Most visitors associate Florida with sun, beach, and sea, or maybe a round of golf. There’s plenty of this in Tampa, but those who dig a bit deeper into the largest city in the Sunshine State can experience a diverse and thriving cultural scene. We’ll stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk on the banks of the Hillsborough River, occasionally turning left, sometimes right, and letting ourselves be pleasantly inspired.
University and Uniqueness
Just across the river is the University of Tampa, home to more than 10,000 students. When entering the campus, your eye is automatically drawn to Plant Hall, an enormous Victorian-style building, complete with spires and a pale pink facade. Built at the end of the 19th century, this house was originally the Tampa Bay Hotel. Today, it’s home to the Henry B. Plant Museum where the hotel’s heyday has been recreated – original furniture from that bygone era is also on hand for an extra dose of nostalgia.
A Fascinating Look Back
Although the Tampa Bay History Center only opened in 2009, its vast collection of treasures from times gone by is displayed over three storeys. Whether it be the story of the first Native Americans on Florida’s west coast, its rise to “Cigar City”, or impressions from the harsh early days of ranching – it’s all here. Be sure to take time to visit the Touchton Library on the fourth floor, where thousands of maps and town plans reveal how our forefathers viewed the world. How do think they imagined the Florida landscape in 1884? Be prepared for plenty of quirky discoveries.
Trip Back in Time on Board
Once a warship, now a floating museum: The SS American Victory not only survived numerous armed conflicts, it also circled the globe – twice! Although the giant ship no longer sails the seas, it has plenty of exciting history stored in its hold. Whether it’s a submarine turbine or a uniform, a lifeboat or a vintage-style recruiting poster – the ship's belly reveals the strenuous lives of the sailors at that time.
You can’t miss the tall red brick building on N. Franklin Street, with its eye-catching neon sign. Those who step inside the Tampa Theatre will immediately understand why the BBC named it one of the ten most beautiful cinemas in the world: elaborate ceiling paintings, ornate wooden staircases, and colourfully painted tiles. Added to that is a movie theatre more reminiscent of an antique open-air stage than a modern day venue. In case you were wondering what the strange device standing in the middle of the stage is, it’s the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ. This absolute one-of-a-kind piece was once used to provide musical accompaniment to silent films.
A stark contrast to the kitsch-obsessed cinema is the Tampa Museum of Art, directly on the banks of the Hillsborough River: futuristic, all glass, and gleaming. The cube-shaped building is an icon of the city, housing one of the largest collections of ancient Greco-Roman art, from amphorae to antefixes to the statue of Aphrodite. When the sun goes down over Tampa Bay, the museum glows in neon colours thanks to thousands of LED lights that illuminate the entire Riverwalk.
- Header - Photo by / SeanPavonePhoto on Getty Images
- Paragraph 1 - Photo by WGCPhotography on Getty Images
- Paragraph 1 - Photo by TriggerPhoto on Getty Images
- Paragraph 2 - Photos from Henry B. Plant Museum
- Paragraph 3 - Photos from Tampa Bay History Center
- Paragraph 4 - Photos by Wirestock on Adobe Stock
- Paragraph 5 - Photos by jefffay.com 2018 on Tampa Theatre
- Paragraph 6 - Photo by VIAVAL on Adobe Stock