Mike Focus / Shutterstock.com
Located in Downtown Tampa, the Tampa Bay History Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum that showcases over 12,000 years of Florida’s history. Dating from prehistoric Gulf Coast Florida all the way to the present day, the exhibits at the museum feature everything from artifacts to paintings to documents to furniture, providing visitors with a rich insight into Florida’s past.
The museum’s permanent exhibits are spaced out across its three floors, and there are guides available at the door to help you navigate your way through. The first floor takes a look at Florida’s early beginnings, from its Florida’s First People exhibit to the European Exploration display. Also on the first floor is Cigar City, where you will find over 1000 cigar-related items on display. The museum’s second floor is designed to be quite interactive, and there are several exhibits that visitors can become involved in. Cowmen & Crackers places viewers right in the middle of an actual cattle drive, while Year-Round Play highlights some of the social and recreational activities that the area is known for.
The temporary exhibits at the Tampa Historical Museum are frequently changing, with the current exhibit being held until the 8th of January. Titled Preserving Eden, this photography exhibition features the work of legendary photographer Clyde Butcher, whose career spans almost fifty years. Since the early 1980’s, Butcher has been photographing the Florida Everglades, and these images will all be publicly brought together for the first time. In addition to this, visitors will also be able to view photographs of some of Florida’s indigenous flora and fauna, many of which are now quite rare to find.
The original Columbia Café was founded in 1905 by Casimiro Hernandez, a Cuban immigrant. Today, there are six locations of the Columbia Café to be found in Florida, all of which are owned by fourth and fifth generation family members of Casimiro Hernandez’s family. The location that you will find at the Tampa Bay History Center is definitely worth a visit, with the entire restaurant decked out in historical pieces of furniture. In addition to the history, you will also be able to sample some deliciously authentic Spanish food, with everything from tapas to grilled fish on the menu. For those that want to try a truly traditional dish, be sure to order the Chicken and Rice Ybor, which comes from Tampa’s Ybor City.
Tampa is packed with history and culture, and a visit to the Tampa Bay History Center is a great way to learn more about this. Not only will these exhibits give you a new appreciation for all that you see in Tampa today, but they will also show you just how far the city has come over the years, and where it could be headed to in the future. The museum, as well as the Columbia Café, is open daily, and for those of you who would like an in-depth tour of the exhibits, there are guided gallery tours that you can sign up for.