Tampa is nestled along Florida’s Gulf Coast, known for its cool museums and cultural offerings. With its rich history and being home to some of the most opulent lifestyles in 19th-century America, as well as its vast engagement in maritime life, it’s obvious why Tampa’s economy is highly driven by tourism.
Whether you’re visiting Tampa as a tourist or as a local, as a family or a lone ranger, you’re bound to be gripped by what the city has to offer. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s the list of our top 10 museums in Tampa and the local area.
1. Glazer Children’s Museum: The coolest museum in Tampa to inspire kids
At Glazer Children’s Museum, children are encouraged to play with purpose. This interactive learning laboratory allows young children to explore their personalities, passions and interests in a safe and fun environment.
With 21 different exhibitions to choose from and 53,000 square feet to explore, children are guaranteed to have a great time, learn new skills, and practice the ones they already have.
The exhibitions cover almost anything you could imagine. From being inspired by Art Smart, to learning about money handling at the Central Bank, or learning about social and environmental diversities at the Global Cafe.
Good to know: Glazer Children’s Museum is a non-profit organization. They are committed to educating children in their passions, with the hope to spike their curiosity about the world around them all through the means of play. Your children will leave the museum with a mind filled with imagination and aspiration, and we’re sure will be wanting to go back for more!
2. Dinosaur World, Florida: The best museum in Tampa for a family day out
Dinosaur World, Florida is one of the best museums to go to for families of all sizes, especially if you’ve got some aspiring paleontologists in the mix.
There are so many activities and exhibitions in this museum, spanning from over 200 lifesize model dinosaurs to an indoor animatronics experience. This cool museum truly allows your family’s imaginations to run wild, and gives you the opportunity to walk with the dinosaurs.
Are you looking for a more hands-on experience? At Dinosaur World you can practice your paleontology skills by digging up fossils and sifting for raw crystals and arrowheads on the Dino Gem line. As if these experiences weren’t enough, you can even bring the gems that you’ve excavated home as a keepsake!
Dinosaur World is a wonderfully fun experience for the whole family, bringing excitement and education together in a safe and fun environment. This is a day you and your family won’t forget, and if you aren’t excited enough about the prospect of digging up bones, Dinosaur World is also dog friendly!
Good to know: Dinosaur World is also Autism Friendly. This is an initiative created by the University of South Florida, so you know that everyone can have a blast on your family day out.
3. Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center: The best museum in Tampa to learn about local wildlife
Florida is home to some of the most unique and interesting animals, and you’ve got the chance to meet these species up close and personal at the Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center.
The discovery center is home to over 250 animals, including lizards, small mammals, amphibians, turtles, and tortoises, and of course, the stars of the show, the alligators. This organization’s mission is to provide humane, professional care for animals whose owners can no longer look after them. They also act as a home for orphaned native wildlife that can no longer be safely returned to their natural habitat.
If you want to explore and learn about Florida’s vast array of beautiful creatures, this is the exhibit for you.
Good to know: The Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center strives to spread knowledge on their wonderful creatures, and even provides annual education programs, sharing advice, assistance, information, and referrals to those who attend.
4. Clearwater Marine Aquarium: The best museum in Tampa to experience marine life
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is so much more than a marine life exhibit. It is a non-profit organization that strives to rescue, rehabilitate and release all of its residents. Clearwater Marine Aquarium originally opened its doors in 1972 as Clearwater Marine Science Center, and after extensive renovations was then renamed in the 1990s.
Most of the residents at Clearwater Marine Aquarium are found by town locals, fishermen, park rangers, and even visitors in the area, who know to go directly to this wonderful organization. This truly makes the aquarium a personal experience for those who visit and contribute to its mission.
With a track record of saving over 1600 sea turtles and releasing over 850 animals since 2010, there’s no doubt that this would be one of the top places to bring a marine animal in need. In fact, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is so reputable that it is home to the swimming starlet “Hope” the dolphin, who featured on the big screen in the 2014 film _Dolphin Tale 2_!
