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10 reasons to visit the Tampa Bay History Center

1.  To learn about Tampa Bay’s Tocobaga Indians from knowledgeable volunteers.  The Tocobaga were the first Native Americans encountered by Spanish explorers in the Tampa Bay area.  They were present long before the Seminole Indians arrived in Florida.

volunteer square

2.  To learn about Florida’s involvement in the civil war from costumed historical interpreters.  Throughout the course of the Civil War, Florida became more and more isolated from the rest of the Confederacy.  As a result, the role of Florida in the Civil War receives little to no attention in most American History books, and there are very few places where you can learn about Florida’s role in the Civil War.

costumed interpreters

3.  To see Ybor City’s cigar industry as it was in the early 1900’s.  In the 1920’s, during Cigar City’s heyday, Ybor City was pumping out 410 million hand-made cigars a year.  There were once 150 cigar factories in Ybor City.  Although their numbers have dwindled significantly since then, there are still historic cigar factories and shops lining Ybor City’s 7th Street – enough to smell the cigar smoke at certain times of the day.

cigar city double (2)

4.  To learn about Florida’s citrus industry.  Spanish conquistadors brought Valencia oranges to Florida in the 16th century, and they have been a favorite Florida resident since then.  Although the number of orange groves throughout the state has fallen with new development, the citrus industry remains a large part of Florida’s identity.

FL citrus wide

5.  To find out what it really means to be a Florida Cracker.  Florida Crackers herded wild cattle descended from cattle brought into the state by Spanish explorers in the 16th century.  The “Cracker” part of the name is a reference to the crack of the whips used.  Florida is “the oldest cattle raising region in the country.”  There are still cattle ranches in some parts of Florida – Ocala comes to mind.

Florida cracker definition

6.  To enjoy a meal or a drink at the Columbia Café.  I can’t think of a better restaurant than the Columbia to pair with the Tampa Bay History Center.  The Ybor City location of the Columbia, established in 1905, is the oldest restaurant in Florida.  In this sense, the Columbia is a large part of Tampa Bay’s history.  The Columbia Restaurant’s Spanish Bean Soup has been popular with locals since the 1920’s.

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1905 Salad with a cup of Spanish Bean Soup from the Columbia Café at the Tampa Bay History Center. Tampa, FL.
1905 Salad with a cup of Spanish Bean Soup from the Columbia Café at the Tampa Bay History Center. Tampa, FL.

7.  To teach your kids that learning can be fun.  I visited the Tampa Bay History Center on Museum Day Live!, when museums all around the country offer free admission, just like the Smithsonian museums in D.C. do every day.  As a result, the history center was teeming with happy children.

This young boy is playing with an interactive miniature cigar factory.
This young boy is playing with an interactive miniature cigar factory in the Tampa Bay History Center’s Cigar City Gallery.

8.  To see one of many temporary exhibits.  There’s always something new at the Tampa Bay History Center.  Even if you’ve already been, keep an eye on the calendar for new temporary exhibits.  Now through January 3, 2016 they are hosting Florida’s Got the Blues, a history of blues music in the state of Florida.

9.  To pick up a Florida history book or a Florida cookbook for yourself at the Museum gift shop.  The Tampa Bay History Center’s gift shop has a really nice selection of Florida books, including cookbooks, history books, travel/tourist books, coffee table books, and novels based in Florida.  It’s a nice way to continue to enjoy your visit after you’ve already left.

10.  To enjoy a beautiful section of Riverwalk Tampa.  The Tampa Bay History Center is just one of many fun things to do along Tampa’s Riverwalk.  Check out Things to Do on the Tampa Riverwalk website for ideas.  You could make a day of it.

Stretch of Riverwalk Tampa just outside the Tampa Bay History Center.
Stretch of Riverwalk Tampa just outside the Tampa Bay History Center.
The Hillsborough River. Behind the Tampa Bay History Center.
The Hillsborough River. Behind the Tampa Bay History Center.
Flowers growing along the banks of the Hillsborough River.
Flowers growing along the banks of the Hillsborough River.
Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring is a photoblogger living in the Tampa Bay area, on Florida's west coast, home to some of the best beaches in the state.
http://flillustrated.com
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