end up joining in as well! If you've never been to a children's museum, it's not like an adult museum. Instead of quiet spaces and hushed voices, it's loud, rambunctious, and exciting. The hands-on exhibits are designed for exploration, such as a kid-sized grocery store, airplane, and cruise ship. In other words, it's the most fun game of let's pretend ever! The best strategy is to let them guide you around the facility. You won't believe what your child will show interest in while they're here. Fun for the whole family, but kids under 11 or so will enjoy it the most.

Recommended for Museums because: Tampa's Glazer Children's Museum is dedicated to kids having fun while learning and exploring.

Skye's expert tip: During summer break, the museum offers extended hours to 8 pm daily.

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Ybor City Museum State Park
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Built to preserve and celebrate Ybor City's colorful history, this museum is a highlight of any visit to Tampa's national historic district. Once known as the "Cigar Capital of the World," cigars were big business and had an incredible economic impact on the area. Housed in the renovated historic Ferlita Bakery, the museum boasts both temporary and permanent exhibits that illustrate how the immigrant cigar workers and their families lived and worked, creating a unique social life and community institutions. Outside you can explore the peaceful 19th-century-style garden and tour a "casita," representative of a typical cigar worker's home.

Recommended for Museums because: Discover how Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants founded Tampa's successful cigar industry at the Ybor City Museum State Park.

Skye's expert tip: A good spot to get an overview of Ybor City history before exploring the neighborhood.

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Henry B. Plant Museum
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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.

Recommended for Museums because: Return to the gilded age as you explore the exquisite Tampa Bay Hotel and its famous minarets at the Henry B. Plant Museum.

Skye's expert tip: Make sure to stop by their museum store featuring unique, period gifts.

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Tampa Bay History Center
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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.

Recommended for Museums because: The Tampa Bay History Center is a state-of-the-art museum showcasing a comprehensive look at the region's diverse and fascinating history.

Skye's expert tip: Construction next door means visitors have to park in garages located offsite. Guests with mobility issues can valet their car for a $10 fee. Check their website for details.

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Meet Skye Rodgers

Skye is a freelance writer that adopted Tampa as her hometown over a decade ago and never looked back. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no snow climate, and in her spare time...  More About Skye