As well as organizing rescue missions, rehabilitating marine animals and releasing them to their home, Clearwater Marine Aquarium opens its doors to all those who would like to meet these beautiful creatures, allowing us to have a glimpse into their underwater world.
With the possibility of experiencing feeding stingrays, or photo opportunities with dolphins, along with all of the exhibits, you’re guaranteed to have a whale of a time… Despite them not housing whales!
Good to know: Hope the dolphin isn’t the only famous marine mammal cared for by Clearwater Marine Aquarium. They are also responsible for giving refuge and medical care to the legendary dolphin Winter. The bottlenose dolphin had to be fitted with a prosthetic tail after she had been entangled in a crab line in 2005. Sadly Winter passed away in 2021, but she is still very fondly remembered and memorialized in their virtual reality tribute Remembering Winter.
5. Henry B. Plant Museum: The best museum in Tampa for traveling back in time
The Henry B. Plant Museum is housed in the south wing of Plant Hall on the University of Tampa’s campus. It offers its visitors a true insight into the luxury lifestyle that was seen in the gilded era of the United States in the 1800s.
The monumental National Historic Landmark originally opened its doors as a luxury 511-room resort-style hotel, which was conveniently built near the terminus of the Plant System rail line, which was also forged by the railway tycoon.
Since 1973, the Tampa Bay Hotel has been running as a museum, now known as the Henry B. Plant Museum. Here you’ll find the perfectly preserved opulence of the 1891 Tampa Bay hotel and you’ll be able to delve into its rich history. The museum’s exhibits focus on the historical gilded-age tourism and the elite lifestyle of the hotel’s guests during the Spanish-American War.
The original furnishing, artifacts, and architecture allow you to completely immerse yourself in the elite epoch of American history, transporting you to another era.
You can experience this immersive museum with a dynamic self-guided audio tour, allowing you to explore the Henry B. Plant Museum at your own pace, in your own time. This really is one of the best museums in Tampa for escaping your day-to-day life and getting lost in history.
If you’re a history buff and want to experience some of the oldest museums in the world, check out the Tiqets Blog for some inspiration!
6. SS American Victory Mariners Memorial & Museum Ship: The best museum in Tampa to experience history
All aboard the American Victory Ship and Museum! Be prepared to be transported nearly seven decades into the past, and discover the rich history of this perfectly preserved American Icon.
This museum is a world-class shipboard maritime museum. It is dedicated to honoring the men and women who built, sailed, protected, and provided for the American Merchant fleet since 1775 during times of peace and war.
When stepping into this monumental ship, you will be able to experience an unforgettable voyage of discovery. You’ll be able to witness cavernous triple-level cargo holds, genuine radio and signaling rooms, the onboard hospital, the mess hall, the crew cabins, the Captain’s quarters – the list goes on and on.
Visiting this museum allows you to explore virtually every nook and cranny of this rare piece of history, truly allowing you to experience what it must have felt like being a crew member on the SS American Victory Ship.
Good to know: The SS American Victory Ship and Museum is one of only four remaining fully functional World War II ships in the country. It is recognised on the National Register of Historic Places, making this a must-see on your trip to Tampa.
7. Tampa Firefighter Museum: The best museum to appreciate the heroes of the past
The Tampa Firefighter Museum is a fully restored firehouse. It was originally built in 1911 and served as a fully functioning fire department until 1978 when a modernized fire station was built across the street. Designated as a local historical landmark by the City of Tampa Historic Designation, the Tampa Firefighter Museum lends a wonderful opportunity to learn about this small piece of local heroism.
When entering the museum, you are instantly transported to the 1900s fire station. You’ll witness original brickwork, and floors gashed by the hooves of the horses that would bring large steam-powered fire equipment rolling to the sound of an alarm.
Here you can truly see the difference in how firefighters of the early 20th century would work compared to today, with life size mannequins depicting protective fire gear old and new.
Included in this exhibition you can also see the alarm boxes and large communication boards that were used in a time when telephones were rare and radios were non-existent. This added difficulty, and the fact that most buildings were built of wood, bring a whole new dimension to the term fighting fire.
This museum will give you a whole other insight into the world of fire fighting, the difficulties these heroes had to overcome, and perhaps inspire a whole new generation of firefighters.
Good to know: As well as the main exhibit, there’s even an interactive children’s area, where children can learn about fire safety and emergency awareness. They can experience what it’s like to be a real firefighter and crawl through a “smoke-filled” hallway, put on fire gear, and respond to an emergency call on a child-sized fire truck!
8. Tampa Baseball Museum: The best museum for sports lovers
In a small town of fewer than 700 residents, a Tampa baseball team was first organized in 1878. Little did they know that this team would be the foundation of their strong community, with hundreds of the residents going on to support their local team as they took on the established players in Florida.
Less than a decade after this, the cigar industry arrived in the small city of Ybor, which brought along Cuban immigrants who shared a deep love for the game. Baseball then became the universal language between them and the local residents. This forged the foundation for the strong community feel in Tampa Bay. Here baseball is more than just a ball game, it’s a part of history.
At the Tampa Baseball Museum, one of the newest Museums in Tampa, you can witness its 135 years of baseball history, touching every level of the sport from little league to the major leagues, and everything in between. To feel even more immersed in this history, the Tampa Baseball Museum is actually the childhood home of Al Lopez, also known as “El Señor”. He later became Tampa’s first major league player, manager, and hall of fame inductee!
This museum will allow you to understand the strong roots baseball has in Tampa Bay, and bring its story to life.
9. Tampa Museum of Art: The coolest museum to broaden your imagination
The Tampa Museum of Art was founded in 1920, and is home to one of the largest Greek and Roman antiquities collections in the Southeastern United States. When visiting the Tampa Museum of Art, you will be taken through different eras of creation with their engaging exhibition and innovative education programs.
As well as displaying a variation in epochs, their permanent collection delivers art through all kinds of mediums. It embraces sculpture, photography, painting, new media and even more.
Alongside this collection, the Tampa Museum of Art is also host to temporary exhibitions. It is currently showcasing Verde: Poetics of Shade, a multimedia exhibition curated to speak to feminine energy and artistic contributions. As well as An Irresistible Urge to Create: Florida Outsider Art from the Monroe Family Collection, which includes 86 works of self-taught artists. An exhibition aimed at giving a platform to those who may not be fully established in the art community yet, but want to create and share their pieces.
With a 14,000-square-foot LED installation illuminating the south facade, and a 23-foot-tall cast-iron sculpture adorning the north facade, the Tampa Museum of Art is itself a piece of art, and is known as an iconic landmark of downtown Tampa.
Good to know: The Tampa Museum of Art even offers art camps, where children can create, learn and play in the newly constructed education center, in the galleries and in the Curtis Hixon playground. Each camp has a different theme based on the museum’s permanent collection, so the campers are spoiled for choice.
10. The Museum of Science and Industry: The best museum in Tampa to reach for the stars
Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (also known as MOSI), was first known as the Museum of Science and Natural History in 1962, when Hillsborough County first approved funding for a youth program.
This scientific safe haven provided natural science exhibits and education programs to both children and adults and is now thriving in its mission. The museum displays over 150 hands-on educational exhibitions, urging its visitors to ask themselves questions and expand their minds.
MOSI is a self-proclaimed “scientific playground”. It provides experiences to the public such as lying on a bed of nails, building robots, and mind-bending optical illusions.
Their attractions aren’t only Earthbound, as some of their most sought-after exhibitions include their NASA-funded mission: Moonbase Lunar Colony. Here you are invited to explore an entirely different world. You can also experience and learn about planets and solar systems in the Saunders Planetarium.
MOSI is truly out of this world, and one of the best museums in Tampa for those who want to learn more about what’s out there.
Originally posted by Mary Williams.